Female walking alone through busy Edinburgh street

A Solo Travellers Guide to Edinburgh

4 million visitors descend upon Edinburgh each year to experience the vibrant Scottish culture, cobbled streets lined with history and astonishing architecture.

Voted as one of the safest, and most friendly places in the UK, it’s no surprise that Scotland’s capital is a great choice for solo travellers looking to jet set on their own in search of new adventures.

Self-discovery, boosting your confidence and independence are just some of the benefits of travelling alone – and it means you can see and do what you want, when you want, working only to your own itinerary.

Join us as we use our local knowledge to share the best things to do in Edinburgh for solo travellers, so you can start planning the trip of a lifetime.

How many days do you need in Edinburgh

Looking up to Edinburgh Castle

To make the most of your trip to Edinburgh, and to ensure you tick off the key sights on your itinerary, we recommend staying 2-3 days. You’ll need a day to explore the Old Town; stroll along the infamous Royal Mile, discover Edinburgh Castle, join in with a tour of the unforgotten underground city, visit Greyfriars Kirkyard and wander around the National Museum of Scotland. You’ll need another day to discover the New Town; the peaceful Princes Street Gardens, Scott Monument, visit the Scottish National Gallery and climb Calton Hill to catch the best sunset the city has to offer. Of course, you must also fit in time to climb Arthur’s Seat to take in the most spectacular views of the city, and take a walk around Holyrood Park when you reach the bottom.

To explore the city and surrounding area, we recommend staying for 5-7 days to take advantage of the many options for travelling a little further afield. The popular seaside town of North Berwick is just a 30-minute train journey away where you can discover a beautiful beach and a thriving high street packed with local shops. The enchanting St Andrews is a 2-hour bus journey away, where you can enjoy a day exploring the historical town and be back in Edinburgh in time for dinner.

What time of year should I visit Edinburgh?

Edinburgh Military Tattoo

August is the most popular time to visit the capital during festival season. The city comes to life as locals and visitors from all over the world join together to celebrate art, comedy, dance, film, books, science and more. Perhaps the most well-known is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, guaranteed to make memories to last a lifetime.

Magical is the only word to describe Christmas in Edinburgh, as the streets are filled with festive cheer, the shops are bursting with gifts and festive treats, and the popular Christmas market brings a buzz to the city. For an unforgettable experience, ring in the bells at New Year with Edinburgh’s Hogmanay street party – recognised as one of the greatest outdoor celebrations in the world.

January/February is the most cost-effective time to visit the city, where there are often great deals to be had on hotels, shops and restaurants.

Spring/Summer is a wonderful time to visit Edinburgh as the city’s 112 parks bloom in the Scottish sun. There’s plenty of things to do outdoors; you could head to the beach, discover secret gardens and hidden parks and enjoy a Scottish picnic. And don’t worry, there’s also plenty to do indoors if you need to seek shelter from the rain!

How to get around Edinburgh

One of the main reasons Edinburgh is an ideal destination for solo travellers is that it’s so compact and easy to get around.

Many of the main tourist spots are within walking (and running distance if you’re planning to pack your trainers) and public transport is excellent. The trams run every 7-10 minutes from the airport all the way through the centre and out to the coast at Newhaven, making it easy to hop on and off when exploring different neighbourhoods. There is also a reliable bus, train and Uber service.

Unmissable Edinburgh tours

Black and white close up of sign at Greyfriars Kirkyard

Travelling alone in Edinburgh doesn’t have to be lonely. There are many award-winning tours to choose from where you can meet people with likeminded interests – whether you’re a history buff, a Potterhead, a book worm or prefer something a little spookier. There’s an experience for everyone.

Make the most of a short stay in Edinburgh with the multilingual hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus tour. Join in on an adventure around the city with stops near all the major sights and attractions – ideal if you’re limited for time.

It is well known that Edinburgh inspired the magical world of Harry Potter. No trip to the capital would be complete for any fan without joining the Potter Trail to see where the first book was written, the real life Diagon Alley, and the tombs at Greyfriars Kirkyard that inspired some of the most famous characters…

Mercat’s Historic Underground Tour grants you exclusive access to the Blair Street Underground Vaults. Dating back to the 18th century, join the award-winning story tellers as they delve into the perfectly preserved history of Edinburgh’s darkest secret.

The new Edinburgh Gin distillery is reopening in Autumn 2024 after a multi-million pound investment, bringing a spectacular new experience to the city. If you’re visiting then, be sure to check out one of their tours around the impressive new facility.

A guide to Edinburgh’s must-visit neighbourhoods

Buildings reflected in the waterfront at Leith at sunset

Edinburgh is made up of 13 neighbourhoods, each with its own offering and unique style. To make the most of your trip, we have selected a few must-visit areas to add to your itinerary.

City centre

  • Royal Mile – The Royal Mile is top of every visitors list when visiting the city. A mile of cultural and historical significance from Edinburgh Castle down to the Palace of Holyrood. Explore the cobbled streets as they lead you to some of the city’s must-see sights, as well as hidden closes and a variety of shops, restaurants and pubs.
  • West-End – A true hidden gem in the city, the beautiful West End is steeped in history, with an abundance of boutiques and independent cafes waiting to be discovered. Be sure to visit the Castle Terrace Farmers Market held every Saturday to browse delicious local delicacies.
  • Stockbridge – One of the trendiest areas in Edinburgh. Boutique shops, posh delis and cool pubs line the cobbled streets. Here you’ll find some of the most instragrammable areas in the city, and you can’t visit without taking a wander through Inverleith Park and the world-renowned Royal Botanic Gardens.
  • Grassmarket – At the foot of Edinburgh Castle, you will find the Grassmarket. A vibrant area in the heart of the old town home to quirky vintage shops and independent eateries. Stroll along the infamous Victoria Street and discover all the treasures the area has to offer.

Leith – Voted the 16th coolest neighbourhood in the world, the legendary Leith is a bustling waterfront district which has served as the gateway to the city for centuries. These days, The Royal Yacht Britannia sits proudly on the waterfront overlooking cafes, bistos and some of the best restaurants in the world. Close to the city centre, you can jump on the tram or take a stroll down Leith Walk.

Portobello – Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city and head to the coast to the charming Portobello. Just a short bus ride away, you can spend the day exploring miles of sandy beaches looking out to the glistening Forth, and treat yourself to a delight from one of the many ice cream parlours or cafes along the promenade.

Things to do alone in Edinburgh at night

Stylish bar at The Bonham

You will be spoiled for choice with dinner options in Edinburgh – the city has more restaurants per head than anywhere else in the UK after London!

After dinner, why not take yourself out for a night on the town. The Edinburgh Playhouse is the largest all seated theatre in the UK and hosts wonderful shows throughout the year. Or for a laugh, join The Stand Comedy Club as they present some of the best comedy acts on the scene.

If you’re into gaming, or just looking for something a bit different, the NQ64 Arcade Bar offers retro arcade machines, consoles and cocktails. For the ultimate Scottish experience, Ghillie Dhu’s infamous ceilidh club takes place at select weekends throughout the year.

Or perhaps simply an evening stroll in summer to take advantage of the late sunset.

When it’s time for bed, The Bonham Hotel, situated in the popular West End, is a great choice for solo travellers looking for a boutique hotel in a central location. Enjoy a drink with our friendly bar team before retiring to your stylish room to recharge your batteries ready for another day of exploring. Book direct and save up to 20% on your stay.

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