Edinburgh is a treasure trove of history, culture, and charm, where heritage meets a touch of whimsical. With its pretty cobblestone streets, iconic landmarks, and lively atmosphere it’s easy to unleash your inner explorer and discover its many hidden gems, whether it’s a day or two.
Consider this itinerary your handy reference, mixing the popular guidebook must-sees with those places slightly less trodden and known only to the locals. Savour every moment in our beloved city!
Day One in Edinburgh
You might only visit Edinburgh once, and it would be a travesty not to make the obligatory hike up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. On arrival at the Castle Esplanade the epic 360-degree views of the city and beyond are worth it alone.
Once you cross the bridge and gallantly pass the portcullis prepare to unleash your inner knight or warrior princess in this majestic fortress. If you’d like to observe a cannon being fired, you might reschedule your visit for 1pm when the gun goes off every day, except Sundays. It’s a blast, literally!
The entire Royal Mile is a hive of activity. Expect quirky independent shops, tourist attractions, traditional pubs and restaurants, and fine dining eateries. The Mile is steeped in history – not just above ground either. Venture underground and discover a dark, damp world of caverns and ‘closes’ where time has remained unchanged since the 18th century. Listen to tales of a bygone era. Fascinating, and a little spooky!
Close to the Castle is Gladstone’s Land – one of the oldest buildings in the Royal Mile and a commercial hub for more than 500 years. This unassuming tenement building has seen it all and lives on to recount the stories. The ice cream parlour is worth sampling too.
Whisky enthusiasts are sure to enjoy a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience. Hop aboard a whisky barrel for a tour of the production process, and quench your thirst with a delicious tasting. Cheers to a spirited adventure!
After a morning of adventures, settle into the chicest spot in town and indulge in a Boozy Snoozy Lunch at The Bonham. It’s the perfect way to unwind with delicious food and remarkably good wine. The relaxed ambiance sets the tone perfectly for an afternoon of meandering in the New Town.
Just a ten-minute walk from The Bonham is Dean Village – Edinburgh’s hidden fairytale. An oasis of calm from the city’s buzz, the village was once an industrial centre of water mills, on the banks of the Water of Leith.
To this day remains can still be seen of its heritage, including millstones and stone plaques decorated with baked bread and pies. Wander through cobblestone streets, cross charming bridges, and feel like you’ve stepped into a storybook.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a stone’s throw from Dean Village. Occupying two impressive buildings the thought-provoking exhibits and installations offer a peek into the vibrant and unconventional realms of modern artistic expression. Take time to visit the beautiful grounds featuring over 20 sculptures. The Gallery is open daily and with free admission, it’s not to be missed.
As dusk begins to settle, Edinburgh’s nightlife starts to sparkle. From atmospheric pubs to chic cocktail lounges, theatres, and live music venues there’s no shortage of options to suit every taste.
Those who enjoy an eerie adventure might consider an evening ghost tour. Explore haunted sites, and hear spine-chilling tales of the city’s mysterious and haunted history after dark. Not for the faint of heart!
Day Two in Edinburgh
What better way to start the day than a brisk adventure up Calton Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With some of the city’s best views, get there early and you’ll enjoy a jaw-dropping sunrise too.
Crowning the summit are iconic landmarks that hold tales of Edinburgh’s past including the National Monument, Nelson’s Monument, and the City Observatory. The National Monument, often photographed for its similarity to the Greek Parthenon features only 12 columns. Though it was never fully finished it’s widely adored. You’re sure to get your steps in and capture some amazing snaps exploring Edinburgh’s ‘Athens of the North’.
Opposite Calton Hill is St James Quarter, Edinburgh’s largest retail and leisure district – a shopper’s paradise. If retail therapy is on the day’s agenda you won’t want to miss this place. Expect all the high-street names, and local collectives, as well as designer hot spots if your credit card is willing!
Jump on the tram and head north to Leith, the city’s lively maritime neighbourhood with historic docks, eclectic street art, and a thriving creative scene. A real gem!
Leith rests on the shores of the Firth of Forth, at the mouth of the Water of Leith. Having served as the port of Edinburgh for hundreds of years, the original harbour dates back to the 14th century and was visited by many travelling kings and queens, including Mary Queen of Scots and King George IV.
In more recent years the Royal Yacht Britannia – the Queen’s ‘floating residence’ berthed in Leith and opened its doors to visitors. The yacht has hosted many a grand state function and glitzy reception on the high seas. Though now decommissioned from active duty, you can still experience the splendour of this grand dame of the sea, and visit the Royal Apartments where the Queen would take her tea.
Enjoy a relaxing stroll along the Shore and Water of Leith, following scenic paths and uncovering charming bridges. You’ll be surprised at just how much wildlife and lush surroundings there are. The native herons and otters frolicking in the river are often a surprise to unsuspecting visitors.
The Biscuit Factory has become the backdrop to Leith’s creative scene and offers a superb programme of events worth checking out. It also houses a gin distillery – anyone for a tipple?
With its beautiful blend of history, culture, and modernity Edinburgh is more than a city; it’s a playground of discovery. So, lace up your walking shoes, and embrace the Scottish spirit. Let the city weave its magic and be your most playful escapade yet.
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