I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a while now and I can confidently say it is a magical city. It’s absolutely charming and there’s so much to do. Here are my top recommendations for what to do in Edinburgh in two days, including where to eat and where to stay!
I’ve been living in Edinburgh for a while now, and I have to say I love it more and more every day. The Old Town is absolutely stunning with so many historical sights and landmarks, and Newtown is filled with plenty to do and even more to eat (cafe and brunch galore)! You can easily spend a week in Edinburgh, but you can cover quite a bit of ground in a weekend. Here are my best tips on how to spend 2 days in Edinburgh (plus a 2 day Edinburgh itinerary!).
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2 Day Edinburgh Itinerary
This is totally customisable! The next section shares how to spend 2 days in Edinburgh creating your own itinerary, but I’ve added a sample itinerary here with some of the best sites.
Start your morning out with a hearty Scottish breakfast (recommendations below!) and then walk up to the Castle.
Edinburgh’s most famous landmark is full of so much history central to Edinburgh’s identity as a city. The castle has been used for so many purposes over the years – it’s been a royal residence, a fortress, and a prison!
Allocate around 2 hours for your visit.
Edinburgh Castle Admission Prices & Hours
Summer Hours: 9:30 – 18:00 (last admission at 17:00)
Winter Hours: 9:30 – 17:00 (last admission at 16:00)
Tickets cost £15.50 for adults, £12.40 for those over 60, and £9.30 for children (up to 15 years old)
National Museum of Scotland
Start walking down the royal mile but take a detour over to the National Museum of Scotland. This is one of my favourite museums in Scotland and it’s FREE!
The museum houses artefacts especially important to Scotland’s history. As a result, there are so many cool gadgets and discoveries on display. This ain’t your average museum (no art here!).
National Museum of Scotland Information
Address: Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
Hours: 10:30 – 16:30
Once you’ve said hello to Dolly the Sheep at the National Museum, walk over to Greyfriars Bobby. This place has an amazing history. A night watchman had a dog called Bobby, who followed his owner around all over Edinburgh! When his owner died, he was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and Bobby followed him there, not leaving his grave for fourteen years. Bobby touched the hearts of those who saw him, and now there’s a statue outside of the graveyard.
Make sure to rub Bobby on the nose, and head into the graveyard if you’re keen to spot some names that inspired those in Harry Potter!
After that, take a stroll down Candlemaker Row and head to Grassmarket. This would be a great place for lunch! In the old days, Grassmarket was a place for horse and cattle, as well as for public executions, though you’d never be able to tell from today’s charming appearance!
Victoria Street & The Royal Mile
After you’re full on some great food, head up Victoria Street and have a look at all of the colourful buildings. This is easily one of the most picturesque places in Edinburgh. You’ll pass by Aha Ha Ha, the joke shop that inspired J.K. Rowling’s joke shops in Harry Potter.
Head back on over to the Royal Mile and continue to the Holyrood Palace or to Holyrood Park to climb Arthur’s Seat.
Finish up your day with a night at the Scotch Whisky Experience!
Day 2 is all about exploring the more modern side of Edinburgh. From a morning view to exploring new parts of Edinburgh, you’ll see it all.
Start your morning by walking up Calton Hill for a great view over Edinburgh. It’s one of those things you just *have* to do whilst in Edinburgh. The contemporary art gallery is also here, if you’re interested in visiting!
From there, head on down towards Leith.
Leith would be a great place to grab a quick bite to eat before heading onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia. The yacht used to belong to the Royal Family, so you’ll get to feel like a prince or princess whilst onboard! Leith is quickly becoming a fun and quirky part of Edinburgh. It’s becoming more of a hotspot in Edinburgh, and it’s a beautiful escape from city life, as you’re on a port!
Newtown & Stockbridge
Find your way back to the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens. You could go the direct way through busy roads, or you could walk the Waters of Leith, a public footpath along the canal that runs from Edinburgh to Leith.
The Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite spots in the city. It’s a wonderful place to have a little picnic, so maybe stop by Cuckoo’s Bakery and grab some cupcakes to enjoy in the gardens!
On Sundays, the nearby Stockbridge market is an EXCELLENT spot for lunch and buying treats to enjoy in the gardens. Whilst in the area, don’t miss Circus Lane, an incredibly sweet street to stroll down. It was built in the 1700s and used to be where carriages and horses were ‘parked’ behind the main homes. Now, it’s just a really stunning little lane to walk down (with a coffee in hand! Perhaps from Soderberg?).
A Free Afternoon!
I’ve left some free time here in this 2 day Edinburgh itinerary, as there’s just SO much to do around the city. Some things are quite niche, so it’s best if you can choose how to fill your last afternoon in this incredible city. Want some ideas? Keep on reading.
How to Spend 2 Days in Edinburgh – Things to do
Edinburgh has a LOT to offer and I would definitely cram in as much as possible!
If you’re interested in Harry Potter Sights, I’ve got a Harry Potter Scotland Guide for you!
Walking Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a super walking-friendly city (excluding the weather!).
Arthur’s Seat is a 30-minute walk/hike up to the top of a hill and there’s a great view of Edinburgh from the top.
Walking down the Royal Mile is one of my favourite things to do! Start at the Castle and walk down past St Giles Cathedral. Eventually wind your way down to Holyrood Palace!
Walking through the Botanical Gardens is one of my favourite things to do on a nice day. The gardens are really beautiful and I’d recommend going if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city for a little while.
Walking around Stockbridge is another favourite thing to do. On Sundays, there’s the Stockbridge Market, which has lots of yummy food and is great to walk around. You can also walk around Dean Village and by the Waters of Leith here.
On a nice day, the Princes Street Gardens are lovely to walk around. There are some great views of the castle.
If you want to feel like you’ve escaped to the Highlands (maybe if you don’t have time to see the highlands), go to the Pentlands for some hiking!
Museums in Edinburgh
The Surgeons’ Hall Museum is one of Edinburgh’s best hidden gems. I love this place and it is fascinating, although a little creepy. If you’re looking to see some heads in jars and preserved body parts with different tumors and other ailments, this is the place to go. It’s in a beautiful museum and the history of surgery and dentistry is displayed in a more tasteful style than you’d expect. There’s a small fee for entry but it’s well worth it if you’re interested in medicine.
The Real Mary Kings Close is like a live museum where you get to see how working-class people really lived and worked. It’s interesting if you’re keen to find out about some of Edinburgh’s dark history!
The National Museum is another stunning museum. I love wandering around here and spotting Dolly the Sheep! It’s free to enter and it’s well worth a visit and a few hours.
The Edinburgh Castle has a pretty hefty fee, but the views are lovely from inside and the castle holds so much of Edinburgh’s history.
Other museums include: The Museum of Edinburgh, The Writers’ Museum, & The Scottish National Gallery
My Favourite Places in Edinburgh – A local’s best picks
If you need to shop, Princes Street is our high street with plenty of stores. Right behind Princes Street, on Rose Street, are some great places to eat.
Grassmarket is a beautiful little part of the city and it has a great view of the castle.
The Camera Obscura is a great place to visit if you’re looking for a fun activity for a rainy day. It’s a house of illusions and funny photo ops!
The Palace of Holyrood House is a really beautiful place to have a wander.
Calton Hill has one of the best views over Edinburgh and is a quick walk from Princes Street.
Everyone who loves whiskey loves the Scotch Whisky Experience. There are a variety of tours or you can just start whiskey tasting!
The Royal Yacht Brittania (formerly the Queen’s yacht) is outside of Edinburgh, in Leith. Leith is a great place to visit if you’re looking to see a new upcoming neighbourhood near Edinburgh.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
If you’re on a budget…
There are tonnes of hostels in Edinburgh, and PLENTY of them get great reviews. Look for hostels in the Old Town if you want to be close to the majority of sights, but Edinburgh is a pretty compact city and most hostels should be good!
Recommended Hostels in Edinburgh:
In the Summertime, plenty of student accommodation is offered like a hotel. There are options for both en suite bathrooms and shared bathrooms. These are generally very affordable and pretty good options if you’re on a budget.
If you’re budget is slightly larger…
There are plenty of guesthouses and b&bs that offer cosy and comfortable accommodation! I really like B&Bs because in Scotland, the hosts are often really welcoming and keen to give their top recommendations. If those aren’t really your thing, Stay Central Hotel and Royal Mile Suites have great reviews.
If you’re looking to splurge…
The Charlotte Square Hotel is in a great location and it’s absolutely beautiful!
The Balmoral is possibly Edinburgh’s most famous hotel, and it’s even where J.K Rowling wrote her final chapters of the Harry Potter series.
What to Eat in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has so many choices for food and drink, and one of my favourite things to do on a rainy day is grab some friends and try a new place. This city is the ultimate cafe/cozy city, with weather that makes you want to curl up with a hot drink and a book most of the year!
Breakfast in Edinburgh
If you’re in Scotland’s capital, you MUST try a full Scottish breakfast!
City Cafe is a great place if you’re looking for a filling breakfast. This isn’t a healthy breakfast place – it’s where you go when you want some deliciously greasy diner food. The Full Scottish here is very reasonably priced and it has SO MUCH FOOD.
Urban Angel is a really good breakfast place if you’re looking for a nice atmosphere. They have great gluten-free options!
Papii has tonnes of options but they’re best known for their waffles!
Checkpoint is a great place for any meal – seriously. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and drinks!) are great here and pretty reasonably priced!
Lunch is a highly underrated meal and I have plenty of recommendations for lunches in Edinburgh.
Hula Juice Bar is located in Grassmarket and is a really healthy and yummy place to eat. The ambiance is great as well. It caters to vegan diets – the vegan chilly is so good! There are also great smoothies and cakes. I like the sriracha chicken wrap (and honestly everything else on the menu).
Pumpkin Browns is a gluten-free restaurant with a focus on healthy eating. I would mainly come here if you’re looking for a quick gluten-free meal or a raw cake.
Union of Genius is always busy with university students, but it’s worth putting on this list. The soups are fresh and delicious and the prices are so reasonable. Get a slice of olive bread!
Miros Cantina Mexicana is a little pricy, but it’s a really lovely place for Mexican food! The restaurant is decorated really nicely and it was all around a lovely place.
Let Me Eat is a great place to go if you’re looking for a GREAT wrap or panini. You can build your own or get one of their creations (ALL soooo good!).
Soderberg (previously known as Peter’s Yard and some may still call it as such) is a lovely place for a light meal (their salmon on bread is my favourite) or a coffee and dessert. Highly recommend this one!
The Ivy is a nicer (pricer) restaurant, but it is absolutely beautiful and the food is fabulous. They’re also great at modifying for allergies/intolerances and they have vegan/veggie options!
El Cartel has great frozen margaritas and their ox-tongue tacos are incredible. It’s also on a really lovely street!
Dishoom is one of my favourite places to go for good Indian fusion food, but prepare to queue as they don’t take reservations! I highly recommend the house black dal and the house chai. I also highly recommend it for breakfast- the sausage naan roll is what I dream of and the chai has free refills! Plus no line!
Montpellier has very reasonable prices and good food. The restaurant is lovely and it’s a great place to go!
Mary’s Milk Bar has some AMAZING ice cream in both classic flavours and slightly more experimental ones.
Pinnies & Poppyseeds has the best artisan shortbread. The smell coming out of that store is enough to make your mouth water!
Considerit has amazing vegan doughnuts (my favourite is their chai – yum!!!)
Cuckoo’s Bakery has delicious cupcakes. I love to have a cupcake when I need a treat and these hit the spot!
SugarDaddy’s is a bakery that has all gluten-free baked goods!
La Barantine has amazing French pastries that transport you to Paris!
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