Edinburgh Travel Guide – A 3 Day Itinerary
Edinburgh Evening Skyline, from Calton Hill Photo: Raphael Chekroun
Welcome to Edinburgh!
Edinburgh is without doubt one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom and, as the capital city of Scotland, a highlight of any trip north of the border. With its Castle overlooking the entire city, and the infamous Royal Mile ambling up towards it, as well as countless city parks and some magnificent architecture, there’ll be plenty to fill three days in this hub of culture.
This travel guide is intended for a three-day stay in Edinburgh – most likely an extended weekend, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and assumes a full-day stay on each of the three days.
The guide comprises the following:
- A “Get There” section, detailing the best ways into the city in various modes of transport.
- A recommended itinerary for each day, with suggested timings spent at each place, as well as suggested alternative options for some sights, such as museums. Maps with keys are also provided. The centre of Edinburgh is best accessible on foot, and none of our itineraries require you to take any form of public transport.
- A “Where to Stay” section, with the best options for budget, mid-range and luxury tastes.
- A “Photo Gallery” of photos of the sights we recommend you see.
We hope you enjoy the city of Edinburgh!
Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station. Photo: Daniel
The best way to get to Edinburgh is by train. Edinburgh is a hub for trains throughout Scotland, with regular services arriving from London, and more local services heading out towards Glasgow, Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness and beyond. There are two stations in Edinburgh; the most central is Edinburgh Waverley, which is the second largest station in the UK by area, and a little further west is Haymarket. Tickets for both stations are generally interchangeable.
The best place to buy train tickets is at the website for Virgin Trains East Coast. Tickets are available up to three months in advance, and this website offers tickets for trains across the country, not just for those operated by Virgin.
Tip: It is ALWAYS advised to book train tickets in the United Kingdom IN ADVANCE, because prices are much higher if you buy on the train directly from the ticket officer.
If you’re coming from outside the UK, your best option is to fly to Edinburgh Airport, which is just over 8 miles away. To get into town, you can take the Airlink (Bus 100) from Bus Stop D outside the terminal, which drops you off on Waverley Bridge and costs £4.50 for a single and £7.50 for a return. A cheaper, slower Lothian (Bus 35) service leaves from Bus Stop F, and costs £1.50 for a single journey, or £3.50 for a day ticket. You can also take the new tram which costs £5 for a single or £8 for a return.
If you intend to drive or hire a car, we recommend checking with your accommodation first to see if they have a car park. Otherwise, you may struggle to find a city centre car park that allows you to leave your car overnight, and may find yourself confused and frustrated at the myriad of one-way streets and strict parking attendants.
If you’re looking for a cheap but less comfortable form of transport, Edinburgh is served by the MegaBus, which offers by far the cheapest ways of getting around the UK.
Day 1 in Edinburgh: What to do on your first day!
Map 1: Arthur’s Seat
Arrive Holyrood House: 08:00
Whether you’re arriving in Edinburgh today or stayed here overnight, start your exploring on Day 1 early so that you can get the best views of the city from the two major viewing points of the city. Strap on your walking boots though, as it’s a tiring day to kick things off. Buses 6 and 35 stop near the palace.
Arthur’s Seat: 08:00 — 10:30
See Map 1.
As enticing as Holyrood House looks, we’re not going there just yet – there’s a bit of legwork to do first. head towards the footpaths Queen’s Drive (2) and start your climb up to the peak of Holyrood Park – Arthur’s Seat (3). Follow the footpath along the Salisbury Crags (The Radical Road) for some great early morning views of the city, before turning north and then east towards The Nether Hill and, eventually, Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is the highest point of Holyrood Park and is a dormant volcano with a well-preserved fort, offering breathtaking views of the city. It should take you just over half an hour to walk up to Arthur’s Seat, but there’s time here to rest at the top and snap some photos before moving on. Head back to Queen’s Drive directly north via St Margaret’s Loch (6) and the nearby ruined chapel before turning left down Queen’s Drive and back towards Holyrood House (1).
Holyrood House: 10:30 — 11:30
See Map 1
£12/£7.50 (Kids under 5 FREE). Now that you’re fully warmed-up, a royal welcome at Holyrood House (1) awaits. The palace here is the official residence of the Queen of England when she visits Scotland (she usually stays here for a week in the summer on official business), and there’s a complimentary audio tour which lasts about an hour that is highly recommended to get a real flavour and feel of the place.
Our Dynamic Earth: 11:30 — 12:30
See Map 1
£12.50/£7.95. Before heading to Dynamic Earth, whizz past the Scottish Parliament (5), the post-modern building opened in 2004, on your way to Our Dynamic Earth (4), which is a wonderful experience for those of you in love with the world and everything in it. In this interactive experience, you’ll learn more about how the world works, how it was formed, and several little known facts about our world, along with fascinating, high definition videos and pictures that will amaze you. Well worth a trip.
Lunch at Oink: 12:30 — 13:00
See Map 1
Oink (7) is your new favourite place to eat, ever. Head down Reid’s Close and straight down to the footpath onto Canongate, and right there on the corner is this heavenly place. They serve the most tender hog roast in the entire world (in my humble opinion) and you can get varying portion sizes (from huge to huger) and apple sauce should you so desire it. Perfect for eating on the run, although be careful not to drop any treasured pork along the way.
Calton Hill: 13:00 — 15:00
See Map 2
Fill up with pork, because you’re going on another walk. It’s less of a climb this time around, but the views of the city are just as magnificent, if not better. Walk up Canongate (incidentally, this is part of the Royal Mile, see Day 2) to the Canongate Kirk (1), for a brief look at where Mike Tindall and Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, got married in 2011. Walk through the grounds behind, take a left onto Calton Road and then right onto the footpath (2). Where the paths join, turn left (almost back on yourself) until you get to Regent Road. Keep going left until you reach another footpath going up (3), and keep following the paths that lead up to Calton Hill. The main things to see up here are the Nelson Monument (4), which you can climb for the best views of the city, the Dugald Stewart Monument (5), and the National Monument of Scotland, or The Folly. (6). You can also check out the exhibition at the City Observatory (7).
The Scott Monument: 15:00 — 16:00
See Map 3
Head back down the hill to (3) on Map 2, and then turn right down the hill towards Princes Street. This is the main shopping street and the start of the ‘New Town’ of Edinburgh, which you’ll see more of later. The huge, looming, ruined-looking tower ahead of you is the Walter Scott Monument (1), and if you fancy braving the 287 steps to the top, the views over the city are sublime.
Shopping in Jenners: 16:00 — 19:00
See Map 3
There’s always time for a little bit of shopping, right? Jenners (2) has been described as the “Harrods of the North” and until 2005 was the oldest independent department store in Scotland. It’s recently
Map 2: Canongate and Calton Hill.
been bought by House of Fraser but that doesn’t take away from the fact it’s the best place to go for all your shopping needs in the capital. Three hours isn’t enough time, really, but if you find yourself running out of things to do, just head outside and wander further down Princes Street – it’s the main shopping street in the city.
Dinner at the Dome, Cocktails at Brown’s: 19:00 — late
See Map 3
Finally ready for some food? Head north towards St Andrew Square (3) where there’s always something going on, before taking a left onto George Street, where you’ll be spending the rest of the evening. Opposite the church is The Dome (4), where they do everything from afternoon teas through original cocktails to huge plates of food in the evening. This is the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, where The Dome sits resplendent with its Greco-Roman façade and Corinthian Portico. With three menus in two restaurants, we recommend booking a place well in advance as it’s likely to get booked up very quickly. Once you’ve eaten your fill, head to Brown’s a little further down George Street where you’ll spend the rest of the evening drinking cocktails and enjoying the pleasant, peaceful vibe.
Map 3: The Scott Monument, St Andrew Square and east George Street.
This is the end of the first day of our travel guide to Edinburgh. We have built a 3 days Travel Guide, which you can get by clicking here.