24 Hours in Edinburgh


Edinburgh is a stylish and historic capital city that wows visitors with its scenery and charm. Set among seven hills, the city’s historic streets and buildings contrast interestingly with its ultra-hip nightlife and arts scene. Travelers can get a pretty good idea of what to expect by reading our one-day itinerary, but trust that not many people who come to Edinburgh want to leave after only one day.

A Healthy Breakfast at Spoon

Stop in at Spoon to fuel up before a full day of sightseeing. This vintage, 1960s-inspired restaurant has a calm and pleasing space that’s only a few blocks from the city’s Old Town. Enjoy its organic breakfast fare and mint and chilli tea from one of the tables by the window for the optimal experience.

Explore the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle

Visiting the Old Town is like walking into a very elaborate film set, as it’s hard to believe that the center of one of the UK’s largest cities could be so picturesque. Small cobblestone streets wind past the pubs and shops, while cathedrals and monuments tower over the streetscape. The Royal Mile is the main thoroughfare in the area and cuts a space through Old Town to the Edinburgh Castle.

A view of Edinburgh's Old Town and Castle from Calton Hill.

A view of Edinburgh’s Old Town and Castle from Calton Hill.

Speaking of the Edinburgh Castle, it’s literally a “can’t miss destination,” as the castle situated on the summit of Castle Rock, which is an extinct volcano that dominates the city skyline. Along with admiring the city views, there’s plenty for visitors to do at the castle like learning about its history and checking out the Scottish crown jewels.

Tourists venturing into the Edinburh Castle on a rainy day. Photo credit Ajay Thampi.

Tourists venturing into the Edinburh Castle on a rainy day. Photo credit Ajay Thampi.

Don’t leave the area without stopping by the Princes Street Gardens, which is a large park and series of manicured gardens surrounding Castle Rock.

The Princes Street Gardens are a great spot to relax and forget the crowds of the castle.

The Princes Street Gardens are a great spot to relax and forget the crowds of the castle.

A Scottish Lunch at the Grain Store

The Grain Store is an excellent lunch choice in the Old Town. Its three-course set lunch menu offers patrons the best of Scottish meat and fish, while its intimate décor with exposed bricks sets the ambiance.

Cultural Immersion at the National Museum of Scotland

Edinburgh’s answer to London’s British Museum, the National Museum of Scotland is a great place to spend an afternoon. The museum has collections on Scottish history, artifacts from around the classical world, art and design and natural history in two adjacent buildings only a few blocks from the Royal Mile. Like all national museums in the UK, admission is free.

Inside Edinburgh's National Museum of Scotland.

Inside Edinburgh’s National Museum of Scotland.

Dinner from a Renowned Chef at The Honours

Martin Wishart is a Michelin-starred chef who hails from Edinburgh and is a huge player on the Scottish culinary scene. His namesake restaurant, Martin Wishart, in the portside neighborhood of Leith is a classic, but his newly opened The Honours in the New Town provides similarly delicious fare without the long waiting list for reservations.

A Nightcap in the New Town

Not far from the restaurant, the fashionable cocktail bars and antique pubs of George Street call out to travelers and locals alike. Intersecting George Street is the small pedestrianized Rose Street, which has a slew of bars and pubs, albeit touristy ones. Most pubs in Edinburgh close at 1 a.m. though, so there’s no time to dilly-dally.

Rose Street and its pubs during the day.

Rose Street and its pubs during the day.

Beyond Edinburgh

Historic castles with huge estates, the mysteries of Loch Ness, the historic city of Aberdeen, the foggy hills of the Highlands and off-shore islands like the Isle of Skye are just a taste of the destinations waiting to be explored in Scotland. Travelers can rent a car in Edinburgh and go it on their own, or they can employ the services of UK tour operators to assist with their planning. Either way, they’re sure to have an incredible trip.

See all the articles, top ten lists and guides in our Scotland travel section.

See the Itinerary on the Map


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