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One Day in Edinburgh Itinerary: See Edinburgh in a day

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Want to see everything in Edinburgh in a day? The Scottish capital boasts of history, culture, and nature. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well, and to explore it all with ease, you will need our one day in Edinburgh itinerary! 

So here it is!

One Day in Edinburgh Itinerary: Visit Edinburgh in a day

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Figuring out how to explore an iconic destination, full of breathtaking architecture, vibrant culture, rich history, and above all delicious food in just twenty-four hours is not easy. 

And if that place happens to be Edinburgh, then you literally really have your task cut out.

This is because the capital of Scotland is a mega hit with tourists from every corner of the world. 

However, there is no need to despair as this specially crafted Edinburgh one day itinerary will highlight the ways and means to experience all the must-see and do attractions without wasting even a minute of your precious time.

Edinburgh one day itinerary: At a glance

  • Climb up to the Arthur’s Seat
  • Start with a hearty Scottish breakfast
  • Walk the Royal Mile
  • Climb the steps of the Scott Monument
  • Stroll the Princess Street Gardens 
  • Lunch at the Elephant House
  • Visit the National Museum of Scotland
  • Explore the Edinburgh Castle 
  • Wander the Victoria Street
  • Dinner: Makars Gourmet Mash Bar or the Advocate

Keep in mind that this itinerary is created for a FULL day in Edinburgh, so either you reach the capital the night before, or very early on the morning of your single day trip in order to make the visit a complete success.

Edinburg Scotland Trip planning 

When it comes to visiting Scotland, even for a day, one item of clothing you will have to carry wherever you go is a good waterproof jacket as it rains here almost 250 days a year along with a pair of good waterproof boots

A hat or a beret, and gloves are an absolute must during the winter months as it can get quite chilly.

The best time to visit Edinburgh is in May when the hotels are cheaper and it is not as crowded as in the summer. Moreover, the weather is mild and much better than between June and August.

Where to stay in Edinburgh + Getting around in Edinburgh

Assuming you have never been to Edinburgh before it is important to get oriented first.

The city is split into a handful of neighborhoods like West End, Stockbridge, City Centre, Old Town, Leith, and South Side. 

The Old Town is on one side while the New Town is on the other. However, it is strongly recommended that you book your accommodation for the day either in the City Centre or in the Old Town in order to squeeze in as much as you can in the limited time at your disposal.

Moxy Edinburgh Fountainbridge
Our suite at the Moxy Fountainbridge

We stayed at the 4-star Moxy Edinburgh Fountainbridge. The property was very lovely, with great staff, and the rooms were spacious and clean. Edinburgh Castle was only a 15-minute walk away. 

We particularly enjoyed hanging out in the lobby area and the rooftop bar in the evening! 

Highly recommend this hotel if you are planning to stay in Edinburgh for the night or a few days. Click to check availability here

Other hotel recommendations:

  • The Balmoral Hotel: This super luxury hotel sits right outside Edinburgh railway station, and thanks to the historic clocktower it is almost impossible to miss by anyone visiting Edinburgh. The top-end rooms have classic interiors and offer unparalleled views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town. Check availability here
  • Radisson Blu Hotel (Edinburgh City Center): Enjoying a grand location along the Royal Mile, this mid-range hotel is situated inside a historic building and features spacious rooms with all modern amenities like a spa, swimming pool, and fitness center, and an in-house bar. Book your stay here
  • The Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile (Hunter Square): This is one of the best budget-friendly hotels in Old Town right next to the atmospheric streets and offers stylish rooms with a warm decor at the same time. Click to view here
  • ibis Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile (Hunter Square): This is another budget-friendly hotel located in the city centre and close to attractions. Book your stay here

Regardless of location, there is accommodation available in Edinburgh to suit every budget, in spite of the fact that you are here for a very short break.

The City Centre is quite pricey but will be the best place to stay for a day due to its proximity to major attractions. 

To get around there is no shortage of public transport in Edinburgh. The Lothian Bus service has spots all over the city and they run night services on selected routes as well. 

The city, however, is quite compact and can be explored easily on foot with points of interest being no more than fifty minutes away at the furthest end from each other. 

In fact, before you book an Uber, check out the map as well: it might be much faster to reach your destination on foot.

To make your sightseeing a bit more interesting buy the one day Edinburgh City Pass for £45 per adult and £20 per child which offers free entry to 23 handpicked attractions plus tours with local guides. 

Girl in Edinburgh city centre
Grassmarket Edinburgh

A hop-on and hop-off sightseeing bus is also a nice way to get around the city (and rest your legs). Grab your tickets here

Because we stayed in Edinburgh for more than a day, we used this 48-hour pass which also included a few attractions entries.

Pro Tip: Plan well ahead if you want to experience the Edinburgh Festival on your itinerary. It is said to be one of the best events to enjoy in the UK. For six weeks in the summer, the capital is a buzz with actors and comedians putting up over 1000 shows a day. Cabs and beds will be impossible to come by, so either book in advance or come some other time.

Climb up to the Arthur’s Seat

Hail a taxi for Dunsapie Loch from where it is an easy 30 minutes climb to the top of this 251m high extinct volcano known as Arthur’s Seat. 

Remember to wrap yourself up in some warm clothes as it can get pretty cold at the top.

The sunrise here is absolutely spectacular and on a good day, you can see as far as the Firth of Forth. This is an unforgettable way to start the day and we promise you that you won’t regret it 

Start with a hearty Scottish breakfast 

The best way to start the next leg of your one day Edinburgh itinerary is to enjoy a full Scottish breakfast at some of the well-known cafes to keep you fueled up for the next couple of hours.

A typical local breakfast of bacon, square sausage, black pudding, beans, mushroom, toast, and potato scone can be enjoyed at either Scott’s Kitchen or Circus Cafe Bistro at 8 St Mary’s Street.

Walk the historic Royal Mile

Make your way to the Scott Monument through a leisurely stroll along the Edinburgh City Centre which won’t be very busy at this hour of the day.

Pop in and out of the nice boutiques (but not for long) at this famous city centre Royal Mile as it is called.

The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s most famous street and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of the busiest tourist streets in the world, with around four million visitors per year. 

The street is 1.1 miles or 1.8 km long and runs roughly east to west, from Edinburgh Castle at the western end to Holyrood Palace at the eastern end. 

The street is narrow and winding, with many steps and narrow closes (alleyways) leading off it.

The Royal Mile is lined with buildings of architectural or historic interest, most of them dating from the 17th century or earlier. 

These include Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, the Scottish Parliament building, St Giles’ Cathedral, and the Georgian houses of the New Town. 

The street is also home to a number of shops, restaurants, and cafes.

The Royal Mile has been the scene of many historical events, from riots and demonstrations to the coronation of King George IV. Today, it is a popular tourist destination and a busy shopping street.

Climb the steps of the Scott Monument

Take a deep breath and climb the 287 steps up to the iconic Scott Monument for taking in great views of the city from a height of 200 feet.

Built in honor of the well-known author Sir Walter Scott, this is the second largest monument in the world to be erected in memory of a writer after the one in Havana dedicated to Jose Marti.

  • Address: E. Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh EH2 2EJ, United Kingdom
  • Hours: Open daily, from April to September 10:00 am to 7:00 pm. From October to March, it is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm
  • Admission: Adult tickets are £8, Students/children £6

Stroll the Princess Street Gardens

This garden is located on the south side of Princess Street right below the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

Girl at the Princes Street Gardens
View of the Princess Street Gardens

There are some beautiful floral displays here including a stunning floral clock with a different theme each year. If you are feeling cold, grab a hot coffee from the in-house cafe.

As you make your way around the gardens you will come across the very impressive Scottish National Gallery made up of two magnificent buildings. 

Entry is free and the institution holds priceless artworks of masters like Da Vinci, Raphael, and Vermeer.

The complex is wheelchair friendly, has public toilets, and a lovely restaurant to sit and relax in, which unfortunately you cannot afford to experience because of time limitations. But keep this spot in mind if you plan to extend your trips 

  • Address: Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2HG, United Kingdom
  • Hours: Open daily from 10:00 am to 10:00 pm
  • Admission: Free

The Elephant House for lunch 

Opened in 1995, the Elephant House is the most established tea and coffee house in Edinburgh. 

Well known as the cafe where JK Rowling (aka Harry Potter fame) worked, make sure you make a reservation before booking any of the street window tables or the ones at the back of the cafe from where you can admire uninterrupted views of Edinburgh Castle.

The Elephant House, apart from serving excellent blended coffees, breakfast, lunch, and dinner, has over 600 elephants on display, many of which are for sale.

  • Address: 21,George IV Bridge
  • Hours: Open from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm

If the in-house dining is closed due to any reason, you can always opt for a takeaway.

Visit the National Museum of Scotland

Walk along the road from Elephant House and a short distance up a small cobbled alley till you come across the majestic National Museum of Scotland. 

View of the National Museum of Scotland
National Museum of Scotland

Here you can gain an insight into the history of the country right from the primeval ages till the present day.

Some of the interesting exhibits which are on display here include Dolly the Sheep, the Millennium clock tower, and skeletons of dinosaurs along with over 77,000 other artifacts. 

You may find two hours hardly enough to see everything, but as admission is free you can pop in and out at any time later.

  • Address: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom
  • Hours: Every day from 10:00 am to 05:00 pm
  • Admission: Free

Explore the Edinburgh Castle

Enjoy the final few hours of daylight at the mighty impressive Edinburgh Castle, one of the most iconic landmarks of Edinburgh city. 

From the National Museum stroll down to the George IV Bridge and up to the top end of the Royal Mile till you come across this citadel. 

You can spend almost an entire day here but since time is a constraint, the trip has been trimmed to just an hour and a half.

You have ninety minutes to explore this place which is relatively easy because at this time of the day there are hardly any crowds. 

Edinburgh Castle is located upon a volcanic outcrop that towers over the city and can be seen from miles around. A walk around the galleries and exhibits gives one an idea of how things have changed since the Iron Age. 

Edinburgh Castle sunset view
Edinburgh Castle in the evening

Walk up the Lang Stairs and discover Mons Meg, the most advanced canon of its kind of the medieval age with a range of as far as two miles.

We recommend getting here by 4:30 pm and exploring until 06:00 pm.

  • Address:  Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom
  • Hours: April to September from 9: 30 am to 6:00 pm, and from October to March it is 9:30 am to 5:00 pm. The last entry is an hour before closing. 
  • Admission: Adult tickets are £ 18, Seniors at £. 14.50, and children’s entry fees (between 5 to 15 years) are £11

Note that the Castle Tickets sell out fast, so book in advance for the best prices and guaranteed entry. You can book online on GetYourGuide.

Wander the Victoria Street

After exploring the Castle, head to Victoria Street. 

Like all other streets of Scotland, Victoria Street is not only the most pretty street in Edinburgh but it serves as a constant reminder of the city’s fascinating past. 

Girl at the Victoria Street in Edinburgh
Victoria Street

Built between 1829 and 1834, this street was the brainchild of the master architect Thomas Hamilton, the force behind some of the neo-classical wonders of Edinburgh. 

It is no surprise, therefore, that Victoria Street became the inspiration for the ever-popular Diagon Alley.

In and around Victoria Street, you will find cafes to grab a drink or an ice cream. 

Whiskey Ice cream in Edinburgh
Whiskey Ice-cream

Now, Scotch Whisky Experience is a must in Edinburgh, but with only a day in the city, you might have to settle in with a whiskey ice cream. 

Note: Scotch Whisky Experience is located by the castle, and you can join in for guided tours. You will need a minimum of an hour for that (more information below). 

Dinner: Makars Gourmet Mash Bar or the Advocate

We are sure that you must be famished by now, so pamper yourself with a treat at the Makars Gourmet Mash Bar in Old Town very close to the Royal Mile. Not only is the food amazing, but so is the atmosphere which is ethical and friendly. 

The Veg Haggis here is super delicious as are the mashed potatoes and the meat selections with the Bonnie Prince Charlie chicken dish being exceptional.

  • Hours: Sundays from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm. From Monday to Thursday it is open from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Fridays to Saturdays it is open from 12:00 pm to 9:30 pm. 

Another option is to head over to the Advocate. 

Belhaven Steak and Ale Pie + Fish and chips
Belhaven Steak and Ale Pie + Fish and chips

Located a minute away from the Royal Mile, the Advocate is a large bar with a cozy feel serving eclectic pub fare. This spot is perfect if you wish to enjoy a nice traditional Scottish meal with a beer. 

  • Hours: Open every day from 11:00 am to 11:00 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, they are open till 1:00 am

You rightly deserve to unwind on your only night in Edinburgh, so make your way to the rooftop bar of your hotel and hang out!

Alternate things to do in Edinburgh: 2 day Edinburgh itinerary suggestions

If you wish to swap any of the above activities, or planning to extend your visit to another day, here are a few suggestions. Many of these activities are centered along the Royal Mile stretch. 

Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a public park in Edinburgh situated to the north of Princes Street Gardens. 

The hill rises from the west end of Princes Street and offers views over Edinburgh Castle, the Old Town, and the New Town. 

National Monument, Calton Hill

It is home to several monuments, including the National Monument of Scotland, Nelson’s Monument, and the Robert Burns Monument. 

The hill is also home to the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and the City Observatory Edinburgh. 

Carlton Hill is a popular tourist destination and is included in the itinerary of many sightseeing tours of Edinburgh. There are also cafes and restaurants nearby for breakfast or any meals. 

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. 

Located at the end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, at the foot of the imposing Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace is a working royal palace as well as a tourist attraction. 

Built in the early 16th century by James IV of Scotland, the palace has been both a home and a workplace for British monarchs since the 17th century. 

Today, it is the setting for State occasions and official entertainment.

  • Address: Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, United Kingdom
  • Hours: 9:30 am to 6:00 pm
  • Admission fee: Adult ticket starts at £12. Click to book tickets

Scotch Whisky Experience

Right next to Edinburgh Castle is the must-visit Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Experience

Scotland is the biggest exporter of whisky and you will get to learn all about its history here, without having to visit a real-life distillery. 

Be prepared to be vowed by the 3-D show and then try out a dram of this exhilarating stuff while choosing from over 3000 different Scotch Whisky bottles stored in the vaults.  

Depending upon your choice and the time you are prepared to devote here you can choose to go on a whisky-guided tour as well.

  • Hours: 10:00 am to 5:00 pm
  • Admission fee: Adult ticket £19 (60 minutes -daily). Tours start at £32 (Gold Tour is for 90 minutes. Tasting Tales is £42, and it lasts 60 minutes, only valid on Saturdays. Or the Platinum tour that is for £82 for 3 hours, open daily. Book your tickets here

Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh

The Royal Yacht Britannia is a former royal yacht of the British royal family, now retired from service. 

The ship served as the royal family’s holiday home and as a venue for state visits and official entertainment. 

It has sailed more than a million nautical miles around the globe. Today, you can settle in for a nice Afternoon Tea at the Royal Deck Tea Room. 

Or you can visit to explore the yacht exhibits or have a light meal. 

The Real Mary King’s Close Tour

The Real Mary King Close Tour offers visitors a one-hour guided experience in the 17th-century streets and passageways tucked below the lively streets of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

You can learn about the myths of the city’s past by following the footsteps of the former residents in one of Edinburgh’s best underground experiences. 

A close is an alleyway where the old town folks built their homes, the most prominent among them being a businesswoman by the name of Mary King.

  • Hours: Open from 9:30 am to 10:00 (do confirm the hours before you go)
  • Admission fee: Adult tickets are for.£19.50. Child entry is £ 12.95. Book your tickets here

Note: The newly launched Flexi ticket allows you to change your date and time twice. This is usually a sell-out attraction, so since you have just a day in handbook your tickets well in advance, preferably a week before your arrival date to guarantee entry on date and time. 

Dean Village Edinburgh

Dean Village is a former milling village in the West End of Edinburgh, Scotland. It will be about a 15-minute train ride away from the centre. 

Deam Village lies along the Water of Leith to the west of Stockbridge, Dean being an Anglicisation of the Gaelic deoch, meaning ‘a drink’. 

The mills which gave the village its name were built to take advantage of the water power from the Leith. 

The last mill ceased operating in the 1920s, but many of the buildings survive and have been converted to other uses. 

Dean Village is now a conservation area and an attractive residential area. It is also home to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Camera Obscura (perfect for the late afternoon or evening)

This whacky entertainment center has over 100 activities including mirror mazes and even a LED lit tunnel. 

The rooftop provides surreal views of the Old Town as well as its most illustrious neighbor, Edinburgh Castle.

  • Address: The Royal Mile, 549 Castlehill
  • Hours:  Monday to Sunday from 8:00 am to 10:00 pm
  • Admission fee: Adult  £19.95 (peak season) £18.95 (low season). Students and seniors are £17.95 (peak) and £ 16.95 (low). Children under 5 enter for free. (The peak period is from 1st July to 4th September)

Book your ticket well in advance to avoid any disappointment, especially since you have one opportunity to see Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, one of the most fun attractions in the whole of Britain. 

Dancing at the Voodoo Rooms

For an amazing night out head to the Voodoo Rooms, tucked away behind Princess Street, home to a much calmer party vibe. 

The DJs here are excellent as are the incredible cocktails served in the two bars. 

So either sit back and relax or if you have the energy, dance the night away.

Edinburgh Itinerary one day (up to 2 days) Sightseeing Map

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Day trips from Edinburgh: Perfect for a 3 day Edinburgh itinerary

Once you exhausted all the things to see and do on your one day in Edinburgh we suggest you head to any of these terrific day trips if you have time to see something else in Scotland.

Edinburgh is also a perfect base for a road trip to explore the highlands and beyond!

Glasgow 

Glasgow lies to the east of Edinburgh and is the largest city in Scotland. The city is home to an amazing art scene, thriving music, beautiful parks, and some of the best shopping outlets in Scotland. 

There are a number of distilleries and breweries that one can visit within the city. Depending on your interests you can visit the Pollock House and the National Museum of Rural Life in Glasgow. 

While public transportation is the easiest way to get to Glasgow, you can opt for a private tour with a chauffeur on a customized private trip. (Link)

  • Travel time and distance: 1 hour and 10 minutes or 81 km (50 miles)

St Andrews

From museums and outdoor attractions to the oldest golf course in the world, there is plenty that will keep you occupied on your day trip from Edinburgh to St Andrews. 

About 12 km (7.4 miles) out of the village is the Secret Bunker, a cold war nuclear command center that is now open to the public but is closed largely during the winter months.

This small historic village along the coast of Fife has some excellent outlets for enjoying seafood or just strolling on the harborfront. 

A few quaint villages worth popping in are Crail, Elie, and Pittenweem.

The best way to get to St Andrews is by taking a train to Leuchars, from where it is a 10-minute bus ride by # 99. You can even buy a train and bus ticket from Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.

Dundee

This is another coastal city on the Firth of Tay and is known the world over as the UNESCO city of design. 

Other attractions here are the RRS Discovery, the famous ship used during Captain Scott’s epic Antarctic expedition, and HMS Frigate Unicorn, a 19th century Georgian wooden ship.

The latest addition to the city’s long list of attractions is V&A Dundee, the first ever design museum established in Scotland. While there is a charge to view some exhibits, by and large entry to this institution is free.

  • Travel time and distance: 2 hours or 108 km (67 miles)

Edinburgh travel tips

Edinburgh Scotland is part of the United Kingdom, and they do not belong to the European Union. Hence if you need a tourist visa for the UK, it needs to be applied on their immigration website, and a Schengen visa will not apply.

In terms of currency, British pounds are accepted in Scotland. You can carry cash, or use a credit card.

If you are traveling to Edinburgh by air, you will arrive at the Edinburgh Airport. It is quick and easy to get to the city centre. So once you exit customs you will find the blue bus stand on the right. That’s the AirLink bus transfer.

There is a shuttle departure every ten minutes for Edinburgh city centre and it takes just 30 minutes to get there, depending on the traffic. 

Tickets are £4 for a single trip and £7 for an open return ticket. Book your transfers here

Safety

Edinburgh is a pretty safe city with a low crime rate, but one should be aware of the local laws when visiting Scotland. 

In case of any emergency or if you have lost your wallet and find yourself stranded, the Emergency Taxi Scheme will provide you with an option of paying back the fare at a later date. 

Some laws which are important to remember are that the legal age to drink alcohol and buy cigarettes and tobacco is 18 years. 

Also smoking is banned in public places indoors, including bars and offices.

While there is no fear of walking in the council area by day or night, it is advisable to stay away from certain areas like Lothian Road on Friday and Saturday nights despite the visible police presence.

Budget

Luckily the city of Edinburgh is full of sights that cost little to nothing as most of them can be admired from outside itself, especially around the City Centre. 

Keeping this in mind the total budget for one day or 2 nights in Edinburgh, including accommodation on a twin share basis will be £340 for two. 

If you wish to spend less, you can choose a cheaper hotel which will bring the cost down by 50%.

Was one day in Edinburgh enough?

To be honest, NO! One day in Edinburgh does no justice to this charming destination. For first-time visitors, a minimum of two to three days is a must to explore the Old Town and New Town at leisure. 

Having said that, one can cover a majority of attractions in 24 hours as described above or even on a hop-on and hop-off bus tour. 

However, depending on the time of the year, you might miss out on Arthur’s Seat.

So, that’s a wrap! We hope you found our post useful! We enjoyed exploring Edinburgh so much and hope to return! 

I personally loved it – it’s compact, easy to navigate, and has tons of heritage and natural sites!

Edinburgh is a beautiful and historic city with a lot to offer visitors. From its imposing castle to its many museums and galleries, there is something for everyone to enjoy. 

The Royal Mile is the perfect place to start exploring Edinburgh, as it provides a great overview of the city’s main sights. 

Holyrood Palace, Carlton Hill, and Edinburgh Castle are all worth a visit, and there are many other great attractions to discover. 

So why not start planning your trip to Edinburgh today?

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