Edinburgh in 2 Days: everything you need to know

If you are planning a weekend getaway to Edinburgh, this guide will help you plan your itinerary.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

9 min read

Edinburgh in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Edinburgh at dawn | ©Ben Heathwood

48 hours in Edinburgh will be more than enough time to get to know its main sites and enjoy different attractions. With this itinerary you can enjoy the two distinct parts that make up the city: the old part, the Old Town, and the new part, the New Town. Read on if you want to know how to plan your vacation with useful and practical information.

Day 1: Explore the old part of the city, the Old Town

Edinburgh Castle| ©Lindsay Holmwood
Edinburgh Castle| ©Lindsay Holmwood

The first day of the itinerary is strictly designed for you to get to know Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town, a must-see of the city no matter how much time you spend there. It is the part with more history, where the city originated and also the most picturesque.

You can discover the historic center and its corners, and visit some of the most important monuments. What should you see on your first day? Well, here I tell you.

Visit Edinburgh Castle

The best way not to miss any detail is to book a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle. It stands imposingly on a hill on the outskirts of the city, being the undisputed star of the city. It is the emblem of Edinburgh, and I even dare to say that it is the main face of Scotland.

I recommend buying tickets in advance and read this special post on how to visit Edinburgh Castle for more information when organizing your visit.

Facts of interest:

  • Opening hours: open every day of the year from 9.30 am to 6 pm from April to September and from 9.30 am to 5 pm the rest of the year.
  • Tickets: The entrance to the castle costs approximately 23 € buying them at the box office and about 21 € online.
  • Duration of the tour: approximately 2 hours.

Book a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle

Continue the day by walking along the Royal Mile

Walking the Royal Mile| ©Herbert Frank
Walking the Royal Mile| ©Herbert Frank

The Royal Mile is the main street and artery of the Old Town. Almost 2 kilometers long this street where you will find many restaurants and the main stores of the whole city. Both ends of the street link Edinburgh Castle with Holyrood Palace.

But what drives all tourists crazy is the possibility of discovering small streets and squares, which peek through the famous "closes", alleys that open between historic buildings. Don't miss the opportunity to explore them yourself.

Also, if you book an Edinburgh Ghost Bus, this street will be included in the tour and you will learn about the spooky stories that this scenario stars.

Book an Edinburgh Ghost Bus Tour

Enter St.Giles Cathedral

Meet Edinburgh's most important church, with a very attractive facade and interior. It is well known for its stained glass windows, the great organ and the Thistle Chapel, where you will find the famous image of the angel playing the bagpipes. You will easily visualize it on your tour of the Royal Mile, and admission is free. If you want to get there comfortably, do not hesitate and book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus.

  • Visiting hours: Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm, from May to September. In the rest of the months from: Monday to Saturday from 9 am to 5 pm and Sundays from 1 pm to 5 pm.

Book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus

Discover Mary King's Close

Of all the closes in the Royal Mile, this alley deserves a special mention as it has a network of subway alleys. When you visit, you will get to know a part of the city that holds many stories about how people lived and died in the time of the plague, so terrible for Scotland. In fact, one of my favorite plans is to book a tour of Edinburgh's subway.

In particular, Mary King's Close is an unparalleled tour through old shopping streets and even victims' rooms. A true journey back in time to the era when this disease struck Europe, don't miss it!

  • Visiting hours: Sunday to Thursday from 10 am to 5 pm; Friday and Saturday from 10 am to 9 pm.

Book an Edinburgh Underground Tour

Stop off at Victoria Street

Victoria Street is a well-known street in Edinburgh's Old Town, characterized by its colorful facades and independent stores. Everything you will find there is of a high class.

In addition, it is separated into two levels that allow you to have different perspectives of the Royal Mile, and take the best pictures of the Old Town. Get your camera ready.

Book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus

Take a break in Grassmarket

Touring the Grassmarket| ©Lukas Koster
Touring the Grassmarket| ©Lukas Koster

Grassmarket is a popular square that is home to pubs and taverns perfect for that beer you've been waiting for and one of the stops if you book a beer tour in Edinburgh. It is an ideal and comforting plan to disconnect from the rest of the itinerary of the first day in Edinburgh.

The curiosity is that formerly public executions were held here for those who had any conviction, but today the atmosphere is all about food and fun. Did you imagine that?

Book an Edinburgh Beer Tour

Search for "Bobby" at Greyfiars Cemetery

One of the most in-demand plans in Edinburgh is to book a tour of the haunted crypts and cemetery. In particular, Greyfiars is very famous because here you will find the statue of a small and loyal friend named "Bobby".

Legend has it that this dog accompanied his owner's grave for 14 years until, finally, he was buried next to the cemetery walls, as the law forbids burying a dog in a sacred place. In commemoration of Bobby, thousands of tourists visit the cemetery every year.

Book a tour of the haunted crypts and the cemetery

Visit Holyrood Palace

At the end of the Royal Mile, you'll finally come across one of the most important plans on the itinerary: a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The star site of the Palace is the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, as this is where kings were crowned in ancient times.

In addition to having a very beautiful architecture, it is a very photographed place for lovers of green and ancient spaces.

  • Visiting hours: daily from 9:30 am to 6 pm from April to October; the rest of the months closes at 4 pm.

Book tickets for the Palace of Holyroodhouse

End the day at Calton Hill

What could be better than ending your first day of sightseeing by watching the sunset at one of the best spots in the city of Edinburgh. Calton Hill is a hill where you will have an enviable panoramic view. The climb is not at all difficult and is well conditioned so that it is accessible to all audiences.

From the heights, you can identify the monument to Dugald Stewart in the foreground and, behind, the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle. And if you're really tired from the day, don't hesitate to hop on the Edinburgh sightseeing bus.

Book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus

Day 2: Discover the New Town

Scott Monument| ©Pavlina Jane
Scott Monument| ©Pavlina Jane

At the end of the 18th century, what is the new part of the city of Edinburgh was built. Yes, of course, it's not that new. But the reality is that the Old Town was becoming too small for the number of people who lived in it, and the wealthiest families decided to create a suburb on the outskirts.

It is considered a masterpiece of urban planning by experts in the field and is still residential today, but also houses commercial and office areas.

Start the day at the Scott Monument

Our first stop may sound exhausting as it involves climbing the 287 steps of the Scott Monument. This grand structure in the city is a Gothic spire no less than 61 meters high, whose great attraction are the 68 statues representing characters from Walter Scott's novels.

In addition to the beauty of the monument, the panoramic views are very nice from this point of the city. A recharge of energy and motivation to start this second day.

  • Hours: April to September: daily from 10 am to 7 pm. From October to March: every day from 9 am to 4 pm.

Stroll Princes Street Gardens

Continuing this day's stroll along Princes Street, we came across the Princes Street Gardens, which separate the Old City from the New City. They are considered the favorite park of the inhabitants of Edinburgh and if you are wondering why, it won't take long to find out the answer.

Besides being an excellent place to relax in the heart of the city, they are also located at a privileged height that will allow you to enjoy the views of the Old Town and Edinburgh Castle. The distinctive features that everyone wants to photograph are its giant floral clock and the old Victorian iron fountain.

Visit the National Gallery of Scotland

Once you finish your tour of the gardens, just off to the side you'll find the National Gallery of Scotland.

You can access the exhibits for free and enjoy world-renowned works that, even if you're not an art aficionado, you'll easily recognize. Works by El Greco, Van Gogh, Velázquez, Rembrandt or Rubens, among other great masters, can be found here.

Book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus

Discover the charm of Dean Village

Visiting Dean Village| ©cattan2011
Visiting Dean Village| ©cattan2011

From this point, we will move a little away from the center to visit Dean Village. This village is a charming place worth including in your itinerary, as it is located next to the river and looks like something out of a medieval fairy tale.

You will enjoy a landscape of stone houses and bridges, surrounded by greenery, just ten minutes walk from the National Gallery of Scotland. What do you think?

Get to know the main streets: George Street and Rose Street

These avenues are the most famous of the New Town and a stroll along them is really charming.

Its elegant neoclassical and Georgian style buildings, known as terraces, and the facades decorated with columns and colorful doors, make you feel like you are walking inside a real painting.

Book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus

Don't miss the National Museum of Scotland

Our next point of interest will be the National Museum of Scotland. If you want to discover the history of this country from the age of dinosaurs to the technological revolution of the future, you can take a tour through all the rooms of its exhibition.

A fun fact: you can meet the sheep "Dolly", the first mammal cloned from an adult cell and you can see a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

  • Hours: daily, from 10 am to 5 pm.
  • Admission: free

Book the Edinburgh Sightseeing Bus

Climb to Arthur's Seat: the best viewpoint in the city

And, finally, the list of what to see and do in Edinburgh. We crown the day with another great sunset at Arthur's Seat. You have about 20 minutes walk, but if you prefer you can consult information about the best tour bus in Edinburgh and save a little physical energy. This site is located in Holyrood Park, the highest point of Edinburgh, and is very famous because its views are really magnificent.

From the top you can play at identifying different monuments of the city that you have been touring in these two days, or contemplate the fjord of the River Forth. No visit to Edinburgh is complete without visiting this point of the city.

Book the Edinburgh sightseeing bus

Other options for your two-day itinerary in Edinburgh

Scotch Whisky Experience| ©Neil Turner
Scotch Whisky Experience| ©Neil Turner

Of course Scotland has more to offer you, so I propose an alternative if you are curious about the surroundings of Edinburgh.

Another possible option is to do the itinerary of day 1, get to know the Old Town of the city and its key points, but dedicate the second day to make an excursion to the outskirts to have a more complete view of the country in general. If so, do not miss the opportunity to make the best tours and excursions from Edinburgh.

If instead you prefer to dedicate your day to know another city of this beautiful country, I leave you the post on how to go from Edinburgh to St. Andrews or how to go from Edinburgh to Loch Ness. Choose your own adventure!

Book an excursion to Loch Ness