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Edinburgh in 2 Days: everything you need to know

If you are planning a weekend getaway to Edinburgh, this guide will be exactly what you need to plan your itinerary.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

8 min read

Edinburgh in 2 Days: everything you need to know

Edinburgh at dawn | ©Ben Heathwood

If you have 48 hours in the city of Edinburgh it will be more than enough time to visit its main sites and enjoy different attractions. Although Edinburgh offers many activities both in the city and its surroundings, 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 what to see and do in Edinburgh and plan your vacation with useful and practical information.

Day 1: get into 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 visit Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town, an essential visit to the city no matter how much time you spend there. It is the part with the most history, where the city originated, and the most picturesque as well.

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, I'll tell you here.

Visit Edinburgh Castle

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

Interesting facts

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

Buy tickets for Edinburgh Castle

Continue the day touring the Royal Mile

Touring the Royal Mile| ©Herbert Frank
Touring the Royal Mile| ©Herbert Frank

The Royal Mile is the main street and artery of the entire Old Town. About 2 kilometers long make up this street where you will find many restaurants and major stores throughout the 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.

St. Giles Cathedral

Meet the most important church to visit in Edinburgh, a great attraction both in its 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.

  • Visiting hours: Monday to Friday from 9am to 7pm, Saturdays from 9am to 5pm and Sundays from 1pm to 5pm, from May to September. In the rest of the months of: Monday to Saturday from 9hs to 17hs and Sundays from 13hs to 17hs.

Discover Mary King's Close

Of all the closes of the Royal Mile, this alley deserves a special mention because it has a network of subway alleys. When you visit, you will 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.

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 10am to 5pm; Friday and Saturday from 10am to 9pm.

Stop at Victoria Street

Victoria Street is a well-known street in the Old Town of Edinburgh, 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.

Pause at the Grassmarket

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

Grassmarket is a very popular square that houses bars and taverns perfect for that beer you've been waiting for. Ideal for a refreshing break from our first day in Edinburgh itinerary.

The curiosity is that in the past public executions were carried out here for those who had a conviction, but today the atmosphere is all about food and fun. Did you imagine that?

Search for "Bobby" in Greyfiars Cemetery

This cemetery is very famous because here you will find the statue of a small and loyal friend called "Bobby".

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

Book a guided tour of Edinburgh

Visit Holyrood Palace

At the end of the Royal Mile, you will finally come across the Palace of Holyrood, whose visit is one of the most recommended activities of your visit to Edinburgh. The highlight of the Palace are the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, as this is where the kings were crowned in ancient times.

Besides 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 it closes at 4 pm.

End the day at Calton Hill

What better way to end your first day of sightseeing than watching the sunset in 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 to be 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.

Day 2 : discovering 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 even today remains residential, but also houses commercial and office areas.

Starting the day at the Scott Monument

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

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

Visit Princes Street Gardens

Continuing this day's walk along Princes Street, we came across the Princes Street Gardens, which separate the Old Town from the New Town. 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.

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 exhibitions for free and enjoy world-renowned works that, even if you are not an art lover, you will easily recognize. The works of El Greco, Van Gogh, Velázquez, Rembrandt and Rubens, among other great masters, can be found here.

Book a guided tour of Edinburgh

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 very charming place that is worth including in your itinerary, as it is located next to the river and it really looks like something out of a medieval 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?

Getting 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.

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 curious fact: you will be able to meet the sheep "Dolly", the first mammal cloned from an adult cell and you will be able to see a Tyrannosaurus Rex.

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

Arthur's Seat: the best viewpoint in the city

Finally, we crown the day with another great sunset at Arthur's Seat. You have about a 20 minute walk, but if you want you can inquire about the best tour bus in Edinburgh and save some physical energy. This site is located in Holyrood Park, the highest point in 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 2 days, or contemplate the fjord of the River Forth. No visit to Edinburgh is complete without visiting this point of the city.

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 one of those who are curious about Edinburgh's surroundings.

Another possible option is to follow 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 a tour of Edinburgh's surroundings