If you’re looking to make the most out of a trip to Edinburgh in 2 days, you’ve landed on the right page!
Edinburgh is my favorite city in Scotland- I loved it so much after my first visit I moved here in 2018. Edinburgh has everything you could ask for in a Scottish city- a medieval Old Town, cosy traditional pubs, vast green spaces and abundant hiking opportunities, a thriving nightlife, bagpipers playing in the streets and a great festival scene!
Edinburgh is a city that will satisfy anyone: solo travellers, couples, history lovers, art lovers, students and families- it’s a great city to visit to get an all-round cultural experience of Scotland.
It satisfies both luxury and budget travellers; you can soak up the culture simply by wandering the streets and buy a pint for less than £2 in many pubs, but there are also many upmarket bars and pubs and award-winning cuisine and experiences. You can make the most of this city easily without a car by using public transport or walking.
Visitors often only spend 48 hours in Edinburgh before setting off to explore the rest of Scotland. I’m here to tell you that with just 2 days in Edinburgh it is entirely possible to experience much of what the city has to offer. So keeping this in mind, I’ve designed what I believe is the perfect itinerary if you have only two days in Edinburgh.
My two day Edinburgh itinerary is designed for first time visitors to the city. It includes all the must-see spots and also some of my personal favourites. I’ve also given some of my favourite restaurant, pub and cafe recommendations. I’ve even created a Google map so you can find everything I’ve listed in this article. You can find it at the end of this article. Now, let me show you how to make the most of Edinburgh in 2 days!
Disclosure: This article may contain links to products/services I love that I may earn a small commission from- at no extra cost to you.
Accommodation in Edinburgh
If you haven’t already booked accommodation in Edinburgh, here are a few accommodation choices that I recommend:
Hostels: Castle Rock Hostel is one of Scotland’s top hostels (I once lived in this hostel and can confirm it’s great!); if you’re wanting to save your pennies, Cowgate Tourist Hostel is one of the most affordable hostels in Edinburgh and has self-catering apartments for groups.
Bed and Breakfast: JustB, located on the edge of Edinburgh is hands-down the best bed and breakfast I’ve stayed in! The bus stop for bus 44 that takes you directly into the centre of Edinburgh is a 2 minute walk from this B&B.
Read more: What to pack for a trip to Scotland
Two Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Day 1
9AM: Start your day the Scottish way
One of my favourite things about Scotland is how they do breakfast. A good Scottish breakfast will sustain you for the rest of your day- they really don’t do food by halves here! Try traditional dishes such as porridge, a bacon roll, or if you’re really hungry, a full Scottish breakfast. A full Scottish breakfast is the breakfast of kings- bacon and eggs, beans, tattie scones, lorne sausage (square sausage), black pudding and sometimes haggis. It is very likely that tattie scones were gifted to Scotland by the Gods. Be sure to douse your tattie scones with lashings of butter, or build yourself a bacon and egg sandwich- either which way, your taste buds are about to experience heaven. Fear not vegans and vegetarians- Scotland does a fab vegan full Scottish breakfast.
Some places I recommend in Edinburgh for breakfast are The City Cafe, Loudons, and The Huxley.
10AM: Edinburgh Castle
It’s the top attraction in Edinburgh, but no visit to the capital is complete without exploring Edinburgh Castle. You will want to arrive here early when the castle opens to avoid the crowds. Located at the top of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle is home to Scotland’s Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (on which Scotland’s first kings were crowned). It was also where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI of Scotland and I of England. Buy your tickets online so you can skip the line and walk right in!
If you’re more interested in off-beat travel, I suggest visiting Craigmillar Castle instead. It is a romantic looking castle ruin that has an incredible history. You can read my other article on visiting Craigmillar Castle here.
1PM: Explore the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace, but it isn’t your standard mile, it’s a Scottish mile, an old school style of measurement. A Scottish mile is actually 1.11 miles. The Royal Mile is the main street in Old Town, which is the oldest part of Edinburgh and dates back to the 12th century. You’ll love wandering down this street; breathe in the medieval architecture, explore the hidden closes, all the while enjoying live bagpipers that busk on the street. If you close your eyes, it will feel as though you’ve been transported back to the middle ages. There are plenty of neat touristy shops along the Royal Mile, however if you are exploring other parts of Scotland I suggest buying any gifts in the smaller towns and villages. It’s far cheaper, plus you’re helping out smaller businesses.
2.30PM: Grassmarket for lunch, followed by Harry Potter location spotting
By now you would have burned off most of your delicious Scottish breakfast and may be feeling peckish. You can either dip into one of the many pubs along the Royal Mile, or you can proceed to the Grassmarket which is just as nice and a little quieter. The Grassmarket is where the city’s markets were once held. Cattle and horses were driven down the Cowgate and sold at markets at this very spot. Other interesting facts about the Grassmarket are that it was also the site of a bombing during World War I, and it was also once an execution site holding over 100 public executions. Now it’s a hub of pubs and restaurants, and there is a small market held there on a Saturday. For lunch I recommend Hula Juice Bar which has plenty of healthy options and delicious vegan food too. There is a line of pubs that serve food along the Grassmarket promenade- my personal favourite is the recently opened Cold Town House. They serve yummy pizza, prosecco and craft beer. Cold Town House also has a rooftop bar which has a fantastic view of Edinburgh Castle! Afterwards stop by Mary’s Milk Bar for some ice cream, then walk up the stairs next to it to The Vennel for my favourite view of Edinburgh Castle in the city!
After this it’s time for some Harry Potter location spotting. You’ll find the iconic street Victoria Street at the end of the Grassmarket. This curvy street is rumored to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
Next you’ll walk to Greyfriars Kirkyard, a graveyard that J.K. Rowling sought inspiration for her character’s names. Visit the real Tom Riddle’s grave, or just enjoy the traditionally gothic Scottish graveyard.
Located a short walk from the Kirkyard on George IV Street is The Elephant House, a restaurant where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the Harry Potter series. Make sure you go to the toilet here- it’s covered in graffiti by Harry Potter fans! On your way here you’ll pass the Greyfriars Bobby statue- a monument dedicated to the loyal wee terrier who spent 14 years guarding his owner’s grave until he died. Due to tourists constantly touching Bobby’s nose for ‘good luck’ it has worn this part of the statue. Please don’t touch the statue for this reason- but please take as many photos as you like!
Insider tip: You can also visit a lesser-known restaurant where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter. Check out Spoon which is above one of my favourite cafes, Black Medicine. Rowling’s brother-in-law used to own this cafe and she wrote some of the first books here. She moved to The Elephant House afterwards as it was too hard to wheel her pram up the stairs.
4PM: The Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience is a five-star visitor attraction, and one of the best ways to get your whisky fix when visiting Edinburgh. The Scotch Whisky Experience is home to the world’s largest Scotch whisky collection, situated near Edinburgh Castle at the top of the Royal Mile. Their Tasting Tales, Silver Tour and Gold Tour all have afternoon time slots. The Silver Tour is ideal for families and first-timers. You’ll learn all about whisky and how it’s made, plus get to sample a few of Scotland’s most popular whiskies. You also get to take home a crystal tasting glass as a souvenir!
6PM: Grab some dinner
My personal recommendations for dinner in Edinburgh include WHISKI Bar and Restaurant, The Witchery by the Castle, The Voodoo Rooms and Howies Restaurant. You may want to go for a wee dram before or after dinner, in which case I recommend Cold Town House, The Bow Bar (wee but traditional), The Black Cat, Panda and Sons (for cocktails) or Stramash (casual but large sports bar).
9PM: Go on a Haunted Tour
Edinburgh is one of the most haunted cities in the world and an important part of its history are the strange tales, myths and unexplained events. I personally recommend going on this haunted tour with Mercat. I went on it on Halloween last year and it was really well run. Mercat is the only tour company that has access to the haunted underground vaults beneath the South Bridge in Edinburgh. There is also an evening tour with whisky for anyone who is over 18 and a little nervous- which may not be a bad idea!
2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Day 2
9AM: Hike Arthur’s Seat
You’ll start off your day with 360 degree views of Edinburgh, by hiking up Arthur’s Seat. On a clear day you can spot Fife and the Pentland Hills from the summit. This hike is easy to moderate, and you’ll need sturdy shoes or hiking boots as the path is rocky in places and slippery when wet; I recommend taking the red route. Fun fact: Arthur’s Seat is a possible location for the King Arthur’s legendary Camelot castle.
12.00PM: Holyrood Palace
After descending Arthur’s Seat safely, you’ll visit Holyrood Palace- an ancient palace and where the Queen resides during summer when she visits Edinburgh for one week. I don’t want to give too much of the history away, as there is an awesome audio guide tour you can go on as you wander through the Palace, but Holyrood has had some very famous guests, including Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Queen Victoria. There is a cafe inside the grounds if you’re hungry.
You can grab your skip the line ticket here.
3.30PM: Scott Monument
It’s pretty hard to miss the Scott Monument if you’re hanging around Waverley Train Station or New Town. This gorgeous gothic structure was built in the honour of famous literary figure Sir Walter Scott, and it’s a fitting tribute.
For £8 you can even climb to the top of the monument for stunning views of the city, or you can marvel at the structure from afar for free.
After you’ll wander down Princes Street, the main shopping street in Edinburgh, and this will lead to your next activity.
4PM: Dean Village
Next you’ll go for a stroll around Dean Village; an idyllic leafy haven nestled close to New Town.
This canal-side village is quite a contrast to the bustling city centre which is located a short 20 minute walk away. The pleasant mixture of colourful flats and 19th century buildings on either side of the Water of Leith canal make for a fantastic photo opportunity- or just simply enjoy the serenity.
Going for a stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway to Dean Village is a great way to spend a sunny afternoon. The milling of water mills once took place in Dean Village, and the remains of this can still be seen today.
Dean Cemetery on Dean Path is an eerie yet beautiful cemetery worth exploring.
6PM: Dinner and Ceilidh Dancing
You’ll end a very active day with dinner and another activity- if you have the energy! If you’d like to watch (or take part in) a ceilidh (traditional Scottish dancing and music) I recommend checking out Ghillie Dhu, a restaurant and bar which is known for its ceilidhs. Stramash also has a free ceilidh on a Wednesday night, however they don’t serve food here. You could always have dinner first and come here to observe or take part.
Short on time and would prefer a tour?
There are a few different tours you can join to make the most of your time in Edinburgh. Here are a couple I recommend:
Red Bus Bistro
The Red Bus Bistro is one of the quirkier tours in Edinburgh, where you go on a bus tour while enjoying afternoon tea! Don’t worry, more or less everything is glued to the table with movable springs so you won’t end up having a giant food fight. Oh, and there’s prosecco!
Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour
There is also a pass you can buy that includes the Hop On, Hop Off bus, entry to Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Edinburgh in 2 Days Location Map
There you have it- my local guide on how to make the most of Edinburgh in 2 days! With this itinerary you’ve experienced everything Edinburgh has to offer: yummy food, local traditions, castles and palaces, history, hiking, Scottish dancing and much, much more! You may even fall in love with Edinburgh like I did and consider moving here. If so, I’ve written a guide on that too.
Have you tried my Edinburgh in 2 days itinerary? Drop a comment below!