Edinburgh can be described as modern life in historic town with nature at the doorstep. It is a great weekend escape to Scotland’s capital that does not require much planning. We drove from England so we had good 24hours to spend in the city before hitting the road again. 24 hours is definitely not enough to see all what Edinburgh offers, so I have few must-do things to fill your day. This was my second visit to the city and both times I was very lucky with the weather. Sunny days are not that common in Scotland, so if you get one try to see as much as you can. We were out and about all day on Saturday and walked 25km (15.7miles)!
The choice as in every big city is big: hotels, hostels, B&B, guesthouses, Airbnb. It does not really matter if you stay in the town city centre or further away. The bus connections are very good and you can get a day bus ticket (day rider) for £4. Accommodation further away from the centre will be cheaper. On both occasions I visited Edinburgh I stayed in a room booked through the Airbnb and they were 15-20min bus drive from the centre (Leith, Gorgie areas). This time a double room cost £37 (£17pp).
If you are coming with a car to Edinburgh, the parking close to the Arthur’s seat (Holyrood Park, No.11) is free on Saturday and Sunday (no overnight parking). It is a great place to park for visiting the old town and so we did on a Sunday morning. The car park is small, so at busy day times you will struggle to get a place. Parking at residential streets a bit further away from the centre is free too (no time limit).
Princes Street and Gardens
We get off the bus at the main shopping and busiest streets in Edinburgh- Princes Street. The south side of the street runs alongside Princes Street Gardens with great view of the Edinburgh’s castle. We walk through the gardens, which is home to one of the world’s first floral clocks. On a sunny day it is a perfect place to have a picnic or just relax for a minute or two. (No.1 and 2).
Scottish National Gallery
It is great, if you like art as it displays some of the greatest art in the world, including masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Constable, Turner, Monet, Van Gogh and Gauguin, amongst many others. The admission is free. (No.3)
After visiting the gardens with continue on the Princes Street and then Waterloo Place Street and soon reach the Calton Hill. You cannot miss it, you will see it clearly at the top of the hill in front of you. It is an UNESCO Heritage Site, so without a doubt it is a must to visit. A short hike and you will have splendid panoramic views of the city. There is also the Nelson monument, National Monument of Scotland, two observatories. (No.4).
The Royal Mile
We started at the bottom of the Royal Mile from the Palace of Holyrood house (No.5) and the Scottish Parliament (No.6) and went up. The Royal Mile (No.7) is the heart of the historical Edinburgh. It is a must walk when you are in the city. It has everything: shops, cafes, restaurants, bars and pubs, museums located in old tall buildings. Also, it is cool to think that you walk towards a volcano. Yes, the Edinburgh’s Castle is on an extinct 700million year old volcano, called Castle Rock!
St Giles Cathedral
While you walk towards the Castle, visit the St Giles Cathedral. It is one of one of the most important architectural landmarks situated along the Royal Mile. (No.8)
You cannot leave Edinburgh without visiting the Castle. It is a world famous icon of Scotland. The entrance is £17pp. You will spend there good 2 hours and more. It closes at 6pm and is very busy in a summer. We visited towards the end of the day hoping to avoid the crowds and to some extent we did. You can try to visit it first thing in the morning (opens 9.30am-5pm) to beat the crowds.
Once you are in and don’t forget to check when the next free tour guide is planned. The free tour guides last about 30-40min and occur every 30min or so. The guide will tell you about the castle’s story and buildings. After the tour you can go and explore the castle in more detail and of course enjoy those panoramic views of the city. (No.9)
The castle is home to the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Margaret’s chapel, which dates from the 12th century. Also visit Honours of Scotland (Crown Jewels), the Stone of Destiny, and the Great Hall. If you have more time, see the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O' Clock Gun (fires everyday except Christmas at 1pm) and the National War Museum of Scotland. They even have a whiskey shop.
Once a market place and site for public executions, the area is now buzzing with Scottish and European restaurants, pubs & bars, and eclectic shops. It is great area to come for a drink in the evening to try some local bears. (No.10)
Grab your comfortable shoes and hike to the top of the Arthur’s Seat. It is an extinct volcano, 231metres high! There are two ways up: Main road (left) and the Radical way (right). The Main road is easier but the Radical way is much more picturesque. Get up one way and go down the other route. Panoramic views at the top are really worth the hike! (No.11).
National Scotland Museum
On the next day morning we were greeted with clouds and rain so we went to the National Scotland Museum (free), No.12. It is located in the old town. After spending an hour there we grabbed some food and got on our way back to England. 24hours were up!
Do you have more time? Consider adding to your list:
- Walking in the Dean’s village;
- Visiting Royal Botanical Garden (free);
- Walk in Leith (Marina);
- Leith walk or Ocean terminal, if you enjoy shopping;
- Or even go to the North Berwick (Scottish village, right at the sea).
Have you visited Edinburgh? What would you add to the list? Let me know in the comments 🙂