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Edinburgh, Scotland is one of the top destinations in Europe. The magnificent medieval city is steeped in history and surrounded by lush, green hills. Visiting the picture-perfect castle, hiking to epic viewpoints, listening to the intriguing tales and indulging in the local cuisine are some of the best things to do in Edinburgh.
To help fellow travelers plan their vacation, we wrap up the top attractions into a perfect 3 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary.
3 Days in Edinburgh, UK
When traveling to Scotland, visiting Edinburgh is a must. The capital city boasts an enthralling past that is riddled with ghost stories, yet it is one of the most welcoming destinations in the United Kingdom. The locals are friendly, the food is delicious and the sights are nothing short of incredible. Visiting Edinburgh in 3 days is just enough time to get acquainted with the city.
Edinburgh appeals to a wide range of visitors. While some of the best things to do in Edinburgh are seeing the iconic sights and sipping Scotch whisky, there are lesser-known gems that are well worth discovering. We highlight what to see, do and eat in our 3 Day Itinerary Edinburgh.
Because the city has so much to offer, in addition to the must-see sights that we squeeze into our 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary, we share tips on other attractions that visitors may want to include in their trip plan, as well.
How To Plan a Trip to Edinburgh
We know that there is so much more to planning your vacation than deciding what to see in Edinburgh, Scotland. Therefore, in addition to our outline of Things To Do in 3 Days in Edinburgh, we also highlight top travel tips – like where to stay, how to get there and what to pack.
Travelers heading to Europe for the first time (or the first time in a while), should start with our Guide to Planning a European Vacation. We include all the need-to-know tips for planning a trip abroad.
Whether you are going to visit Scotland in 3 days or 3 weeks, organization is key! Our Travel Planner contains 26 printable pages that will help you keep track of the details of your trip!
FAQs for Visiting Edinburgh, Scotland
Before we jump into our itinerary for how to spend 3 days in Edinburgh, we want to cover a few of the frequently asked questions.
How Do You Pronounce Edinburgh?
One of the first things to know before you visit Edinburgh, Scotland is how to pronounce it! Unlike Pittsburgh in the United States, there is no hard G in Edinburgh. Instead, locals say Edin-burah.
Is Edinburgh Expensive?
The term ‘expensive’ is relative – but generally speaking, it is on the pricey side. Paying for attractions, accommodations and meals can quickly add up. That said, it is possible to visit Edinburgh on a budget. We share money-saving tips throughout our Edinburgh Itinerary.
Are there Free Things To Do in Edinburgh?
Absolutely! In fact, some of the very best things to do in Edinburgh are free. From outdoor activities to world-class museums, there are heaps of free things to do in the city.
Are there Things To Do in Edinburgh, Scotland with Kids?
Yes, it’s also a family-friendly destination. While not all of the Edinburgh attractions on our list are geared towards kids, we feature many fun family things to do in Edinburgh.
What if I Only Have 48 Hours in Edinburgh?
Planning a weekend in Edinburgh? No problem! At the end of our outlined trip plan, we offer additional suggested itineraries that show you how you can plan a shorter – or longer – trip to Edinburgh.
How Many Days to Spend in Edinburgh?
Not yet sure how many days in Edinburgh are enough? No worries! With our suggestions of how to spend 1 to 7 days in the city, you can easily determine how many days to stay in Edinburgh for your vacation.
Our detailed day-by-day itinerary for how to spend three perfect days in Edinburgh highlights the best attractions, fun districts and top eats. Plus, we include a Map of Edinburgh sights so that you can plot your own adventures.
Save, Pin or Bookmark this Edinburgh blog post so that you can access it as your plan – and during – your trip to Scotland!
DAY 1 of your Edinburgh 3 Day Itinerary
On Day 1 of your three days in Edinburgh, explore the fascinating Royal Mile, then make the inclined trek to Calton Hill for iconic Edinburgh views and end your day sipping whisky and eating classic Scottish food.
The heart of the Old Town and home to many of the top Edinburgh tourist attractions, the Royal Mile is the historic thoroughfare – and an absolute must on your Edinburgh trip itinerary. The cobblestone street, which connects the castle and the palace, has served as a royal procession route for hundreds of years.
The castle sits perched on a rocky hill (aptly named Castle Rock) on the west end of the Edinburgh Royal Mile. From the castle, the street slopes downhill to the east (and changes names from Castlehill to Lawnmarket to High Street to Canongate to Abbey Strand) ending at the Palace of Holyrood.
The one-mile street is lined with souvenir shops, museums, churches and pubs – and is the buzzing center of Edinburgh tourist activities. Walking the entirety of the Royal Mile is a must do in Edinburgh – and we are highlighting the top attractions along the route.
Want a personal introduction to the Royal Mile? Join one of the highly-rated tours or get the insider stories on this self-guided route and walk at your own pace.
Visiting Edinburgh Castle is one of the best things to do in the city. The castle has served as the royal residence, as well as a military stronghold. Dating to the 11th century, the castle has been under siege 26 times – making it one of the most attacked castles in the world. Yet it stands proud today for tourists to explore.
A ticket is required to visit the castle – and it is advised to purchase in advance. Top things to see at the Edinburgh castle are the Great Hall and Royal Apartments, the Crown Jewels, St. Margaret’s Chapel, the Battery and One o’clock Gun, the prison, the Scottish National War Memorial and the National War Museum.
For a more in depth introduction to Edinburgh Castle, join this tour that includes skip-the-line tickets and a knowledgeable guide that expertly leads the way through the top sights.
Pro Tip: As you exit the castle grounds, look for the Witches Well on the building to your left. It marks the spot of the execution site of those accused of witchcraft. It’s also a water fountain and a great place to fill up your reusable water bottle. The building that it’s attached to is the Tartan Weaving Mill, which is actually a giant souvenir shop, but also has a weaving exhibition inside.
Lady Stair’s Close and the Writers’ Museum
The alleyways that branch off the Royal Mile are called Closes – and Lady Stair’s Close is one of the best.
The alleys – often steep staircases – connect the Royal Mile to parallel streets or lead into courtyards with residences tucked just off the main street. In the case of Lady Stair’s Close, the narrow and nearly hidden alleyway opens into a courtyard where the Edinburgh Writers’ Museum is housed.
The Writers’ Museum (which is free) is an interesting place for both fans of literature and architecture. The historic house dates to the year 1622 and features some original elements. The displays in the museum, however, showcase personal objects belonging to the three most famous Scottish writers: Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
The Gothic St. Giles’ Cathedral is one of the best places to visit in Edinburgh. Established by King David I in 1124, St. Giles’ became a Protestant church after the Scottish Reformation and John Knox served as the minister.
Top features of the church are the stunning stained-glass windows, an elegant organ and the opulent Thistle Chapel.
It’s free to step inside and take a look around. Additionally, visitors can join a free tour, purchase an audio tour or enjoy a free afternoon concert.
Sights on the Royal Mile near the Cathedral
Look down on the ground near the church entrance for the Heart of Midlothian Mosaic, which once marked the spot of the Old Tolbooth (similar to a Town Hall). The locals even spit on it for good luck, so watch out for that!
At the back of the church is the Mercat Cross, a pillar topped with a unicorn, that marked the spot of the local market. The unicorn – a symbol which you will see throughout Edinburgh – is Scotland’s national animal.
Across the street is Advocates Close. Step inside to see the Scott Monument (which we get to in Day 2 of our Edinburgh Itinerary) perfectly framed in the archway.
Lunch on Cockburn Street
There are no shortage of restaurants, pubs and cafes along the Royal Mile. However, for a quick lunch in an atmospheric space, we recommend detouring off the Royal Mile onto picturesque Cockburn Street. The curving street features Victorian era buildings and independent shops.
Pop into The Wall Coffee and Design for a light lunch of toasties, salads, bagels or paninis (the Avocado and Brie is tasty!)
Museums on the Royal Mile
Some of the best museums in Edinburgh are located along the Royal Mile. Stopping by one – or all – of these museums to learn more about the city’s past is one of the interesting Edinburgh, Scotland things to do.
John Knox House and Storytelling Center Museum
A 15th century home detailing the life of John Knox and his part in the Scottish Reformation. Tickets are required to enter.
Museum of Childhood
Five floors of old toys and games, the Museum of Childhood evokes nostalgia for adults and wonder in kids. Free to enter.
People’s Story Museum
Detailing some of the social and lifestyle aspects of the city from the 1700s, the People’s Story Museum offers insight into daily life of the citizens. Free entry.
Museum of Edinburgh
Featuring exhibits that detail the history of the city, the Museum of Edinburgh contains collections and artifacts on the city’s history, culture and people. Free to enter.
Canongate Kirk – recognizable by the stag’s antlers and cross – is a simple, historic Presbyterian Church that is often used by the Royal Family.
The interior features eye-catching banners and a front pew marked with the Honors of Scotland, which is reserved for the Queen. Behind the church is a small graveyard, where many prominent citizens have been laid to rest.
Pro Tip: Just down the street is Dunbar’s Close – a narrow passageway that leads into a secret garden.
Near the end of the Royal Mile is the modern (and seemingly out of place) Scottish Parliament Building.
The Scottish Parliament has only existed since 1999 (and the building since 2004). The original Parliament of Scotland was the legislature for the Kingdom of Scotland. When they merged with the Kingdom of England in 1707, forming Great Britain, the Parliament of Scotland was abolished.
Today, the Scottish Parliament has the power to create laws – but is still under the Parliament of Great Britain (although independence is a hot topic). Visitors are able to enter the Scottish Parliament Building for tours and sessions (and it’s free!).
Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Queen’s Gallery
Marking the east end of the Royal Mile and home to the late Queen Elizabeth II when she visited Edinburgh, the Holyrood Palace has a long history as a royal residence.
Visitors (with a ticket) can tour the lavishly decorated State Apartments, the grand Throne Room, the Great Gallery, and the Chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots. Each room is decorated with fine furnishings and artwork. Outside, the medieval Holyrood Abbey and palace gardens can also be explored.
The Queen’s Gallery is another one of the things to see in Edinburgh – and it’s on the grounds of the palace. The small gallery hosts a selection of the royal collection of art, including works by masters.
Pro Tip: Next to the palace is the Physic Garden, where plants traditionally used for medicinal purposes are grown. When monks lived in the abbey, they would have tended to a similar garden. The garden is open to the public for free.
Rising 338 feet, Calton Hill is one of the Seven Hills of Edinburgh – and the most impressive to visit. The hill is dotted with fantastic monuments and it is a short climb from east end of the Royal Mile.
Top things to see on Calton Hill are the National Monument (which resembles the Athens’ Parthenon), the Nelson Monument (which hosts a Time Ball and is open for visits) and the City Observatory. The nearby Old Calton Cemetery is also worth stopping by to see.
However, for us, the real reason to trek up Calton Hill is for the spectacular Edinburgh views. The 360-degree view encompasses the Old Town and Royal Mile, the posh homes of New Town, Arthur’s Seat, Holyrood Palace, and out to Leith and the Firth of Forth.
Scotch Whisky Tasting
Wind down the first day of your Edinburgh Itinerary with an introduction to Scotch Whisky, the national drink of Scotland. You can, of course, go into any bar and order whisky, but one of the fun things to do in Edinburgh is to join a guided tasting. We are highlighting a few of the top places for whisky tastings in Edinburgh.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
Get a whirlwind introduction to the world of whisky, where you are literally whisked away in a whisky barrel through a replica distillery and on to the tasting room. The short, amusement park style tour is ideal for novice whisky drinkers. Book it in advance!
Whisky and Folklore
A private tour in a long-standing, family-run pub, the Whisky and Folklore Tasting allows visitors to sample 4 Single Malt Scotch Whiskies from different whisky-producing regions in Scotland. In addition to learning about whisky, participants are regaled with classic Scottish storytelling. Reserve your Seat!
Johnnie Walker Princes Street
Johnnie Walker on Princes Street offers a stylish whisky tasting experience. The establishment features a variety of fun and creative Scotch Whisky tours – plus they have a rooftop bar.
Sitting at the base of Arthur’s Seat at Holyrood Park, the Holyrood Distillery offers informational tours on the production of both gin and whisky. Visitors not interested in taking a tour can partake in a self-guided flight tasting. Find out more!
Whiski Rooms – along with Whiski Bar and Restaurant – offer set tasting flights with information cards to guide you through your experience.
The Black Cat
A small, cozy pub that regularly hosts jam sessions, The Black Cat is an excellent place to get an introduction to whisky. Let the bartender know what kind of whisky you like and they will create a personalized whisky tasting board. They even go one step further and explain the history of Scotch whisky and specific information about each of the selected whiskies in your tasting.
Dinner at a Scottish Pub
After getting warmed up with whisky, saunter into one of the famous pubs on the Royal Mile for a classic pub meal. We advise booking a table in advance at Deacon Brodies Tavern or The World’s End.
For all of our top recommendations on what to eat, use our Guide to Edinburgh Food!
Day 2 of your 3 Day Edinburgh Itinerary
On Day 2 of your 3 Day Itinerary Edinburgh, discover the sights in New Town and other quaint districts. Amble through New Town, take a peek at Dean Village, stroll through Stockbridge and wander through the Edinburgh Botanical Gardens.
By the late 1700s, the Old Town was overcrowded with residents that packed into the multi-storied tenements within the confines of the city walls. Chimney smoke filled the air and the foul smell of sewage from the lake just outside the walls wafted through the streets, earning Edinburgh the unflattering nickname, Auld Reekie (Old Smokey).
Thus, it was decided that the city should expand to the north – and architect James Craig won the honors to design the elegant New Town. The district was planned in a grid and was developed with grand Georgian homes lining the streets.
Today, discovering the New Town district – complete with neo-classical, fine Georgian architecture and lovely gardens – is one of the top Things To Do in Edinburgh.
We are highlighting some of the best sights to see in New Town, but also recommend ambling through the district without a set plan to see what you can find!
Fun Fact: The medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town sit in striking contrast – and together (along with Calton Hill and West End) are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Princes Street Gardens
Marking the boundary between Old Town and New Town Edinburgh, Princes Street Gardens is a sprawling green space in the city center. The park was created when Nor’ Loch (or North Loch) – the lake filled with waste and creating a stench – was drained in the early 1800s.
Taking a walk through the Princes Street Garden is one of the leisurely activities in Edinburgh. Sights to see in the park include the Floral Clock, the ornate Ross Fountain and the many memorials scattered throughout the landscape.
Pro Tip: Free, local events and live music often take place in the Ross Band Stand.
Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery art museum packs a punch with an impressive collection of fine art. The museum is organized in a timeline and each piece on display features a small plaque of information.
The building was designed by Scottish architect William Henry Playfair in the neoclassical style…more than 100 years after New Town was first planned.
Visiting the Scottish National Gallery Museum is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh for free.
A striking Gothic monument to Scottish writer, Sir Walter Scott, the Scott Monument is one of the interesting attractions in Edinburgh.
Standing at 200.5 feet, the monument ranks as the second-largest memorial to a writer in the world. There are a multitude of statues on the monument – including Scott and his dog, various other Scottish poets and writers and recognizable royal figures.
Visitors (with a ticket) can climb the steps – 287 of them – for epic views over Edinburgh.
St. Andrew Square
The first part of New Town to be built in 1772, St. Andrew Square quickly became the most coveted place to live in the city. The Melville Monument stands in the center of the square, which is ringed by mansions (many of which are now repurposed as banks and other commercial buildings).
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Standing one block north of St. Andrew Square is a grand, red Gothic Revival building that houses the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland. Inside the museum is a collection of portraits featuring Scotland’s most famous and important figures. That said, a highlight of the museum is the lavish Grand Hall at the entry.
Pro Tip: The scones at the museum café are delicious! In fact, eating scones at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is one of the Edinburgh things to do that was recommended to us by locals.
Lunch in New Town
For lunch in New Town, decide what kind of fare you would like: Homemade, hog or high class.
For a simple, inexpensive and tasty homemade meal, head to the Undercroft Café in the basement of St. Andrew’s and St. George’s West Church. Soups, breads and scones are on the menu.
If a pulled pork sandwich – or a hog roast roll, as it’s called in Scotland – is more your style, stop in at Oink on Hanover Street. Diners at the counter-service spot get to choose their toppings, but the traditional way to eat it is with a haggis spread, chunky apple sauce and crackling.
Afternoon tea at The Dome is a high-class affair. Served in the gorgeous Georgian Tea Room, the lunch of finger sandwiches can be upgraded to include champagne, as well!
Rose Street, Thistle Street and George Street
Weave your way through the heart of New Town. Start on Thistle Street, cut over to George Street and complete the four-block stretch on Rose Street. The atmospheric area is home to boutique shops and fun bars and eateries.
Pro Tip: The streets of New Town were named with purpose. Rose Street was named for the national flower of England, Thistle Street for the national flower of Scotland and George Street for the reigning King George III.
Historic Georgian House on Charlotte Square
Charlotte Square, a private garden, along with the domed West Register House, mark the west end of New Town – at the opposite side of the planned community from St. Andrew Square. The houses ringing the square have long been occupied by Edinburgh’s elite.
The Georgian House, a ticketed tourist attraction, sits on the north side of the park – and it’s one of the best places to see in Edinburgh for a peek into the past. The house is furnished as it would have been in the 18th century and guides are on hand to share details of the history.
Pro Tip: Just a few doors down from the Georgian House at Number 5 is the Bute House, which is the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, the head of the Scottish government.
The pleasant Dean Village looks like a page out of a fairytale. Cottages and stone dwellings line the banks of the curving Water of Leith River, creating the bucolic scene. Once filled with working mills, today, Dean is one of the fun Edinburgh places to visit.
The top attractions in Dean – beyond the picturesque landscape – are St. Bernard’s Well, Dean Bridge, the Water of Leith Wier (which creates a waterfall) and the nearby Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.
Pro Tip: The best views of Dean Village are from the two bridges that cross the river to the center of town.
Water of Leith Walkway Path
To get to the next stop on our Edinburgh Itinerary, use the Water of Leith Walkway. The pedestrian path follows the river, extending for more than 12 miles from the port town of Leith to the village of Balerno.
Much of the path is under the shade of trees and away from the hustle and bustle of central Edinburgh.
Pro Tip: One of the best things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland is to hop on a bike and cycle the entire length of the path.
The charming district of Stockbridge is a fantastic city escape. Quiet cobblestone lanes lined with Georgian architecture appealingly curve toward flowering gardens. The district boasts specialty shops (like IJ Mellis Cheesemongers – stop by for a free sample!), and locally-owned cafes – but on Sundays, the Stockbridge Market is the best place to get a bite to eat and enjoy the atmosphere.
Explore the area on foot – but be sure to seek out Circus Lane, which features the best mews houses in Edinburgh. Another photogenic spot is the Old Stockbridge Market Arch on St. Stephen Street.
Edinburgh Botanical Garden
Using the Water of Leith Walkway, make your way north to the Royal Botanic Garden – another must see in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh encompasses 70 acres of beautifully planned gardens. The inviting and peaceful green space – known to locals as The Botanics – is perfect for a sunny day stroll. Entry into the gardens is free, but a ticket is required to enter the greenhouse.
Dinner in New Town
Dine in New Town for dinner on Day 2 of your 3 Days in Edinburgh. In the neighborhood, there are ample top Edinburgh restaurants offering visitors a local experience.
We recommend enjoying a meal at one of the upscale neighborhood pubs – like The Ox or The Magnum. Both eateries feature classic fare in intimate settings.
For flavorful Indian cuisine, however, try the ever-popular Dishoom on St. Andrew Square. Just be sure to make reservations in advance, as it gets fully booked on summer nights!
Looking for a more casual scene? Head back to Stockbridge to The Neighbourgood Market – an open-air food and drink market featuring live music and local eats.
Day 3 of your Edinburgh 3 Days Itinerary
On the last day of your 3 Days Edinburgh Itinerary, explore the area directly south of Old Town. Make the climb up to Arthur’s Seat, creep around a cemetery, visit Edinburgh’s best museum, see the University of Edinburgh campus, learn the city’s haunted past and enjoy a lively night in Grassmarket.
Arthur’s Seat for Views over Edinburgh
Climbing to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park is one of the fun (and challenging) Edinburgh activities. The ancient volcano has an elevation of 822 feet – and the summit provides unparalleled panoramic views of Edinburgh.
The route that we recommend is the longer, sloping path that begins on Queen’s Drive and passes the St. Anthony’s Chapel ruins before heading uphill to the summit. After taking in the views from Arthur’s Seat, loop around toward Crow Hill and take the path along the top of Salisbury Crags before trekking back down to Queen’s Drive. Plan for the hike to take about 2 hours.
Pro Tip: Many hikers opt to hike Arthur’s Hill and then continue south of Holyrood Park to the Duddingston district to dine at the Sheep Heid Inn (which is one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh). Other area sights are Dr. Neil’s Garden and the Duddingston Loch and Bird Sanctuary.
National Museum of Scotland
An Edinburgh must see and one of the best free attractions in the city, the National Museum of Scotland is a massive museum featuring displays on Scottish history, natural history, science and technology. The building was designed by William Henry Playfair (the renowned Scottish architect who also designed the National Gallery).
Visitors could easily spend the better part of a day inside the museum – but with only 3 days in Edinburgh, we recommend seeking out the top exhibits.
Not to be missed are Dolly the Sheep (the first cloned sheep), the Skull of Moby the Whale, the famous Lewis chess pieces, the Mary Queen of Scots exhibit, the World Cultures displays and the rooftop terrace.
Best Pizza in Edinburgh
Swing into Civerinos for a quick and incredibly satisfying slice of pizza, which we rate as the best pizza in Edinburgh. The slices are huge (seriously, one slice makes a meal!) – but the fries are hard to pass up.
We like the spicy, signature Civerinos, but the Caprese in Love is excellent, too. Eat in or grab it to go – and devour it at the next stop on our itinerary for Edinburgh.
The University of Edinburgh
The University of Edinburgh was established in 1583 – making it one of the oldest universities in the world. The University of Edinburgh campus is dotted with historic buildings and beautiful green spaces.
The top sights to see on campus are McEwan Hall, Teviot Row House, the Labyrinth in George Square Gardens and The Meadow.
Continue your Edinburgh sightseeing at an unlikely location: a cemetery. The Greyfriars Kirkyard, now a tourist attraction in Edinburgh, dates to the 16th century and is fraught with ghost stories. Visitors can creep around the graves on their own or join a tour.
While the extravagant tombstones are quite impressive, many people visit the cemetery to see the memorial to Greyfriars Bobby, the cemetery’s legendary dog. According to the heartwarming tale, Bobby was distraught after his owner’s death and spent every day of the last 14 years of his life visiting his owner’s grave.
Pro Tip: Harry Potter fans will want to keep a keen eye out for the gravesites that feature names used in the Harry Potter series – like McGonagall, Moodie, Thomas Riddle (Voldemort) and Potter. Harry Potter author, JK Rowling, was inspired by the names on these graves and often used the nearby café, The Elephant House, as a place to write.
Wind your way up the curving cobblestoned Victoria Street – one of the most colorful and vibrant streets in the Old Town. The street is home to independent shops and an array of Edinburgh restaurants (stop by Bertie’s Proper Fish and Chips if you are feeling peckish!).
Be sure to take the stairs up to the Victoria Terrace – the view is one of the best things to see in Edinburgh, Scotland!
Pro Tip: Potterheads might recognize Victoria Street as Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter books. Pop into the Diagon House at 40 Victoria Street for Harry Potter souvenirs.
Underground Edinburgh Tour
Up to this point, your Edinburgh in 3 Days adventure has revolved around the sights on the surface. On the afternoon of your third day in the city, descend into the underground to see the ancient, hidden streets. A guided tour is the only way to access this unique and secret side of Edinburgh.
Underground Walking Tour
Follow a guide underground into the dark and hidden secret Edinburgh vaults. Learn why the vaults were built and their gruesome history as you creep through the subterranean space. Book in advance to ensure you get a space!
The Real Mary King’s Close
Join costumed characters in the concealed and mysterious Real Mary King’s Close on a one-hour tour. Learn real stories about people who lived on the 17th century street. Book it now!
Edinburgh Ghost Tour
Alternatively, stay above ground and learn more about the ghosts that haunt Edinburgh.
The Ghost and Gore Walking Tour delves into the city’s past of witches and ghosts – while the Darkside Tour goes into gory detail about mysterious murders and legendary tales.
Or give your feet a much-deserved rest and hop on the popular Ghost Bus Tour.
Dating to the 14th century, Grassmarket – like so many other parts of Edinburgh – has a historic past. There have been markets, executions, murders and slums in Grassmarket since its inception. Today, the area is a revitalized hub for lively nightlife.
Take a seat at the Cold Town House Rooftop Bar for a refreshing craft beer and views of the castle. Then meander around the square until you find a place that looks inviting for dinner. The White Hart Inn (a haunted pub that often has live music), The Last Drop (where the executions took place) and Fiddler’s Arms are all good options.
Pro Tip: For one last epic view of the Edinburgh Castle, climb The Vennel Stairs (next to Mary’s Milk Bar) up to the Flodden Wall. Taking in the picture-perfect view is an ideal way to end your three days in Edinburgh, Scotland!
Edinburgh Attractions Map
Use this link to Google Maps for an online, interactive version of our Edinburgh Map.
More Top Things To Do in Edinburgh
We have outlined our top picks for what to do in Edinburgh, Scotland – but there is much more to see and do! In addition to our above outlined things to see in Edinburgh in 3 days, we are sharing a few more top attractions that can help you create your best itinerary for Scotland.
Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht Britannia – the royal family’s ocean liner – is docked in the Edinburgh port district of Leith…and it’s open for tours. Step aboard the iconic ship to tour the spacious rooms, see the on-board Rolls-Royce and learn the fascinating history of the ship that was used by the royal family for more than 40 years. Cap off your time on the Britannia with a proper cup of tea.
Pro Tip: Tickets can be purchased at the Ocean Terminal mall, which is the entrance for the yacht, as well. While in the mall, stop by the Wee Museum of Memory to see an array of everyday objects from the past. For another time warp, head to the HMV music store, where they stock vinyl, CDs posters and DVDs.
Visiting Rosslyn Chapel is one of the unique things to do in Edinburgh. The historic chapel, which is just a short bus ride south of the city, dates to the 15th century and is embellished in exquisitely detailed carvings. Many of the symbols used in the chapel are shrouded in mystery.
Pro Tip: The chapel is recognizable to many fan of the movie The Da Vinci Code – which was featured in the end of the film.
Just 3 miles from the Edinburgh Castle, Craigmillar Castle is a decaying castle that visitors are free to roam (with a ticket at entry). Guests can tromp up to the top of towers or get lost in the maze of rooms.
A fabulous attraction for kids and adults alike, the Edinburgh Zoo features more than 1,000 animals – including pandas, penguins and koalas. Tickets required; best to buy in advance!
More Edinburgh Museums
In our Edinburgh 3 Days Itinerary, we showcased some of the best museums…but not all of them! Fellow travelers may want to add one of the following museums in Edinburgh to their trip itinerary. Plus, these museums are great ideas for rainy days in Edinburgh.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
One of the unusual things to do in Edinburgh, the family-friendly Camera Obscura Show offers visitors 5 floors of mind games, puzzles and optical illusions. Tickets required.
A state-of-the-art science museum, Dynamic Earth offers interactive exhibits that revolve around the universe and the Big Bang Theory. Tickets required.
Museum on the Mound
A museum all about money, the Museum on the Mound is a free museum that delves deep into the history of currency. Top attractions are the £1 million display and historic bank notes.
A unique place to learn about, sample and create your own chocolates, the Chocolatarium is engaging and fun! Tickets required. Find out more!
More Edinburgh Districts to Explore
Edinburgh has many fabulous districts to explore – all of which can be reached on foot (or via a short bus ride). If any of these districts piques your interest, see if you can fit them into your Edinburgh travel itinerary.
West End and Fountainbridge
The jumbled districts to the west of Edinburgh are some of the most fascinating to discover on foot.
The West End is one of the most affluent districts in the city. Architecturally beautiful, the West End boasts high-end hotels and classy restaurants – along with a few gems, like the Edinburgh Filmhouse, the Calendonian Hotel, the Edinburgh Gin Distillery and the Gothic St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Fountainbridge – once home to numerous breweries – is where the late actor Sir Sean Connery was born and raised. The best attractions in the district are the Union Canal and Leamington Lift Bridge. In fact, there are even canal boat rides – and active travelers can canoe the canal, as well.
Bruntsfiled and Morningside are two more affluent residential areas packed with restaurants, cafes, a park and boutique shops. It’s fun to simply wander – or try Salt Café for Brunch in Morningside.
Leith is the busy port district in Edinburgh and a fun place to spend an afternoon (or longer!). The Royal Yacht Britannia lures many travelers to the docks in Leith – but it’s not the only reason to visit the district. The area is bursting with fantastic eateries and loads of fun bars, too!
The Kitchin – a Michelin star restaurant in Edinburgh – features a phenomenal tasting menu, while Fisher’s – situated in a 17th century watchtower doles out fresh, locally-caught seafood.
Lost in Leith, Campervan Brewery and Moonwake Beer Co. are top places to stop for Scottish craft beer. However, liquor fans should check out the Lind and Lime Gin Distillery and The Scotch Malt Whisky Society for wee fancy nip!
If your visit coincides with sunny weather, join the locals at Portobello Beach (or just Porty). The coastal community features a wide, sandy beach and the 1-mile Portobello Promenade that fronts the shoreline.
Highlights of visiting Portobello – besides the beach, of course – is the Georgian and Victorian architecture, lovely seaside eateries, beach volleyball and the shops and restaurants along Portobello High Street.
Hikes South of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is surrounded by rolling, green hills, making it fairly easy for active travelers to add hiking to their Edinburgh Itinerary. Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat are two prime places to get out in nature, but we have a few more suggestions for the best places to hike in Edinburgh south of the city center.
The 538-foot-tall Blackford Hill sits south and encompasses 149 acres of land and is crisscrossed with hiking paths that lead to stellar views. The best things to see at the Blackford Hill Local Nature Reserve are the Hermitage of Braid, the foundations of an ancient fort at the summit and the Royal Observatory.
Even further south are the remarkable Pentland Hills. Sometimes described as a mini-Highlands, Pentland Hills offers a variety of hikes – from easy to challenging – and you may even spot Highland Cattle!
We like the Capital View Walk, with a detour up to both Caerketton Hill and Allermuir Hill (which offer panoramic views and the best chance to see the Highland Cows). The area can be reached by bus from Edinburgh. Find more info on best trails by bus.
A hidden gem in Edinburgh, the Colinton Tunnel is a unique place to visit that can be reached by bus or via the Walkway of Leith. The old train tunnel has been converted to a walking path – and the inside is decorated by artist murals that tell the story of a famous Scottish poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, From a Railway Carriage.
Edinburgh Day Trips
Even with just 72 hours in Edinburgh, you may have time to squeeze in a day trip – especially if it is not your first time to Edinburgh. We are highlighting what we think are the best day trips from Edinburgh.
Scottish Highlands, Glen Coe and Loch Ness
On a full day Edinburgh tour, set off to explore the astounding beauty of the dramatic Scottish Highlands. Visit a castle, opt to take a cruise in search of the Loch Ness Monster, and wind through the wild wilderness of Scotland. Reserve your seat!
Pro Tip: The Highlands Highlights Tour just touches the surface of the beautiful landscapes. With more time, consider taking a 3 Day Tour Edinburgh to Highlands. On the 3 Day Highland Tours from Edinburgh visitors see the Isle of Skye, Loch Ness and the beauty of the Highlands at a more leisurely pace. Get the details.
Embark on a DIY day trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city. Hop on a train or bus to see the ‘Dear Green Place’ that is marked by parks, historic sites and street art. Read details of how to plan your trip in our blog post, Glasgow in a Day!
St. Andrews and Villages of Fife
North of Edinburgh across the Firth of Forth, St. Andrews and the villages of Fife make great day trip destinations. See the fishing villages of East Neuk, spend time in St. Andrews (known for its famous golf course and university) and visit Falkland Palace. Get the details!
An easy DIY Edinburgh day trip, Dunbar is a coastal village just a 20 minute train ride away. Proudly proclaiming to be one of the sunniest places in Scotland, Dunbar is an absolute gem! A few of the best things to see in Dunbar are the three harbors, a crumbling castle, a Bridge to Nowhere and the birthplace of John Muir. Visitors can also walk The Glebe (a clifftop path) and drink local craft beer at two of Dunbar’s breweries. Read all about our fun Day Trip to Dunbar!
How Many Days in Edinburgh
In our above sample itinerary for Edinburgh, we outline how to see the city in just 3 days…but is 3 days enough in Edinburgh?
We think spending three days in Edinburgh, Scotland provides a good introduction to the area – but visitors could easily stay a week (or a month!) and still not see and experience it all.
How many days you need in Edinburgh really comes down to your overall trip plans, your allotted time for travel, your interests and your budget.
Sample Edinburgh Itineraries
We think we outlined a perfect 3 day trip to Edinburgh – but what if you are planning to spend more or less time in Scotland? No need to stress! We are sharing our suggested itineraries for Edinburgh for 1 to 7 days.
Edinburgh Itinerary 1 Day
Travelers limited to spending just one day in Edinburgh will want to make the most of every moment!
For first time visitors, we think the best Edinburgh 1 Day Itinerary would be to simply follow Day 1 of our outline above. Sightseeing includes the Royal Mile sights from the castle to the palace – plus Calton Hill, a whisky experience and dinner at a classic pub.
That said, visitors could just as easily create an Edinburgh One Day Itinerary from any of the three days that we feature in our 3-Day Itinerary for Edinburgh.
Alternatively, to make A Day in Edinburgh Itinerary that best suits your style and interests, pick and choose sights and attractions that we recommend throughout the itinerary for your ultimate trip plan.
Just stay aware of the time throughout your visit to make the most of your One-Day in Edinburgh Itinerary.
Edinburgh Itinerary 2 Days
With 2 days in Edinburgh, Scotland travelers have a little flexibility with how they plan their trip.
An easy way to plan an Edinburgh 2 Day Itinerary is to simply follow Days 1 and 2 or Day 1 and 3 from our trip plan.
However, travelers could just as easily pick and choose sights and attractions from Days 2 and 3 to create a perfect 2 Day Edinburgh Itinerary that is more tailored to specific interests.
Travelers aiming to get a sweeping overview of the country could also plan a 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary following Day 1 of our trip plan – and then taking an organized day trip to the Highlands on Day 2 – like this one.
Alternate Edinburgh Itinerary 3 Days
We spent ample time considering how to crate the absolute best 3 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary – but we understand that not all travelers have the same interests as we do.
If any of the attractions that we highlight in our outlined Edinburgh 3-Day Itinerary are not of interest, simply swap them out for other sights and experiences to create your ultimate trip plan.
Edinburgh Itinerary 4 Days
Visitors have a variety of options for how to spend 4 days in Edinburgh.
If in your first three days in Edinburgh you cover all the sights, then the fourth day can be used to take a day trip or to explore more of the city’s distinct districts.
In our opinion, a 4 Day Edinburgh Itinerary would be best with a day trip – either on your own to Glasgow or Dunbar or further into the Highlands on an organized tour.
That said, visitors who are most interested in the royal family could create an Edinburgh 4 Day Itinerary that includes stepping aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia or going to Craigmillar Castle. Meanwhile, active travelers could spend the fourth day hiking in the Pentland Hills.
Edinburgh Itinerary 5 Days
If we were creating a 5 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary, it would look like this. Using our 3-day trip plan as a base, spend the fourth day on a day trip and the last day exploring another district.
If you are preparing a 5 Day Edinburgh itinerary for a family, consider adding the Zoo, Camera Obscura or Dynamic Earth to your trip plans in place of district exploration.
Edinburgh Itinerary 7 Days
Travelers fortunate enough to spend 7 days in Edinburgh will find that there are plenty of things to do to fill a One Week Itinerary Edinburgh, Scotland.
With a week in Edinburgh, we recommend slowing your pace so that you can fully appreciate the sights. Rather than rushing through museums to only see the highlights, take the time to better understand the displays and exhibits.
For a solid One Week Edinburgh Itinerary, we recommend following our tips for how to spend 5 days in Edinburgh – then on Day 6, visit any of the museums that you skipped on Days 1 through 5.
On the last day of your trip, revisit your favorite sights – but with a more relaxed focus of simply enjoying the moment (and perhaps some great people watching). Shopping for souvenirs (like a custom kilt or tweed jacket) or engaging in a unique experience (like High Tea) – can also be a fun way to spend your last day in Edinburgh.
Multi City Itineraries
For many Scotland visitors, Edinburgh is not their only destination. Travelers going to multiple cities can start with our guide for how to spend 3 perfect days in Edinburgh – but we have tips for how to combine the trip with nearby destinations, too!
Glasgow and Edinburgh Itinerary
A classic Scotland Itinerary includes both Edinburgh and Glasgow. The two cities, while close in proximity, each have a distinct vibe.
Creating a One Week Edinburgh and Glasgow Itinerary is ideal – as each city has so much to offer (plus so many options for day trips!).
For visitors limited to spending just 3 days in Edinburgh and Glasgow, however, we recommend spending 2 days in Edinburgh and 1 day in Glasgow.
Edinburgh and Highlands Itinerary
To create an itinerary that includes both the city and the Highlands, we recommend planning a weeklong trip. Start by using our tips for what to do in Edinburgh in three days, then take a 3 day tour to the Highlands – like this one!
London Edinburgh Itinerary
We have tons of tips for travelers creating a London and Edinburgh Itinerary! We think it is best to plan an entire week to see the two cities. To create your trip plan, use our outline for what to see in three days in Edinburgh, Scotland – and then jump over to our London Itinerary for a day-by-day detailed guide to the City of London.
Edinburgh, London, Paris Itinerary
Adding Paris to your trip plan? No problem! An ideal trip plan would include 3 days in Edinburgh, 3 days in London and at least 3 days (but possibly a full week) in Paris. You can use our tips in our Paris Itineraries article for complete details.
Dublin and Edinburgh Itinerary
Edinburgh and Dublin are two cities that are well paired together for international travelers. We share top tips for what to see in our Dublin Walking Tour. Additionally, on our recent visit to the region, we tagged on 3 Days in Belfast as well!
Edinburgh Itinerary Travel Tips
Now that you know how to visit Edinburgh in 3 days (or longer), we have top travel tips that will help you plan your trip.
Edinburgh City Passes
Attractions passes can save travelers a lot of money…but only if you buy the right one.
The Royal Edinburgh Ticket is valid for 48 hours and includes admission to the Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and the Royal Yacht Britannia – plus a city bus tour.
The Edinburgh 3 Day Pass – which is actually good for 1, 2 or 3 days – includes top attractions, tram rides and tours.
When is the Best Time to Go To Edinburgh, Scotland
Scotland weather is notoriously unpredictable. The running joke is that you can experience all four seasons in one day (or even 20 minutes!). Therefore, deciding when to visit Edinburgh based on weather is a difficult task.
Visit Edinburgh in Summertime
Generally speaking, the summer months – from May through September – offer the best chance for good weather. Although it will likely rain at some point during your visit, the sun does come out. High temperatures typically top out in the upper 60s Fahrenheit (19 C).
Furthermore, summer days are long; Edinburgh gets almost 17 hours of daylight during the middle of the summer, which is great for sightseeing and outdoor activities.
August marks the city’s season of festivals. The Edinburgh Art Festival, International Festival, Fringe Festival and Film Festival all take place in August. Additionally, the famous Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo event takes place in August, as well.
Just be aware that with the influx of summer travelers and festival-goers, it will get extremely crowded. Accommodations fill up quickly (as do restaurant reservations) and prices are at their peak.
Visiting Edinburgh in the Off Season
That all said, there are spectacular reasons to visit Edinburgh in every season! While autumn, winter and spring bringer cooler temperatures, there are benefits to visiting Edinburgh outside the summer season. There are far fewer tourists, it will cost less and the landscapes are still beautiful.
Spending the holidays in Europe? Read our guide to the Best Places to Spend Christmas in Europe!
Getting To Edinburgh
Travelers can arrive to Edinburgh by plane, train, boat or bus.
The Edinburgh Airport (EDI) is an international airport with heaps of flights to and from other top European destinations as well as seasonal direct flights from US gateways (such as Chicago, Boston, NYC and DC).
Use our tips for Finding the Best Flight Fares – and then start your search on Skyscanner.
Edinburgh Airport to Edinburgh City Center
The airport in Edinburgh is just 8 miles from the city center. Travelers can easily get to the center of the city by taxi, bus, tram or rental car.
Pro Tip: Buy roundtrip tickets for the Edinburgh to Edinburgh Airport Bus or Tram and save money!
Waverley Train Station
The Edinburgh Waverley Station on Princes Street is the main train station. Trains can be used to reach a number of destinations throughout the UK. There is a second transportation hub and station in Haymarket.
Cruise Ships in Edinburgh
There are several places that cruise ships dock for visitors to Edinburgh. South Queensferry, Leith, Newhaven and Rosyth are where most ships will dock or anchor.
Getting Around Edinburgh
We think the best way to get around Edinburgh is on your own two feet! The top sights are in a fairly compact area and, despite there being hills – most of Edinburgh is very walkable.
Travelers going further distances, however, can use the network of public transportation routes – including buses and trams.
Tourists might also find the Hop On Hop Off Bus to be particularly useful – as it makes stops at all of the top tourist destinations. Buy tickets in advance!
Accommodation in Edinburgh
If you are spending 3 nights in Edinburgh, then you will need to find a place to stay! On a short 3-day trip to Edinburgh, we think it is best to stay in a hotel in the city center close the top attractions.
There are many hotels in Edinburgh in a range of price points. The luxury Balmoral Hotel is one of the 5 Star Hotels near Edinburgh Castle where guests are treated like royalty. On the other end of the spectrum, the colorful Castle Rock Hostel Edinburgh offers affordable dorm beds.
Choosing the best place to stay in Edinburgh will depend on your comfort level and budget. Read our Tips for Finding the Best Hotels at Cheap Prices and then start your search on Booking.com – like we do!
Edinburgh Vacation Apartments
There are a range of holiday apartments available for rent in Edinburgh, too.
While we typically like to stay in holiday rentals, it may not be the best option for your Edinburgh 3-day trip. Checking in and out can sometimes be a hassle in Airbnb apartments – and the additional fees can be outrageous. If you opt to stay in an apartment rental for your trip, be sure to read the fine print, double check the final price and read reviews and rules carefully.
Watch Before You Go to Edinburgh
As you prepare for your trip to Edinburgh, get a little travel inspiration (and learn some of the history) with these shows and movies.
- Men in Kilts – Two men (lead actors from Outlander) traveling around Scotland learning about the food, culture and history.
- Outlander – Time-travel series set in Scotland in the year 1743.
- Harry Potter – While not set in Edinburgh, many of the scenes were based on locations in the city.
- Braveheart – The story of William Wallace, a Scottish patriot who spurred a revolution against the English.
- Mary, Queen of Scots (2018) – The true story of two queens – Mary, Queen of Scotts and Elizabeth I, Queen of England – turned rivals.
What To Pack for your Trip to Edinburgh
Now that you are well on your way to planning your Edinburgh, Scotland Itinerary, it’s time to think about what to pack! Keep in mind that you will need to pack clothes suitable for your planned activities to do in Edinburgh.
Find all of our tips on our Travel Packing Page. You can also use our Free Packing Checklist to make sure you pack everything that you need.
Rainy Weather Gear and Layers
The weather in Edinburgh is fickle. It can be sunny one minute, rainy the next, windy at times and all of them combined at any time!
Be sure to pack a good travel umbrella for your trip. We also recommend packing a waterproof and windproof raincoat.
It’s also a good idea to pack clothes that can be layered – as the temperature can fluctuate throughout the day.
We cover a lot of ground in our 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary – so you need to pack good travel shoes for your trip! I like lightweight and versatile sneakers for everyday adventures and Kris wears Merrell Trail Shoes.
Real Travel Camera
Edinburgh is incredibly photogenic – so upgrade to a real camera for your trip that will take quality photos. We use a Canon Rebel with an everyday 18-135mm lens. It’s a great camera for budget travelers – as it comes in a kit with heaps of accessories. Plus, it’s easy to use and is durable.
Edinburgh Map, Guidebook and Travel Planner
While we have outlined the top sights to see and provided a map, it’s a good idea to carry a paper map, too. In fact, getting a paper map and guidebook prior to your trip will help throughout the planning process.
Get our Travel Planner, as well! It will help you keep track of all your travel details.
With long days of sightseeing, we feel a good day pack is essential. We carry lightweight backpacks – which are perfect for storing our camera, phones, keys, wallet, maps, umbrella and extra layers. We detail our choices in this article for the best day packs.
UK Trip Insurance
Travel insurance may cover irritating travel issues, like lost luggage or cancelled flights – but can be invaluable if you get sick or injured while abroad. Check the affordable rates on plans at a trusted insurer, like World Nomads.
We Want To Know: What are your top tips for things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland? What would you add to our 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary? Share your best advice in the comments!
Start planning your trip to Scotland! Search for the lowest airfares, the best accommodations and fun things to do…then start packing! Want more travel planning tips? Head over to our Travel Planning page for more information and tips on traveling – and for country-specific information, take a look at our Travel Guides page!
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