How do you spend 24 hours in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and the second most populous city after Glasgow. The city is known for its history and culture and as a center of education. Our 24 hours in Edinburgh take you on a whirlwind adventure through cobbled streets and lively neighborhoods.
We begin at the iconic Edinburgh Castle perched on Castle Rock to the illusions at Camera Obscura and the vibrant atmosphere of the Royal Mile. Edinburgh is steeped in history and bustling boutiques and cafes at every corner.
There are two main areas in Edinburgh, the Old Town, and the New Town, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. As you walk through the medieval Old Town to the planned New Town designed to take advantage of the topography is still intact.
At Arthur’s Seat, you can get a panoramic view of Edinburgh’s stunning natural beauty. With the city located on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh’s landscape is a mix of hills, on the shoreline of the Leith, and encircled by a green belt making the city a blend of nature and modern.
You can wander through Edinburgh’s historic alleyways, explore the many museums and galleries and stop to savor the traditional Scottish delicacies, Edinburgh would leave a memorable impression on you.
Edinburgh is a city of contrast. With its harmonious blend of past and present, the city’s cobblestone streets have an air of timelessness. The city beautifully weaves a tapestry of rich culture, history, and stunning beauty.
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Discover Edinburgh’s ghostly side with a ghost & gore walking tour where you will be entertained with tales of witchcraft, executions, punishments, and invasions. End your tour with a free copy of ‘Witchery Tales’ by Adam Lyal.
Uncover the history of Scotland as you explore Edinburgh’s Old Town with a costumed guide in the witches & history of Old Town walking tour. Listen to the secrets of the Lady Stairs Close, Grassmarket, and Candle Maker Row.
Spend a day exploring the Scottish Highlands on a guided tour from Edinburgh. Visit the Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and Kelpies. Spot Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, and then head into the Trossachs where the Lowlands meet the Highlands.
Spend an evening of whisky appreciation at the Royal Mile at the whisky tasting & storytelling tour. You get to taste four single malt scotch whiskies, from the Lowlands’ delicate flavors to Islay’s robust flavors. You can also choose the option without whisky tastings for those who want to avoid alcohol.
Take a walking tour and discover the magic of Harry Potter. Visit the places where JK Rowling found inspiration for Harry Potter. The tour also takes you to the grave of Tom Riddle in Greyfriars Kirkyard and visit the golden handprint of JK Rowling outside the City Chambers.
Soak up the scenery at Glencoe, relax at Fort William, and visit the many filming sites of Harry Potter at Glenfinnan Viaduct in the day tour of Glenfinnan, Glencoe, and Fort William. And then, continue to the Glenfinnan Monument which symbolizes the Jacobite uprising before ending for some refreshments at Pitlochry.
At the airport, easily identify your bag with these luggage tags made with eco-friendly leather. These tags are slim and soft which makes them durable for long-term use. These tags come with a flap cover to protect your personal information.
Where is Edinburgh?
This capital city is in the country’s southeastern part, on the southern shores of the Firth of Forth. The Old Town is Edinburgh was built on seven hills which are Carlton Hill, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill, Castle Rock, and Arthur’s Seat.
These seven hills were compared to the seven hills of Rome, hence, Edinburgh’s nickname as the “Athens of the North”. Edinburgh has a cool, temperate, maritime climate. The city is also known as the “windy city” due to its position between coasts and hills.
Between the end of July to early September, Edinburgh hosts a series of festivals with the popular ones being the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, and the Edinburgh Art Festival.
The literary scene at Edinburgh became evident during the Scottish Enlightenment with several prominent authors having lived in Edinburgh. These authors include Adam Smith, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and JK Rowling.
Edinburgh is a beautiful fusion of the past and present, where history intertwines with modernity. From the magnificent Edinburgh Castle to the stately Holyrood Palace, the city’s heritage is worth visiting.
If there is one travel essential you need before your trip, it is the Rick Steves Edinburgh Snapshot Guide. The guide is updated annually, so you have the latest news and happenings at your fingertips. This informative guide comes with maps that makes organizing your trip to Edinburgh easier.
With a history that dates back to the Mesolithic Age, Edinburgh was at the center of a series of conflicts between the many Celtic groups. By the 1st century, the Romans occupied Edinburgh. However, the Romans didn’t last long as the Angles and the Scots dominated the area.
However, it was in the 12th century when King David I established Edinburgh as a royal burgh was its strategic importance realised. Edinburgh Castle was built as a royal stronghold and its location atop Castle Rock solidified its reputation.
From the 12th century onwards, Edinburgh grew as a political, cultural, and economic hub. The development of the New Town was a testament to its rapid growth. Today, Edinburgh is a vibrant cosmopolitan city proud of its heritage and historic landmarks while embracing modernity and innovation.
The United Kingdom maintains a common travel area with the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man. The United Kingdom was part of the European Union until January 2020 when citizens of the EU/EEA/Swiss citizens enjoyed freedom of movement until 31st December 2020.
Citizens from the Commonwealth countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, and Canada are visa-exempt and can stay in the United Kingdom for up to 6 months.
Nationals from Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates can apply for an Electronic Visa Waiver (EVW). These nationals can stay or visit the United Kingdom for up to 6 months on a single-entry basis.
Find out if you need a visitor visa to the United Kingdom. As a safety precaution, it is recommended to register your trip with your embassy so that you know you are in safe hands while visiting and exploring the United Kingdom.
Get yourself a passport holder with an RFID-blocking shield that protects your personal information. These passport covers are made with eco-friendly synthetic leather and are soft to the touch.
Is Edinburgh a walkable city?
Yes, Edinburgh is a walkable city due to its compact layout, especially in the historic city center. The Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and Holyrood Palace are popular tourist attractions that are within walking distance from one another.
The city’s pedestrian-friendly areas coupled with its narrow winding streets make Edinburgh easily accessible and an enjoyable experience. Hike up Arthur’s Seat or Carlton Hill are some of the vantage points with beautiful panoramic views of the city and its surrounding landscape.
What to do in Edinburgh for 24 hours?
This is how you spend 24 hours in Edinburgh. We start our day at Edinburgh Castle, the iconic landmark perched on Castle Rock. As we will be exploring on foot, make sure you bring your water bottle and wear a good pair of walking shoes.
Our first stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Castle, the iconic fortress that dominates the skyline of Edinburgh. The castle has a history of being a royal residence, military garrison, prison, and fortress.
Edinburgh Castle has seen its fair share of historical conflicts from the Wars of Scottish Independence to the Jacobite Rising of 1745 or the ‘Forty-Five Rebellion’. The St Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in the castle and Edinburgh, dating back to the 12th century.
Another area to look out for is the One O’Clock Gun which is fired every day at 1 pm, except on Sunday, Good Friday, and Christmas Day. Edinburgh Castle also houses the Crown Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny which was used to inaugurate monarchs is also on display at the Crown Room.
You can join the Edinburgh Castle Highlights Tour with skip-the-line entry tickets that would transport you back in time. And, also learn and appreciate the histories of the royals and admire the beautiful views of Edinburgh from the castle.
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
Our second stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions which was a quick 1-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle. This is Edinburgh’s oldest attraction that dates back to 1853 and is one of the top attractions in Edinburgh.
Camera Obscura would surely captivate your senses. With over 100 exhibits spread across five floors, it’s the perfect place to spend a few hours indulging in the wonders of science, illusions, and art.
Once you’re done exploring, you can head up to the Rooftop Terrace, where you’ll be welcomed by breathtaking views of Arthur’s Seat and the Royal Mile. Don’t miss the opportunity to use their free telescopes, as they offer a unique and mesmerizing perspective of the city.
You can visit Camera Obscura any day between 8 am to 10 pm, which means you can easily fit it into your schedule. The ticket prices are affordable, with adult tickets costing £21.95 ($28), while students with an ID or citizens over 65 can get in for £19.95 ($25). For kids aged 5-15, it’s just £16.95 ($21), and if they’re under 5, they can enter for free. With all these fantastic features, it’s undoubtedly an excellent place to visit.
St Giles Cathedral
Our third stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was the St Giles Cathedral. This cathedral is an easy 3-minute walk from Camera Obscura. This beautiful church stands as a testament to Scotland’s heritage.
The High Kirk of Edinburgh, also known as, has a Romanesque facade and once you step inside, be awed by its gorgeous interior. The stained glass and the majestic vaulted ceilings are a kaleidoscope of colors.
With a history that dates back to the 12th century, if the walls could speak, they would whisper tales of war and reformation. As you walk further, you will come to the medieval tombs with the memorial brass of the Regent of Moray being the oldest.
St Giles Cathedral is not only a breathtaking masterpiece, it is a living testament of a nation that is resilient and the unwavering spirit of its people. A trip to the cathedral is a must, whether you are seeking spiritual solace or simply to admire the beauty of human creativity at its best.
While there is free entry to St Giles Cathedral, you would need to pay £ 2 ($3) for photography permits.
Our fourth stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was walking along the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a stretch of road and a succession of streets that run through the Old Town of Edinburgh.
The street connects two significant locations in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Castle, and the Holyrood Palace. The street begins in the west from Castlehill and ends in the east at Abbey Strand.
As you walk along the Royal Mile, look for Gladstone’s Land, a 500-year-old building restored to its former glory.
Join the Dark History Royal Mile Walking Tour and learn about the lesser-known facts about Edinburgh’s historical landmark. End your walking tour with a visit to Canongate Graveyard.
Or, enjoy a Harry Potter Walking Tour where you get to test your knowledge of all things Harry Potter. Visit the place where JK Rowlings gained inspiration for the book and visit the grave of Tom Riddle who played Lord Voldemort in the series.
Our fifth stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was Scott Monument. This iconic landmark is a 6-minute walk from the Royal Mile and is at the Princes Street Gardens. This monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, the famous Scottish historian, author, playwright, and novelist.
The monument was designed in Victorian Gothic style with the marble statue of Sir Walter Scott and his faithful dog, Maida at his side. About 68 other statues are from the characters in his novels.
There is an entrance fee of £8 ($10) for adults and £6 ($8) for children and students. A family ticket for those with 2 adults and 2 children or 1 adult and 3 children is £20 ($25). The opening hours are 10 am to 4.30 pm. The gardens are
National Museum of Scotland
Our sixth stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was the National Museum of Scotland which is a quick 11-minute walk from the Scott Monument. The museum began in the early 18th century intending to have a museum that reflects Scottish history.
The National Museum of Scotland has free entry and is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. The lowest galleries begin at the basement level with exhibits from prehistory to the medieval period. Some notable artifacts on display include the Monymusk Reliquary, the St Ninian’s Isle Treasure, several Pictish Stones, the Galloway Hoard, and many others. You can walk your way up to the rooftop terrace.
Palace of Holyrood House
Our seventh stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was the Palace of Holyrood House which is a 15-minute walk from the National Museum of Scotland. The palace is at the end of the Royal Mile and is the official residence of the British Monarch when in Scotland.
According to local legend, the Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128 by King David 1 who had a vision of a cross when he was hunting. The abbey was used as a royal residence. The current palace was built in the 17th century and contains 289 rooms.
Purchase the entrance ticket to Holyrood Palace and wander the opulent rooms and gardens of the palace. Climb the narrow, steep, and winding staircase to the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots who lived in the palace between 1561-1567, and Supper Room where she witnessed the murder of her private secretary, David Rizzio.
Our eighth and last stop in our 24 hours in Edinburgh was Carlton Hill. This hill is a 20-minute walk from the Holyrood House Palace. Carlton Hill is the Acropolis of Edinburgh due to the National Monument that resembles the Parthenon in Athens.
Carlton Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is home to several of Edinburgh’s iconic monuments such as the Dugald Stewart Monument, the City Observatory, the Nelson Monument, and the Old Royal High School.
Take an early walk and watch the sunrise from Carlton Hill. Its grassy slopes and panoramic views of the city are spectacular. The hill hosts several events including the Beltane Fire Festival, the Dusshera, and the Samhuinn Fire Festival. With that, we end our 24 hours in Edinburgh. From the iconic Edinburgh Castle to Carlton Hill, Edinburgh has much to offer.
What are the best places to stay in Edinburgh?
There are a variety of accommodations to stay in the beautiful and historic city of Edinburgh. Our choice would be to stay in the Old Town as you are within walking distance of Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and St Giles Cathedral.
The InterContinental Edinburgh is a 240-room luxury hotel located at George Street which is a quick 10-minute walk to Edinburgh Castle and a 3-minute walk to the Melville Monument.
The hotel has been welcoming guests since 1881 and as you walk into the grand lobby, you will be greeted by exquisite artwork and rich fabrics that set the tone of luxury. The rooms are a symphony of comfort and style and take on a 19th-century color palette.
Some of the rooms have breathtaking views of Edinburgh Castle while others have the city view of George Street. However, it is the hotel’s prime location that is centrally located which is an added plus point.
Guests loved the lovely and friendly staff, the comfortable beds, and the spacious rooms. The Royal Mile is moments away with many major attractions nearby. The InterContinental Edinburgh is an experience that captures the essence of Edinburgh.
Whether you are a seasoned traveler or simply seeking a getaway, this hotel will leave you with cherished memories for years to come.
The Witchery by the Castle
The Witchery by the Castle is a renowned restaurant with 9 suites which are located above the restaurant. This is a place where history and mystery intertwine, where cobblestone streets whisper tales of the past.
The building dates back to the 16th century and was known as Boswell’s Court, a physician who once lived here. The rooms are furnished in Gothic style with either a four-poster bed or draped with tapestries.
The hotel is not wheelchair friendly and not family-friendly as it has narrow turnpike staircases. However, the hotel is within walking distance of the major attractions in Edinburgh such as Edinburgh Castle and Camera Obscura.
Guests loved the friendly and welcoming staff, the stunning rooms, and the comfortable beds. Reviewers commented that the room decor takes you back in time. Some recommended suites to stay in are the Old Rectory, Sempill, and Turret.
This hotel beautifully combines fine dining and historical charm in an immersive experience. Staying here is a unique experience and a memorable one for anyone visiting Edinburgh.
The Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian is a 241-room luxurious hotel on Princes Street. The hotel seamlessly blends the grandeur of a bygone era with modern sophistication for those seeking the ultimate lavish vacation.
With views of the Edinburgh Castle, the Waldorf Astoria captures the essence of the city’s rich cultural history. The building’s facade, the Caledonian was part of The Caledonian Railways in the early 19th century.
The rooms and suites are a haven of serenity and luxury. All rooms come with free WiFi and views of the city. The rooms were designed for your comfort. It includes lavish bedding, a deep bathtub, and views of the iconic Edinburgh Castle or across the cityscape.
For total relaxation, spend some time at the spa which offers a sanctuary of wellness and relaxation. The range of treatments include massages, facials, and manicure and pedicure. Spend some time at the steam room and sauna and let your stress melt away.
Guests loved the welcoming and helpful staff who went above and beyond to make guests feel special. Guests also loved the delightful breakfast. However, do take note that not all rooms have beautiful views as some rooms face a small courtyard while others face a parking lot.
There are plenty of shops and restaurants nearby and getting from the airport to the hotel is as the airport bus would drop you off just across the street. The hotel marries history and modernity and beckons travelers to embark on a journey of luxury where the past is celebrated and the future is embraced.
The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel is a 187-room hotel that is an Edinburgh landmark at the east end of Princes Street is another hotel we recommend if you have more than 24 hours in Edinburgh. The hotel is next door to Waverly Station and is a 5-minute walk to the National Gallery and Old Town.
Originally built as the North British Station Hotel, the hotel is a beautiful example of Victorian style with sweeping staircases, classic columns, and contemporary interiors. With plush furnishings, gleaming chandeliers, and intricate details, the Scottish warmth envelopes you as you step into this hotel.
All rooms were designed with comfort and style in mind to provide a restful sanctuary amidst the bustling city. While the Classic Rooms overlook the interior courtyard, the Superior Deluxe and Executive Rooms have views of Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle.
Guests loved the welcoming and attentive staff and the hotel’s excellent location. The dining options and the food were good. Although some rooms were small, these were made up by comfortable beds.
The hotel has three rooms which are disabled-friendly. The hotel is also family-friendly with baby cots, babysitting, and baby meals available. The Balmoral is a symphony of luxury, history, and modernity of this grand hotel.
Another hotel we recommend if you have more than 24 hours in Edinburgh is the Virgin Hotel which is a 222-room boutique hotel at the top of Victoria Street, connecting the Grassmarket and the George IV Bridge. The hotel is in the historic India Buildings and although the historic architectural details are gone only the restored glass cupola survives.
All rooms have a unique two-chamber design to make your stay more comfortable. The rooms have sliding doors that separate the sleep and relaxation lounges from the dressing area. To get the best views, ask for the rooms on the upper floors.
Guests loved the excellent location, the beautiful views from the rooms, and the kind and attentive staff. Guests also enjoyed the clean and modern rooms that came with a yoga mat. Although the WiFi can be inconsistent, the bed was comfortable.
Spending your days at the Virgin Hotel is not only inviting, it is an invitation to fall in love with Edinburgh. From the city’s skyline to savoring a glass of Scottish whiskey, this hotel seeks to create beautiful memories for you, long after you’ve bid Edinburgh farewell.
Frequently Asked Questions on Edinburgh
Edinburgh is famous for its historic cobbled streets, Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and literary heritage. Edinburgh’s Old Town is characterized by its medieval castle with Gothic architecture. The city is also known for its international festivals such as the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the Festival Fringe, and Hogmanay which is an informal street party that is the celebration of the Scottish New Year.
The best time to visit Edinburgh is during the summer months from June to August which is also the peak tourist season. During these months, the weather is warm and the days are long. The city hosts a variety of festivals during these months, which means you need to book your hotel in advance and expect large crowds everywhere you go.
Yes, Edinburgh does have nightlife. The city offers a range of entertainment options with numerous pubs, bars, clubs, and live music. The Old Town remains a popular nightlife area with the Royal Mile and Grassmarket areas bustling to live as the sun sets.
Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, Palace of Holyrood House are some of the places which you must not miss when in Edinburgh. Other popular sites are Carlton Hill, Camera Obscura, and Edinburgh Old Town which is steeped in history and culture.
Also, do not miss taking the Johnie Walker Whisky Experience or the Guided Gin Tasting Tour, or a Guided Secret Food Tour where you can tantalize your taste buds while sampling a secret dish.
Yes, Edinburgh is a friendly city with a reputation for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. The “Edinburghers” are always helpful to tourists. With many festivals and a thriving arts and cultural scene, Edinburgh is vibrant and inviting.
Yes, Edinburgh is safe to walk alone at night. However, always be aware of your surroundings and avoid dark lanes. Although Edinburgh is generally well-lit and is bustling with tourists, never let your guard down, especially if you are a solo female traveler.
Yes, you can do Edinburgh without a car. Edinburgh Old Town is great for walking as the area is compact and easily accessible on foot. The city is known for its extensive and efficient public transportation system which makes getting around Edinburgh effortless.
Yes, Edinburgh Trams do go to the airport. These trams connect the city center and the airport with several stops along the way. The trams depart every 7 minutes and operate between 7 am to 11 pm. The ticket prices vary by zone and the type of ticket purchased. Alternatively, you can pre-book your bus transfer from Edinburgh Airport to South St David Street with a drop-off at Princes Street.
Yes, absolutely! In our opinion, Edinburgh is a must-visit. Why? Edinburgh welcomes tourists with open arms and the city is also famous for its history, culture, and arts. From its UNESCO World Heritage Sites to the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh has so much to offer. The city is perfect for short trips, especially if you are only spending 24 hours in Edinburgh.