Edinburgh is one of those places you can visit in any season and at any time of the year. Sure, the Summer is (meant to be) warmer and it has the benefit of having really long evenings, in Winter you can time it for the Christmas Markets or even the massive Hogmanay celebrations. We recently visited in March and were greeted with snow blizzards, so maybe you can never know the best time to visit.
Having visited Edinburgh what must be hundreds of times- sometimes for a few hours and sometimes for a few days, we have complied a list of how to spend 24 hours in Scotland’s capital city. Of course, there is many more things to see and do but this is just our quick “hit em’ up” version if you have only a short time to visit.
You’ll find we have listed alternatives too, as we know everyone’s budget is different.
Trains- Arrive into Waverly station, adjacent to Princes Street. One way from Glasgow will cost around £13 and can talk a little as 49 minutes for the journey.
Driving- Parking at hotels can be as little as £12 throughout your stay or
Park and Ride- It is free to park and then hop on the city public bus or tram for as little at £1.50 one way. (Check Park and Ride website for the right car park as some don’t allow 24 hour parking, we used Hermiston station which allowed 72 hours)
Check in at hotels are normally mid-afternoon, but don’t let that stop you, head to your hotel, check in and ask to leave your luggage with the porter before heading out.
A great location to base yourselves is in the Grassmarket area. It is effectively at the bottom of Edinburgh Castle (more on that later), it has a row of pubs and cafes and is only a short walk up to the Royal Mile. We would recommend you stay at the Apex Grassmarket hotel. Prices start from £77, try upgrading to a ‘Castle View’ though, the view makes the hotel completely worth it! This hotel also has a swimming pool, sauna and gym. However, if you want to live like a local then check out properties on AirBnB, there is some real crackers out there in great locations.
Staying at the Apex Grassmarket after checking in, you can wander up the enchanting Victoria St aka Diagon Alley (supposed inspiration for JK Rowling) and stop in at Scott’s for brunch or if you want to keep the Harry Potter theme going then head to The Elephant Café for food and sit where JK Rowling wrote said books.
Then head up George IV Bridge to the action-packed, awesome National Museum of Scotland (£ Free) for a few hours until your room is ready. On the way to Museum of Scotland stop to admire Greyfriars Bobby, a statue of a dog who stayed by the grave of his master for 14 years until his own passing. If you fancy afternoon tea at this time, then book in to the Tower Restaurant joined to the museum and enjoy the spectacular views of Edinburgh’s skyline from the terrace.
If you prefer not to walk around or want to see everything possible in this short space of time, then you must jump on the City Sightseeing bus, from £18 you get 24 hours with several stops in both the Old Town and New Town and have guided commentary. Well worth the money!
You’ll probably be hungry again (or is that just us?) why not stop off at Princes Street and head one street back to Rose Street where there’s plenty of pubs and cafes, an excellent choice is Element, the all-day brunch options are a must, then if you are here for the shops- Princes Street is the place to be. If you are up at the Royal Mile, then pop into The Deacon’s House an old carpet shop in the 1800’s now a cute little café where you can enjoy a cream tea or soup and sandwich. Have a read on the walls about what happened to Deacon’s demise.
Head back to your hotel and use the swimming pool and spa facilities before getting ready for the evening.
Try and squeeze in the time to climb up Calton Hill in time to watch the sunset over the city, its an easy walk up and there is a surprising amount of stunning architectural buildings to marvel at.
With such ancient history it shouldn’t be a shock to learn there are many dark secrets lurking in Edinburgh’s old town. There are plenty of walking tours to partake or how about going on a ghost tour we chose The Vaults Tour with Auld Reekie Tours (tours 12pm/ 2pm/ 4pm/ 5pm) where you tour inside underground vaults from the 1700’s!
Then head back to the Royal Mile and enjoy a local beer or how about an Edinburgh Gin. If you want to splash out for dinner then book a table at The Witchery, or head to Vapianos off Princes Street for dinner if posh grub isn’t your thing. Spread out over 3 floors sit in the middle floor for best access to the bar and serving counters (as you will be ordering and collecting your own food) A must is the antipasti platter to start and don't miss dessert!
After dinner visit The Dome (Address: 14 George St, New Town, Edinburgh EH2 2PF) or The Waldorf Astoria (Address: Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB) for some exotic and pricey cocktails but it they will be worth it to experience the interior of the buildings.
After a comfortable and relaxing sleep get up early and grab a ham or bacon baguette from Oink which serves straight from the Hog Roast lying in the window, then head to the infamous Edinburgh Castle and beat the crowds by going early. Understand the rich history of the capital by visiting the Castle, which is built on a rock upon which a castle has stood since the 12th Century. Walk along the haunted passageways and visit the museums including seeing the Crown Jewels!
Entry is £17pp or a year pass at Historic Scotland is £47.25 individual or special price for 2 £82.80 for 12 months and that is available for hundreds of attractions in Scotland.
Take a minute to appreciate the buildings surrounding you and pop down Lady Stair Close and marvel at the Writers Museum building.
Then if feeling adventurous why not climb Arthurs Seat – an extinct volcano offering the most amazing views over Edinburgh and over the Firth of Forth. And if you are interested in all this Brexit saga and the old tosh about Scottish Independence then stop in for a free guided tour around the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood.
Don’t leave ‘Auld Reekie’ without;
-Purchasing something tartan- most probably a tartan scarf from one of the thousand shops along the Royal Mile and Princes Street selling them.
- Watching and hearing the 12 o’clock gun at Edinburgh Castle, you can even hear this from Princes Street Gardens
-Looking into the windows and wonder who has occupied those houses over the years
- Sampling a local beer or Edinburgh Gin
-Purchasing Edinburgh Rock as a gift for you and friends / family
-Finding why Edinburgh is nick named ‘Auld Reekie’
-Coming back to the capital again for Hogmanay and Christmas Markets
Have you been to Scotland's Capital before? What did you do whilst there?