Ultimate 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Perfect for First-Timers

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How To Spend 2 Days in Edinburgh, Scotland – Your Ultimate Edinburgh Itinerary

Castles, charming closes, medieval architecture, and cobblestone streets; welcome to Edinburgh, Scotland! If you have decided to visit Scotland’s capital, you’re in luck. Edinburgh is one of the most underrated enchanting cities; it is relatively small and compact, meaning you can see a lot with minimal time. Therefore, I have put together the ultimate 2 days in Edinburgh itinerary that covers the best things to do in Edinburgh, travel tips, getting around, where to stay, and more. 

This Edinburgh itinerary is perfect for first-timers, those planning a Scotland road trip, and even city hopping from one country to another. We personally planned our trip to include both Ireland and Scotland. 

Edinburgh Castle is a must with 2 days
The Edinburgh Castle looking up from Princes Gardens

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Is 2 Days in Edinburgh Enough Time

You may be wondering how many days you should spend in Edinburgh. 2 days in Edinburgh should allow you to see the most main attractions without feeling rushed.

You can technically spend 1 day in Edinburgh and still see a lot, however, if time allows, I’d say 2 days is the minimum amount of time exploring the city. 

With 3 days in Edinburgh, you will have additional time for some day trips. If you do find yourself wanting to see more or have extra time before your flight, I will be including additional things to do at the end. 

Craigmillar Castle
Craigmillar Castle

Day 1 of 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile

To start our first day in Edinburgh, we will be hitting the major attractions you won’t want to miss.

I’d recommend wearing very comfortable shoes since you will easily be walking over a mile today.

Since this is Scotland, you might even want to ensure they are water-resistant, depending on the forecast. 

Below is a map of all my recommended attractions and stops!

Edinburgh day 1 itinerary map

Edinburgh Castle

One of the highlights of Edinburgh is undoubtedly Edinburgh Castle. Besides looking like Hogwarts from Harry Potter, one of the most unique things about the castle is that it sits on an extinct volcano, which is estimated to have risen around 350 million years ago.

With 2 days in Edinburgh, there is no way you shouldn’t visit the Edinburgh Castle!

The castle is one of the most popular attractions to visit in Edinburgh, so getting tickets ahead of time is really important. They can be purchased on the Edinburgh Castle Official Website here. It is also cheaper to get your tickets online.

I would also suggest getting the mobile audio guide for an additional £3.50 Euros, or else you will miss out on the significance of this historic treasure. 

From the top of the castle, you will be greeted with panoramic views of the city, which are worth the ticket price itself. The castle grounds are huge since the castle was built as a military fortress. 

With the audio guide, you will find numbered areas throughout the grounds for you to coordinate with the audio guide. This will really allow you to delve into Scottish history.

Since we are visiting the castle first thing in the morning, you will be missing the One o’clock gun, however, I personally think it is slightly over-rated. Plus, you will hear the gun throughout the city. The gun is fired every day at 1 PM except Sundays (and certain holidays). 

Edinburgh Fun Fact: Firing the 1 o’clock gun dates back to 1861 and was used to set maritime clocks.

Some other things you should check out include The Stone of Destiny and the Scotland Crown Jewels in the Royal Palace on the east side of Crown Square. 

Hours: 9:30 AM – 6 PM April – September; 10 AM – 4 PM October – March

Admission: £18 for adults (16 – 64); £14.50 for seniors /concession (65+); £11 for Children (5-15). They also have family package deals.

Address: Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom

The one o' clock gun from the Edinburgh Castle
The one o’clock gun from the Edinburgh Castle
Views from the top of the Edinburgh Castle
Views from the top of the Castle

Explore the Royal Mile

Exploring the Royal Mile is a must with 2 days in Edinburgh. At first, I was confused about where the Royal Mile even was since there is no “official” street or outline on Google.

Thankfully, you won’t need to worry about that since I will lay it out for you right here! The spots have been added to the map above.

Located in The Old Town of Edinburgh, The Royal Mile starts from Edinburgh Castle, and luckily you are already there.

You will then walk straight down the road (its name changes several times) until you hit the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Below, I am laying out all the note-worthy spots to check out along the way. 

FYI: I came across many Edinburgh itineraries recommending the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions after the castle (they are next to each other). I personally feel unless you have kids, it is a tourist trap and not really worth it. 

Edinburgh Fun Fact: The Royal Mile is a little over a mile long. 

The Royal Mile is a must with 2 days in Edinburgh

Upper Bow

The Upper Bow is located right off the Royal Mile is gives you a lovely view looking down on Victoria Street, also known as the Street that inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.

There is a staircase that leads you down to Victoria Street, but we will be visiting this street later. 

Upper Bow looking over Victoria Street

Lady Stair’s Close

Take a quick walk down the Lady Stair’s Close that brings you to the charming Makar’s Court. This is also where the Writers’ Museum is.

The museum is free to visit and is pretty interesting to tour through. It is a small museum, so I would recommend checking it out. 

You will find rare books, portraits, manuscripts, and personal items of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Some of these include the Printing Press Scott Waverley’s Novels was first produced on and Sir Walter Scott’s cap.

The Writers Museum in Edinburgh Sign
Makar's Court in Edinburgh

Advocates Close

Advocates Close is known as one of the most beautiful closes in Edinburgh, with views of the Scott Monument. 

Scotland Advocates Close

St. Giles’ Cathedral

The grand St. Giles Cathedral was founded in 1124 by King David I. With over 800 years of history, this beautiful cathedral is a must-see. The church is free to visit, however, donations are welcomed.

During our visit, St. Giles’ was closed because of the Queen’s passing, so we did not get to go inside, however, it is supposed to be stunning.

Hours: Monday – Friday 10 AM – 6 PM; Saturday and Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM

Address: High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE, United Kingdom

St. Giles Cathedral

Tolbooth Tavern

Take a quick stop and walk through the alley to Tolbooth Tavern. This Tavern used to be a part of the original Canongate Tolbooth, which was the alley you walked through.

Eventually, it became the Tolbooth Tavern in 1820. It is even said the building is haunted. You can even grab a drink and some lunch here if you’d like.

Tolbooth Tavern

Canongate Kirk

If you love graveyards, you will find a church and a pretty cool graveyard to explore.  

Bakehouse Close

For any fans of the show Outlander, you will definitely want to make a stop at Bakehouse Close. This is where Jamie’s bookshop was filmed.

Although it looks a little different from the show, and it is not really a bookshop, it is always cool to see filming locations!

Bakehouse Close facing the alley
Bakehouse Close facing the bookshop

Holyrood Palace

Finally, you have made it to the end of the Royal Mile and to the famous Holyrood Palace. This is another iconic attraction in Edinburgh to add to your 2 day itinerary.

It is known as the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland. The Palace holds 900 years of history from Mary, Queen of Scots, the Bonnie Prince Charlie, and more.

You can also visit the Queen’s Gallery and the Holyrood Abbey. Currently, both are temporarily closed, however, double-check to see if they have opened. You can find tickets to Holyrood Palace here.

Because we visited during the passing of the Queen, we could not go inside, however, I have been told by many it is worth it. We did view the Palace from the outside. The Scottish Parliament is also right across the street.

Holyrood Palace is a must with 2 days in Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat or Craigmillar Castle

Next, I want to give you an option of a castle or a hike up an ancient volcano. Depending on how you are doing on time, you may even want to do both, although if your legs are tired at this point, I understand!  

Option 1: Arthur’s Seat

This super popular Edinburgh attraction is at the top of the list for many visitors. This grassy hill was once an ancient volcano.

From Holyrood Park, there are several trails you can take to the highest point of the hill, Arthur’s Seat. The top sits at around 823 ft high and offers stunning panoramic views. 

The hike there and back takes around 2 hours and is most enjoyable on a nice day. If it is cloudy, you likely won’t be able to see anything. 

Option 2: Craigmillar Castle

For a more off-the-beaten-path attraction that is equally as cool, consider visiting the Craigmillar Castle.

It takes around 10-15 minutes to reach the castle by car from the City Centre. If you don’t have a car, Uber is readily available, or you can use public transportation. 

For any Outlander fans, Craigmillar Castle was used as Ardsmuir Prison for the Jacobites!

This castle started as a tower house in the late 1300s and transformed over the years into the castle we see today.

You can wander through the castle, making your way up the spiral staircase all the way to the top. The views are lovely. 

In 1556, they believe Mary Queen of Scotts was welcomed and stayed here. In all honesty, I enjoyed visiting this castle more than the Edinburgh Castle. 

We didn’t have to book online beforehand, however, we visited during September, which is less busy than in other months. If you plan on visiting during the summer, you can get tickets ahead of time on the Historic Environment Scotland official website.

Hours: April – September Daily 10 AM to 5 PM (last entry 4:15 PM); October – March Daily 10 AM – 4 PM (last entry 3:15 PM)

Admission: Adult (16-64yrs) £7; Age 65+ £5.50; Child (5-15yrs); £4. They also have family deals you can see online. 

Address: Craigmillar Castle Rd, Edinburgh EH16 4SY, United Kingdom

Craigmillar Castle tower
Standing in front of Craigmillar Castle - a top Edinburgh itinerary attraction

If you are looking for something to do at night, ghost tours are very popular and a fun way to explore the city. Find Guided Tours here.

Another idea would be checking out one of the many Edinburgh rooftop bars or heading over to Johnnie Walker Princes Street for a whiskey tour and hanging out at their 1820 rooftop bar.


Day 2 Edinburgh Itinerary: Dean Village, Princes Street Gardens, Grassmarket, Museums, and More

We covered a lot on our first day in Edinburgh, and day 2 on our itinerary will be no different!

Throw on those comfy walking shoes because we are going on another walking tour through the city to see beautiful architecture, charming gardens, monuments, museums, and more! 

Below, find my outlined map for you to follow for your day 2 in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh day 2 itinerary map

Dean Village

If you want to feel like you just walked into a fairytale village, then head right over to Dean Village first thing in the morning.

Start at Bell’s Brae Bridge to look down the Water of Leith. Then make your way down Hawthornbank Ln to cross the Water of Leith Walkway. 

You can get here by walking, taking a cab, or by bus. I would not recommend driving since the streets close down to cars at certain times. It is incredibly scenic and a great way to start the morning out. See my full Dean Village Edinburgh guide here!

Dean Village in Edinburgh

Princes Street Gardens

Next, make your way back up to the Princes Gardens, which is just about a wee 5-minute walk. You can start right from the corner at St. Cuthbert’s Kirkyard (Graveyard).

If graveyards are not your thing, then you will find stairs down by the Statue of Sir James Young Simpson.

As you walk through the gardens, you will find statues, the Ross Fountain, views of Edinburgh Castle, and tons of picnic spots that are great on a nice day.

As you continue walking down (East), you will make it to the Scottish National Gallery (a very popular art gallery), The Royal Scottish Academy, and my favorite, the Scott Monument.

You will recognize this gothic-styled landmark from vantage points around the city. Best of all, it is all free to visit, including the museums.

If you are on the Princes street level, you will also see tons of big retail shops across the street. This is part of Edinburgh New Town. 

Princes Garden is another must see place
Princes Gardens
The Scott Monument
The Scott Monument

Victoria Street

After enjoying a leisurely walk through the park and possibly through a museum, you are going to head to the famous Victoria Street. It is around a 10-minute walk from the Scott Monument.

Down the colorful Victoria Street, you will find shops and restaurants. But what has likely made this street so famous is the fact that it has been said JK Rowling was inspired by this street to make Diagon Alley. 

For the ultimate Harry Potter fans, there is even a store with tons of Harry Potter-themed items called Museum Context: Retailer of Harry Potter Merchandise.

If you are looking for Scottish wool scarves, we also found a great place near the Isle of Skye Candle Company. Sorry, I forgot the name.

Victoria Street in Edinburgh
Victoria Street
Harry Potter Museum Store

Grassmarket 

Grassmarket Square is another must with 2 days in Edinburgh. Plus, after all that walking, I bet you are hungry, and this is the perfect place to grab a bite! There are tons of great restaurants lining this strip.

 If you have been following me for a while, you know I always go with pizza. I can attest that Mamma’s American Pizza is really good.

The original sauce has a spice to it, so you can ask without the spice sauce if you like, or you can go with a more traditional Scottish place. Regardless, you will find food and lovely views of Edinburgh Castle. 

After, you can cross the street and walk up the steps of the Vennel Viewpoint. This is a famous viewpoint to take photos with the Edinburgh Castle in the background.

If you did want to take photos, the best time to do it would be early in the morning. 

Grassmarket in Edinburgh
Vennel Viewpoint
Vennel Viewpoint

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Here is another one for the Harry Potter fan or those who love wandering through graveyards. It was said JK Rowling spent a lot of time in this graveyard, and you can find the names of characters in this graveyard.

This includes Thomas Riddle, Sirius Black, and  Moodie graves.

During our visit, lots of people were hanging out in the Graveyard, so it is quite a popular spot among tourists and locals.

From Grassmarket, you should enter the Graveyard near the “Just the Tonic at The Grassmarket Community Project.”

Walk along the back walkway, under the arch, and to the right to get to Tom Riddle’s grave. 

Enjoy your time exploring through the graveyard, and exit by the Greyfriars Bobby’S Bar, so you will be close to our next stop. 

Greyfriars Kirkyard in Edinburgh Scotland
Tom Riddle Grave in Greyfriars Kirkyard

National Museum of Scotland

If you visit any museum in Scotland, I think it should be the National Museum of Scotland. Not only is this museum’s architecture incredible, but the museum itself is also extremely unique.

This museum is also free to visit and great for those with kids since there are interactive exhibits too. 

Hours: Daily 10 AM – 5 PM

Address: Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom

National Museum of Scotland glass dome room
National Museum of Scotland with plane hanging from ceiling

Sunset at Calton Hill

Last but not least, enjoy the sunset at Calton Hill. Here you will find several monuments and landmarks, including the Scottish National Monument, which resembles the Parthenon in Athens, Greece. You will also have a lovely view looking down on Edinburgh.

Since you have already walked a ton today, you might want to consider calling an Uber to get over here. I know your feet are tired because ours were! 

Address: Edinburgh EH7 5AA, United Kingdom

View of Edinburgh City with Calton Hill
View of Calton Hill to the right from the Edinburgh Castle

Bonus Things to do in Edinburgh and Day Trips

If you find yourself having some extra time during your stay in Edinburgh, you can, of course, do anything you missed in the first 2 days in Edinburgh, or add some of these additional attractions to your itinerary. 

Here are some day trip options.

  • If you have a 3rd day, I would consider taking a day trip to the highlands. Tons of tours leave from Edinburgh. You can find highly-rated tours here.
  • Visit the Rosslyn Chapel and Rosslyn Castle Ruins. It is located about 20 minutes from Edinburgh City Center by car. 
  • Take a day trip to Stirling, which is about an hour’s car ride. You can see the Stirling Castle and The National Wallace Monument. Stirling is historically important, with two major battles that have happened here. Golf is also popular in Stirling.
  • A day trip to Glasglow is just about a 1-and-a-half-hour train ride.  
  • Take a 15-minute drive to Swanston Farm to try and see some Highland Cows. This is a working farm/resort/golf club. The Highland Cows are usually all the way on top of the hill. My mom called it a mini mountain. We walked about 15-20 minutes up the hill and didn’t see any cows, but I know others have.
  • Visit The Royal Yacht Britannia – a liner used by Britain’s royal family.
  • Do The Scotch Whisky Experience, located right outside Edinburgh Castle. This is an extremely popular tourist attraction. After, you can do The Real Mary King’s Close tour, which is a hidden close located under the streets.
View of the Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel
 Swanston Farm hill
Halfway up the Swanston Farm hill

Places to Eat in Edinburgh

Now that you know how to spend your 2 days in Edinburgh, let’s talk about some places to eat. I always find we eat closest to our hotel, and you might do the same; however, here they are nonetheless. 

  • Mary’s Milk Bar: Known for Gelato and Coffee 
  • The Coffee Mill Cafe for breakfast. They also have a good cappuccino.
  • The Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage | Menu
  • Makars Gourmet Mash Bar (for the potato lover) | Menu
  • The Milkman (coffee) 
  • The Elephant House; Where JK Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter

Getting To Edinburgh, Scotland

As the capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is quite easy to get to. In fact, Edinburgh Airport (EDI) offers direct flights to over 150 countries. 

If you are looking to do some city hopping, you may opt for a 3-hour scenic train ride to London, or you can even take a ferry from Belfast, Ireland, to Glasglow and then the train from there. 

Once you arrive at the airport, you will either pick up your rental car, or you can take the bus or tram to the City Centre.

We took the tram, which is all the way to the left once you exit the airport. The tram takes around 30 minutes to get into the city. If you go this route, make sure to have your ticket on hand because they come to check it often. 

Additionally, you can get yourself an Uber from the airport. This will require you to have cellphone service. 

To find the best flights, my go-to is Skyscanner! This will show you the fastest, direct, and cheapest flights from your airport. Find flights here.

As a bonus, if you love traveling and want flight deals in your inbox, you should definitely get Scotts Cheap Flights. Thank me later.

Edinburgh Castle from Grassmarket

How To Get Around Edinburgh

As you may have already guessed, the best way to get around the city is by foot, except for a few places.

Renting a car is not necessary if you are planning on just visiting Edinburgh. This may be a sigh of relief if you are used to driving on the right side of the road. 

If these 2 days in Edinburgh are just a part of your Scotland journey, I would still suggest parking the car by your hotel and walking, taking public transportation, or Uber/Cab.

You will find the classic UK black cabs. They do tend to be a little more expensive sometimes. We took one back to the airport for our very early flight, and it was about 35 pounds. Uber is widely available, but you will need the internet.

You can get a sim card at the airport from WHSmith. It is right as you are exiting by baggage. The two most popular options are Lycamobile and EE Limited.

Inside the Edinburgh Castle
Inside the Edinburgh Castle

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

Figuring out where to stay usually takes me the most time to research. Thankfully, you won’t have to since I have done most of the groundwork already.

With just 2 days in Edinburgh, you will want to stay in the City Centre. This will help you optimize your time. Here are some places to consider staying. 

If you are planning your trip during the summer months (especially in August), you will need to book well in advance. August is one of the busiest times in Edinburgh.

During August, they hold the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is a month-long festival of food, live performances, and art. The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo also happens in August. 

Doubletree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre: This is where we stayed, and I loved the location. The room was small but clean. It is about a 10-minute walk from Grassmarket and the start of the top of the Royal Mile.  $$$

Grassmarket Hotel: As the name implies, this hotel’s location is right at the corner of Victoria Street in the Grassmarket. This leaves you footsteps away from pubs, restaurants, Edinburgh Castle, and the Royal Mile. They have quirky rooms and highly rated reviews. $$

Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity Edinburgh Grassmarket: Also located in the Grassmarket area, but in an apartment style. If you are traveling with a larger group, you can get a 2-bedroom apartment. They are equipt with a kitchenette or a full-sized kitchen. $$$

Castle Rock Hostel: If you are traveling Solo or on a budget, Castle Rock Hostel is one of the most popular hostels in the area. Centrally located right on the Royal Mile, you will be steps from all major attractions and about 11 minutes from the Waverley Train Station. Keep in mind this hostel is for adults only. $

Royal Mile in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Itinerary Budget 

This is always a commonly asked question for all my itineraries, so I wanted to give you a rough estimate of what my mom and I spent in 3 days.

The prices are in USD, although since Scotland is a part of the United Kingdom, they use the Pound Sterling. We were able to use our credit cards the entire time and never converted our cash. 

  • Hotel: $768.71 – We booked this hotel very last minute. 1 week in advance, and it was one of the last rooms available. 
  • Uber & Tram: $100
  • Tickets/activities: $80
  • Food: Around $120 (mainly breakfast and dinner) 
  • Flights: $500 per person leaving from NYC to Ireland. A separate ticket to Edinburgh with Ryanair. 

So, for 3 days in Edinburgh, it roughly costs a little over $500 per person. If you do more activities or like to spend more money on dining, it can come out to around the same with 2 days in Edinburgh, Scotland.


2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Wrap-up

This concludes our 2 days in Edinburgh, Scotland Itinerary. I hope this guide helps you in planning your perfect trip to Edinburgh and that you have the most incredible time during your visit! 

Other Guides you may enjoy: How to Spend 5 Days in Paris | Epic 4 Days in Rome | 4 Days in Iceland

Have any questions about this Edinburgh Itinerary, or feel like I missed something? Please let me know in the comments below. Find more inspiring travel photos and videos on my Instagram @Findlovetravel! 

Did you find this 2 days in Edinburgh Itinerary helpful? I’d appreciate it if you could share it below! 

2 days in Edinburgh itinerary Scotland

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