One day in Edinburgh – what would you do if you had 24 hours to spend here?
Spending a day in Edinburgh with an ambitious itinerary that includes must-visit attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish National Gallery, the National Museum of Scotland, the Scotch Whisky Experience, and a Harry Potter tour requires careful planning. The city offers a rich tapestry of history, art, and culture, and exploring these diverse sites promises an immersive experience. To make the most of your day in Edinburgh itinerary, consider starting early to allow ample time for each location.
The historic Edinburgh Castle, perched on Castle Rock, offers panoramic views and a journey through Scotland’s regal past. Utilize the audio guide for an in-depth exploration and ascend to the top for some of the best views of the city. Moving down the historic High Street, you’ll encounter the iconic St. Giles Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture and a symbol of the city’s religious heritage. As you venture to the top of Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park, take in the breathtaking scenery and discover the inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s magical world. Consider including a visit to the Scott Monument for its stunning views and commemoration of Sir Walter Scott’s literary contributions. Edinburgh’s vibrant atmosphere is accentuated during the Fringe Festival, adding a dynamic touch to your exploration. Complete your day with the Scotch Whisky Experience, engaging with optical illusions and delving into the art of whisky-making. This carefully curated itinerary ensures you experience the best of Edinburgh’s history, art, and cultural offerings, with each site contributing to the city’s captivating narrative.
One day in Edinburgh – Morning:
Edinburgh Castle: Start your day early to explore Edinburgh Castle as part of your day Edinburgh itinerary. Give yourself at least 2-3 hours to tour the castle and enjoy the stunning views of the city. Exploring Edinburgh Castle is an enchanting journey into Scotland’s rich history and architectural marvels. Perched high on Castle Rock, the castle offers commanding views of the city and serves as a poignant symbol of Scotland’s past—a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encapsulates centuries of historical significance. Stepping through its formidable gates, visitors are immersed in a tapestry of medieval and Renaissance architecture, from the intimate St. Margaret’s Chapel to the grandeur of the Great Hall. The castle’s interiors house treasures such as the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, offering glimpses into the nation’s regal heritage.
If you are short on time, prioritise key highlights and take advantage of the audio guide to maximise your visit. The experience extends beyond historical artifacts, as the castle hosts events and daily traditions like the One O’Clock Gun, creating an atmospheric blend of the ancient and the contemporary. Consider checking the schedule for live music performances within the castle grounds for an added cultural touch. Located near the Waverley train station, the castle is easily accessible and marks a fantastic starting point for your exploration. After your visit, head to George Street for shopping and dining in the heart of the New Town. If time permits, venture to Holyrood Park, home to the extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat, and explore the Queen’s official royal residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Another option is to embark on a day trip to Loch Lomond, one of Scotland’s most beautiful lochs, offering a serene escape and surrounded by historic sites. The best time to appreciate the city’s charm and resilience is by exploring these iconic tourist attractions, ensuring a day filled with history, culture, and breathtaking scenery.
Scottish National Gallery:
Head down the Royal Mile to the Scottish National Gallery, a must-visit spot in the heart of the Scottish capital. Spend about 1-1.5 hours exploring the impressive art collection. A visit to the Scottish National Gallery is a cultural immersion in the heart of Edinburgh, where art enthusiasts and casual visitors alike can explore an exquisite collection spanning centuries. Located along the Mound, the neoclassical building itself is a masterpiece, providing a fitting backdrop for the artistic treasures within. Stepping through its doors, visitors encounter a diverse array of artworks, from masterpieces by renowned Scottish artists such as Sir Henry Raeburn to European masters like Titian, Rembrandt, and Turner. Consider utilizing an audio guide for an enhanced experience, providing insights into the artists and their works. The gallery’s thematic exhibitions and carefully curated displays guide patrons through the evolution of art, showcasing a rich tapestry of styles and influences. If you have a couple of hours to spare, take a stroll to Dean Village, a picturesque area on the Water of Leith, for a different perspective of Edinburgh’s charm.
For those intrigued by history and ghostly tales, the option of a ghost tour in the evening, exploring the Royal Mile and the city’s hidden closes, could be a good time. If you are a Harry Potter fan, learn about J.K. Rowling’s early inspirations by visiting the places that influenced her while writing the Harry Potter books. St. Giles Cathedral, situated on the Royal Mile, is worth visiting for its stunning architecture and historical significance. If you find yourself with enough time, venturing to the Last Drop in the Grassmarket, known for its historic ambiance and proximity to Edinburgh Castle, could be the best option for a meal or refreshment. Additionally, if you wish to explore beyond the city, consider a day trip to the Scottish Borders, exploring the beautiful landscapes and historic sites that surround the capital. Whether delving into art, history, literature, or the supernatural, Edinburgh offers the best spots for a well-rounded and enriching experience.
Alternatively – you could decide to visit Princes Street Gardens instead of Scottish National Gallery, especially if you visit during the city centre during the Summer months.
Princes Street Gardens – a must visit if you have one day in Edinburgh
These public gardens are situated in the valley between the Old Town and the New Town, with Princes Street running along the southern edge of the gardens. The gardens span a significant portion of the city centre and offer a scenic green space for both locals and visitors to enjoy. To reach Princes Street Gardens in a short time, consider utilising public transport or, if you’re flying into the city, Edinburgh Airport is the next stop for convenient access. Once you arrive, the Waverley Railway Station, located to the north of the gardens, is a great option for those arriving by train.
Princes Street Gardens are divided into two parts: the East Princes Street Gardens and the West Princes Street Gardens. The gardens feature landscaped areas, historical monuments, and floral displays, providing a tranquil escape in the midst of the bustling city. If it’s your first time in Edinburgh, a visit to Princes Street Gardens offers a great introduction to the city’s charm and rich Scottish history. For those with a great time to spare, exploring nearby attractions such as the Royal Yacht Britannia, Real Mary King’s Close, or the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling penned some of the early Harry Potter books, is highly recommended. Utilizing public transport is a convenient way to move between these attractions, and checking the official website for scheduling and details ensures a smooth and enjoyable experience. Whether you’re interested in a leisurely stroll, a short walk, a picnic, or simply enjoying the views of the surrounding landmarks, Princes Street Gardens offer a delightful oasis in the heart of Edinburgh, making it a must-visit destination for any traveler.
Grab a quick lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants in the city centre. The Royal Mile has several options including the marvellous Mimi’s Bakehouse, The Royal McGregor and Café Hub.
Afternoon – one day in Edinburgh:
National Museum of Scotland:
Walk to the National Museum of Scotland, which is about a 15-minute walk from the Scottish National Gallery, located near the end of the Royal Mile. Spend 2-3 hours exploring the fascinating exhibits. When visiting the National Museum of Scotland in Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, it’s advisable to make the most of your experience with a few helpful tips. Firstly, plan your visit ahead by checking the museum’s website for any special exhibitions, events, or temporary closures. The museum has a vast collection spanning various disciplines, so consider identifying specific areas or exhibits of interest to optimize your time. For those keen on delving into Scotland’s rich history, the museum is a treasure trove of artefacts and stories.
Consider obtaining a Royal Edinburgh Ticket for access to multiple attractions, including the National Museum of Scotland, providing an economical way to explore some of the best sights in the city. As you explore the museum, take note of the Scottish Parliament Building nearby, a modern architectural marvel worth a visit. Arriving early or later in the afternoon may help you avoid crowds, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the exhibits. St. Giles’ Cathedral, located at the end of the Royal Mile, is a historical gem worth exploring after your museum visit. For those interested in literary history, especially fans of J.K. Rowling, St. Giles’ Cathedral holds cultural significance. Utilise your time wisely by taking advantage of informative guided tours and interactive displays within the museum, and don’t miss the chance to explore the rooftop terrace, which provides stunning views of the city. Lastly, grabbing a museum map upon arrival will help you navigate the extensive galleries easily. With a bit of planning and incorporating these tips, you can make the most of your visit to the National Museum of Scotland and uncover the fascinating stories it holds within its walls.
Scotch Whisky Experience on your one day in Edinburgh:
Head to the Scotch Whisky Experience. Book a tour in advance and spend about 1.5 hours learning about the history and production of Scotch whisky. Don’t forget to enjoy a tasting! For a memorable and enjoyable visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh, consider a few practical tips. Firstly, it’s advisable to book your tickets in advance to secure your preferred tour time, especially during peak seasons as main attractions can get really busy. The Scotch Whisky Experience offers various tour options, including guided tastings, so choose one that aligns with your interests and level of whisky knowledge. During the tour, engage with the knowledgeable guides who share insights into the whisky-making process and the diverse flavours of Scotland’s iconic drink.
Make sure to savour each tasting and take notes if you wish to remember your favourite expressions. The onsite whisky shop offers an extensive selection, so if you discover a particular whisky you enjoy during the tour, you may find it available for purchase. Lastly, enjoy the sensory experience by taking in the aromas and flavours, and perhaps consider pairing your visit with a meal on this day tour, as the experience is situated in the heart of Edinburgh, surrounded by excellent dining options. By following these tips, you’ll enhance your appreciation for Scotland’s whisky heritage and create lasting memories at the Scotch Whisky Experience.
Harry Potter Tour:
Harry Potter fans – Wrap up your day with a Harry Potter-themed walking tour, a perfect way to add a magical touch to your Edinburgh visit. Many tours depart from the city centre, taking you to the best places that inspired J.K. Rowling and served as the backdrop for her iconic series – the perfect place to visit if you are fans likes us. Check the schedule and book a tour that fits your evening plans. Embarking on a Harry Potter Tour in Edinburgh promises a magical journey through the enchanting realms that inspired J.K. Rowling’s iconic series. To make the most of this experience, consider the best way to enjoy it. Firstly, research and choose a reputable tour company that offers a comprehensive exploration of the city’s connections to Harry Potter.
The tour typically covers locations like Greyfriars Kirkyard, believed to have inspired characters like Tom Riddle, and Victoria Street, thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley. Dress comfortably and be prepared for some walking, as the tour involves navigating through Edinburgh’s charming and historic streets. Engage with the knowledgeable guides who share fascinating anecdotes about Rowling’s time in the city and the creative genesis of the wizarding world. It’s advisable to book tickets in advance for this day trip, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your spot on the tour. Finally, embrace the opportunity to immerse yourself in the magic of Edinburgh’s Harry Potter connections and perhaps capture a few memorable photos along the way. With these tips in mind, your Harry Potter Tour in Edinburgh is sure to be a spellbinding adventure for fans of the beloved series.
Not a Harry Potter Fan? Consider going on a Ghost Tour!
Embarking on one of Edinburgh’s renowned ghost tours is a thrilling way to delve into the city’s dark and mysterious history. To enhance your ghostly experience, consider a few tips for a spine-tingling adventure. Firstly, choose a reputable tour company that offers well-researched narratives and expert guides well-versed in Edinburgh’s haunted tales. Opt for a tour that includes iconic locations such as St Giles’ Cathedral, a historic gem on the Royal Mile with its own share of ghostly legends. Check reviews and recommendations to ensure a quality experience, especially in the capital of Scotland, where the city’s haunted past comes to life. Dress warmly, as many tours take place in the evening and may lead you through the city’s narrow closes and atmospheric graveyards.
Wear comfortable shoes, as some routes may involve walking on uneven surfaces. Keep in mind that these tours often delve into chilling stories and supernatural encounters, making them particularly intriguing for fans of J.K. Rowling, who found inspiration for her magical world in the city’s atmospheric streets and historic landmarks. Consider booking your ghost tour in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure your spot. Be open to the eerie ambiance and mysterious atmosphere, allowing yourself to be immersed in the haunting tales of Edinburgh’s past. Whether you’re exploring the haunted vaults, the Royal Mile’s dark corners, or the historic graveyards near St. Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh’s ghost tours promise an unforgettable blend of history and the supernatural for those seeking a uniquely chilling experience in the Scottish capital.
Dinner on your one day in Edinburgh
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. Edinburgh offers a variety of dining options, from traditional Scottish fare to international cuisine. Here are some of our favourites:
1) The Kitchin:
- Address: 78 Commercial St, Edinburgh EH6 6LX, UK
- A Michelin-starred restaurant offering modern Scottish cuisine with a focus on seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. The Kitchin, led by chef Tom Kitchin, is known for its innovative dishes and elegant atmosphere.
2) Martin Wishart at The Honours:
- Address: 58A N Castle St, Edinburgh EH2 3LU, UK
- Another Michelin-starred gem, Martin Wishart at The Honours, combines French and Scottish influences to create a refined dining experience. The menu features expertly crafted dishes in an upscale yet welcoming setting.
- Address: 2 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD, UK
Located in the heart of the Old Town, Ondine is renowned for its exceptional seafood. The restaurant’s stylish and contemporary ambiance complements its diverse menu, offering a range of fresh, high-quality seafood dishes.
4) Castle Terrace Restaurant:
- Address: 33/35 Castle Terrace, Edinburgh EH1 2EL, UK
With a Michelin star and a commitment to using locally sourced produce, Castle Terrace Restaurant offers a sophisticated dining experience. The menu reflects modern Scottish cuisine with creative flair.
- Address: 10 Lady Lawson St, Edinburgh EH3 9DS, UK
- Timberyard stands out for its unique setting in a converted warehouse and its commitment to sustainability. The menu features inventive dishes prepared with seasonal, foraged, and locally grown ingredients.
Before planning your visit, it’s recommended to check for the latest reviews, menu updates, and any changes in the restaurant scene in Edinburgh. The city’s culinary landscape is dynamic, and staying informed ensures that you make well-informed choices for your dining experience. Additionally, considering the popularity of some establishments, making reservations is advisable to secure a table and enhance your overall evening out in Edinburgh.
If you think you’ll still have energy after dinner, then why not visit one of Edinburgh’s popular cocktail bars? Here are some of our favourites:
6) Encore Edinburgh:
- Encore Edinburgh opened recently on Hope Street in Edinburgh, beneath the bustling Parisian-style West End Brasserie restaurant. The new late-night speakeasy provides a sexy and exciting ambiance with refined performance nights where guests can escape the realm and experience a new level of merriment.
2) Panda & Sons:
- Panda & Sons is a stylish and quirky cocktail bar with a hidden entrance that adds an element of excitement. The interior has a speakeasy vibe, and the cocktails are inventive and well-executed.
3) The Devil’s Advocate:
- Situated in a former Victorian pump house, The Devil’s Advocate exudes a unique charm that seamlessly blends history with contemporary allure. This cocktail destination offers a distinctive ambiance, combining old-world elegance with modern sophistication. The extensive drinks menu caters to diverse tastes, featuring both classic and inventive options. Expert mixologists curate a symphony of flavors, showcasing a mastery of mixology that elevates the drinking experience. The venue’s architectural details, including exposed brick walls and high ceilings, contribute to its character, providing an intriguing backdrop for patrons. Whether you’re seeking an intimate date night or a vibrant social gathering, The Devil’s Advocate stands out as a must-visit on Edinburgh’s dynamic cocktail scene.
4) Hoot The Redeemer:
- Hoot The Redeemer, a cocktail bar with a playful retro theme, is famed for its creative drinks and distinctive atmosphere. Keep an eye out for their imaginative cocktails served in unconventional vessels.
5) The Bon Vivant:
- The Bon Vivant is a stylish and trendy bar in the heart of Edinburgh, celebrated for its diverse cocktail menu and welcoming ambiance. The chic yet comfortable setting combines classic and contemporary elements, creating a visually appealing space for patrons. With a team of knowledgeable and passionate mixologists, the bar offers a range of expertly crafted cocktails, each a unique blend of premium ingredients and innovative techniques. The personalised recommendations from the staff enhance the overall experience, making every visit memorable. Complementing the libations, the bar may also feature a curated selection of small bites or tapas-style dishes. Whether for a date night or socialising with friends, The Bon Vivant is a must-visit for those seeking a delightful escape into Edinburgh’s vibrant cocktail scene.
- Known for its intimate atmosphere and expertly crafted cocktails, Bramble is often praised for its innovative drink menu and skilled mixologists. It’s located in the city centre.
When exploring the city’s attractions, practical tips can enhance your overall experience. Firstly, pre-booking tickets for popular sites like Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish National Gallery, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Camera Obscura, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse online in advance can save you valuable time and streamline your entry. As these attractions, along with Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat, and the Holyrood Palace, are within walking distance of each other, wearing comfortable shoes is essential for the fair amount of walking involved. This allows you to enjoy the city’s charm while efficiently moving between sites. A guided tour of the city can provide valuable insights into its rich history and cultural significance, offering a comprehensive overview of the best things to see.
Effective time management is crucial for a successful day in Edinburgh. Be mindful of the time spent at each attraction, including the guided tour, to ensure you can cover everything on your itinerary. Consider allocating sufficient time for breaks, meals, and unexpected discoveries along the way. With landmarks like Calton Hill offering panoramic views and Arthur’s Seat providing a great place for a refreshing hike, make sure to factor in moments to absorb the breathtaking scenery. In addition to the scheduled attractions, take advantage of Edinburgh’s vibrant atmosphere by exploring the local cafes, shops, and the bustling streets of the Royal Mile.
The city’s rich cultural scene, with live music and performances, can provide delightful surprises during your exploration. Edinburgh is renowned for its festivals, including the famous Edinburgh Festival Fringe, which transforms the city into a vibrant stage for artists from around the world. Keep an eye out for impromptu street performances, pop-up art installations, and the dynamic atmosphere created by the local artistic community. Maintaining flexibility in your plans is equally important, as unforeseen delays or the desire to spend more time at a particular attraction may arise. Embracing spontaneity and adjusting your schedule accordingly will allow you to make the most of your time in this vibrant and historic city. Beyond the suggested attractions, consider venturing into the various neighbourhoods, each offering its own unique character and charm. Explore the Grassmarket’s lively pubs, delve into the bohemian atmosphere of Stockbridge, or enjoy the upscale boutiques on George Street. Remember, this is just a suggested itinerary, and you may need to adjust based on your preferences and the time you have available. Enjoy your day in Edinburgh!