Visiting Edinburgh in 2 days

Edinburgh, the historic capital of Scotland, is home to historic sites, modern restaurants, pubs, and nature. Although Edinburgh is on many travellers’ radar, it isn’t filled with tourists like major cities of Paris or London. Edinburgh is perfect for travellers looking for a low-key, historic, culture-filled city. You also can’t go wrong finding amazing Harry Potter sites to visit when in Edinburgh.

In Scotland, Edinburgh is affectionately called “Auld Reekie”, which is Scottish Gaelic for Old Smokey. During the 1800s Edinburgh was usually covered in a smokey miasma from the many chimneys within the City.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

The weather in Edinburgh is akin to the Irish which means rain and wind. normally rainy and windy. This does lend an air of mystery and I hesitate to use the word grimness to the city but it gives it a brooding air of mystery. But when the sun shines so does Edinburgh.

Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK after London. Every year over two million tourists visit Scotland’s capital city. Here are some tips to make sure your trip to Edinburgh is enjoyable.

my one day trip to Edinburgh the streets of this beautiful city

How to travel to Edinburgh

There are a variety of ways to get to Edinburgh. If you are travelling from abroad you may want to fly directly to Edinburgh Airport. Flying there can get expensive. One way to find a better deal is to fly into Reykjavik, Dublin, or London and catching an economy flight from there on airlines such as Ryanair or Easyjet. Flights can get as low as $50.

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Edinburgh is a walking city so be prepared on your trip to Edinburgh to walk a lot

Edinburgh is also accessible by train. The train ride up from London is quite breathtaking. The train takes approximately 4 hours which is great if you have the time to spare. Many people prefer the train to fly because it eliminates the stress of being in an airport. The cost varies – if you purchase tickets far enough in advance it can be quite a bit cheaper than flying. 

Is Scotland expensive?  If I’m honest it can be but then again that all depends on where you stay and how you travel. If you plan to stay in a castle and travel first class then yes it can be very expensive. However, if you plan carefully and manage your budget it can be as affordable as any other place in the world. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Another advantage of taking the train is your ability to walk around the train car and enjoy some snacks. 

Taking the bus (or driving) is also an option. Taking a bus might be less than a train, but that, or driving, will take you over 7 hours to get to from London. When you get there, Edinburgh is a town that you’d want to stay at an inn vs a hotel. The city is full of charm and there are plenty of inns that will give you the cosiest experience possible. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Where to stay in Edinburgh

Looking for something a little different, off the wall perhaps? Air BnB has it all.

What about a Castle stay? Historic Liberton Tower, built-in 1453, with its breathtaking panoramic views of Edinburgh is situated just 2.5 miles from the city centre. The Tower has been painstakingly restored to a high modern standard whilst still maintaining the historic, rustic feel of a 15th-century castle. It comprises three floors and a cellar.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

A first for Scotland, The Four Sisters Boatel is a luxury, four-star, self-catering, canal barge, accommodation located in the very heart of Edinburgh city centre and has been awarded 4 stars by the Scottish Tourist Board.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

The Witchery by the Castle

The Witchery by the Castle offers a range of opulent suites in Edinburgh, each one unique with its own special features.

Lavishly furnished suites display gothic touches, with large oak beds and 4-posters, velvet-lined walls and flamboyant red and gold décor indicative of the style. There are separate seating areas and large bathrooms with free-standing silver baths.

Each of The Witchery’s 9 suites is different, but walk-in dressing rooms, love seats and tapestries set the tone. Some rooms overlook Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, looking down towards Princes Street, or across to the old town.

An indulgent breakfast hamper will be served in the room each morning or guests can choose to have a cooked breakfast served in the restaurant at no extra cost.

Kick-Ass Greyfriar

Look no further for a great budget option the Kick-Ass Greyfriars is an 18+ hostel in Edinburgh that provides adults-only accommodation with a bar, a shared lounge and a terrace. With free WiFi, this 4-star hostel offers a tour desk. The accommodation features evening entertainment and a 24-hour front desk.

Weather in Edinburgh

What’s the weather like in Edinburgh? In short – it’s chilly. Even in peak summer, the highs can be as low as 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Their warmest month is August. If you want to avoid the cold, wait to visit Edinburgh until July. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is also cloudy and rainy. According to World Weather and Climate Information, on average Edinburgh gets 1400 hours of sunshine per year. If you want a beach vacation Edinburgh is not for you. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

The weather in Edinburgh is the traditional Scottish cold and dreary – which makes sunshine all the better! Colder weather is perfect to be holed up in museums, castles, sipping the best whiskey in local pubs, and purchasing local wool scarves. You won’t need to worry about air conditioning as well. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Weather Tip: Come prepared and ready to be a little chilly. Sip hot coffee and enjoy their soups to stay cosy. Don’t let the chilly air prevent you from seeing what you came to experience. People do live in colder places after all!

What to wear in Edinburgh

Given the temperature and weather in Edinburgh, we recommend bundling up for your visit. While visiting be sure to bring the following items:

  • Scarves
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Sweater
  • Pants
  • Jacket (preferably a raincoat)
  • Umbrella
  • Warm socks
  • Shoes that aren’t slippery

If you forget a scarf or sweater don’t fret. Edinburgh has some of the best locally made wool scarves, sweaters, mittens and more. The craftsmanship of their wool will last you for many years and keep you cosy while you wander the streets. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Pack comfortable shoes that won’t slip around on wet cobblestone. It rains often in Edinburgh which can make the streets slick. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Most streets are made from stone which can be dangerous if you aren’t paying attention. Skip the high heels and flip flops and pack your best pair of walking shoes. 

Beautiful view of the city of Edinburgh

What to do in Edinburgh

There are a number of things to experience in Edinburgh depending on what you like to do while travelling. 

Edinburgh for the museum-goer

If you travel for museums and history you are in the right place. Some of the best places to visit in Edinburgh for the museum and history lovers are Edinburgh Castle, Rosslyn Chapel, Dean Village, and of course Edinburgh Castle.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle dates back to the 12th century and has a long, crazy history. The castle holds the Crown Jewels of Scotland among other historic artefacts and the National War Museum of Scotland. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

When visiting the Castle you take an audio tour or a guided tour. Neither is required – you can also walk the castle at your leisure. The Castle is open most days from 9:30 am to 5 pm and costs under 20 pounds per ticket. 

Rosslyn Chapel

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Rosslyn Chapel is slightly outside of Edinburgh but worth the visit. The Chapel was built in the 1400s – it took over 40 years to build – and is the site of numerous myths and theories. The Chapel even made an appearance in Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. There is a small charge for admittance. If you enjoy old churches stop by to see ornate carvings, gothic architecture, and beautiful stained glass. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Dean Village

A historic centre of Edinburgh, Dean Village is a quaint subset filled with old buildings and gushing waters. A picturesque town with the history to back it up.

landscape of dean village near edinburgh, scotland

At the heart of Dean Village is Well Court which was built in the 19th century to house workers. The building is one of the most iconic in the area. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Scottish National Gallery

The Scottish National Gallery displays some of the greatest art in the world, including masterpieces by Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, El Greco, Velázquez, Rembrandt, Vermeer, van Dyck, Tiepolo, Landseer, Gainsborough, Constable, Turner, and Angelica Kauffmann amongst many others. The most comprehensive part of the collection covers the history of Scottish painting – including Ramsay, Raeburn and Wilkie.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh
Edinburgh / Scotland / UK – 04/20/2014: View of The Scottish National Gallery or National Gallery of Scotland, the neoclassical building, people interacting outside

The Scottish National Gallery comprises both the National Gallery Building and the Royal Scottish Academy Building. Both of these buildings, designed by William Henry Playfair, stand in the heart of Edinburgh.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is one of Edinburgh’s most remarkable buildings – a great red sandstone neo-gothic palace which sits proudly on the city’s skyline. The Gallery was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland’s heroes and heroines. It opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery.

Displays at the Gallery explore different aspects of the story of Scotland and her people, told through a wealth of imagery including portraits of famous historical figures such as Mary Sommeville, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns, through to more recent pioneers in science, sport and the arts including Emeli Sandé, Billy Connolly and Tilda Swinton.

Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a hill situated beyond the east end of Princes Street and included in the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. Views of, and from, the hill are iconic images of Edinburgh.

Calton Hill is also the headquarters of the Scottish Government, which is based at St Andrew’s House. The Scottish Parliament Building and other prominent buildings such as Holyrood Palace lie near the foot of the hill. Calton Hill is also the location of other Edinburgh monuments and buildings: the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, the old Royal High School, the Robert Burns Monument, the Political Martyrs’ Monument and the City Observatory.[3][4]

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh
Monument deticated to Robert Burns in Edinburgh city, Scotland, UK

Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens are two adjacent public parks in the centre of Edinburgh. If you need to take a break from visiting Edinburgh Castle you will find the gardens at the foot of the castle. The Gardens were created in the 1820s following the long draining of the Nor Loch and building of the New Town, beginning in the 1760s.

The gardens run along the south side of Princes Street and are divided by The Mound, on which the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy buildings are located. The larger West Princes Street Gardens cover 29 acres and extends to the adjacent churches of St. John’s and St. Cuthbert’s.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh
Idyllic house at Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh. Scotland.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

You can’t mention Edinburgh without talking about the Fringe Festival that takes place every August packing out the City and causing mayhem and merriment wherever you go. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the single greatest celebration of arts and culture on the planet. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh
EDINBURGH, UK: AUGUST 2: Stilt walker passes under the Fringe Gate on the Royal Mile, the main street of Edinburgh, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on August 2, 2012 in Edinburgh.

Artists and performers take to hundreds of stages all over the city to present shows for every taste. From big names in the world of entertainment to unknown artists looking to build their careers, the festival caters for everyone and includes theatre, comedy, dance, physical theatre, circus, cabaret, children’s shows, musicals, opera, music, spoken word, exhibitions and events.

Scottish Whiskey Tasting

When in Edinburgh you have to partake of a Scottish Whiskey tasting. Scotch Whisky is made from malted barley and generally has a fuller, heavier taste than many other whiskies. Irish whiskey, by contrast, uses a combination of malted and unmalted barley and is renowned for its smooth flavour and hints of vanilla.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

The Scotch Whisky Experience is a five-star visitor attraction at the top of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, where they have been educating visitors to Edinburgh about the joys of Scotch whisky for over 30 years.

You can take a tour, visit the shop or restaurant, or enjoy an event or tasting here in the heart of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh for the active traveller

Despite the chilly weather people come from all over the world to be active in Edinburgh. The top 3 things to do for the more active traveller are golfing, hiking, and visiting underground caves. It is also a fantastic place for long-distance cycling.

Golfing in Scotland

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Golfing in Edinburgh is nothing short of beautiful. Crisp cool air, light breezes, and ocean smells on every course. There are a variety (over 20) of courses to choose from. When choosing a place to golf in Edinburgh consider the distance from the city centre, cost, and if they allow visitors. Similar to many country clubs in America and the United Kingdom, golf clubs may be members only. 

Arthur’s Seat at Holyrood Park

If you enjoy hiking, you must go to Holyrood Park. A short bus ride from the city centre (or a longer walk) is a large park with walking trails. This isn’t extreme hiking like you would experience in Colorado, but it can get to be a steep walking path that is rocky. It is best to come prepared with comfortable clothing and good shoes.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

While you’re at Holyrood Park, head up to Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is the peak of hills in the middle of Holyrood Park. This isn’t just any hill – it’s an ancient volcano! 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

From the top of Arthur’s Seat, you can see the best view of Edinburgh. Look over the entire city and point out Edinburgh Castle. It takes about 30 to 45-minutes to make it to the top. Bring a backpack with some drinks and snacks to have a small picnic at the top before heading back down. 

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

Enjoy your visit to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is perfect for travellers looking for a low-key, historic, culture-filled city. Whether you come to Edinburgh to visit the museums, practice golf, or hike up ancient volcanoes, you will be sure to enjoy yourself. Edinburgh was one of those cities that made me obsessed with travelling.

While Edinburgh makes a great stop for a weekend if you want to travel around Scotland for a real chance to see the country you need at least a week.  Marty and Michelle from That Texas Couple have written a great Scotland 7 day itinerary and it includes staying in some fabulous castles.

Cityscape of Edinburgh from Arthur's Seat in a beautiful summer day, Scotland, United Kingdom

If you are looking for that perfect cafe in Edinburgh, look no further Paula of La Vie en Marine has written a great article on the Best Cafes in Edinburgh. You can drink coffee and people watch to your heart’s content. If you have ever wanted to have a High Tea experience there are many places in Edinburgh to enjoy this.  Imagine it scones, jam and cream all enjoyed while people-watching or how about a real High Tea with mini finger sandwiches, cakes and proper tea in a pot heavenly.

View of old town Edinburgh with spring trees in Scotland

Have you been to Edinburgh? Let us know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

The following is a guest post by Via Travelers, a modern travel blog focused on the best tips and itineraries to help you explore the world. Via Travelers is focused on helping you travel the world through our travel tips, itineraries and travel hacks.

Best tips for your trip to Edinburgh

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