If you haven’t been to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, you might imagine it as a place filled with magic, a rich history, impressive architecture, and stunning natural beauty.

And you’d be right – Edinburgh has all of that. What you might not know is how different the Old Town and New Town areas are from each other, each with its unique charm. Edinburgh offers so much to explore that you could spend weeks here, discovering all the sights and activities it has to offer.

However, if you’re looking for a quick taste of this captivating city, here’s a 48-hour itinerary that will leave yfthe ou eager to return for a deeper exploration.

What to do

Just like the famous saying, “If you are tired of London, you are tired of Life,” the same can be said about Edinburgh. This enchanting city offers such a wealth of attractions and activities that two days may seem not enough, yet it will undoubtedly leave you longing for a return visit.

Edinburgh has a lot to offer tourists who are in search of a diverse range of experiences, blending thrill with history and culture, as well as indulging in foodie adventures.

For sightseers, there are some must-visit destinations in Edinburgh. One of these is the Royal Mile, a historic street that links Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This iconic street is lined with an array of shops and restaurants, and during the Edinburgh festivals in August, it turns into a bustling stage for artists from around the globe.

At the top of this street stands the city’s most remarkable attraction, Edinburgh Castle, perched atop an extinct volcano. Besides its rich historical significance, the castle boasts unique exhibits like the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, offering visitors panoramic views of the city from the top.

For history buffs, a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia is highly recommended. This vessel served the British royal family for over four decades and is now docked at the Ocean Terminal, offering a fascinating glimpse into royal life at sea. The yacht celebrated its 70th anniversary this year, a perfect reason to visit or experience Hogmanay aboard Britannia.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the King in Edinburgh and the home of Scottish royal history, is worth visiting to see the State Apartments that are used by the monarch and the Royal Family. Unlike the Buckingham Palace in London, it’s open to the public all year round. 

Harry Potter fans can embark on the Harry Potter Edinburgh Walking Tour to learn about J.K. Rowling’s inspirations for the beloved book. Victoria Street, often associated with the magical Diagon Alley in London, is a highlight of the tour and hosts the remarkable Museum Context, a unique shop brimming with Harry Potter memorabilia, including officially licensed scarves and replica Nimbus 2001 broomsticks.

For thrill-seeking tourists, Edinburgh, known as one of Europe’s most haunted cities, is the ideal destination. Mercat Tours offers award-winning walking tours that unveil sinister tales from the city’s dark past. Meanwhile, City of the Dead Tours takes the brave to some of Edinburgh’s most haunted sites, including the South Bridge Vaults and the Covenanter’s Prison.

For adventure enthusiasts, they are plenty of outdoor pursuits. Whether it’s a walk up Arthur’s Seat, the highest points of the city’s Holyrood Park, an eBike city tour with EZ bike tours, or a trip beyond Edinburgh that is conveniently located to many regions. Hop on a train to explore golden sands of East Lothian and the greenness of the Scottish Borders

Abbotsford House within Autumn woods

Where to stay

Edinburgh offers a wide array of accommodation options to cater to various preferences and budgets. If you are seeking for glamour, The Balmoral would be the best choice. It is an iconic hotel that provides stunning views of Edinburgh’s skyline. The Balmoral’s central location in the heart of Edinburgh, near Waverley Station and within walking distance of major attractions, makes it a convenient and glamorous choice for travellers looking to explore the city. Guests can enjoy top-notch amenities, including a spa, fitness centre, and a stylish bar.

Another hotel renowned for its opulent surroundings is Prestonfield House. It is set within a historic 17th century baroque mansion, surrounded by lush gardens and parkland, creating a serene atmosphere for guests. While staying at Prestonfield House, guests can easily access Edinburgh’s popular attractions, including the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and Arthur’s Seat.

Loch Arthur’s Seat

Those looking for pure romance should consider staying at the Witchery by the Castle, located in the heart of Edinburgh on the Royal Mile, literally right next to Edinburgh Castle. The Witchery’s restaurant is known for its exceptional fine dining experience and one of the best oysters in the city, if not the country. It is renowned for its Scottish cuisine, which features locally sourced ingredients. The restaurant uses seasonal produce to create dishes that showcase the best of Scotland’s culinary heritage.

Witchery Royal Mile

Another great hotel, situated in a prime location in Edinburgh’s New Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is Nira Caledonia. The hotel offers a range of well-appointed rooms and suites, including a Jacuzzi suite. The décor combines contemporary design with classic Scottish elements, providing a distinctive sense of place.

If you are looking for a contemporary stay, Market Street Hotel is an excellent choice. Many rooms at Market Street Hotel offer stunning views of Calton Hill, a prominent Edinburgh landmark. Nor’ Loft, the rooftop bar, is a highlight of Market Street Hotel. It’s a great place to enjoy a cocktail with breathtaking views of the city.

For a unique waterside experience, opt for the Fingal Hotel, a former lighthouse tender ship that has been converted into a boutique hotel. The hotel offers a range of luxury cabins and suites with elegant and nautical-themed decor. The on-site restaurant, The Lighthouse Restaurant and Bar, serves a menu inspired by Scottish and locally sourced ingredients.

For those interested in the countryside accommodation near Edinburgh, there are various options available, from camping in a tent or caravan or glamping and lodges.

Where to eat

In the realm of gastronomy, Edinburgh is a perfect destination for epicureans. It is simply bursting with restaurants capable of satisfying the most exquisite taste. Besides offering a diversity of venues to savour authentic Scottish cuisine, Edinburgh boasts an impressive lineup of restaurants celebrating international cuisines from various corners of the globe.

Howies is a well-regarded restaurant group with multiple locations in Edinburgh, each offering a delightful dining experience known for its focus on Scottish cuisine and locally sourced ingredients. If you’re looking for something really unique, book a table at Six by Nico Edinburgh. The concept of Six by Nico involves a fixed-price tasting menu that changes every six weeks, allowing diners to experience a diverse range of culinary themes and flavours. Each menu is carefully curated to provide a unique dining experience, and it often draws inspiration from various cuisines, cultural influences, or ingredients.

Makars Mash Bar is another great restaurant, known for its focus on serving traditional Scottish dishes with a modern twist. They carefully choose combinations of local produce to create small batas dishes with bags of flavour. The restaurant features a variety of mashed potato dishes alongside with a selection of Scottish-inspired dishes such as haggis, stovies, sausages and more.

For a quintessentially authentic experience, head to Angels with Bagpipes, a family-run restaurant, known for its Scottish cuisine, contemporary dining atmosphere, and its prime location along the historic Royal Mile in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The restaurant’s menu typically features a range of dishes that showcase the finest Scottish ingredients and culinary traditions.

The Kitchin in Edinburgh would be the perfect choice if looking for a Michelin-starred restaurant. Kitchin’s cooking style is often described as a blend of French techniques with a strong emphasis on Scottish ingredients, resulting in dishes that are both creative and rooted in tradition. Due to its reputation and quality of cuisine, The Kitchin is a popular choice for fine dining in Edinburgh, and reservations are recommended well in advance.

Purslane Restaurant is a fantastic new restaurant offering casual fine dining. You will be treated by a large variety of freshly prepared dishes, delivering an intense, high quality of flavour with every mouthful. 

For a unique and unforgettable experience in Edinburgh, embark on the Edinburgh Cheese Crawl or Edinburgh Secret Food Tour. These tours will introduce you to passionate local artisans who are dedicated to ensuring you never go hungry while exploring the city.

How to get there

Edinburgh is easily reachable by different means of transportation. The majority of train services conveniently terminate at Edinburgh’s city centre, at Edinburgh Waverley rail station, a 5-minute stroll from the Royal Mile.

If you’re arriving by bus, you’ll find the Edinburgh Bus Station situated at St Andrew Square in the heart of the city. To plan your bus journey, visit the website for more information.

For those flying into Edinburgh, the airport is located to the west of the city and offers hassle-free access to the city centre via bus, tram, or taxi. Opting for the most budget-friendly and convenient option, a bus ride to the city centre from the airport is available for just £5.50, with tickets available for purchase here.

All images courtesy of Forever Edinburgh