Scotland’s hilly capital Edinburgh is surely one of the most favorite cities of everybody who visits the UK. If you are planning to explore around for 2 weeks, I prepared a perfect two week itinerary of the UK that you can use. This time I’m going to be more detailed on the time that you can spend in Edinburgh for 2 days including some of my favorite pastimes that I am sure you would love as well.
This detailed itinerary contains 48 hours in Edinburgh that you can spend in the quirky hills and nooks in Edinburgh, with a few tips to make the trip even more memorable. I packed it with the highlights that you should not miss during your Edinburgh 2 day itinerary. It would be perfect for a quick weekend getaway with your loved ones or just by yourself as you explore the UK and Scotland.
Getting To And From Edinburgh
Edinburgh is very easily accessible from every parts of the world and from the other parts of the UK. You can take a flight to and from the Edinburgh airport from virtually anywhere. Airport is quite close to the city center (around six miles). You can take the airport bus to come to the city center, or there will be regular cab services (including Uber) which operate through the day for you to get around the city.
When To Visit Edinburgh
Just like the rest of the UK, Edinburgh also has quite an unpredictable weather throughout all the seasons during your 48 hours in Edinburgh. Pack some layered clothing that you can change up according the rain or sunshine that you will face outside on any day. It will, however, be colder then the southern cities of England if you are used to warmer weather. There is really not a bad time to visit this city since it is all alive and happening all across seasons of the year. If you love walking in sunshine and longer day times to explore, summer time is always a good bet when going to Edinburgh for 2 days.
If you like a quieter surrounding with less tourists, remember to skip the Fringe Festival time (August) since the city will be very busy and quite noisy all around. August will mean that the accommodating will be relatively higher as well. For snow lovers who want to explore this quint city in winter, check out what to pack for Edinburgh and Hogmanay a very useful guide on what to bring to have a more comfortable time in Edinburgh in winter.
48 Hours In Edinburgh
I tired to make this itinerary as practical as possible to be completed within 2 days for Edinburgh without straining yourself too much. However, this will be two full days with many attractions to cover. There will of course be many off the beaten path spots that you can find in the city if you wish to spend more than 2 days in Edinburgh. I will be adding some good resources at the end of the article if you fall in love with the city and want to spend more time!
Day 1 In Edinburgh
Exploring Edinburgh Castle
The historic fortress that dominate the skyline of the city, the Edinburgh Castle is of course the first stop in our two-day itinerary of Edinburgh. Apart from the history and the grandeur of the castle, it will also work as a perfect panoramic view point to see the rest of the city and its surroundings from up there. It is the perfect place to get a quick, clear, and detailed glimpse of the Scottish history. Make sure you are there for the One o’clock gun fire, which is an amazing a tradition that has been around since 1861.
If you want to skip the line to the tickets (and there will surely be quite a long line) – you can get your tickets for Edinburgh Castle in advance here. I have added some tips on getting access to a few other Royal attractions at the end of this article.
St. Giles’ Cathedral
A little way down the castle at the Royal Mile, you can see the St. Giles’ Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh. It is an architectural wonder from both inside and the outside. The small Thistle Chapel in the inside will surely be one of the highlights of your visit, which is the home to the noble and historic Order of the Thistle. With its roots in the Middle ages, it is considered to be Scotland’s foremost Order of Chivalry according to the records.
What is a trip to Scotland without tasting some find Scotch whisky? Make sure that you skip the “e” in “whiskey” when you are in Scotland!
You can taste some good ‘ol whisky from any pub around Edinburgh, but to get the full experience of a brewery, the process of making whisky and get some more in-depth knowledge about this fine beverage, Scotch Whisky Experience is an excursion that you should not miss.
Similar to a wine tasting in a winery, if you have been to before, throughout this experience you can see the creation process of whisky, the differences of tastes depending on which part of Scotland a particular whisky is from and perhaps get some firsthand experience in making whisky as well.
At the end of the journey, you will be able to taste one of the four finest whisky flavors, ending the excursion seeing the largest whisky collection in the world. For Scotch whisky loves like me, this will surely be the highlight of the trip.
Walk Along The Royal Mile
All the places that you visited so far have been in the Royal Mile, a succession of streets which consist of the main historic attractions in the town. Do not take it literally, however! It is not really a mile long, but with all the attractions along the way that you will be visiting, it will probably feel long enough. You can also stop by many souvenir shops for some gift shopping and pubs and cafes for refreshing yourself.
Hiking Up Calton Hill
Now that you have spend a morning and the whole afternoon taking in the history and the architecture of the beautiful city of Edinburgh, you can dedicate your evening to be nearer to the nature. Situated in central Edinburgh (east end of the Princess Street), Calton Hill is the perfect place for a quick hike to see the sunset above the city. Along the way you can see many important monuments important to the city history including the National Monument of Scotland which modeled after the Parthenon in Greece.
The Camera Obscura Of Edinburgh
Not too far from where you went through a journey of Scotch Whisky, you can experience the mystically alluring Camera Obscura of Edinbugh. The meaning of the name is toughly a “camera in a darkened room”. This, along with the World of Illusions attraction is a great day out to enjoy especially for the families, and if you are interested in photography.
The tower consists of six floors and across four floors you will get to experience many interactive exhibits, virtual tours, tunnels that give you a fun vertigo for some adrenaline rush and some of the best optical illusions that you can see anywhere. It may not seem interesting from the outside, but you will surely spend more time than you anticipate. Visiting here in a clear and sunny day would be ideal to get the best experience out of the Camera Obscure at the top of the tower.
Drop By A Few Museums
Apart from its historic attractions, the Royal Mile is filled with many museums with different themes to give you a complete and detailed look at the history of Scotland and specially the city of Edinburgh. Some of the most popular museums among them are the Edinburgh Museum, Museum of Childhood and the Writers Museum which celebrates some of the giants of Scottish Literature. This comprehensive post by Jess on the the highlights of Edinburgh will give you a detailed look at what you can expect in each of these museums.
Day 2 In Edinburgh
After you visit to the Holyrood Palace, you can walk over to the Scottish Parliament building with a little more modern architectural touches to the old city. You can join one of the guided tours if you want to enjoy some historic and important facts on Scottish political history. Or you can simply drop by yourself to see the Scottish government at work since the entrance to the building is free. (You need a ticket which is issued free of charge)
Join A Festival
Scottish folks are known for their jolly festivals with a lot of food, drinks and music. If you have some time left after covering the places above, taking in a festival in the city is highly recommended. You can check the city calendar to see which festivals are happening during the time that you visit the city.
The most famous festival of all is probably the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which is held in August over 3 weeks. It is considered to be the biggest performing arts festival in the world, and there will surely not be a dull moment there with both big names and upcoming starts of comedy performing all throughout the festival.
Hike Up Arthur’s Seat
Once you enjoy the history of the planet earth and suddenly get the desire to explore it a little more, simply head over to Arthur’s Seat for a nice hike up the hill. It provides an excellent panoramic view of the city of Edinburgh and quite easy to climb for everyone. Although you can climb it from any direction of the hill, east side is considered to be the simplest ascent.
If the name made you curious, it is exactly what it sounds like. Here you can experience a dynamic and interactive story of the Planet Earth from its inception. Located at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of the group of hills in Central Edinburgh, the visit to Dynamic Earth will surely be a highlight of your day.
Visit Holyrood Palace
We are starting this at the opposite end of the Royal Mile that you spent most of your time in the previous day. Holyrood Palace or the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence in Scotland of the Queen Elizabeth II. It has served as the principle residence to the Kings and Queens of the British Monarch since the 16th century and is surely a must visit for the lover of old architecture in you.