With streets steeped in history and a thriving cultural scene, the City of Edinburgh offers the perfect balance between all things traditional and contemporary.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site at the heart of the city combines the medieval Old Town, the Georgian New Town and award winning modern architecture. Explore Edinburgh at your leisure; you’ll see views that make for perfect picture postcards, mysterious winding streets, elegant terraces and an abundance of shops, bars and restaurants.
The Lothian region consists of East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian where you can discover tales of Scotland’s past. Stately homes, dramatic castles and medieval chapels all provide a sense of Scotland’s impressive history.
The area has many historic towns and scenic villages, which are great for exploring. From award winning beaches, championship golf courses and some of Scotland’s most impressive visitor attractions ‘The Lothians’ offer plenty of things to see and do.
Be sure to get the most of your trip to Edinburgh with this suggested 48 hour itinerary.
Even if you have visited Edinburgh before, an open-top bus tour of the city is a great way to orientate yourself and work out what's where. Tours follow a circuit through the medieval Old Town and the 18th century Georgian New Town so you can always get back to where you started. The top of the Royal Mile is a great starting place to explore on foot. Edinburgh Castle is Scotland's number one attraction and definitely worth a visit. As well as the obvious visits to see Scotland's Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny, it's worth trying to locate the Dogs' Cemetery in memory of man's and soldiers best friends. Arguably the best view of Edinburgh is from the castle ramparts as nothing in the city is higher.
Crossing the Castle Esplanade, scene of the annual Military Tattoo, you will find The Spirit of the Tattoo, a new and free visitor centre which gives some of the history and flavour of the magic of the Tattoo. Another Scottish flavour is honoured at the Scotch Whisky Experience with a dram at the end of the tour and Scottish restaurant, Amber, in its basement for lunch.
With batteries recharged you can either continue down the Royal Mile with its museums and visitor centres on everything from weaving to childhood toys or jump back aboard a tour bus to take you down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the Scottish Parliament or over to Princes Street with its shops and galleries.
In the evening, combine a tour of pubs with a love of literature on the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour before dinner in one of the intimate restaurants and bistros of the Old Town.
Edinburgh is surrounded by hills which give a great outlook as well as good exercise. If an extinct volcano in Holyrood Park is too much for you, try the more manageable Calton Hill, off Princes Street. This is the site of what should have been Scotland's National Monument but the city ran out of money so the columns are all that was completed, earning the title "Edinburgh's Disgrace". Nelson Monument, in the shape of a telescope, is worth the climb to the top. A ball at the top of its mast drops simultaneously with the firing of the One O’clock Gun from the Castle.
Keep the natural theme for the afternoon with a tour of the Royal Botanic Garden with its recently renovated Glass Houses, exhibitions and world of colourful plants and shrubs. It's where Edinburgh people go for moments of quiet reflection and a reviving cup of tea.
In the evening, try one of the traditional pubs in Leith with their menu of freshly-caught fish dishes as you look over the Water of Leith.
Staying slighlty longer? Why not try this suggested 72 hour itinerary.
It’s a good idea to start your day at Edinburgh Castle when it opens at 9.30am to get ahead of the crowds. You can then either follow the ‘Royal Mile’ down on foot to explore its narrow ‘closes’ and boxful of attractions or, if you want to get some idea of what you are seeing as you go, jump aboard one of the open-top tour buses. Choose a multi-language tour or get a more personal view from an onboard guide. The buses follow the same route all day so you can jump off and on as you please to visit other attractions like the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Scottish Parliament or the National Galleries of Scotland.
There are plenty of cafés and eating places scattered around the city centre for a quick lunch. Most pubs offer hearty food at reasonable prices and many have strong historical connections themselves. If you’ve spent the morning in the Old Town area (and you could easily spend several days there and not visit everything), cross the North Bridge to Edinburgh’s other World Heritage site, the Georgian New Town. The elegant street layout and neo-classical architecture is among the best of its kind anywhere.
Head back to the Royal Mile for a walking ghost tour either before or after dinner, depending on how brave you feel, followed by dinner in the romantic and historic setting of a candlelit restaurant like The Witchery By The Castle or the Vintners’ Rooms in Leith.
From Princes Street it’s a short No.22 bus ride to another regally-named attraction. The Royal Yacht Britannia is now permanently docked at Ocean Terminal in Leith. After the tour, stay on to explore the port of Leith, now one of the most fashionable areas to live in Edinburgh. It’s easy to forget when in the city centre just how close you are to the sea.
If you’re feeling energetic, join the Edinburgh tradition of climbing Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. It’s an extinct volcano (last active over 300 million years ago) and is one of the best vantage points over the city to the countryside beyond.
If you dined ‘Old Town’ last night, go for something different around George Street tonight. There’s something of everything in one of the city’s main eating areas.
If Edinburgh marks your first visit to Scotland, you may like to get out of the city today to see the Highlands or other parts.
There are day trips year-round which whisk you in little more than half an hour to the majestic splendour of the Highlands and the still expanses of lochs and glens. Tours take in forest walks amongst spectacular waterfalls, standing stone circles and the tallest trees in the country. The scenery may change as you travel but the sheer beauty of the land remains constant. Whether by luxury coach or intimate minicoach, your driver will have you back to Edinburgh in time for dinner or even a traditional fish supper!
Round off your trip with a night of live music in a pub. Just remember you have to get home tomorrow!
Edinburgh City Pass
Enjoy free access to over 25 of Edinburgh’s top attractions and a number of exclusive offers at restaurants and shops throughout the city with an Edinburgh city pass. Choose from a 1, 2 or 3 day pass. Buy online or at any Tourist Information Centre