Recognised worldwide as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, Scotland's capital is a destination no serial tourist should miss. Below you'll find a complete guide to the city's most important attractions, as well as some more 'underground' ones to make your trip unique!
- Transport & benefits for tourists in Edinburgh
- Itinerary - Activities and sights in Edinburgh
- Day 0
- Day 1 - Upper Old Town
- Day 2 - Lower Old Town
- Day 3 - New Town
- Day 4
You can find affordable accommodation in the city centre on both Booking and AirBnb. Prices start from 75 pounds per night in the city centre. However, by choosing to stay in the city centre, you are closer to the famous restaurants, the historic buildings of the city centre and can easily observe the lifestyle of the locals.
Transport & benefits for tourists in Edinburgh
To get from the airport to Old Town, take the Airlink 100 bus from the airport's A station. The journey will take about 25 minutes, cost £12-13, and take you to Princess Street station.
Alternatively, you can take the tram, also directly from the airport, which will take you in about 30 minutes to the same station, but at a lower price of £8.
While you're in town, you'll have to use public transport. Buses and trams are available, and a bus ride generally costs £2-3. To pay for a ticket, you will need either exact amount in cash, or any credit/debit card.
To enjoy the historical sights on this itinerary without the stress of tickets, we recommend Royal Edinburgh TicketThe Tourist Card, valid for 48 hours, gives you free access to a range of attractions closely linked to the history of the kingdom, including Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Royal Yacht Britannia. You can buy it online for £63 (adult), £34 (children 5-15) or £58 (seniors). Link at the end!
With plenty of sauces or liquid dishes, you can't come to Edinburgh on holiday without trying Scotland's signature dishes. In most of the city's restaurants you can sample broth - lamb or mutton soup, haggis with minced meat and oats or beef bridie pie. Indulge in Scottish desserts such as crème brûlée, cranachan - a dessert with whipped cream, honey, fruit and whiskey or clootie fruitcake. In any case, Scottish dishes are unique and the locals have adapted the recipes to their own taste. Worth a try!
Itinerary - Activities and sights in Edinburgh
- Arrival in Edinburgh
- Old Town
Once you arrive in Edinburgh, if you arrive early or even later in the evening, allocate a few hours just for a stroll around the old city centre. This will familiarise you with the streets and you'll already see the main sights in the heart of the city, which you'll visit over the next few days.
Day 1 - Upper Old Town
- Edinburgh Castle
- Greyfrair's Kirkyard
- Elephant House
- National Museum of Scotland
Edinburgh Castle is both Edinburgh's best-known tourist attraction and the best place to start. From the Old Town, you can walk to the castle, or take the BBT1 or BBT2 buses from Lawnmarket station to the Castle Terrace stop, which is right in front of the castle, for just £2.
Once there, you'll descend in front of the UK's second most visited tourist attraction. Perched on a high volcanic rock, it offers a superb view over the whole city, and the huge halls, towers and narrow staircases inside have inspired hundreds of the castles you still see in movies today.
The castle is open every day from 9:30am and it is recommended to be there right at opening time to avoid queues. Tickets should be purchased online in advance, since this costs £18, while directly at the castle gate you'll pay £21 for a ticket (or free with Royal Edinburgh Ticket).
Inside, let yourself be carried away by the castle's history, its superb architecture, whose construction involved wonderful minds about whom you will learn new information, such as St. Margaret, Queen Mary of Scotland, Oliver Cromwell and more. Make sure you don't leave without seeing the Royal Jewels of Scotland and the Stone of Destiny.
From the castle, walk down to the West Port bus stop, where you can catch a bus that runs every 15 minutes to Merchant Street station for £2. From there it's a short walk to Greyfrair's graveyard.
Greyfrair was one of Edinburgh's most beloved mayors, and his dog, Bobby, he remained famous because after his death he never left his owner's grave - you'll also pass a statue erected in honour of the loyal dog, which is sure to move you if you've ever seen the film Hachiko.
If you're a fan Harry PotterIn the cemetery you will also find the grave of the poet William McGonagall, who was the main inspiration for Ms. McGonagall. If not, you'll still be able to admire a number of beautiful graves, some of which are decorated with intricate stone carvings.
Another attraction that fans Harry Potter can't miss it is Elephant Housewhich is just a 2-minute walk away. As some of you already know, it's where J.K. Rowling wrote the first chapters of her most famous series. You can take a coffee break here and leave her a message on the little board allocated to her - yes, she comes to read the messages from time to time!
National Museum of Scotland
After stopping at the Elephant House, you only have to walk one more 300 metres to National Museum of Scotland. Science, history and culture come together under one roof in this superb museum, which will help you continue your discovery of Scotland's history. Open until 5pm, with mostly free entry. We recommend checking the museum's website beforehand, since there are almost always independent exhibitions, which will usually charge an admission ticket at their own price, which you have to buy online.
Day 2 - Lower Old Town
- Neighbourhood Royal Mile - shopping and museums
- Canongate Kirk Church
- Holyrood Palace
- Optional: Arthur's chair
Royal Mile is a famous Edinburgh neighbourhood and a perfect, easy start to your second day in the city. You could walk around the area all day just looking at the dozens of shops along the way. We recommend taking advantage of this gorgeous area and starting your day with a little souvenir shopping for yourself or loved ones back home - plus the architecture of the area will take your breath away!
From the Old Town, you can take buses 8, 23, 27, 41 or 41 from Victoria Street station for £2, or a taxi for £7. Both will drop you right in the middle of the neighbourhood.
After a bit of shopping, you can choose to visit a number of museums in the same neighbourhood. All of them are free, and the most popular ones are The Museum of Childhoodperfect for family holidays, The People's Story and The Museum of Edinburgh, both wonderful for history lovers who have fallen in love with the city so far.
A short stop on the Royal Mile that every tourist must make is Kirk Duck, Edinburgh's oldest church and, what's more, the one the Queen chooses to go to when she's passing through! In the churchyard, poetry lovers will find the grave of poet Robert Fergusson, too.
From the Royal Mile, take bus 35 for £6 from the Museum of Childhood station to the Scottish Parliament building, from where you will walk just 200 metres to Holyrood Palace, today's main attraction.
Once home to Queen Mary Stuart herself, the palace is now open for tours from 9:30am to 4:30pm from November to March and 9:30am to 6pm from April to October. A full tour will take you through the Hall of Thrones, royal bedrooms, gardens, galleries and Holyrood Abbey. The audio-visual guides included in the ticket price will take you on the trail of the Royal Family and beyond in a "mini-bomb" of highly interesting history.
The price of a ticket varies depending on the time of year - £17.50 between September and June, £18.50 between July and August. With Royal Edinburgh Ticket, the entrance is free!
And here, as at Edinburgh Castle, be informed and prepared to give any exhibitions that might be taking place a chance. Find out in advance from the palace's website, you'll find the link at the end of this guide!
Optional: Arthur's chair
Are you passionate about hiking, have lots of energy after today's leisurely walks, or just want to spend time in nature? From Holyrood Palace, there is a hiking trail of about 2 km that you can follow. Alternatively, you can take a taxi to very near the end of the trail and just climb the area's main attraction, the highest cliff. The view at the end will be worth the effort, especially if you watch the sunset from here. We recommend taking your food with you if you opt for this option, so you can enjoy dinner in nature.
Day 3 - New Town
- National Gallery
- Princess Street
- Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
- The Royal Yacht Britannia
From Victoria Street station in the Old Town, buses 8, 23, 27 and 41 will take you to The Mound station, from where you'll turn around very shortly to get into National Gallery. Open from 10am, the gallery is filled with a range of exhibitions on a variety of themes, from modern art to the Renaissance and Italian Impressionism that shaped art history. Also, just inside, you can relax at the gallery's cafe, you could even have lunch there. With free entry, too, it's not a place to miss!
After visiting the gallery, go down the Princess Street for absolutely gorgeous views with manicured gardens, traditional cottages and, why not, some interaction with the locals - tourists generally say they are very friendly in this area! The flower arrangements are bound to impress you, and the smell is simply delightful.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Another tourist attraction with free entry that you don't want to miss is Royal Botanic Garden EdinburghThe Edinburgh Botanic Garden, home to over 17,000 species of plants from around the world. From Princess Street, The Mound station, you'll take bus 27 to Warriston Gardens station. From there it's a short walk to the botanic garden, which you can explore in its entirety - plus the glasshouses, for which you'll pay £5.
The Royal Yacht Britannia
For a memorable end to 3 days in Edinburgh, we recommend The Royal Yacht Britannia, to which you get free entry with Royal Edinburgh Ticket. Otherwise, you can buy a ticket for £18 online or at the door.
Your route continues in a straight line and to get here - from Warrington Gardens, take bus 8, 23 or 27, which will drop you off at Ocean Terminal station. From there, your tour of Scotland's Queen's yacht, built in 1953, can begin. After visiting the ship itself, you can have tea as the Queen did, shop for souvenirs, or just carry on wandering - the tour is individual. Between April and October, tours end at 6pm, so you have plenty of time.
Optional - Edinburgh Zoo
How can you make your holiday in Scotland even more successful for your little ones? By visiting the only UK Zoo where you can see koala bears, among others. The little ones can also enjoy penguins, panda bears, lions, reptiles and more. We recommend buying your tickets online as they are cheaper and you avoid queues. Admission per adult is 19 lireand children between 3 and 15 years old pay £12. You can get there from the city centre in just 10 minutes by bus, the ticket costs 3 lira approximately.
Returning home with a mind full of new knowledge about Scottish history and a suitcase full of souvenirs for loved ones.
Edinburgh has a vast history and culture, and often the buildings you pass on a simple walk hide deep stories. It is a place full of mystery and beauty that is well worth visiting when you come on holiday to Scotland. We've put together a list of some links that you may find useful if you want to plan your trip.