The view over Edinburgh from Arthur Seat

Edinburgh in 2 Days: A Complete Guide to your Edinburgh Weekend Break

Did you know that Edinburgh is the second-most popular city in the UK? Yes, after London, most people make their way up north to explore the medieval lanes, century-old closes and the gorgeous castle of the Scottish capital. Even though the city is actually very small there is plenty to see and do, whether you are after tourist attractions or local treats. Being based in Glasgow myself I frequently go on day or weekend trips to Edinburgh to soak up the glorious architecture – and the sun which pokes through along the Scottish east coast much more often than in Glasgow and the West.

Follow me around Edinburgh for a two-day trip in this video – complete with a list of places to go and things to see right underneath it!

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Day 1: Essential Edinburgh

New Town

Take a walk around Waverley train station which lies right in between Edinburgh’s Old and New Town. Don’t be fooled by the name though – New Town is still a couple of hundred years old (built in late 18th & early 19th century).

My personal favourite street in New Town is Rose Street, although it is a shopping mile and the restaurants are rather touristy – it’s just so pretty. You can find all the high street shops along Princes Street, but even if you’re not into Primark, H&M & Co., it’s worth strolling down the street for great views of the Castle, the Scott Monument and the Princes Street Gardens.

The view down Cockburn Street in Edinburgh's Old Town.

Old Town

Once you’ve had enough from the shopping crowd, head up the hill on Cockburn Street towards the Old Town. There are a number of really cool shops, bars and restaurants along this street, which are worth to check out. Once you reach the top you find yourself on the Royal Mile, the road between Edinburgh Castle on the top and the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the bottom of the hill.

Edinburgh Castle is well worth a visit – if only for the view – but my favourite place along the Royal Mile is Camera Obscura, a museum for optical illusions. It’s not your average tourist attraction, but something more special, and from the top of the tower you get a great view!

If you’d like to visit Edinburgh Castle, I highly recommend booking skip-the-line tickets in advance to save time. You can also get skip-the-line access when booking this guided tour which includes a knowledgeable tour guide to tell you more about the history of the castle and the city.

Just across the road is the Scotch Whisky Experience, a whisky museum where you will learn everything you need to know about Scotch whisky, the different regions, how to taste it properly and so on.

 

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View over Edinburgh's Old Town from the top of Camera Obscura museumThe treasure rooms at the Scotch Whisky Experience in Edinburgh is filled with thousands of bottles of whisky.

Grassmarket

Afterwards follow the crowds down the hill in the other direction towards Grassmarket. Get some more vintage shopping done at W. Armstrong & Sons, Godiva, Herman Brown or Carnivale, and stop for a pint or coffee at one of the many pubs and coffee shops. Maybe even the sun will poke out!

Unless you plan to spend hours in the castle and various museums, one day should be enough to explore the Old and New Town and you can explore other parts of Edinburgh in the evening and on the next day.

View of Edinburgh Caslte from the top of Camera Obscura. View up Victoria Street in Edinburgh's Old Town Shopping at Godiva Boutique on West Port in Edinburgh.

Where to eat & drink in Edinburgh’s Old & New Town

  • Tower Restaurant, top notch restaurant on top of the National Museum of Scotland with great view over the castle
  • The City Cafe, popular diner-style cafe just off the Royal Mile
  • Hula Juice Bar, juices, smoothies and cakes on Grassmarket
  • Palmyra Pizza, a great falafel place on Nicolson St
  • Holy Cow, a vegan cafe in Edinburgh’s New Town
  • Lovecrumbs, amazing cakes and coffee on West Port

In the evening, we were heading back to New Town for dinner at The Boozy Cow on Frederick Street, a hip burger and steak place – and they do great cocktails too.  For the real deal make your way to Panda & Sons though, a speakeasy cocktail bar at the bottom of Queen Street. It looks like a barber shop on the outside, so don’t walk past it! I kid you not – best cocktails I’ve ever had, especially the Bird Cage which you can see in the video!

A hearty winter salad at Holy Cow in Edinburgh's New Town.

Day 2: Edinburgh off the beaten track

Leith

The next day was a lot more relaxing – we needed that – and we decided to discover the streets of Leith. Many years ago, this area used to be quite rough and mainly workers from the shipyards used to move here with their families. Leith has seen quite some change recently though, with many students and artists moving here, and with them little shops and cafes sprouted like mushrooms.

In Leith there is really no shortage for you ti find things to do. I’d suggest coffeeshop hopping around and browsing through the little vintage shops. You could also spend a few hours at the Royal Yacht Britannia, learning about this impressive ocean liner, the Royal Family used to sail around the world.

I highly recommend booking your ticket for Royal Yacht Britannia in advance as it gives you skip-the-line access and saves you time of your precious Edinburgh trip!

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh.

Outdoor Activities

After a few hours in the urban jungle of Leith, it is time to switch things up a little and see a greener side of Edinburgh. The city has a lot of parks and green spaces and on a sunny day, these will be busy with locals enjoying the sun rays tickling their noses. Here are some options for you:

The Royal Botanic Garden is located in Inverleith, roughly halfway between Leith and New Town. In the garden, you can find plants from all over the world, which are studies to learn more about biodiversity and conservation. This is also a great place to check out when it’s raining, as the glasshouses offer shelter and a welcome change in temperatures!

 

If the weather is good though, it is worth to climb some of Edinburgh’s many hills. The city was built on an extinct volcano which left behind several hills in and around the city. The castle is actually built on one of them! Another one is Calton Hill, which makes a great little walk to get a view over Old & New Town. It’s easy 15-minute walk from The Balmoral Hotel to the top. Arthur Seat is a slightly longer walk up the highest point of Edinburgh, but the views of the city and towards the sea are well worth the effort! Plan around 1.5h to climb Arthur Seat and come back down again.

The view over Edinburgh from Arthur Seat

After two days, I found myself on the bus back to Glasgow, feeling refreshed and inspired – exactly what a weekend in Edinburgh does to you!

Where to eat & drink in Leith

  • Harmonium is a vegan gastro-pub in Leith which serves great vegan food, even meat-eaters will love.
  • King’s Wark is a pub by the waterfront in Leith with typical Scottish cuisine. The building dates back to the 1400s.
  • Teuchter’s Landing is a pub on the other side of the canal in Leith. On the menu are Scottish classics and seafood, but there is also a vegan menu available.

Rigatoni at Harmonium in Edinburgh.

More things to do in Edinburgh

Tours & Museums

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More Food & Drink

  • The Pantry is an awesome brunch spot in Stockbridge, one of Edinburgh’s coolest neighbourhoods.
  • Civerinos is just off the Royal Mile and serves great pizza & pasta.
  • Whistlebinkies is a cool pub and live music venue just off the Royal Mile.
  • Half Way House is the smallest pub in Edinburgh Old Town with lots of local flair.

Shopping Tips

  • Scottish Design Exchange in Leith for clothes, art and useful items made by local designers.
  • The Red Door Gallery on Victoria Road for locally sourced art and decor.
Need help planning your Scotland trip?
Book a consultation session with me!

 

Practical Info

Getting to Edinburgh

Travel between Edinburgh and Glasgow is really easy as the two cities are only ~45 miles apart. The fast train takes 45 minutes and costs £12-13 return, and while the bus takes a little longer (75 minutes) it is even cheaper (from £1).

Book your train travel via TrainlinE!

 

Where to stay in Edinburgh

I stayed at Hotel Indigo on York Place, which was the perfect spot to start our walking tours around the Old Town and Leith and get to the cool bars all over New Town. It’s a stylish 4-star hotel and all the staff was super friendly and helpful. It is certainly one of the best hotels I’ve ever stayed in Edinburgh!

 

View of the Old Town of Edinburgh from Princes Street Gardens.

You could easily fill weeks with things to do in Edinburgh, but if you’re pressed for time you can really see a lot of Edinburgh is just 2 days!

Have you ever been to Edinburgh?

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Planning a trip to Scotland?

Find accommodation, book your rental car or a guided tour with Rabbie’s.

Book day trips to explore the country or get advance tickets for attractions.

Read up in a travel guide and prepare for hikes with the OS Explorer maps.

Get your rain gear in place and browse my packing list.

Book your Glasgow tour with me or let me plan your itinerary.

 

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All photos by Kathi Kamleitner.

5 comments on “Edinburgh in 2 Days: A Complete Guide to your Edinburgh Weekend Break

  1. Sherri R

    Hi, I am planning a trip to Scotland and am loving your blog. I am of course limited on time, and am trying to determine how much time to spend in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Do you think 2 days is enough time to do Edinburgh justice? What about Glasgow? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Sherri, thanks for your question! I’d say it depends on how long your trip is and what you want to focus on – e.g. cities or nature. If you want a little bit of everything I’d spend 1-2 days in Edinburgh and 1 full day in Glasgow and the rest out in the country. Of course, you could also spend a whole week in either city and see something different every day. If you’d like more help planning your concrete itinerary, you could consider my consultation service: https://www.watchmesee.com/watch-me-see-scotland-travel-consultation/ Cheers, Kathi

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  3. Oh, that makes me want to go. Well, that and watching Highlander. No, but actually more your images – so picturesque there. Must make a plan soon!!

    • Yes yes yes – please come and visit! Edinburgh is so gorgeous, but wait until I get into talking about Glasgow 😀 xx

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