If like me, you want to see as much of the UK as you can during a week long visit, have I got you covered. Today I’m sharing my travel guide – two days in Edinburgh, but you can also check out my Travel Guide – Two Days in London and my Day Trip to Bath to enjoy a well rounded visit.
If castles are what you think of when you think of the UK, then Edinburgh is the place for you. The following itinerary includes both popular attractions and some lesser-known sights. Everything a first time visitor can enjoy and easily squeeze into two days in Edinburgh.
How to Get to Edinburgh from London
Edinburgh is only a 4 1/2 hour train ride from London. The only thing I suggest is that you purchase your ticket ahead of time to guarantee the best price. Day of tickets can run 3+ times what an advance ticket would run.
Now for the fun part, Edinburgh in two days.
If you take the train like I did, you’ll emerge from the Edinburgh Waverly station and be greeted by the bustling city and the old world beauty of the Scott Monument. It was erected for Sir Walter Scott, Scotland’s outstanding literary figure.
The monument is located on the Princess Street Gardens, which provide a relaxing view of the Royal Mile.
Day One – Edinburgh
Take an Edinburgh Bus Tour
There’s no better way to see this great city than with a bus tour. Since this is a two day adventure, you can’t go wrong with the Grand 48+ ticket. This 48 hour ticket allows you access to all three City Tours (Edinburgh Tour, Majestic Tour and CitySightseeing Edinburgh) plus a 3 Bridges Bus and Boat Tour. Each of the tours take about an hour round trip, or you can hop on and hop off as needed. The 3 Bridges Bus and Boat Tour takes a couple of hours, but so well worth it.
We opted to jump on the CitySightseeing tour first to get to see the lay of the land. Here are some of the highlights.
Arthur’s Seat, located in Holyrood Park, offers a 30 minute walk toward beautiful views of Edinburgh and is absolutely free.
The Potter Trail
If you are a Harry Potter fan, consider taking a walking tour of the sights that served as the inspiration for scenes in the Harry Potter series. It’s free and offered several days of the week.
The Greyfriars Bobby
As a dog lover, I was excited to learn the story of Bobby, a long-haired Skye terrier that belonged to Edinburgh police officer, John Gray. It is said that when Gray passed away in 1858, Bobby spent the next 14 years living at his gravesite. Talk about loyalty. A statue to Bobby has been placed on the south side of the George IV Bridge and visitors can visit his grave in the Greyfriars Cemetery.
The Royal Mile
Based in old town, Edinburgh’s Royal Mile connects the Edinburgh Castle, to the palace of Holyrood House. It’s lined with shops, restaurants, and various tourist attractions.
Once we got our fill, we hopped on the 3 Bridges Bus and Boat Tour. It was pretty amazing! We got to see more of the countryside and explore the coastal views of Queensferry.
When we arrived, we had a great view of the iconic Forth Rail Bridge.
The boat tour then took us out on the Firth of Forth.
One of our first sightings was a couple of seals sunning themselves on the buoys.
Then we saw the historic Abbey of Inchcolm Island. That’s also where we caught a glimpse of a Puffin. They’re small and fast, but it was pretty cool to see.
Of course we had to step out to the cold, uncovered bow to see it all. This is where what I packed came into play. Here’s a glimpse of what you’d want to pack too.
What to Pack for Edinburgh
Warm, comfortable clothing and shoes – I was there late April, early May and temperatures went from the 40s at night to 50/60s during the day. And while we were on the boat, I definitely bundled up in my hoodie jacket and scarf. While I never had to bust out my umbrella, my uber comfy boots helped to keep me warm. Thankfully Edinburgh’s center is very walkable, so my crossbody purse and tennis shoes helped keep me on the go the rest of the time.
Power Adapter – Unless you’re traveling from a place that already uses a three pin plug, you’ll more than likely need a Type G plug adapter like this one, a hub to connect all your mobile devices, and a portable charger to make sure you don’t miss a thing.
Contactless Credit Card – Contactless cards have this indicator , either on the front or back. When you shop with a contactless card, all you have to do is wave it over the terminal. You don’t need to insert or swipe it anywhere, unless of course the place doesn’t have a contactless reader, in which case you’ll probably need to insert/swipe and sign. That was generally the case when I visited local restaurants. However contactless credit cards are widely accepted throughout Edinburgh, even on the Edinburgh Bus Tour. That’s why there really is no need to carry cash or to even exchange your currency for the British pound. I didn’t! The only thing I’d warn is that you make sure you use a credit or debit card that doesn’t charge foreign exchange fees or have a poor currency conversion rate. If however, you’d rather not use a credit card, I suggest you use debit cards, at easily available ATMs, to help you convert only what you need into pounds.
When we got back to town we decided to take pictures of the Edinburgh Castle. It was closed and empty enough to grab some great outside pics.
We were also able to capture the views of the city below.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
After leaving the castle, we walked down to The Scotch Whisky Experience.
We were too hungry to take the tour. But if you have time, it’s nice to learn about the making of Scotch whisky. We instead opted to go straight to dinner and tastings, since Edinburgh, like London, tends to close their kitchens at 8pm. Be very mindful of that if you want to enjoy something other than fast food for dinner.
As you know Scotland and Whisky go hand in hand, so you can’t leave without doing a proper tasting. It was at the tasting that I learned they offer up water with a dropper so that you can cut the whisky just enough, without over doing it. Pretty cool!
We then headed to check out the night life. Our first stop was one of the two secret/hidden bars my friend had read about.
Hoot the Redeemer
This shabby chic bar is located basement level in New Town. For some reference, New Town is considered everything at the bottom of the hill and north of Princess St. Old Town is basically the Royal Mile. The cool part of this bar is that you must answer a riddle from Hoot the Redeemer – an arcade fortune teller. That was enough to kick off the night on a high. It’s electric decor, fun menus, friendly staff, and reasonable prices definitely make this a must stop.
The Black Rose Tavern
Day Two – Edinburgh
Based on the advice of our previous day’s tour guide, we decided to hit up Edinburgh Castle first thing in the morning. She said that it gets packed as the day goes on and she was right. There is so much to see that you’re bound to spend at least half of your day walking the grounds. I definitely did. Click here to see and learn more about touring Edinburgh Castle.
Then I headed down to soak in more of the Royal Mile, and to visit another Edinburgh must see.
Saint Giles’ Cathedral
This beautiful cathedral is located a third of the way down from the castle. It’s known for its stunning architecture and impressive stained glass. There are tours, but you can easily do a self guided one as well.
Then I headed toward nature.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Known to locals as “The Botanics,” the garden offers 70 acres of beautiful land. And best of all, it’s completely FREE to get in.
It is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain and offers a fantastic view of the Edinburgh skyline.
I was happy to learn there was a tapestry exhibit while I was there and I was able to marvel at their majesty.
It was all awe-inspiring and a refreshing way to view the beauty of this wonderful city.
Once we took a little break, we went for a quick bite and headed to the last secret bar on our list.
First up was the Doric. This bar & bistro was the perfect spot to stop for authentic Scottish Food. So of course we opted for some of their local cider, mussels and haggis.
The haggis surprisingly was not a bad as you’d think, but it was also not as good as you’d like.
Bullard & Worth
A pretty cool way to end our two full days in Edinburgh. Exhausting and quick, but totally memorable. For more, check out this quick video.
What spots would you include if you only had two days in Edinburgh?
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Well, I’d have to say Edinburgh Castle because castles are so medieval and mysterious and then I’d like to visit the Royal Mile. It looks very charming and quaint. You can eat, shop and explore so that would also be tons of fun.
Thank you! It was amazing and that castle is definitely a must see!