The Scottish capital is packed full of great scenery, cultural activities and history. So get your walking boots on for 48 hours in Edinburgh.
Be prepared for typical British weather, as Edinburgh is prone to unexpected showers, and maybe some snow in the winter. If you want to avoid the cold, June to August is the best time to go, as the months outside of that are likely to be 15°C or lower.
As with many places, if you know where to go, Edinburgh can make for a cheap but enjoyable getaway, great for a trip as part of a tour of Scotland, or on the way to the Cairngorms for a British skiing holiday. Being a lively city that is also so close to nature, you’re sure to have plenty to do on a 48-hour trip.
Wherever you are in central Edinburgh, you’re likely to be within walking distance from most major attractions. Take a look at Last Minute for some great deals on hotels or check out Sykes Cottages for renting whole houses or apartments.
Some B&Bs might be further out in Old Town, which could mean hopping on a bus to the main shopping street, Princes Street. A single bus ticket is £1.60, but you need exact cash or to pay by the app, as you won’t get change back!
Hiking or shopping?
If you’re feeling a hike to burn off your hotel buffet breakfast, Arthur’s Seat is a must-do. A walk to the top following the main path takes around 30 to 45 minutes, and offers stunning views over the city. It’s a popular spot on Guy Fawkes night, as you can see the fireworks across Edinburgh. Up the Crags is a shorter hike, but neither walks require any hiking experience. Although, on a wet day some gripped shoes are highly advised, as the rocks can get very slippery.
If hiking is not your thing, a good place for some casual souvenir shopping is the Royal Mile. It is quite a touristy area, but with good reason, as it is a typical Edinburgh street with cute shops. An essential for anyone with a sweet tooth is Fudge Kitchen, on the lower end of the Royal Mile, but don’t be afraid to go down the side streets either, as there are quite a few craft shops and quaint buildings.
At the top of the Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle, which you can see for free from the outside, or pay to walk around inside.
There is no shortage of places to eat around the Royal Mile which, as you’d expect from the main tourist drag, has lots of chains.
If you’d prefer something a bit cheaper, head across South Bridge onto Nicholson Street. This brings you a lot closer to Edinburgh University, which means cheaper restaurants aimed at students. A few cheap eats include Picnic Basket, The Wrap Place, 10 to 10 (Indian food), or Ting Thai Caravan by Potterrow (my personal favourite).
If you’re still in the mood for some walking, head up Calton Hill located towards the end of Princes Street. Up there you’ll find the Dugald Stewart Monument that plasters Edinburgh postcards, and another beautiful view towards the sea.
If you’re feeling cultured, head to the National Museum of Scotland, or the City Art Centre, which are both free to enter.
Camera Obscura is a good stop for those into optical illusions (entry £15 adults, £11 children) and Dynamic Earth is a good hands-on centre for those more scientifically-minded (adults £13.50, children £8.55).
Dinner and Drinks
For some pub grub and drinks, again heading towards the University is your best bet for cheaper options. Ushers is a good pub with a wide variety of ales and beers on tap and they let you try before you buy any of their quirky drinks. Clerk’s Bar and The Southern offer good food and drinks on Nicholson Street.
For some proper Scottish grub there are some great options such as Howies, who have several branches across the city. You’ve got to try haggis, neeps and tatties of course…
Dubh Prais offers seriously Scottish food in a refined environment plus lots of excellent whiskies.
Wandering Edinburgh’s streets is a pleasure in itself. With so many quaint sights around every corner, it’s almost worth just aimlessly walking around the old town and taking it in.
Get your camera and wander around Victoria Street and Grassmarket, Cockburn Street and if you’re feeling like heading a bit further into the ‘real’ Edinburgh then head to Leith. This suburb is the setting of most of Trainspotting and has become quite gentrified in recent years.
The Water of Leith walkways are a great spot to enjoy the scenery including moored boats, waterside cafes and birdlife.
Edinburgh is known for being a bit fancy, so understandably there are quite a few brunch opportunities. Bruntsfield is known as an upscale residential area, and is home to Montpeliers which is a great brunch spot.
If Bruntsfield is a bit too far or out of your budget, Checkpoint on Bristo Place or Spoon on South Bridge are good options. There are plenty more out there for you to discover and fill you up for your day ahead.
If Arthur’s Seat wasn’t enough for you, a trip to the Pentland Hills should satisfy your hiking cravings. About an hour’s bus ride away from Princes Street, the Pentland Hills offer a few different hiking trails that are beautiful all year round. If you don’t want to stray so far away, a compromise could be the Botanical Gardens, which also offers a few places to hide from any unexpected showers.
For adrenaline junkies, the Edinburgh Dungeons or any of Edinburgh’s ghost tours would be perfect. Edinburgh has an entire underground city for these tours, and you can choose from a variety of scare levels.
If that’s not your cup of tea, the theatres and smaller independent cinemas around town have something for everybody, including the Dominion Cinema in Morningside that has sofas, perfect for a cosy date.
Scotland’s Finest Export
When in Scotland you should try a ‘wee dram’ of the country’s finest export: whisky. Head to the Scottish Whisky Experience which is just off the Royal Mile. There are various tours from £15 and up including intensive masterclasses or tasting and dining options. Just don’t ask for it with coke!
For dinner, Maison Bleue serves a French/Scottish fusion which is certainly worth a try, particularly their haggis starter, but requires a reservation. Generally food and drinks in Edinburgh are of a pretty high standard, but places on the Royal Mile or areas with a high tourist density are likely to be pricey with average food.
If you have a longer time in Scotland, you might consider a day trip to Glasgow, or a countryside trip to Stirling. If you’ve stayed in Edinburgh before but want something different, a trip there in August completely transforms the city into one huge venue for the Fringe Festival, with many free events and shows all over the place.
Whether you’re up for an energetic weekend or an escape from the crowds, 48 hours in Edinburgh is sure to satisfy you.
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