Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and a must-visit for anyone traveling to the United Kingdom.
While you can enjoy some of the city’s most popular attractions over a weekend, this four-day itinerary features the best of Edinburgh for first-time visitors and a few off the beaten path spots.
Getting around Edinburgh couldn’t be easier as you can walk everywhere or catch a quick ride on one of the city’s public buses.
To save money when booking accommodations, I recommend checking rates on TripAdvisor. I love using TripAdvisor to get the best deal on hotels, read reviews, and search for nearby restaurants and attractions.
Whether you visit during the summer for the Fringe Festival or during the winter to enjoy the holiday decor — you won’t run out of fun things to see and do!
As the writer, Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “Edinburgh is what Paris ought to be”.
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Arrive in the morning and drop off your luggage at the hotel. The check-in time for most hotels is after 2:00 PM or 3:00 PM. If a room is available early, you may have to pay a fee to check-in early.
Grab a coffee or tea at the Elephant House Café, the birthplace of Harry Potter.
Snap a photo of Greyfriars Bobby.
For those who are not familiar with his story: This dog became known in the 19th century for spending 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he passed away himself in 1872.
Apparently, crowds would gather at the entrance of Kirkyard waiting for the one o’clock gun where Bobby would leave his owner’s grave for his midday meal.
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Head to the National Museum of Scotland. Plan to spend at least an hour here (or more, depending on your interests).
My must-have Edinburgh accessories:
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Explore the Scottish National Gallery. Plan to spend about an hour here.
Shop along Princes Street.
Grab a cookie and hot beverage at Ben’s Cookies.
Enjoy a gourmet burger (or veggie burger) at the Red Squirrel.
Head to Edinburgh Castle first thing in the morning. Aim to be there when it opens as it gets quite busy with tour groups by the lunch hour.
I went first thing on a weekday morning and it felt like I had the whole castle to myself!
Plan to spend at least 2 hours here (or more, depending on your walking pace). If you have time, stick around for the one o’clock gun.
Check out Camera Obscura. Don’t miss the Camera Obscura show on the top floor.
The presentation also gives you a nice overview of Edinburgh and its history, which is great if you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Plan to spend about an hour here (or more, depending on your interests).
Visit Victoria Street, which J.K. Rowling used as inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.
Walk along the Royal Mile.
Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral. It’s free to enter and beautiful inside!
Explore free museums such as The Museum on the Mound, the Writer’s Museum and the Museum of Edinburgh.
These museums are smaller in size and will not take long to explore.
For a full list of free attractions in Edinburgh, click here.
Choose to go on either a historic or ghostly underground tour with Mercat Tours on the Royal Mile. Click on the link to check out my review of their Ghostly Underground Tour.
Grab a light breakfast and head to Holyrood Park to hike up Arthur’s Seat. Wear comfortable shoes and don’t forget to check out the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel.
Enjoy lunch at Clarinda’s Tea Room. Don’t forget to save room for cake and scones! Click the link to check out my review.
Explore the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This palace is the official residence of Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland. Plan to spend around 2 hours here. Don’t forget to check out the gardens and Holyrood Abbey.
Head to Calton Hill to get another beautiful view of the city.
Have dinner at a local pub. Sample some of Edinburgh’s whiskey.
Take a walk through Dean Village. This is a beautiful green oasis on the Water of Leith (just a 5-minute walk from Princes Street).
Climb to the top of Scotts Monument. This is a monument to the Scottish author Sir Walter Scott and is the largest monument to a writer in the world.
Have lunch in Leith.
Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens.
Spend your last evening in the city at the cinema, theater, listening to live music at a lounge or attending a comedy show.
Related Posts:See the best of Edinburgh with this 4-day itineraryClick To Tweet
Over to you — what are your favorite things to do in Edinburgh?
Travel Budget Printable
Enjoy your next holiday while staying on budget with my FREE Travel Budget printable!