One Day Tour of Edinburgh

Sunset City Centrescape

If you’ve only got 24 hours to spend in Edinburgh, but not sure how to fill it, then hang on tight! We’ve created the perfect whistle-stop one day tour of Scotland's capital city.

Some of the suggestions below may require a little pre-planning (such as buying entry tickets or reserving a table for food). 

Your 24 Hours in Edinburgh

7am: Sunrise at Arthur's Seat

Arthurs Seat Holyrood Park

The morning begins with a visit to Holyrood Park and a trek up Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of which is Edinburgh’s 251m high extinct volcano. Our advice is to wrap up warm and plan ahead by bringing a hot drink to enjoy when you reach the top. The sunrise here is glorious, with stunning views across the city and out to the Firth of Forth.

There are a few different ways to get to the top, but if you're looking to save time, take a taxi to Dunsapie Loch which gives you just 30 minutes of easy climbing to get to the summit. 

9am: Clarinda's Tea Room

The most important meal of the day, especially after a sprightly morning walk, has to be breakfast. Clarinda's Tearoom is the perfect place to refuel ready for the rest of the day.  Choose from an energy-boosting bowl of porridge or go all-out with a full cooked breakfast. 

10am: Explore the Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament from Canongate

Welcome to the Scottish seat of power - The Scottish Parliament.

The branch-shaped design of this building at the foot of the Royal Mile takes inspiration from Scotland’s architecture and landscape and was opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II in 2004.

If parliament is sitting on the day you visit, you can watch events unfold in the public gallery viewing chamber. Or why not book onto a guided tour where you’ll learn more about the inner workings of the Parliament and the building's history.

10.30am: The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace Of Holyroodhouse Visitscotland Kenny Lamb(Image credit: VisitScotland Kenny Lamb)

The King's official residence in Edinburgh, The Palace of Holyroodhouse stands across from the Scottish Parliament.

See where Queen Elizabeth II entertained guests, the Throne Room used by monarchs of the past, or admire portraits of Scotland's legendary kings in the Palace’s largest room, the Great Gallery. Climb the winding staircase and you'll find yourself in the bedchamber of Mary Queen of Scots - as well as the place where her private secretary, David Rizzio, was brutally murdered in 1566.

A wide variety of events take place at the Palace throughout the year, including family trails, workshops and tours - check out their What's On page for upcoming events. 

12.30pm: Lunch at Tolbooth Tavern

Tollbooth Tavern

Built in 1591, the Tolbooth Tavern has seen many uses over the years – at one time it was the main public entrance to the Royal Burgh of Edinburgh, where tolls from incoming travellers were collected. It has also been used as a council chamber, police station and a prison.

It was in 1820 that it became a tavern, remaining remarkedly unchanged to this day. Pop in for a choice of tasty dishes, including fish and chips, burgers or Scotland's national dish, haggis, neeps and tatties.

2pm: The Royal Mile

St Giles Cathedral Crop

Wandering up the historic Royal Mile you'll pass entrances to closes, wynds and pends which lead to hidden, tranquil gardens and gorgeous views over the city. If you're an Outlander fan, a quick detour down Bakehouse Close will find you retracing Jamie and Claire's season three footsteps.

Pass St Giles' Cathedral which was founded in 1124 and in the 16th century became the focal point of the Scottish Reformation. One of the best ways to learn more about this beautiful building is by joining one of the free guided walking tours. You’ll hear stories from the building’s early foundations and be shown the famous Thistle Chapel, home to the Order of the Thistle. Tours are very popular and book up quickly. Check availability and make a tour booking here

You could easily spend the day on the Royal Mile, exploring its historic attractions and hidden gems. For more suggestions to keep all the family entertained, see our guide, Things to do on the Royal Mile >

2.30pm: Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle From Esplanade

As well as being one of Edinburgh’s most popular attractions, Edinburgh Castle is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. Towering over the city, perched majestically on top of a volcanic outcrop, you can see it from miles around - making it the perfect spot for a castle, if you think about it!

Be sure to make time to see the Castle’s highlights - the Honours of Scotland (the crown jewels), the medieval canon Mons Meg and the Great Hall, the latter of which was where grand banquets and gatherings took place.

4.30pm: Princes Street Gardens

Ross Fountain And Castle

View Edinburgh Castle from a different angle with a stroll through Princes Street Gardens.

Lush and green, the spacious gardens are a joy to visit all year round. In spring, the ground become a sea of colourful daffodils. In the autumn months, brown and gold leaves blanket the area, while in the summer, the stunning Floral Clock is a gorgeous centrepiece.

5pm: Johnnie Walker Journey of Flavour Tour

JWPS Landscape Of Flavour

Since opening in autumn 2021, Johnnie Walker Princes Street has been wowing visitors with eight floors of immersive exploration through the 200-year old history behind the world’s best-selling Scotch whisky.

There really is something for everyone across the multi-room immersive tour, including personalised drinks, theatre and impressive light shows. Discover Scotland’s national drink like you’ve never seen it before.

7.30pm: Dinner in the Grassmarket

As daytime slides into evening, take a walk through the historic and bustling Grassmarket area. Here you’ll find a delightful mix of medieval architecture, stunning castle views and a great selection of restaurants and bars.

For casual, but tasty and authentic Mexican food you’ll find all the Tex-Mex favourites at Mariachi on Victoria Street. Showcasing the best of Scotland’s natural larder, you can’t go wrong with Howies or The Grain Store, while o'Oliviero serves up divine Italian dishes.

How about a post-dinner drink – you’ll be spoilt for choice! The Grassmarket is home to a fantastic selection of bars, some of which date back to the 18th century!

For more mouth-watering ideas, take a look at our Guide to Food & Drink in the Grassmarket >


9.30pm: Ghost Bus Tour

From history tours which unearth the secrets of Edinburgh to literary tours which shine a light on the city’s accolade as the world's first UNESCO City of Literature, Edinburgh abounds with tours for all interests and ages. Take a look at some of our top suggestions in our Guide to Edinburgh Tours >

If you’re looking for a true comedy-horror theatre experience on wheels, why not try The Ghost Bus Tour. This 1960’s double-decker bus (which incidentally used to be used for funerals) is captained by a creepy conductor who’ll have you in fits of giggles with quirky horror stories, all while travelling through Edinburgh’s historic streets.

11pm: Stramash

 Stramash From Stage

For live music and a welcoming atmosphere head to Stramash. Housed in a converted church, this massive bar has a huge stage with dance floor and a cosy bar and seating area downstairs.

Open until 3am daily, it showcases some of the best up-and-coming bands from Scotland and beyond. Perfect for dancing the night away!

Time for bed!

We hope you enjoyed your 24 hours in Edinburgh!

Do you have a highlight of your time in Scotland's capital? Follow us on on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share your must-sees using #ForeverEdinburgh