One Day Tour of Edinburgh

The best way to spend a day in 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.

A note about pre-planning: Some of the suggestions here may require a little pre-planning (such as buying tickets for a show or booking a table for food). 

Your 24 Hours in Edinburgh

7am: Arthur’s Seat for Sunrise

Arthurs Seat Holyrood Park

The tour begins with a trek up Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s 251m high hill - slap bang in the city centre! Our advice is to wrap up warm and plan ahead with a packed-breakfast you can tuck into when you reach the top. The sunrise here is indeed 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 of this extinct volcano, but we’ll make it easy (and quicker) for you with this hint: take a taxi to Dunsapie Loch which gives you just 30 minutes of easy climbing to get to the top. 

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 a energy-boosting bowl of porridge, scrambled eggs and smoked salmon or the full belly-busting works.

10am: Explore the Scottish Parliament

Scottish Parliament from Canongate

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

The branch-shaped design of this building at the foot of the Royal Mile takes inspiration from Scotland’s architecture and its landscape and was opened by 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 architecture.

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 see the spot where her private secretary, David Rizzio, was brutally murdered. 

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 haggis, neeps & tatties.

2pm: The Royal Mile

St Giles Cathedral Crop

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

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 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.

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. And no wonder! It towers 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!

People have been living and working on this spot since the Iron Age so it’s fascinating to walk around the exhibitions and galleries and peek out of the windows imagining how the views have changed over the centuries.

4.30pm: Princes Street Gardens

Ross Fountain And Castle

While in this part of town, take a stroll through Princes Street Gardens, resting in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, on the south side of Princes Street. The gardens are home to some beautiful floral displays, like the stunning Floral Clock, which has a different theme every year. 

Lush and green, the garden has plenty of benches to take a breather and simply watch the world go by.

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

El Toro Loco

As daytime slides into evening, we can hear your tummy rumbling so let’s move on and get some dinner!

Take a walk through the historic and bustling Grassmarket area and you’ll find a delightful mix of medieval architecture, stunning castle views, lively bars, a great selection of restaurants and a delightful mix of gift, fashion & homeware shops.  

For casual, but tasty and authentic Mexican food, El Toro Loco serve unfussy street within a cosy interior - they also have a great choice of Mexican beers and delicious margaritas. You’ll also find all the Tex-Mex favourites at Mariachi on Victoria Street.

As with lunch, we can guarantee that you won’t be stuck for dinner options in this glorious city. Edinburgh is a foodie lover’s dream with hundreds of incredible restaurants in walking distance from Edinburgh Castle. From Michelin star fine dining to delicious, speedy street food you certainly won’t go hungry. For inspiration, have a look at our Guide to Food & Drink in Edinburgh > 

9.30pm: Ghost Bus Tour

As you’ll have noticed, there are a lot of tours in Edinburgh with themes to suit every interest and age. 

For a true comedy-horror theatre experience on wheels, why not try The Ghost Bus Tour. Strap yourself into your seat in this 1960’s black double-decker bus (which incidentally used to be used for funerals) and you’ll soon find yourself in fits of giggles as the creepy conductor treats you to some quirky horror stories, all while travelling through Edinburgh’s historic streets.

11pm: Stramash

 Stramash From Stage

For soaring acoustics, 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.

What next?

Well done! You made it to the end of our 24 hours in Edinburgh itinerary. How did you find it? By now you’ll be keen to get home to bed, so we won’t keep you up any longer.

Thank you so much for joining us on our One Day Tour of Edinburgh itinerary. You’ve been excellent company, and we can’t wait to welcome you back on another tour, soon.