One day

The best way to spend a day in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle Twilight

One day in Edinburgh is a great thing, indeed. So, if you’ve 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 Edinburgh which takes you through the highs and lows of our Capital. It’s a mile a minute tour, so don't forget to stop for breaks (and lovely food) to rest and enjoy your day.

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). We’ve highlighted these so you can make sure the tour goes smoothly. Due to current Covid regulations, some activities might be affected, so we advise checking ahead with the venues to make sure you can visit. Have fun!

Arthurs Seat View

Let’s begin our whistle-stop one-day Edinburgh tour! We’re so glad you chose us to guide you through this beautiful city.

It’s an early start, but trust us, you’ll see Edinburgh at its very best throughout this tour. We’ve got everything covered from dawn till dusk, and we’ve even built in some fab ideas for breaks and meals to make sure you keep your energy up so you can enjoy this perfect day!

Your 24 Hours in Edinburgh

7 am: Arthur’s Seat for Sunrise

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; a sky so expansive you can’t help but feel happy.

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. It’s an unforgettable way to start the day, and one you won’t regret.

9am Breakfast at the Scottish Parliament

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Scottish Parliament from Canongate

Welcome to the seat of power in Scotland! Holyrood is home to the Scottish Parliament, and despite the controversy around the escalating costs of the parliament building at Holyrood, nobody can deny the stunning architecture on show here.

Start your visit with a delicious breakfast in the Parliament cafe where you can enjoy your well-earned fare while MP spotting!

If parliament is sitting on the day you visit, you can watch events unfold in the public gallery viewing chamber, but if not, you can book into a guided tour of the building where you’ll learn more about the building and the political goings-on.

Scottish Parliament website

10.30am Scott Monument

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Scott Monument from the Gardens

Make your way to the Scott Monument via a stroll up Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile which shouldn’t be too busy at this time of day. There are lots of lovely boutiques and independent shops along here, so if you have time to pop in and look around, you should. Don’t spend too long in the shops, though - you’ve got a lot to pack in today!

Let’s get to the top of Edinburgh again, for a completely different panoramic view of the city! Take a few deep breaths and let’s get climbing to the top of Edinburgh’s iconic Scott Monument. 287 steps (yes, we counted) later and you’ll find yourself 200 feet above the City of Edinburgh, and what a view it is! There is no other view quite like this one in Edinburgh, and it’s well worth the hike.

Built to honour one of Edinburgh’s most famous writers, Sir Walter Scott, this monument is one of the world’s biggest monuments to honour a writer. Bill Bryson recently compared it to a ‘gothic rocket ship’, and it’s easy to see why, as it stretches far into the sky above you as you walk towards it.

The view from the Scott Monument is just one of the incredible views we’re rewarding you with today, so don’t forget your camera!

11.30am: Princes Street Gardens

While in this part of town, take a stroll through Princes Street Gardens. It rests in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, on the south side of Princes Street. As you stroll, you’ll discover some beautiful floral displays, like the stunning Floral Clock, which has a different theme every year. There’s also time to discover the variety of statues scattered throughout the park.

Edinburgh’s history and heritage are documented in statue form throughout Princes Street Gardens, from the poignant Lulla-Bye Baby Memorial Elephant, through the glorious Ross Fountain and on to the wonderful tale of San Diego’s Bum the Dog.

If you’ve skipped breakfast, or it’s chilly, grab a hot drink and a warm breakfast roll from the cafe in the gardens and enjoy your stroll. But don’t take too long - there’s a whole day waiting!

12pm: National Galleries of Scotland

* May have Covid restrictions in place

National Galleries of Scotland

As you make your way around the Gardens, you’ll spot the impressive National Galleries complex, made up of two magnificent buildings - the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery of Scotland. Entry is free (unless you want to see one of the touring exhibitions) and feature artwork from many of the old masters including Titian, Da Vinci, Raphael and Vermeer, and other pre-eminent artists such as Monet, Degas, Constable, Turner and Cezanne.

The complex includes public toilets, gift shops and a lovely restaurant and cafe so plenty of opportunities to sit and relax as well as hunt out.

National Galleries website

1.30pm Lunch at the Elephant House

* Booking recommended to make sure you get a seat! May have Covid restrictions in place

The Elephant House

One thing Edinburgh is not short of is cafes, bars and restaurants. But If you haven’t stopped off anywhere en-route to grab a take away lunch, grabbing a table and a bite to eat at this Edinburgh institution is highly recommended. Well known as the cafe JK Rowling worked on her first Harry Potter novels you can soak up some of the same creative inspiration as you people-watch from the street window tables, or admire Edinburgh Castle’s views in the back of the cafe.

The Elephant House website

2.30pm Greyfriar’s Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

[Image by Patrick Stapleton]

Along the road from the Elephant House and up, a small cobbled alley sits the atmospheric Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. This is where you’ll find the little statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby, the little Skye terrier who faithfully watched over his owner’s grave for 14 years in this very kirkyard. You might have to queue for a photo, but snatch one if you can. He’s got to be one of Edinburgh’s most well-known characters, immortalised forever in statue form. He even has his own Disney film!

3pm The National Museum of Scotland

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Directly across the road from Greyfriars Bobby sits the majestic National Museum of Scotland, a treasure trove of exhibitions and collections celebrating the nation’s culture, history, heritage and people. You can explore Scottish history from the primaeval ages right through to the present day. Artefacts including the Millennium clock tower, Dolly the Sheep, the Lewis Chessmen, the Muonionalusta Meteorite and dinosaur skeletons are on display, along with 77,000 other items.

An hour or so may not be enough to get around everything you want to see, but entry is free, so you can always pop back another time (or skip the next part of the tour and catch up later).

National Museum of Scotland website

5pm Edinburgh Castle

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Edinburgh Castle Gate

Head down George IV Bridge and up the Royal Mile’s top end to spend the final hours of daylight in the impressive Edinburgh Castle. You’ve got till 6pm to wander around, but at this time of the day there are much fewer queues, and you should get around quickly.

As well as being one of Edinburgh’s most visited spots by tourists, 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.

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

Edinburgh Castle website

7pm: Dinner at the Dome

* Table reservations recommended. May have Covid restrictions in place

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.

But remember, this is a tour to delight and impress, so why not eat in a building that cannot fail to do both? The Dome, built in the 1700s is a jaw-dropping former Physicians Hall in George Street. It’s both impressive and decadent with a menu and range of cocktails to match the surroundings.

If you have time to nip into a couple of bars on George Street to enjoy a post-dinner tipple, we advise it, because you’re going to need a brave face for our next stop!

The Dome website

9pm: Option 1: Hidden and Haunted tour

* Pre-booking advised. May have Covid restrictions in place

Mercat Tours Blair Street Underground Valuts

Jump in a cab and make your way back to the Royal Mile. As you’ll have noticed, there are a lot of tours in Edinburgh with themes to suit every interest and age. As walking tours go, there’s nothing quite like the night time to enjoy a tour that scares the absolute bejabbers out of you.

Wander around the Royal Mile at night, and you’ll find a few dressed up characters offering their tour, but our favourite is the Hidden & Haunted tour, hosted by Mercat Tours. Coined as a short, sharp shock around Edinburgh’s darker side you’ll learn about the characters that frequented the dingy streets and secret vaults. Over 18s only and not for the faint-hearted.

Mercat Tours website

9pm: Option 2: The Filmhouse

* Pre-booking advised. May have Covid restrictions in place

If you’ve had enough of wandering around for now, or you don’t fancy the darker side of Edinburgh’s past after a lovely dinner then hop in a cab and make your way to Lothian Road. Home to Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema. This cinema has been at the heart of the Edinburgh film scene for over 40 years. It is the Edinburgh International Film Festival’s central hub, so there’s often events taking place beyond traditional film showing.

This is where you can catch a newly released arthouse, indie, documentary or world movie in comfortable, peaceful surroundings. And the cafe and restaurant is a great place to relax, and people watch. Take note; it might be one of the last times you watch a film in this building. The trust has been awarded funding to build a larger complex, to better accommodate the Edinburgh Film Festival, the Scottish film industry and everyday cinema-goers.

The Filmhouse website

10.30pm Drinks and Dancing at The Voodoo Rooms

* Table reservations recommended. May have Covid restrictions in place

Voodoo Rooms

Getting back into the glitz and glamour that you so rightly deserve, make your way to the decadent Voodoo Rooms which is tucked away behind Princes Street. This is not your average sweaty dance venue, but instead home to a calmer, more low-key, yet sophisticated, party vibe. There are two bars, both serving incredible cocktails and high-class versions of your favourite tipple and there’s always excellent DJs or bands playing so you can dance your socks off, or kick back and enjoy the atmosphere.

Voodoo Rooms website

12.30am North Bridge sustenance

If you’re still on your feet (and in need of a refuel), then make your way to the North Bridge for your final incredible view of the day. This is one of Edinburgh’s most impressive vantage points, with the bright city lights all around. There’s something about Edinburgh night time that makes the already remarkable architecture shine, and from the North Bridge, you can see two fine examples in the Scotsman and Balmoral hotels.

From here you’ll be able to point to all of the landmarks you visited earlier in the day - can you spot them all?

After one last photo opp, make your way further up North Bridge where you’ll find a vast amount of takeaways serving everything from chips ‘n’ cheese, pizza, kebabs, falafels and everything in between.

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.

As promised we’ve taken you through the highs and lows of Edinburgh’s rich scenery and history, and if you’re hanging around for more - check out our two-day itinerary to discover even more of this fabulous city.

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.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, head to our Edinburgh Itinerary page and join us on another adventure soon.