Please note this itinerary includes both free and ticketed activities - check individual websites for entry fees.
Edinburgh Bus Tour
The foot of the Scott Monument, on Waverley Bridge, is the departure point for the many Edinburgh Bus Tours (website). A guided bus tour is a great way to see some of the best places to visit and learn about the city’s main tourist attractions. Be sure to hold on to your ticket as some of the tours offer a hop and hop off service if there’s a particular area you wish to spend some more time in. As an alternative, Lothian Buses offer all-day tickets for single or family use.
The bus tour swings in past Holyrood, home to the Scottish Parliament. Why not alight here and take a moment to view its modern architecture. You can enjoy a free guided tour or, if Parliament is in session, you can observe proceedings from the public gallery.
Hop back on the bus and return to your original departure point. One of Edinburgh’s most famous landmarks in the heart of Princes Street, the Scott Monument (website) was constructed in 1846 to commemorate Edinburgh born writer Sir Walter Scott, renowned for his historical novels. Rising sharply, the views from its summit overlooking the capital and surrounding countryside are tremendous and well worth the climb – albeit, not for the faint hearted. At 200ft, there are 287 steps to be climbed.
St Giles' Cathedral
Open all year round, this magnificent crown-spired cathedral on the High Street contains memorials to around 200 distinguished Scots, as well as some incredible stained glass windows. Parts of the structure date back to the 12thcentury and you’ll also find Scotland’s chivalric company of Knights, the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, located here too. You can enjoy a welcome rest and light bite in the Cathedral’s café. Entry is free, find out more information on their website.
National Museum of Scotland
The superb National Museum of Scotland (website) houses collections celebrating the nation’s culture, history and people. It’s a great way to explore Scottish history, from the primeval age right up to the modern era, and the 360 degree views of Edinburgh from the roof garden are spectacular. General entry is free although some special exhibitions may have a charge.
Directly across the road from the National Museum, you’ll find a small statue commemorating one of Edinburgh’s best loved residents – a little Skye terrier known as Greyfriars Bobby. Made famous by numerous books and a Disney film, Bobby faithfully guarded over his owners grave in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard for fourteen years. There’s just time for a quick photo with Bobby before the next stop on today’s schedule...
Edinburgh’s most popular and famous attraction, Edinburgh Castle (website), dominates the city skyline from the peak of an extinct volcano. An ancient stronghold, it has been home to royalty for hundreds of years including Queen Margaret, Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. A must for visitors are the Crown Jewels, Stone of Destiny and an opportunity to explore the castle’s ancient dungeons. Crowds gather at 1pm for the shooting of the One o'clock Gun, a tradition dating back to 1861 and takes place every day except Sundays.
Try and get tickets for one of the country’s most iconic comedy clubs – The Stand (website). All the top jokers on the circuit have stood behind the microphone here, and with shows every night of the week, you could be chuckling away to comedy legends or catching the next big thing.
Home to some of Edinburgh’s trendiest, shops, bars and restaurants, George Street is the perfect spot to indulge in some retail therapy and catch up with friends for drinks, dinner or a light bite. Spoiled for choice, why not create your own cocktail in the stylish surroundings of Tempus Bar at the George Hotel, Tigerlily (pictured above), Le Monde, The Dome or Harvey Nichols Forth Floor Bar to name but a few.
Party into the wee small hours at Cabaret Voltaire (website), or Cab Vol as its more commonly known. Home to big name DJs and underground cult favourites, it’s one of the city’s most popular night spots. Straddling two floors, this is a cosy cavern with nooks and crannies situated in Blair Street, with a musical programme featuring the best of underground music, open 7 nights a week.
With amazing views to start your day set off early to enjoy the spectacular vistas from Arthur’s Seat. For walkers, this 251m high extinct volcanic summit is an easy 30 minute climb from Dunsapie Loch but can be accessed by bike or car for a quick circuit around the steep hillside. A superb location to watch the sun rise but be sure to wrap up warm to make the most of this experience.
Princes Street Gardens
After your early morning exertions, ease yourself back into the pace in with a gentle stroll in Princes Street Gardens. Resting at the foot of Edinburgh Castle this splendid public park divides the Old and the New Town. Take your time and explore the gardens with their seasonal floral displays, monuments and statues. A welcome place to relax and play, it is a hive of activity in the warm Summer months where you can bring a picnic, lie in the sunshine with your favourite book or enjoy a snack or refreshing drink from the outdoor café.
National Galleries of Scotland
The National Galleries of Scotland (website) reside at the foot of the The Mound. Comprising the Royal Scottish Academy building and the National Gallery of Scotland these majestic neo-classical buildings were designed by William Henry Playfair. Home to the art works of many old masters they feature Titian, Da Vinci, Raphael and Vermeer, as well as other pre-eminent artists such as Monet, Degas, Constable, Turner and Cezanne. Open daily, entry is free and exhibitions and events are held on a regular basis. For art enthusiasts why not pay visit to the other three galleries which make up the NGS - the Dean Gallery and Gallery of Modern Art in the West End, and the National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Spend the rest of the morning having a leisurely wander around the beautiful Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (website). It's free to enter, although there is a small charge for the Glasshouses (pictured above) and donations are always appreciated. The Botanics have a huge range of plants and flowers, ever changing throughout the year so no two visits are ever quite the same. You could spend an entire day soaking up the relaxing surroundings, but try and tear yourself away to explore more of the city centre in the afternoon...
How about indulging in a spot of retail therapy this afternoon? Start your shopping spree in the city’s most famous department store, Jenners. Founded in 1838 and situated across from the Scott Monument, it provides an upmarket shopping experience selling a wide variety of goods from fine fragrances to high fashion and even has an impressive food hall.
Tucked to the side of St Andrew Square, Multrees Walk plays host to top labels, including Mulberry, Armani and Louis Vuitton. It’s also home to Scotland’s only Harvey Nichols store featuring five floors of luxury supporting the latest trends in clothing, accessories, beauty products, not to mention a food and wine store filled with decadent treats. Boasting a restaurant, brasserie, bar and roof terrace you can take a rest from shopping and relax with a glass of wine or light meal overlooking the square.
West End Village
At the West end of Princes Street, centred around the colourful, cobbled William Street, lies the West End Village – a picturesque haven of individual boutiques, quirky accessory stores, and unique gift shops. Only a few minutes’ walk from the city centre, but away from the hustle and bustle, it’s destination shopping at its best.
The world-famous Fringe and International Festivals might take place in August, but there are great performances taking place in Edinburgh all year round. Get a flavour of the festival experience and take a trip to one of Edinburgh’s many theatres. There’s a host of dedicated venues, including the Playhouse, the largest working theatre in the UK, and the Traverse, which showcases the best new writing, not forgetting the Kings Theatre and Usher Hall.
LATE Night Drinks
There are plenty of bars in the vicinity of the Grassmarket to choose from, but two standouts are the hip and trendy Under the Stairs and the award-winning, super-cool Epicurean Bar and North Bridge .
Before turning in for the evening, from a vantage point on the North Bridge, enjoy the city in lights with stunning views of some of the sites you have visited today. Beautifully lit up, enjoy the views of the Old and New Town and views of Edinburgh Castle, Jenners, the Scott Monument, and the National Galleries complex.