Official Guide to Edinburgh

Two day

A two-day tour of Edinburgh can be a real treat for anyone, but it’s tricky to know what to include and what to leave out when there are so many options.

Scottish Parliament Plus Crags

Never fear! We’ve designed an ideal two-day itinerary packed with everything from architecture to laughing, eating to trekking. It’s a busy two days, but we can guarantee this is one of the best ways to get around the city and make sure you’ve seen the best the city has to offer.

A two-day tour of Edinburgh can be a real treat for anyone, but it’s tricky to know what to include and what to leave out when there are so many options.

Never fear! We’ve designed an ideal two-day itinerary packed with everything from architecture to laughing, eating to trekking. It’s a busy two days, but we can guarantee this is one of the best ways to get around the city and make sure you’ve seen the best the city has to offer.

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!

Day 1: History and architecture

Welcome to your Two-Day Edinburgh Tour! We’re delighted to be your guides over the next 48 hours. As soon as you’ve had breakfast, make your way to Waverley Bridge and well meet you there!

Morning

Edinburgh Bus Tours

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Bus Tour Edinburgh City Sightseeing

Buying a hop-on-hop-off ticket for one of the bus tours is by far one of the best ways to see the city - and get around it. The brightly coloured tour buses all depart from Waverley Bridge, at the foot of the Scott Monument.

Bus tours are a great way to get to grips with the city’s layout, and you’ll learn lots of interesting facts as you pass the city’s buildings with the guided tour. Pick a route that takes your fancy - and fits with your schedule - and hop on! Keep hold of your ticket as it will come in handy for the rest of your Edinburgh sightseeing tour.

Of course, if the tour buses are a little too touristy for your liking, nip into the Lothian Buses office (also on Waverley Bridge). They’ll give you all the help you need to buy a day or family ticket so you can make your own way around.

Whatever you decide to do for your transport today, you’re making your way to the Scottish Parliament Building next, so keep an eye out for that stop, and we’ll see you there.

Scottish Parliament Building

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Scottish Parliament from Canongate

We’re visiting the parliament building in the morning because we like to play a game of MP spotting in the cafe before they head into their offices or the debating rooms.

If Parliament is in session, you can watch the goings-on from the public viewing gallery. And there’s an excellent guided tour which takes you around the building’s incredible architecture and history.

Palace of Holyrood House

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Holyrood House

The Scottish Parliament building is practically on the Queen’s doorstep so it would be rude not to stop and say hello!

Inside this beautiful building are exhibitions and displays that take you through Edinburgh’s rich royal history. Wander around the art exhibitions, curated from Buckingham Palace and learn the secrets of Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots. It’s tempting to spend a whole morning wandering around the grand halls, but there are other grand buildings in store for you.

Scott Monument

* May have Covid restrictions in place (if climbing to the top)

Scott Monument from the Gardens

Make your way back to the tour bus stops on Waverley Bridge and look up. You can’t help but see the iconic Scott Monument towering above you. We’re going to take you up that, today!

One of the world’s largest monuments dedicated to a writer, this 200ft tower is as jaw-dropping today as it was when it was built in 1846. Climb all 287 steps for a view across the city that almost rivals the beauty of the building itself.

Lunchtime!

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Ecco Vino

It’s time for a rest and some hearty grub. Let’s make our way across Waverley Bridge and up Cockburn Street where we’ll stop for some lunch.

You’ll never be stuck for something tasty to eat in this part of Edinburgh, but we know you’ll get some lovely bistro food and delicious wines in Ecco Vino, or if you fancy something a little more sunny, head to Laila’s Mediterranean Bistro.

Afternoon

Are you feeling refreshed and re-energised? Great! We’re going to head up onto the Royal Mile now for a spot of people watching. If you have time to explore, we encourage it. There are so many impressive buildings to admire, secret alleyways to explore. And there are usually street performers and little art and jewellery stalls to browse.

St. Giles’ Cathedral

* May have Covid restrictions in place

St Giles Cathedral

As architecture goes, this is a magnificent building. With crown spires, incredible stain glass windows and parts of the building dating the 1100s, you can’t fail to be impressed. Inside are memorials to around 200 distinguished Scots and you’ll also find Scotland’s chivalric company of Knights and the Chapel of The Order of the Thistle.

Entry is free, but check the St Giles website for opening times.

National Museum of Scotland

* May have Covid restrictions in place

National Museum of Scotland Atrium

The incredible National Museum of Scotland houses over 77,000 items in collections celebration Scotland’s culture, history, people and global connections. There’s no better way to explore Scottish primaeval age history to the present day.

Make your way up to the roof garden for 360 degree views across Edinburgh.

Can you spot the Scott Monument from up here?

Greyfriar’s Bobby

Greyfriars Bobby

There’s just enough time to grab a photograph with one of Edinburgh’s most famous residents. The statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby sits in the lovely Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, where the little Skye terrier once guarded his owners grave.

Of course, Bobby has been forever immortalised by Walt Disney and countless books and picture books, so this is a photo opp not to be missed.

Quick tip: rub his nose for luck!

We’ve got one more stop on today’s tour before we give you some time off! It’s a big one, so let’s hurry.

Edinburgh Castle

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Edinburgh Castle Gate

One of Edinburgh’s most instantly recognisable landmarks, Edinburgh Castle sits high above the city on the peak of an extinct volcano. You might be wondering why we’re here so late in the day. This is the best time to avoid long queues,, and there’s something magical about the light on the city at this time of day. Something you’ll definitely notice as you look over the castle walls to the city below.

This castle is an ancient stronghold and home to royalty for hundreds of years, including Queen Margaret, Mary Queen of Scots and James VI. If you’re short of time we recommend ticking the following off your list of ‘must-see’ items on display:

  • - The Crown Jewels
  • - Stone of Destiny
  • - Ancient Dungeons
  • - One o’clock Gun (which goes off at 1pm and will no doubt frighten the life out of you tomorrow at 1pm when you’re walking around Princes Street gardens! You’ve been warned)

Evening

Take some time to relax before we head out to dinner. We don’t know about you, but 40 winks and a hot shower seems like a great idea round about now!

Dinner & dancing at The Voodoo Rooms

* Booking recommended. May have Covid restrictions in place

Voodoo Rooms

Enjoy a relaxed, yet luxurious vibe in this well-loved, award winning Edinburgh hotspot. Relax before dinner with a few tempting cocktails (their mocktail list is pretty impressive, too). The interiors have a decadent feel and the food and service match the quality surroundings. After dinner, stay in the bar for tasty drinks and low-fi DJ music, or head into the main room to catch a band or DJ night.

Voodoo Rooms website

The night is young

What you choose to do next is up to you! The world is your oyster, so they say, and Edinburgh is never short of entertainment. If you fancy a pub crawl, there’s no better place to head than the Grassmarket area where you can’t walk for tripping over excellent pubs! For comedy and laughs, The Stand Comedy Club is a perfect option (make sure you book ahead). If clubbing into the wee small hours is your idea of heaven, then head to a local nightclub like Cabaret Voltaire ( Cab Vol as it’s known by the locals), The Liquid Rooms or the Bongo Club.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you get plenty of rest because Day Two of your Edinburgh tour is just around the corner!

Day 2: Outdoor pursuits and retail therapy

Good morning to you!

How are you feeling after your busy day yesterday? Hopefully, well-rested and well-fed because there’s lots of walking today, starting with a trek up to Edinburgh’s city-centre hill Arthur’s Seat.

We’ll make it easier for you by letting you cut a few corners. Phone a cab or an Uber and ask them to drop you off at Dunsapie Loch, which means the walk to the top will only take half-an-hour. Why make it harder than it needs to be?!

Morning

Arthur’s Seat

Arthurs Seat View

Not many cities can boast a huge hill slap back in the centre, but you’ll know by now that Edinburgh is not like any other city! Arthur’s Seat has long been the spot for Edinburgh locals to escape the noisy streets and find some sanctuary. Which is exactly why we think this is the best way for you to begin day 2 of your tour!

Climb your way to the summit of the 251m extinct volcano, and you’ll soon see why it’s one of Edinburgh’s most popular walking spots. If you’re early enough in the morning you might still catch the sunrise, but the view is incredible no matter where the sun sits in the sky today.

Head back down to Holyrood Park and back to Holyrood Road (where the Scottish Parliament building is) and wait for a tour bus to take you back up to Waverley Bridge. We’re going for a stroll through the city gardens, next!

Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens

If you're feeling weary from your hill walk, ease yourself into the Edinburgh pace of life with a gentle stroll around Princes Street Gardens which you’ll have seen yesterday from the lofty heights of the Scott Monument. The gardens spread from Waverley Bridge, to the foot of Edinburgh Castle in the west end. There are seasonal floral displays to enjoy and youll find lots of interesting memorials and statues that commemorate moments from Edinburgh’s distant and not-so-distant past.

If you like it here and want to rest awhile, a quick trip across Princes Street to the M&S food hall will give you all the picnic essentials you need to spend some time relaxing and soaking up the late morning sun.

If you have time to spare, spend a few moments wandering around the leafy churchyard of St Cuthbert’s at the very western end of the gardens. It's beautiful and peaceful and with benches to relax. It’s a great spot to rest your legs before the next stop.

National Galleries of Scotland

* May have Covid restrictions in place

National Galleries of Scotland

Now, this isn’t technically outdoor pursuits, but as you make your way around Princes Street Gardens, you won’t miss the National Galleries of Scotland buildings. So why not pop in and unwind in front of some impressive art?

Enjoy original artwork by old masters such as Da Vinci and Raphael and pre-eminent artists Monet and Constable. There are always larger themed exhibitions available - although there’s usually a cost for entry to these, whilst the main galleries are free entry.

Lunch and a wander around Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens

* May have Covid restrictions in place

Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh greenhouse

Head back to the bus stops on Waverley Bridge and catch the bus that takes you on the route to the Royal Botanic Gardens. After such a busy morning, we think you deserve a well-earned lunch before any more walking so your first port of call should be the Gateway Restaurant inside the Royal Botanics.

The restaurant is informal and friendly with indoor and outdoor seating, serving traditional and popular meals and snacks to whet your appetite.

Once you’re fully satisfied, spend some time wandering around the beautiful botanical gardens with free entry (apart from the glasshouse area). The Botanics have a huge range of plants and flowers which are always changing with the seasons. It’s a wonderful way to feel connected to nature in the middle of the city and an experience not to be missed.

Late Afternoon

Now the hard work really begins, as we head back to the city for a spot of retail therapy! Even if you don’t want to spend much time (or money) shopping, there’s still plenty of sightseeing to do in the shopping areas we’re taking you.

West End Village

West End

After the Botanics, jump off the bus at the West End of Princes Street where you’ll find a little hidden world tucked behind the main streets. Head onto the colourful, cobbled William Street and you’re immersed in the delightful West End Village, a picturesque haven of independent fashion boutiques, quirky gift shops and bright and funky accessory stores.

Jenners

* May have Covid restrictions in place

After topping up on unique trinkets and knick-knacks you might fancy something more familiar, so make your way onto Princes Street, which is Edinburgh’s main ‘high street’ shopping store (not to be confused with the Royal Mile, which IS Edinburgh’s High Street!).

Big-name shops and stores sit on Princes Street from Waterstone’s to Marks and Spencers, The Gap and H&M. If that kind of shopping isn’t on your list for today, it’s worth continuing on your way to Jenners, a traditional department store and an all-round wonderful, quirky building. It was founded in 1838 and was so glamorous it was named the ‘Harrod’s of the North’ - a title that earned it many famous and well known visitors, including royalty.

Today it is a listed building and stands proud on Princes Street, directly across from the railway station. Shopping in Jenners provides an upmarket shopping experience selling everything from fine fragrance to high fashion and has an impressive food hall selling ingredients from around the world.

Multrees Walk & Dinner in Harvey Nicholls

* Booking for dinner recommended. May have Covid restrictions in place

Women shopping on Multrees Walk

Last stop on your whistle stop shopping tour is the wonderfully named Multrees Walk. It’s tucked to the side of St Andrew Square and hosts some of the world’s best known luxury labels like Mulberry, Armani and Louis Vuitton.

It’s also home to Scotland’s only Harvey Nichols department store with five floors of luxury shopping supporting the latest trends in clothing, accessories, beauty products and everything else in between.

You’ll be thrilled to know it also features a restaurant, brasserie, bar and roof terrace, the perfect place to drop your bags and relax with a cocktail or two and a delicious meal while overlooking the city views.

Time to rest?

We’ve worked you hard today. Your poor feet must be feeling the pinch, so what do you feel like doing this evening?

We’ve planned a few low key activities (seated!) where you can kick back but if you’ve still got lots of energy left, pick back up on any of the evening recommendations from yesterday’s itinerary. Did you make your way around all 3 nightclubs?

Relaxed evening entertainment

* Booking recommended. May have Covid restrictions in place

Edinburgh Playhouse

We’re certainly exhausted, so you must be too! So if you’re not sated by all that Edinburgh has to offer, but you’re keen for no more walking, then we’ve got you covered.

Book a ticket to see a theatre performance in one of the many theatre houses in the city. The Playhouse is the largest working theatre in the UK and hosts many musicals and touring shows. The Traverse highlights some of the best in new theatre writing and the Usher Hall is the place to go for some classical music.

If new and groundbreaking cinema is more your cup of tea, then head to the Filmhouse cinema, the epicentre of Edinburgh’s International Film Festival and features new releases in world cinema, independent films and the latest award winning documentaries.

One final view of the city, before we say goodnight.

Scotsman Hotel at night

However you choose to finish off your 2 Day Edinburgh Tour, one final view of the city is a must. Take a walk up the North Bridge where you’ll see the twinkling lights of the city all around, as well as most of the city’s most stunning buildings and landmarks. The Balmoral Hotel sits in front of Arthur’s Seat; the Scott Monument seems to sit shoulder to shoulder with Edinburgh Castle. It’s a beautiful spot to take in the city one last time before you make your way to bed and a much-deserved good night’s sleep.

What next?

Thank you so much for joining us on our Two Days in Edinburgh itinerary. You’ve been excellent company, and we can’t wait to welcome you back to another of our itineraries.

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