If you are thinking about spending 2 days in Edinburgh Scotland, you’ll want to check out this two-day itinerary to help you make the most of your quick trip to the Scottish capital.
48 hours in Edinburgh is enough time to explore the downtown, see lots of historical sites, eat some seriously delicious food, and sample a few local tipples as well. No trip to Edinburgh is complete without sampling at least a little bit of whisky!
This Edinburgh itinerary will cover the top things to do in Edinburgh, how to get in and out of the city, the best way to get around Edinburgh, the best hotels and lodges in Edinburgh, and great places to eat and drink.
When a particular place is linked in this article, it will take you to its location on Google Maps. I use Google Maps a ton when I am exploring a new-to-me city so that I can open it up and navigate by foot to the next place on my list.
It allows you to see how far you are from the nearest cool cafe, bar, or museum without much effort. Once you click the link and open the location, you simply click “save” and you can bookmark that spot as a place of interest.
Getting to Edinburgh
If you are arriving in Edinburgh by car, the best thing to do is to enter the name of your hotel into the Waze app. I find this to be a much better app for driving directions than Google Maps.
Waze will also tell you where the nearest parking areas are and it will even save your information as to where you parked in case you forget the next morning!
If you are arriving by train, you will likely come into the main station, Edinburgh Waverley Station. If you are staying near Princes Street or the Royal Mile, you are within about a 10-minute walk to most places from the train station.
If you aren’t familiar with the UK train network, it’s always best to book your trains in advance. Prices change as you get closer to the date of the train (sometimes by A LOT). Check train times and schedules and prebook your tickets with Trainline here.
If you aren’t sure how far your hotel is from there, there are taxis outside of the entrance to the station or you can order an Uber.
The Edinburgh bus station is a bit further out of the way, so unless you are staying close to the east side of Princes Street or the National Portrait Gallery, you will likely want to hop on the bus or grab an Uber to get to your hotel.
Getting Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh has, in my opinion, one of the best public transportation networks in the UK.
Almost all of the city buses are with the same company, Lothian Buses.
I highly recommend downloading the Lothian Buses app here. This allows you to input exactly where you want to go. The app uses GPS to know where you are, and it tells you exactly which bus stop to walk to, which bus to take, and what stop to get off at so that you can get to where you want to go.
You can pay for your ticket on the bus. I highly recommend using Apple Pay or Google Pay to scan on all of the buses because the system recognizes your device and if you plan to take the bus several times a day, you will actually save more than if you bought a single-day ticket. It’s called the tap-tap-cap and you can read more about it here.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
There are so many amazing hotels and Airbnb options around Edinburgh.
Since you are only planning 2 days in Edinburgh, I highly recommend staying as centrally as possible so that you can pretty much walk everywhere. The center of Edinburgh is very compact, so you can see a lot in two days if you are well-located.
Some of my favorite hotels in the Princes Street area are:
- Native Edinburgh: These services apartments are absolutely stunning both inside and out. Located on a quiet residential street less than a five-minute walk from Princes Street, this is one of my favorite areas of central Edinburgh. The staff here are incredibly friendly, the apartments are stylish, modern, and full of natural light. There are studios, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom apartments with sofa beds for extra people. Apartments start as low as $80 USD or about £60. Book a stay at Native Edinburgh here.
- Rabble: This is a stunning boutique hotel located a few minutes walk from Princes Street, close to the great pubs on Georges Street, and yet still in a wonderfully quiet spot. The bar and restaurant downstairs are worth visiting even if you don’t stay here, but if you do, you can enjoy as many of their decadent cocktails as you’d like before crawling to bed when you’re ready. Rooms start at $90 USD or about £60. Book a stay at Rabble here.
- Kimpton Charlotte Square: You can never go wrong with a Kimpton Hotel. This is definitely one of the more upmarket hotels in this part of town, but if you book far enough in advance, you can still get a fantastic deal on their stylish rooms. Most rooms have modern claw-foot bathtubs. There is a lap pool, a gym, and a breakfast room that feels like an Alice and Wonderland tea room. Rooms start at $215 USD or about £160. Book a stay at the Kimpton Charlotte Square here.
Some of the best options near the castle and Royal Mile are:
- Grassmarket Hotel: One of the most affordable hotels in all of Edinburgh, this is a great hotel for friends that are traveling together or couples who want to save their money to use at the whisky tastings. Despite their lower price tag, the rooms are still clean, comfortable, and stylish. There are single rooms, double rooms, triple rooms, and quadruple rooms. It’s located in the cool Grassmarket neighborhood surrounded by great pubs, seriously good restaurants, and beautiful old architecture. You’ll also be less than a five-minute walk to the Edinburgh castle. Rooms start at $65 USD or about £48. Book a stay at Grassmarket Hotel here.
- Kick Ass Greyfriars: This adult-only hostel is the best place to stay in Edinburgh if you are looking to meet other travelers or are on a tight budget, but still want to explore this cool (and expensive) city. They have a game room, a great bar, and helpful front desk staff who can offer tips for enjoying the city on a budget. They have single and double rooms as well as dorm rooms of four, six, eight, and then 30 beds! You can get a bed for as little as £9 or about $12 USD. Book a bed at Kick Ass Greyfriars here.
- The Scotsman Hotel: On the other end of the spectrum to dorm beds is the Scotsman. This is about as luxurious as you get in this part of the city and you can feel like one of the royals may have felt in the nearby castle at the end of a day of exploring. It’s located steps from the Royal Mile and a few minutes walk from the Waverley train station. It’s in a stunning historical building and the rooms are designed in keeping with the style of the building while still somehow making them feel modern and comfortable. Rooms start at $160 USD or about £120. Book a stay at The Scotsman Hotel here.
Edinburgh 2 Day Itinerary
Now that you know where you’re going, how you’ll get there, and the best places to stay in Edinburgh, it’s time to plan how you’ll fill your two days in Edinburgh.
There are so many things to do in Edinburgh, even more, if you are traveling with kids, but if you are only in the city for two days, you will have to make some decisions about what is most important to you and how much you want to pack into a single day.
Day One of 2 Days in Edinburgh Morning
I always think it’s a good idea when exploring a city over two days, to break it into two regions. On day one, I suggest starting with the “new” side of the city around Princes Street.
However, if you are staying in the old town near the castle, you can swap this two-day Edinburgh itinerary around and do this on day two instead.
No day can start without a good coffee and a delicious breakfast. For me, it doesn’t get better than The Pantry.
The Pantry is brewing up some of the best coffee in Edinburgh and they also have an amazing breakfast and brunch menu. They source most of their meat and produce locally and everything on the menu is cooked from scratch, including the seriously good sourdough bread your eggs come on.
If this is your first trip to Scotland, be sure to try the Pantry Fry with haggis! They also have a nice selection of both vegetarian and vegan options on the menu.
While you’re in this neighborhood, book lovers should not miss out on a trip to Golden Hare Books. This is without question or exaggeration, the best book store I have ever been inside. You don’t come here with a specific book in mind that you want to buy. You come here to find books and authors that you have likely never heard of but will be the best books you’ve read all year.
After breakfast, take a stroll along the Water of Leith until you get to Dean Village. This little village will make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Scottish fairytale with buildings dating back to the early 19th century. It’s a popular “Instagram photo stop,” but for good reason, it’s a stunning part of town and feels a world away from the hustle and bustle of the downtown.
From here, you’re a short walk from the beautiful architecture of George Street and the National Portrait Gallery.
The Scottish National Portrait Gallery: The name sort of explains what you’ll find inside this museum, but it doesn’t prepare you for how stunning the actual interior of this building is. The portraits are interesting and if you want to learn a little bit more about the history of Scotland, this is a good place to do it, but the interior of this building truly took my breath away with its gilded walls and intricate murals.
You can read more about the Portrait Gallery on their website.
Lunchtime Day One of 2 Day Edinburgh Itinerary
If you had a big breakfast at The Pantry, then you may not be hungry for another big meal until later in the day.
If you just want a fantastic sandwich and bowl of soup, I cannot recommend fed! Sandwich Bar enough. They make the perfect-sized sandwiches for a midday meal and their soups are homemade each day and utterly delicious on a chilly, cloudy day, which is most days in Scotland!
It’s also one of the most affordable meals you can have in the city. They have tables inside, but if it’s a nice day, you can take it to go and take it with you to the next stop of the day!
If you only had a small breakfast and are hoping for something more filling and something local, then you can’t beat a meal at Howies. I highly recommend making a reservation here, especially if your two days in Edinburgh are on a weekend. This place fills up fast, and for good reason, the food here is exceptional.
Be sure to try their haggis, it’s one of their specialties and it just may convince you that you like haggis after all!
Afternoon Day One in Edinburgh
Whether you grabbed a sandwich from fed! or you are having a nice meal at Howie’s, you are close to one of the best things to do in Edinburgh; Calton Hill.
Calton Hill is a neighborhood as well as an actual hill to visit.
Start by heading to the top of the hill where you’ll get incredible views back over the city, to the castle, and from the other side, Leith and the port of Edinburgh that leads out to the North Sea.
At the top of the hill, you can visit the National Monument of Scotland which commemorates soldiers and sailors from Scotland who fought and died during the Napoleonic Wars. There is a tall pillar which is the Nelson Monument and there is a museum up here worth checking out called the Collective Art Gallery.
From here you can walk towards the home of the Scottish government. The building is quite grand and isn’t far from what I believe is the most beautiful building in Edinburgh, The Palace of Holyroodhouse.
If you’re a bit of a slow walker, I would recommend coming to Holyroodhouse before going to Calton Hill because it is only open until 4:30 pm most days. Depending on the time of year, it means you can visit the inside of this incredible palace and then watch the sunset from the top of Calton Hill.
The Evening of Day One Edinburgh Itinerary
No trip to the UK would be complete without a trip to a good pub. If you are from the UK and are used to great pubs, then you’ll be happy to hear there is no shortage of them around Edinburgh.
- The Queens Arms: This is my personal favorite for good drinks, good food, and a great atmosphere. It is busy almost all day long with people popping in for a single pint or groups having an evening session. The food here is exceptional with pub staples like pies, fish and chips, and seriously great Sunday roasts. Their burgers are close-your-eyes-with-each-bite good and they have a nice beer selection.
- The Black Cat: If you’re visiting on a warm summer day, this pub is perfect for those long Scottish days when you can have a beer outside in the sunshine until after 9 pm. They make excellent sangria during the summer, but it’s a great spot to cozy up in on a colder winter night inside as well.
- The Bon Vivant: This is the spot to head if you prefer cocktails over pints of beer and you want some of the best pub grub in the city. This isn’t your average pie and mash, this is modern British cooking done right and that won’t totally break the bank (compared to other places in Edinburgh at least).
- Fierce Beer: Beer lovers can’t miss a few drinks at Fiere Beer. This is the home of Scottish craft beer in this part of the city and where you can sample what some of the local brewers are creating throughout the year. They also serve up a killer burger.
This list could be 50 pubs long. If you find that any of the above are too busy or too quiet on a given night, simply walk around this area of the city and you will find a dozen more places that are just as fantastic as these.
Day Two Morning of Your Edinburgh Itinerary
It’s time to explore the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh Castle, and taste some Whisky, don’t you think?
Day Two should start with another great cup of coffee. If you are staying near Princes Street, take a walk over to Cairngorm Coffee or Fortitude Coffee depending on which is closer to you. They both serve up a fantastic flat white.
Then make the walk over to the Royal Mile. I would recommend starting your day with the castle because it won’t be quite as busy and you want to have all your energy to walk around this incredible place.
It is highly recommended that you book your ticket for Edinburgh Castle at least a few days in advance. Tickets cost £15.50 or about $20 USD if you book them in advance. However, there are a lot of different group and family tickets that may save you some money if you are traveling with children.
You can easily spend two hours exploring the inside of the castle. There’s the Great Hall, St. Mary’s Chapel, the armory, and more. There’s so much to see inside the castle, the website offers you some itinerary ideas to follow depending on how much time you have.
Other spots along the Royal Mile that you don’t want to miss include St. Giles’ Cathedral and Lawnmarket, where you can see signs and stocks from the days when people used to be publicly hung right there.
Lunchtime for Day Two in Edinburgh
There are so many great places to eat around this part of Edinburgh. I would recommend avoiding anywhere on the Royal Mile simply because it is the most touristy street in the entire city and the prices are high and the quality doesn’t usually match.
However, a short walk in any direction off of the main street will take you to tons of great little spots. One of my favorites for a quick but delicious lunch is Oink – Victoria Street.
Victoria Street should be on your list of places to walk around while you’re in the Old Town, and this is the perfect place to stop for lunch. Oink specializes in hog roast. In fact, that’s all they do.
They cook up an entire hog each day and sell sandwiches of all sizes until they run out. They make small, medium, and very large sandwiches fill with this juicy pork meat, a few pieces of crackling, a stuffing of your choice, and then one of their awesome housemade sauces. I highly recommend trying it with haggis as your stuffing, however, their sage and onion stuffing is also outstanding.
Afternoon Exploring Edinburgh for Two Days
Depending on the weather in Edinburgh during your trip you may want to head inside out of the rain/snow/cold. If that’s the case, I highly recommend checking out one or more of these museums in the Old Town and getting to know about Scotland’s past and present.
- Scottish National Gallery: This is the city’s best art museum and home to both Scottish and European paintings and sculptures. Housed in a stunning old building near the castle, it’s worth it just to walk around the inside of this historical building.
- National Museum of Scotland: This museum is a huge collection of historical artifacts from around both Scotland and the world. It has a natural history section, a history of Scotland area, and more modern exhibits like fashion across the ages.
- Museum of Edinburgh: If you want to learn more about the specific history of Edinburgh and the role it has played in Scottish and British history, this is a fantastic museum to visit.
If the weather is good, or at least, pleasant enough to be outside, I highly recommend hopping on the bus to St. Margaret’s Wall. If you have a car, you can park in this parking lot on the other side of the hill.
St. Margaret’s Wall is cool, but you’ll want to get here so that you can start the hike up to Arthur’s Seat. This is the absolute best hike to do in Edinburgh (maybe the only one to do that’s still within the city limits?). It offers the best views back over the city and is a great way to get to know more of this beautiful place.
There are several trails to the top so check here which one would best suit your fitness levels. Whichever trail you choose, be sure to wear sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy.
If you’re feeling peckish or want to reward yourself with a pint at the end of the hike, the Sheep Heid Inn is well worth stopping into.
Taste Some Whisky in Edinburgh
You’ve come all the way to Edinburgh, you don’t want to miss sampling some top-notch Scottish Whisky.
If you’re not familiar with Scottish Whisky and you want to learn about it while also getting to sample different single and blended whiskies, I recommend booking a tour with the Scotch Whisky Experience.
This is the absolute best place in Edinburgh to get a good understanding of the way it’s made, what makes it so special and unique compared to other types of whisky, and you can then taste a few different varieties.
If you already know a bit about Scotch or you simply don’t really care how it’s made, there is a cool restaurant that does Scotch Whisky “flights” so you can simply sample a few very good ones.
Arcade Bar Haggis & Whisky House is the place to head if you want to have a whole lot of Scottish experiences in one place. Sample a few different whiskies and talk to the incredibly knowledgeable staff about what sort of flavors you like most. Then have some of their haggis.
If you’re not sure what haggis is, you can read more about it here. It’s just about as Scottish as it gets besides a deep-fried mars bar (which I wholeheartedly do not recommend).
Dinner and Drinks on Your Last Night in Edinburgh
The area around the Castle is home to some seriously great pubs in Edinburgh. Including the oldest pub in Edinburgh, the White Hart Inn (although the above-mentioned Sheep Heid Inn claims itself to be the oldest pub in all of Scotland so work that one out).
Other pubs that are well worth stopping into for either food or drink in this area:
- Halfway House: I headed into this little pub after a day of exploring the Old Town. I was traveling by myself, so I sat at the bar and ordered a pint to enjoy. The bar is small, cozy, and always busy when I went past. The bartender here is fantastic, so friendly, so helpful, and offered some great advice for exploring the rest of Edinburgh. They don’t do food, just snacks and drinks.
- Last Drop: This was a great bar that had tons of tables, a good atmosphere, and lots of beers on draught, including several from local breweries. They do food which won’t be the best meal you’ll have in the city, but will satiate if you’re absolutely starving.
- The Beehive Inn: This place has a great beer garden, a nice selection of beers, and a great selection of other drinks for those that aren’t so big on beer. They also do a decent pub meal while you’re around this strip of bars. The food here is much more like a gastro-pub with fantastic pies, delicious sausage and mash, and good fish and chips.
- Fiddler’s Arms: This is my favorite all-around bar for both food and drink. They also have live bands on the weekends and even on a Thursday night, they were playing some awesome music. They have a nice selection of beers, a few snacks if you just want to have some chips while you drink, and they also have a full menu of seriously great pub food.
Have More Time in Edinburgh?
There are so many different things to do around Edinburgh including all of those museums I mentioned above which you definitely can’t completely cover in two days.
There is also a huge number of amazing bookstores that I absolutely loved in Edinburgh. Book lovers should not miss checking out these places:
- Armchair Books
- Edinburgh Books
- Topping & Company Book Sellers
- McNaughtan’s Bookshop (and Typewronger which is right next door)