2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: A Perfect Weekend in Edinburgh

I spent a week in Scotland when I took a Haggis Adventures tour around this beautiful country.  The tour lasted for 5 days and before I went home, I spent 2 days in Edinburgh, exploring the city, getting my Harry Potter fix and eating lots of delicious food.  If you’re planning to spend a weekend in Edinburgh, these are my suggestions for how to make the most of 2 days in Edinburgh.

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How Long to Spend in Edinburgh?

I feel like I say this about a lot of places but Edinburgh really is a lovely city, and well worth spending several days exploring.  I would definitely recommend spending more than 1 day in Edinburgh, as there is far too much to see here for just one day.

Two days in Edinburgh is just about enough to see all of the highlights and enjoy the best things to do in Edinburgh without rushing around too much, so a weekend or a couple of days during the week would be a great start.

That said, if you have more time I’d recommend staying for at least 3 days in Edinburgh if you can!

The View from Calton Hill in Edinburgh - Monument with the Edinburgh Skyline
The View from Calton Hill in Edinburgh

The Best Things to do in Edinburgh in 2 Days

There are a lot of fabulous things to do in Edinburgh, so I’ve chosen my favourites plus a few of the most popular activities in Edinburgh, even if I didn’t do them myself.  Take a look and see what you would include in your Edinburgh itinerary!

Walk the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the most famous street in Edinburgh, connecting Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  This mile-long stretch of cobbled street is the heart of Edinburgh, and you are bound to walk along at least some of it while you are in Edinburgh. 

The Royal Mile and surrounding streets are filled with history, so feel free to wander and explore.  There are plenty of photo opportunities along the Royal Mile, from statues and classic red phone boxes to bagpipe players and more!

Visit Real Mary King’s Close

Hundreds of years of history lie beneath the streets of Edinburgh, and you can get a glimpse of it when visiting Real Mary King’s Close.  While exploring Edinburgh’s only preserved 17th-century street you’ll discover over 400 years of history and learn about Edinburgh’s past residents.

The 1-hour character-guided tour also includes an immersive walk through the city’s uniquely preserved streets underneath Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile.


Inside St Giles Cathedral - A beautiful stained glass window with a blue roof above and gold coloured beams
Inside St Giles Cathedral – A Must-Do on Your Edinburgh Visit

St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles’ was founded in 1124, and in the 16th century became the focal point of the Scottish Reformation. The church is regarded as the Mother Church of World Presbyterianism and is a beautiful medieval Gothic building.  It is on the Royal Mile, so don’t miss a look inside! 

Entry to this beautiful church free although there is a suggested donation of £5.  At 10.30 am and 2.30pm you can join a free tour of the cathedral, which lasts about 45 minutes.  The tour guide shares stories from throughout the church’s history and shows you into the Thistle Chapel. 

Walk up Calton Hill

Calton Hill is closer to the city centre and is a much easier walk than Arthur’s Seat, yet the views are no less spectacular.  From one side you can see down to the coastal town of Leith, and on the other you get views over the rooves of the city. 

You’ll also find an observatory and what looks like a Greek temple, which is actually the National Monument of Scotland, and an unfinished memorial to Scottish soldiers who died in the Napoleonic Wars.  You could take a picnic up here if you want to spend some time in the fresh air.

The National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill in Edinburgh
The National Monument of Scotland on Calton Hill in Edinburgh

Explore Princes Gardens

Beneath the castle, these now beautiful gardens were once the stinking moat which gave Edinburgh the nickname “Auld Reekie”.  Thankfully, the moat was drained and completely transformed into beautiful gardens which are another green area in the city.  You can get some great photos of the castle here too. 

Princes Street Gardens with Edinburgh Castle in the Background
Princes Street Gardens with Edinburgh Castle in the Background

Visit Edinburgh Castle

I feel like I have to include this, but I didn’t go!  I’d heard that it was a lot of money for what you see, so I decided to admire the castle from afar and spend my cash on other things like food and gin!  However, you can get quite close to the castle for free, or find lots of places to take photos of Edinburgh castle, like Princes Street Gardens and The Vennel.

If you would like to go inside the castle, you can buy tickets on the website, or join a guided tour to learn more about the history of the castle. This Edinburgh Castle walking tour includes skip-the-line tickets so you won’t need to wait in line to get inside!


The Scott Monument

This striking construction is the world’s largest monument dedicated to a writer, Scottish author Sir Walter Scott.  You can pay a fee to climb the (very narrow) steps to the top for great views of Princes Gardens and the Castle, or just admire it from ground level.

The Scott Monument - A Towering Gothic Stone Spire - Things to do in Edinburgh in 2 Days
The Scott Monument – Things to do in Edinburgh in 2 Days

Visit Victoria Street

This colourful curved street is said to be inspiration for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books, so fans will love coming here to visit themed shops like Aha Ha Ha Jokes & Novelties (similar to Weasley’s Wizards Wheezes perhaps?) and Museum Context, which has two floors dedicated to Harry Potter merchandise, as well as a ‘Chamber of Secrets’ on the top floor where you can pose for photos in a Hogwarts uniform with an owl. 

Either way, the colourful cobbled street is worth strolling through.  On certain Sundays the centre of Edinburgh is car-free so that is the best time to see the street without cars!

Colourful Victoria Street - row of different coloured houses curves to the right - 2 Days in Edinburgh
Colourful Victoria Street – Inspiration for Diagon Alley Perhaps? 2 Days in Edinburgh

Grassmarket Square

Grassmarket is a square where you’ll find market stalls over the weekend.  At night, the pubs and bars lining the square are popular drinking spots, so this is a lively place at any time!  Walk up the nearby Vennel for lovely views of the Castle.   

The Vennel Viewpoint of Edinburgh Castle - Narrow street with steps leading down with the Castle in the background
The Vennel Viewpoint of Edinburgh Castle

Greyfriars Kirkyard

This lovely churchyard is more like a park for the locals, so don’t be surprised if you see people enjoying a picnic here!  It was home to Greyfriars Bobby, a cute little dog who refused to leave his master’s grave for 16 years, and there is a life-size statue of him outside.  Inside is his gravestone, where visitors often leave sticks for him to play with. 

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J K Rowling also spent time here while she was writing, and there are some familiar names on the gravestones in the churchyard, such as Thomas Riddell, William McGonagall and Elizabeth Moodie. 

Take a Harry Potter Tour

There is magic in the air and you can visit various places said to have been the inspiration Harry Potter in Edinburgh. This is where J K Rowling wrote her famous books, and a Harry Potter tour is a must for Potter Heads.  Even if you aren’t a huge lover of the books or films, the tours visit various stops in the city centre and give an insight into the possible inspirations that J K used. 

There are lots of different Harry Potter tours to choose from, this one on GetYourGuide gets great reviews and isn’t expensive.


The Perfect Spot for a Harry Potter Photo Op - Hedwig Stuffed toy owl on a Hogwarts Desk
The Perfect Spot for a Harry Potter Photo Op

Take a Food Tour

As you know, I’m a big fan of food so for me a food tour was a no-brainer.  I took a food tour in Edinburgh with Eat Walk Edinburgh, and got to taste local specialities like haggis, neeps and tatties, smoked salmon and some delicious cheese.  You can read my full review of the Eat Walk Edinburgh food tour here.

Scottish Smoked Salmon on an Edinburgh Food Tour
Scottish Smoked Salmon on an Edinburgh Food Tour

Visit a Gin Distillery

There are two main gin distilleries in Edinburgh, Edinburgh Gin and Pickerings Gin, and both offer gin distillery tours with gin tasting. I was staying close to Pickerings Gin Distillery in Summerhall, so I booked a tour there. 

This tiny distillery only has two stills, named Emily and Gertrude after the great-grandmothers of the founders, and makes around 2-2600 bottles of delicious gin every week!  The tour was fun and informative, and I like nothing more than a gin and tonic in the afternoon sunshine.

You can book a tour online here, which includes a gin and tonic, gin tasting samples and wax-sealing your own 5cl bottle of gin, as well as a tour of the distillery. 


The Beautiful Stills at Pickerings Gin Distillery
The Beautiful Stills at Pickerings Gin Distillery

Walk Up Arthur’s Seat

I decided not to walk up here, as I was exhausted after a busy week.  However, I do regret it!  If you’re feeling energetic, it’ll take an hour or two to walk up to the viewpoint, which is, I’m told more than worth the effort!

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

I’m not hugely into history or royalty, but if you are, you won’t want to miss this.  It’s close to the start of the path up to Arthur’s Seat so you could combine the two.


The National Museum of Scotland

Edinburgh is home to some wonderful museums, so you can find something to suit every taste.  Many of the museums in Edinburgh are free to visit, including The National Museum of Scotland which is filled with exhibits of Scottish antiquities, culture and history, as well as galleries on natural history, world cultures and Dolly the Sheep, the first cloned mammal in the world. 

The building itself is also beautiful from the inside, so be sure to at least pop in and take a look, but to see the exhibits you’ll need to allow at least a couple of hours to visit.

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Dean Village & The Water of Leith Walkway

A short walk from the end of Princes Street, Dean Village feels a world away from the city.  Originally built for mill workers, Dean Village is a lovely place to explore, with quaint and 19th Century beautiful buildings and a lovely stream.

The Water of Leith walkway follows the Water of Leith River, which is more like a stream in some places.  You can follow the waterway for miles or join it and leave it at various points along the way and it is suitable for bikes as well as walking.

You could start early in the morning from the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, continue through Dean Village, along to the Royal Botanic Gardens and all the way to Leith. 

Dean Village on the Water of Leith Walkway - Old pretty yellow and white buildings alongside the river
Dean Village on the Water of Leith Walkway – What to Do in Edinburgh Scotland

Visit Leith & the Royal Yacht Britannia

Probably another thing to do if you have more than 2 days in Edinburgh, but it all depends on your priorities.  This buzzing port has seen a revival in the last decades, since its infamous Trainspotting days, and you can now find Michelin-starred restaurants and a cool vibe here. 

The Royal Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of the Queen, and you can board the yacht to see what it was like to sail on the yacht like royalty.

Leith Port in Edinburgh. Image by sumulee from Pixabay

More Cool Things to do Near Edinburgh

If you have more than two days in Edinburgh, I’d also suggest taking a day trip from Edinburgh to see some more of Scotland while you are here.  Glencoe, the Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness are popular places to visit near Edinburgh, and some day trips include all three, albeit in a rather rushed way!  Check out these highly-rated tours:

Day tours from Edinburgh like this are great if you can only spare one day and want to see as much as possible  If you have more time then you can also get out and about yourself, check out this 7 day Scotland itinerary for more ideas for things to do in Scotland outside of Edinburgh.

How to Get to Edinburgh

The Train to Edinburgh

I took the train up to Edinburgh from Birmingham, stopping off for a couple of nights in Alnwick on the way.  Edinburgh is well connected to London by train, although if you’re booking last minute the prices can be eye-watering!  Book well in advance and you can find some great deals, try Omio for tickets.    

Getting to Edinburgh by Bus

If you are on a tight budget, check Megabus for options for getting to Edinburgh by bus from other major cities in the UK.  A bus from London to Edinburgh costs around £35 but it will take all day (or night).  Flixbus doesn’t operate in Scotland at the time of writing.

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Flights to Edinburgh

Edinburgh International Airport is around 30 minutes drive outside the city centre.  Check Skyscanner to find the best flight deals for your airport.  I flew out of Edinburgh,taking the bus to the airport, which was easy and convenient.  If you are staying right in the centre, you may be better off taking the tram to the airport.

Red Phone Boxes in Edinburgh City Centre
Red Phone Boxes in Edinburgh City Centre

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

Hotels in Edinburgh

There are lots of hotels to choose from in Edinburgh, but as you might expect, the better the location you choose, the higher the price! 

Luckily, Edinburgh is quite a compact city, so if you don’t mind walking you can find hotels in Edinburgh which balances price and location with great quality. The Torfin, for example, gets good reviews for a decent price, and the location isn’t bad either. Or you can look through all the hotels in Edinburgh to find one you like.


Hostels in Edinburgh

Unfortunately, Edinburgh is quite expensive compared to other destinations in Scotland.  However, if you are backpacking Edinburgh on a budget there are plenty of hostels in Edinburgh to choose from.
I stayed at High Street Hostel which is just off the Royal Mile, and a short walk (up steps!) from the train station.  I was only there briefly but there were comfy beds, friendly staff, and a reasonable breakfast.  It gets great reviews on Hostelworld so I’m happy to recommend it.  You can check all the hostels in Edinburgh on Hostelworld here.


Airbnb in Edinburgh

As I spent 3 nights in Edinburgh I wanted to book an Airbnb so I could enjoy a private room and cook a couple of meals at ‘home’ to save a bit of cash.  I stayed at an Airbnb about 15-20 minutes’ walk into the centre of town, and it was just around the corner from Pickerings Gin Distillery which I also planned to visit.

You can check all the options for Airbnb in Edinburgh here.

This article also has more suggestions for where to stay in Edinburgh and goes into more detail about different areas of the city.

Have I covered all of the essential things to do in Edinburgh in 2 days?  Is there anything else you would add/take off?  I’d love to hear your thoughts, please leave your comments below.

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1 thoughts on “2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: A Perfect Weekend in Edinburgh

  1. Riana Ang-Canning says:

    Edinburgh looks so awesome! This city has been on my bucket list for a while and I can’t wait to visit one day. The Harry Potter tour sounds magical! And Princes Street looks so cool!

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