I spent a week in Scotland at the end of May, when I took a Haggis Adventures tour around Scotland. 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.
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 The Trainline 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.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
My Haggis Adventures tour left Edinburgh early in the morning, so I arrived the night before the tour and stayed in a central hostel in Edinburgh, close to the Haggis Adventures office. When I came back to Edinburgh after the tour, I decided to book an Airbnb so I could have my own room and see another side of the city. This article also has more suggestions for where to stay in Edinburgh and goes into more detail about different areas of Edinburgh.
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.
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. Edinburgh Central Rooms, 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 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 this Airbnb which was a room in a beautiful flat, hosted by Al, a friendly welcoming chap. He even brought me a jar of biscuits so I was very happy with that! The bedroom was lovely, and I slept really well here. It was 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.
If you prefer to book a full home on Airbnb instead of a private room there are lots of choices too, like this beautiful apartment in a historic building. You can check all the options for Airbnb in Edinburgh here.
If you have never used Airbnb before, use this link to sign up & get up to $40 credit to use on your first trip! Read more about the Airbnb first time discount code and my full Airbnb guide or click below for your Airbnb coupon.
Things to do in Edinburgh in 2 Days
Edinburgh is a lovely city, and although if you have more time I’d recommend staying for at least 3 days in Edinburgh, a weekend in Edinburgh is enough to get a good taster!
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 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.
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.
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!
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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.
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!
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.
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. 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 in Edinburgh, and being where J K Rowling wrote her famous books, 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. I booked this tour through Airbnb and was only one of two people on the tour. Our guide shared was fun and definitely knew her stuff! There are lots of different Harry Potter tours to choose from, including a free tour, however for the timings I wanted this fitted in perfectly.
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. I’m working on a full review of the tour so watch this space for the article!
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.
Other Things to do in Edinburgh (Which I didn’t Do)
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.
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The National Museum of Scotland
This museum was on my list but I sadly ran out of time! It is a large free museum 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.
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 it’s 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.
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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