12 Hours might seem like a short time to explore Edinburgh, but this guide will show you how to make the most of your time in the city in spring and summer time.
One Day in Edinburgh
09:00 – Breakfast at the Edinburgh Food Market
Start the day with a delicious coffee or hot chocolate and an almond croissant or pain au chocolate from the Farmers’ Market. Make a quick stroll through the market, sampling fresh local produce with the castle as your backdrop. A great start to the day that doesn’t break the bank. The market is open on Saturday from 9am until 2pm. Other markets you can visit are: Stockbridge market, open on Sunday from 10am until 5pm and Waverley Market, open on Friday from 11am until 7pm.
09:30 – Visit Edinburgh Castle
Continue up the hill to the entrance of the castle. The 12th century castle stands proud on a hill in the centre of Edinburgh and boasts 3 museums and the crown jewels. Make sure you buy your tickets online, so you can skip the queue. There are several ticket options to choose from, depending on where you’re going next, but if you’re only staying in Edinburgh, just a castle ticket should be fine. We bought the Explorer pass which gives you access to numerous castles and estates throughout Scotland for £30. Check out their website here. A castle ticket costs £16.50.
There’s plenty to see in the castles, so plan a couple of hours exploring this historic monument.
12:00 – Walking the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a succession of streets running from the castle to Holyrood Palace and is approximately 1 Scots mile long. It’s the most popular street in the Old Town and you’ll find plenty of shops and restaurants along the way as well as the occasional bagpiper. Stroll around and peruse the small Scottish souvenir shops, or explore the numerous ‘closes’, small cosy alleyways running from the Royal Mile to parallel streets.
13:00 – Lunch time
You’ll find plenty of lunch options on the Royal Mile and Castle Hill. We visited the Witchery, a luxury restaurant nearby the castle. Its quirky interior and delicious food makes it a very popular choice in the city. If you’re looking for something cheaper, try the Edinburgh Larder, a café in the heart of Edinburgh. For a few more options, check out the restaurant list on the Royal Mile website. One thing is certain: You won’t leave Edinburgh hungry!
14:00 – The Princes Street Gardens
After lunch, take a leisurely stroll through the Princes Street Gardens, a public park right next to the castle. On a sunny day, the park is perfect for a picnic, and you’ll see plenty of locals and tourists enjoying the weather and views of the castle.
14:30 – Princes Street and Scott Monument
Princes Street runs parallel to the gardens, and is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. If you love shopping, this is the perfect place, but I would suggest visiting the Scott monument instead, a 200 feet high monument dedicated to the writer Sir Walter Scott. You can climb the 287 steps to the highest viewing platform on the monument and enjoy superb views of the city.
15:30 – Calton Hill
At the end of Princes Street, you’ll find Calton Hill where you have another great viewpoint over the city. On the hill you’ll find several monuments such as the National Monument, the Nelson Monument, Dugald Stewart Monument and the Robert Burns Monument. In the North and East, you’ll be able to see the Sea and in the South West, you can see the castle and the centre of Edinburgh. In the South East you can see Holyrood Park with Arthur’s Seat as the highest peak of the group of hills.
16:00 – Holyrood Palace
Holyrood Palace lies near the foot of Calton Hill and is the official residence of the Scottish royalty. It is possible to visit the Historic apartments throughout the year.
From April until October, the palace is open between 09:30 and 18:00 (last admission 16:30) and costs £11.60.
18:30 – Dinner
There are plenty of dinner options around Edinburgh. We visited the North Bridge Brasserie situated at the Scotsman Hotel. Serving Scottish dishes with a twist, the Brasserie definitely lived up to my expectations. If you’re looking for something cheaper or a ‘hidden gem’, check out This is Edinburgh’s Food and Drink hidden gems.
20:30 – Arthur’s Seat
After standing on top of a few viewpoints in Edinburgh, you will have noticed the several hills in the east of the city. These hills are part of Holyrood Park, with Arthur’s Seat being the highest peak. There are several walking routes in the park, and are all fairly easy. It takes around 20 minutes at a leisurely pace to reach the top of Arthur’s seat where you’ll be rewarded with great panoramic views of Edinburgh. Bring a light jacket and some whisky (or whisky liqueur like we did), and watch the sun set over Edinburgh.