A one-day whirlwind trip to the fabulous city of Edinburgh

4 August 2021

There's no other place in the world quite like Edinburgh. Combining grand old buildings with modern ideas, Auld Reekie is a utopia for arts, culture, and history.

There are so many places to visit that you might be overwhelmed wondering what to see first - but don’t worry, we’ve compiled this itinerary to help you out so that even if you only have a day to spare, you can still experience the best of what Scotland’s capital city has to offer.

The New Town

The best place to begin your day trip to Edinburgh is Princes Street in the New Town.

If you’re catching the train to Edinburgh, Edinburgh Waverley station drops you off pretty much right here, and a stone’s throw away from the magnificent Scott Monument.

Dedicated to author Sir Walter Scott, this striking landmark gives you a great idea of the kind of grand architecture you can expect to find here throughout your day.

Princes Street and George Street are brilliant places for high street shopping. They're home to hundreds of stores, making them a must-see for any shopaholics.

There’s also plenty of places to grab a bite to eat, whether you’re looking for vegetarian restaurants, fancy restaurants, or some typical Scottish grub, as well as plenty of places to get a drink like wine bars and tea houses.

The nightlife is great here too, as it's full of clubs and pubs. If the New Town sounds like your sort of place, there are loads of things to do, so consider staying for an entire weekend if you want to pack it all in.

Princes Street also looks out over Princes Street Gardens, a tranquil park you wouldn’t expect to find in such a metropolitan area.

In winter, these gardens are also where you’ll find Edinburgh’s famous Christmas market, where hundreds of stalls sprout up to sell artisan goods and delicious street food from around the world. There are even amusement park rides like a Ferris Wheel.

Seeing this massive, colourful market lighting up the gloomy winter streets is a truly unforgettable sight.

The Old Town and Edinburgh Castle

Once you’re done exploring the New Town, head towards the Royal Scottish Academy and along a street known as The Mound, which transports you back in time to Edinburgh’s Old Town.

The architecture of the Old Town has remained pretty much unchanged for centuries, so the buildings here really will make you feel like you’ve stepped into the past.

You can see lots of this city’s history in the area around Victoria Street and Cowgate, and this is also a great place to find folk bars, antique shops, and vintage shops.

But don’t get too distracted by the grand old churches and cathedrals, because as you head up the hill, you’ll find the grandest building of them all: Edinburgh Castle.

The castle stands proudly at the apex of the city, and as you step through its gates, you’ll suddenly find yourself standing within the walls of one of the most impressive fortresses in the whole of the UK.

The castle’s exterior has stunning architecture and immense defences, while its interior has been carefully replicated and preserved, making it feel like it's remained unchanged since the days of kingdoms and knights.

This castle has seen royalty and war, and has been the setting of many grim stories throughout history. It's lofty setting also means it has some of the best views in the whole city.

The Royal Mile and the Scottish Parliament

After visiting the castle, you should head downhill and onto the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s most famous street. As the name suggests, this street stretches along for a whole mile, and is packed with souvenir shops, bars, and restaurants the whole way.

It’s an especially good stretch if you’re looking for a Scottish breakfast or a traditional Scottish dinner like haggis! It’s also still part of the Old Town, so expect to still see plenty of ancient buildings to 'ooh' and 'ah' at as you walk along.

During Edinburgh’s famous Fringe Festival, the Mile is one of the coolest places to be, as it's a hotspot for amazing street performers of all kinds. In the evening, it’s also one of the best spots to find a ghost tour if you’re in the mood to be scared!

At the end of the Royal Mile in Holyrood, you can find the Parliament building, the centre of Scotland’s government. The contemporary architecture of this huge, striking building shows off Edinburgh’s more modern side, and if you’re interested in politics or architecture, taking a tour around this fascinating place is a must.

Arthur’s Seat

As you finally reach the end of the busy streets, why not take a walk around Edinburgh’s best natural landmark to finish off your day?

Looming over the Parliament building is Arthur’s Seat, the main peak of the hills that form Holyrood Park. Named after the legend of King Arthur, this hill is actually a volcano - although it’s not been active for a few million years, so you don’t need to worry about it erupting!

This park is beautiful and peaceful, and after your busy day, it’s the perfect place to unwind. For those interested in history, Holyrood Park is also home to the ruins of a hill fort thought to be around 2000 years old, as well as a 15th century chapel.

Climbing the hill isn’t too difficult and can be done in under an hour, and when you reach the top, you’ll be greeted by the best view in the whole of Edinburgh.

See if you can spot all of the places you’ve been to throughout the day, like the castle and the Scott monument. If you time it right, you’ll be able to get to the top of Arthur’s Seat before dark so you can round off your day trip by watching the sun set on this truly special city.

Whether you’re a couple, you’re visiting with kids or you just want a break away somewhere by yourself, we promise that following this itinerary on your day tour around Edinburgh will make your trip to this amazing captivating capital simply unforgettable.