Julie Itinerary, Scotland 40 Comments

Edinburgh is a wonderful city to explore. Climb a volcano, see where JK Rowling got her inspiration for the Harry Potter series, tour a castle, and learn all about whisky. If you have 2 days in Edinburgh, you have enough time to visit the best spots in the city. 

Follow our itinerary, complete with maps, walking routes, and recommendations on where to stay and where to eat. If you have more than 2 days in Edinburgh, get recommendations on great day trips to take from the city.

2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Day 1: Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile & Arthur’s Seat

On Day 1 you will tour the Royal Mile, starting at Edinburgh Castle and ending at Arthur’s Seat. It’s a lot of walking so make sure you wear a comfortable pair of shoes!!

How to Use This Map: Click the tab in the top left hand corner of the map to view the layers (points of interest and the walking route). You can click the check marks to hide or show layers. If you click the icons on the map, you can get more information about each point of interest.
If you click the star next to the title of the map, this map will be added to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.

9:00 am: Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is the centerpiece of the city. It sits upon Castle Rock, the remains of a dormant volcano. The castle was constructed in the 12th century and has been the site of tumultuous historical events spanning hundreds of years. Now, over one million visitors tour the castle every year.

All of those visitors makes the castle very crowded, especially during the summer months. To avoid the crowds, arrive here before opening time, so you will be one of the first inside of the castle. This makes for a much nicer experience, seeing the Crown Jewels and Royal chambers without queuing with lots of people.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: For low crowds and to avoid a long wait in line, purchase your tickets in advance. We also recommend arriving about 30 minutes before opening time. People line up early to enter the castle, so by showing up before opening time, you should be able to head right into the castle at 9:30 am (as long as you purchased your tickets in advance…if not, you will have to line up in the ticket line). For more tips visiting Edinburgh Castle, plus things to see and do while you are here, read our Guide to Edinburgh Castle.

You can get hours of operation, ticket prices, and purchase your tickets in advance on the official website.

If you prefer to visit Edinburgh Castle with a guide, this 1.5 hour tour includes your entrance ticket and skip-the-line access to the castle.

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary


Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Take your pick: Whisky or Illusions

Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions

Camera Obscura is located one block down the Royal Mile from the Edinburgh Castle. If you are visiting Edinburgh with kids, this is an awesome spot to visit. Six floors are filled with illusions, puzzles, and optical tricks.

At the top of the building is the Camera Obscura show. During the show, see live moving images of Edinburgh projected onto a viewing table via a periscope. Or, just enjoy the view over Edinburgh from the rooftop. It is one of the best views of the city.

  • Hours: Hours vary by season but they are generally open from 9 am to 7 pm with longer hours during the weekends. Visit the website for updated hours during your visit.
  • Ticket Prices: Adult £18.95; Child (5 – 15 years) £14.95; Senior £16.95; Students £16.95
  • Website: www.camera-obscura.co.uk

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura View

View from the rooftop of Camera Obscura | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

The Scotch Whisky Experience

At the Scotch Whisky Experience, learn about the distilling of scotch whisky. Your tour starts with a barrel ride through the virtual distillery and ends with a whisky tasting. We did the Gold Tour, which included a tasting of four whiskies from different regions of Scotland.

Scotch Whisky Experience

Scotch Whisky Experience | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary


Scotch Whisky 2 days in Edinburgh

If you are traveling with kids, they are allowed on the tour. Tyler and Kara had a good time, especially during the short, educational barrel ride. Of course, children are not permitted to taste the whisky.

For full details on the tours offered, visit the Scotch Whisky Experience website. Tickets can also be purchased through GetYourGuide.

Note: If you move fast, you can visit the Camera Obscura and take a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience before lunch.


There are several restaurants in the immediate area. Normally, we do not recommend having lunch in the main tourist area, but since the afternoon continues on the Royal Mile, it is convenient to eat here.

We ate at Ensign Ewart, located just a few blocks down the Royal Mile from the Scotch Whisky Experience. This is a cozy pub with a small menu, serving Scottish food, beer, wine, and of course, whisky.

More Sights Along the Royal Mile

For the remainder of the afternoon, continue the walk down the Royal Mile. Go shopping, take a break at a pub for a pint of beer or a dram of whisky, and have your photo taken with one of the street performers. During the walk down the Royal Mile, there are several places we recommend visiting.

Royal Mile | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Royal Mile | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary


Wee Scotland Shop 2 days in Edinburgh

Wool Scarves 2 days in Edinburgh

Deacon Brodies 2 days in Edinburgh

St. Giles’ Cathedral

The steeple of St. Giles’ Cathedral is one of the icons of Edinburgh. This church was built in the 14th century and today is the main church of Edinburgh. It is free to visit (although donations are welcome). The ceiling of the nave is a brilliant blue and definitely worth a look.

Giles Cathedral | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

St. Gile’s Cathedral | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Real Mary King’s Close

This is the perfect tour to learn about medieval life in Edinburgh. Journey back in time to 1645 Edinburgh, down Mary King’s Close, a real alleyway in the city. This was the year of the Black Death, when one-third of Edinburgh’s population succumbed to this terrible illness. With our entertaining guide, we learned what it was like to live in Edinburgh during these hard times. If you want an interesting history lesson about Edinburgh, we highly recommend this tour.

Tours last one hour. If you are visiting Edinburgh on a weekend or during peak season, we advise booking your tickets in advance. Visit their website for more information.

Cadenhead’s Whisky

This is a must visit for whisky aficionados. Cadenhead’s is Edinburgh’s oldest independent bottler of whisky. They offer tastings and have an extensive knowledge of whisky. If you are looking to bring a bottle of whisky home as a gift or a souvenir, this is a great shop to visit.

Cadenheads | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Cadenhead’s Whisky | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Royal Mile ends at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This palace is the official residence in Scotland of Queen Elizabeth. She resides here about one week every year. When the Queen is not here, the Palace is open for visit. One of the main attractions are the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Note: The Palace of Holyroodhouse is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Dynamic Earth

Dynamic Earth is an Earth science museum. In the 360° dome theater, witness the big bang, fly over a glacier, witness a volcano eruption, or plunge under the sea in a virtual submarine. This is great for kids and those with an interest in science. Tickets cost £15.95 for adults and £9.95 for children. Hours vary by day of the week and by season. Learn more here. 

GETTING AROUND EDINBURGH:  Walking the Royal Way from the Edinburgh Castle to Holyroodhouse is one of Edinburgh’s best experiences, but an alternative way to get around the city is on a hop-on hop-off bus. This 48-hour hop-on hop-off bus tour includes visits to Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse, and the Royal Yacht Britannica. 

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is located in Holyrood Park, just a few minutes walk from the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This large, grass covered hill is the remains of an extinct volcano that erupted 350 million years ago. Arthur’s Seat offers one of the best views of the city. It’s a short, slightly strenuous hike to the highest point, but absolutely worth it to look out over Edinburgh from this vantage point.

Arthurs Seat | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

View from Arthur’s Seat | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

There are several options for reaching the summit. For an easy walk with views out over the best of Edinburgh, walk the Salisbury Crags. For more dramatic, panoramic views of the city (and a slightly strenuous hike) climb to Arthur’s Seat.

Read our post about Arthur’s Seat for full information about how to do this.

Dinner at The Scran and Scallie

Our day ends with a fabulous dinner. Leave the touristy Royal Mile behind and venture out to the neighborhood of Stockbridge. This was our favorite meal in Edinburgh. If you want to dine on traditional Scottish food cooked perfectly, this is your place. Items on the menu include roasted bone marrow, ox tongue, fish and steak pies, mashed potatoes, cabbage with bacon, and chocolate and whisky mousse. The food is delicious and many things we tried here were brand new to us.

Scran and Scallie

Scran and Scallie | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

I highly recommend putting this experience on your list of things to do in Edinburgh. And I also highly recommend making sure you have a reservation for dinner…they are busy and fill up fast. Here’s the link to their website.

Your day can end here, or, if you still have energy to keep going, visit one of Edinburgh’s many pubs.

Day 2: Museums, Walking Tours and a Visit to Dean Village

Today we explore more of the Old Town of Edinburgh, tour some of Edinburgh’s best museums, and visit picturesque Dean Village.

Morning: Tour One of Edinburgh’s Best Museums

After breakfast, tour one (or more) of Edinburgh’s best museums. Here are your options:

The National Museum of Scotland

This museum has a little bit of everything: world cultures, science and technology, Scottish history, art, and exhibits about the natural world. If you are traveling with kids, this museum is your best bet to keep them entertained. Plus, the museum is free.

  • Open Daily 10:00 – 17:00
  • Admission is free, donations are welcome
  • Website: www.nms.ac.uk

National Museum of Scotland 2 days in Edinburgh

National Museum of Scotland | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Surgeon’s Hall Museum

Geared towards adults, older kids, and anyone with an interest in the medical field, this is a fascinating look into what can go wrong inside of our bodies. The Wohl Pathology Museum is home to one of the largest collections of pathological specimens in the world. It’s a bit gruesome, but for some that may be the appeal. Tyler and Kara were mesmerized, looking at birth defects, fractured bones that never healed, and cancers. If you want a change of pace from the typical Edinburgh sightseeing circuit this may be a place to visit.

PRO TRAVEL TIP: The National Museum of Scotland and the Surgeons’ Hall Museum are located near each other. If you tend to move quickly through museums, you can visit both of these before lunch (this is what we did).

Scottish National Gallery

This is a must for art lovers. Located on The Mound, the Scottish National Gallery is free to visit. After your visit, consider a stroll through the Princes Street Gardens or climb the Scott Monument for another bird’s eye view of Edinburgh.

Scottish National Gallery

Royal Yacht Britannia

This is one of the most famous ships in the world. It was home to the Royal Family as they cruised to various ports around the world on official visits. Now you can tour this floating palace.

The Royal Yacht is located fifteen minutes from the center of Edinburgh at the Ocean Terminal. To get here, take the Line 35 bus from Chambers Street next to the National Museum of Scotland, take a taxi, or use Uber.

Tickets can be purchased in advance on the official website.

Lunch in the Old Town of Edinburgh

Spend the middle of your day touring the Old Town of Edinburgh, in particular the area around Grassmarket, Cowgate, and Victoria Street. Technically, the Old Town also includes the Royal Mile. Today, we are going just one block south of the Royal Mile to explore the old cobblestoned streets and shops here.

It’s amazing how many tourists you will leave behind by stepping off of the Royal Mile. This is a small area so you can walk it in an hour or less.

Don’t miss Victoria Street! It is beautiful with its colorful façades and Gothic architecture.

Old Town Edinburgh | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Victoria Street | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

For lunch, some of the more popular restaurants in the area are:

  • Oink, specializes in hog roasts, 34 Victoria Street
  • The Elephant House, where JK Rowling had her inspiration for the Harry Potter series. Food is nothing special but Harry Potter fans might enjoy a visit here. 21 George IV Bridge
  • Vittoria on the Bridge, Italian and European food, 19 George IV Bridge
  • Greyfriars Bobby Bar, Scottish Pub, 30-34 Candlemaker Row

Afternoon in Edinburgh

In the afternoon, you have enough to take a walking tour of Edinburgh and wander through picturesque Dean Village. 

Take a Harry Potter Tour of Edinburgh

If you are a Harry Potter fan, consider taking a walking tour, visiting the sights that served as the inspiration for scenes in the Harry Potter series. The Potter Trail offers a free tour that covers most of the Old Town of Edinburgh. This 2 hour walking tour has a small group size and gets rave reviews.

Take a Ghost Tour of Edinburgh

These are not your typical city walking tours. Tour the vaults under the Old Town or take a walking tour through historic city center and hear tales of witch burning and grave robbing. 


Beautiful Dean Village

Dean Village is a small, residential area in Edinburgh. It’s quiet, it’s beautiful, and it’s off the beaten path.

For more information, read our full post on Dean Village.

Dean Village | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Dean Village | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Dinner in Edinburgh

Finish the day with dinner in Edinburgh. There are tons of awesome restaurants to try. We recommend a visit to Pickles, especially if you are in the mood for a snack and not a full meal. Pickles serves cheese and meat platters, and pickles, of course! It’s not a full dinner menu, but this is the perfect place to take a break from haggis and beer and have some wine and cheese. Pickles is cozy, inviting, and we all loved it here.

Pickles Edinburgh | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Pickles Pub | 2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary

Day Trip Ideas from Edinburgh

If you have more than 2 days in Edinburgh, here are three day trip ideas. Take an Outlander tour, visit Glencoe, the Highlands, or Loch Ness. 


Where to Stay

LUXURY:  The Balmoral Hotel. This 5-star hotel is located on Princes Street, just a short walk from the Royal Mile. Many rooms offer views of the Edinburgh Castle. This hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant and is the top luxury pick in Edinburgh.

UPSCALE:  Old Town Chambers. If you want a high-end experience and are traveling as a family or as a group, this is a great choice. These modern, luxury apartments can accommodate two to six people in apartments with multiple bedrooms. It’s also located right of the Royal Mile so its location is superb.

MID-RANGE: The hub by Premiere Inn Edinburgh Royal Mile. This is where we stayed and it was wonderful. With a brilliant location that is clean, modern, friendly, and quiet, it is hard to beat this place. The hotel is located just one block off of the Royal Mile. There is a café in the downstairs lobby that serves excellent food. I really have nothing bad to say about this place (and that almost never happens). We would stay here again, no doubt about it.

BUDGET:  CoDE Pod Hostels – The CoURT. Located just off the Royal Mile, this innovative hostel gets rave reviews. Sleep in a “pod” in a dormitory-style room or in a private room. 

Going to Edinburgh? Buy the Guide:

Enjoy your 2 days in Edinburgh, and if you are traveling through Scotland, don’t miss our posts on the Isle of Skye, Glasgow, and road tripping through Scotland!

More Information about Scotland

EDINBURGH: We have detailed guides on how to hike to Arthur’s Seat, how to visit Edinburgh Castle, the best things to do with kids in Edinburgh, how to visit Dean Village, and where to get the best views of Edinburgh.

SCOTLAND ITINERARY: With 10 days in Scotland, visit the highlights, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, the Isle of Skye, and Glencoe.

GLASGOW: For ideas on what to do while in Glasgow, read our 1 Day Glasgow Itinerary.

ISLE OF SKYE: We cover how to visit the Isle of Skye in our Isle of Skye Travel Guide. We also have articles about the best things to do on the Isle of Skye and travel itineraries for 1, 2, and 3 days on the Isle of Skye.

EUROPE ITINERARIES: Get more travel ideas in our article 10 Days in Europe itinerary, which has 10 itineraries for your next trip to Europe. If you have less time, we also have an article that lists 25 different ways to spend one week in Europe.


Planning a trip to Scotland? Read all of our articles in our Scotland Travel Guide.


Edinburgh Scotland Travel Itinerary


Edinburgh Scotland two day itinerary

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Comments 40

  1. Avatar for Bea Adventurous
    Bea Adventurous

    Brilliant blog and covering all aspects which is super helpful!
    I love your photos, it really helps with imagination!

    You’ve added lots to do, which will definitely fill the time for a few days! (The whisky ideas sounds great!)

    Thanks for sharing, I can’t wait to check a few new things out when I next visit!

    1. Avatar for Julie Post
  2. Avatar for Deborah J Kaminski
    Deborah J Kaminski

    We are landing in Edinburgh and will be spending 3 nights there…….Then heading to Ballater….Do you have suggestions on what to see on the way or where we should travel from there? I think we will have another week….trying to decide what airport to fly back to the states….after that. Thanks Deb

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      Stirling is a popular destination that is northwest of Edinburgh. It’s a historical location, where William Wallace defeated the English (we haven’t been here yet). Pitlochry is a pretty town and you can visit Edradour whisky distillery. You will drive alongside the Cairngorms to get to Ballater. The Cairngorms are a national park in Scotland. Depending on how much time you have outside of your visit to Ballater, you could drive west through Inverness and spend 2 to 3 days in the Isle of Skye. Then fly home through Inverness, Glasgow, or Edinburgh. Cheers, Julie

  3. Avatar for seo agency edinburgh
  4. Avatar for MJ

    I am partial to the Highlands but I could not help but fall in love with Edinburgh. I was eyeing Vienna for grad school but changed it to Edinburgh after spending 5 days there last year. It is such a beautiful city!

  5. Avatar for Tim Neeble
    Tim Neeble

    i really enjoyed this post! I haven’t managed to travel to Edinburgh yet but it’s definitely in my bucket list. I’m really glad I discovered your blog – hoping to get there soon!

  6. Avatar for scott
  7. Avatar for Geronimo

    Really outstanding tips for Scotland and the world, thank you so much. As usual, I have a couple of questions for you 🙂

    1) ” If you move fast, you can visit the Camera Obscura and take a tour at the Scotch Whisky Experience before lunch”

    Fast like 45 minutes each? How fast and what do you get to see and take in in that (short) time?

    2) For those attractions where you advise to book in advance, how far in advance? Is 24 hour good enough in may (after checking the weather forecast and adjusting sightseeing plans accordingly)?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      The tour time for the Scotch Whisky Experience is set, I think, at about an hour, but you can confirm this on their website. We probably spent 45 minutes in Camera Obscura. The highlight for me was the view over the city, but if you have kids aged 6 to 12, you could spend more time here going through all of the rooms. But for adults and older kids, the visit can be fairly fast.

      I would book your Edinburgh Castle tickets early, maybe 7 days before your trip, or even earlier, if you will be here in the peak season (summer months). As for the Whisky Experience and Real Mary King’s Close, you could book this closer to your dates of travel. For the Whisky Experience, we booked our tickets the same day, right after walking down from the castle, and had no problems getting tickets (this was in July 2016). And I booked our Real Mary tickets just a few days before our visit. With the recent increase in tourism over the past 4 years, I typically recommend booking tickets in advance now. However, with coronavirus, I don’t know what will happen after things quiet down and how long it will take for tourism to return to 2019 levels. Cheers, Julie

  8. Avatar for Dips

    Great information ! We are planning to visit Scotland for 5 days in April. Our 2 days in Edinburgh are planned after I read your blog 🙂 However I am still not sure how to continue the trip further. If we start our trip from Edinburgh – where do we go next on the day 3. We want to do Highlands / Inverness / Glen coe / Fort William / Isle of SKye / Aberdeen / Glasgow / Whisky trail. Its a bit too much for 5 days you may think. But I am just laying down all that i know.

    If you can guide me these 5 days that would be huge help !

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      So, do you have 5 full days in Scotland or 5 additional days outside of Edinburgh? If you have 5 additional days, go to the Isle of Skye, visiting Glen Coe and Fort William on the way. You need 3 nights, at least 2 full days in the Isle of Skye, to make it worth driving out this way, so if you have 5 days, you have plenty of time to get to and from the Isle of Skye and see the Isle of Skye. If you only have 3 days, go to Glasgow, Glen Coe and Fort William, or do the Whisky Trail with Inverness. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to write back in to us. Cheers, Julie

  9. Avatar for Deanna

    I found this post, not sure how old, I am trying to figure out our itinerary and wondered if you could help. we are taking the caledonian sleeper from london to scotland, Then I have 3 full days in Scotland. my question is whether to take the train to Inverness and rent car to make our way down to Edinburgh (stopping at the castle at Loch ness and few pictures) and then on to Glencoe and then Stirling castle. 2nd option is to train to Edinburgh and then take a day trip drive up to stirling and Glencoe and back for a day. I was planning on renting a car but I see there is a day trip on your site.

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      This post is several years old but I update it very frequently. Both of your options sound very nice and you can’t go wrong with either choice. Would you rather see Inverness and Loch Ness, or, base yourself in Edinburgh and day trip to Glencoe? If you haven’t been to Edinburgh yet, I recommend having two days here, to see everything in the post (unless some of it looks skippable to you). Driving in Scotland is fine, they do drive on the left side of the road, so if you haven’t done that yet, it can be nerve-wracking the first time (and could be a reason to take a tour rather than rent a car). I wish I could tell you which one to do, but it really comes down to what you want to see. Cheers, Julie

  10. Avatar for Sue

    Thanks for all the wonderful information! We are going to stay in Edinburgh for 3-1/2 days in July. Your suggestions for two days are very helpful. For our third day, we are trying to decide between a day trip to the Highlands and Loch Ness, or going on our own by train to Glasgow and Stirling Castle. We love beautiful scenery, history, and quirky cities…what would you suggest?

    1. Avatar for Julie Post

      My vote would be for the Highlands. Scotland is beautiful and I think it would be really nice to see some of the countryside rather than another city (although Glasgow is great). Loch Ness is OK but we liked Glen Coe more. However, if you don’t mind a lot of driving, you can visit Loch Ness and Glen Coe in one day from Edinburgh. Here’s a little more information for you about driving in Scotland. I hope this helps! Cheers, Julie

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