Edited by Holly Jenson
Scotland’s capital is filled with history, architecture, and culture, and with so much to be explored, is 2 days in Edinburgh enough? My favorite things to do in Edinburgh are all about its historic architecture, beautiful green spaces, and weird and wonderful facts - and there is so much of this amongst our cobbled streets. This city has always been my home town and I have explored every inch of it over the years. So I’ve created an ideal 2 days in Edinburgh itinerary so you can see all the best bits since less time doesn’t have to mean less fun!
Day 1 Morning - Wonderful wanderings
With only 2 days in Edinburgh, it’s important that you start your whirlwind tour with a hearty breakfast. Head to The Raeburn for an exquisite meal in a historic house. I had my honeymoon here, and I can confirm that the eggs are to die for! This high-end hotel is the picture of sophistication with classy Georgian architecture which will make you feel like a real VIP. Spend a couple of hours exploring the surrounding area of Stockbridge. With its French bakeries, independent cafes, markets and traditional houses, this is your chance to experience a Scottish village without ever leaving the city. Then head south-east back up the hill to Princes street, where you can spend a while wandering through the ornate gardens. Sitting in the centre of town, the Princes Street gardens are one of the most-well-loved places to visit in Edinburgh, it’s a real local experience to spend a while walking here and breathing in the fresh air. They often have exhibitions on displaying art from well-known artists; keep an eye on their calendar!
Day 1 Lunch - Hungry for haggis?
Head east to Cockburn Street, which is part of the Royal Mile. The road is winding with amazing architecture, and you can also spot where Elizabeth Olsen was thrown through a window in the blockbuster Infinity War (there’s a plaque you can look out for!) Halfway up the hill, you can reward yourself with a delicious lunch at Arcade Bar Haggis and Whisky House. One of the best Edinburgh activities is experiencing our local food culture, and this is the best place for it! With over 100 whiskies to choose from as well as a huge selection of traditional dishes, there is no better place to get a taste of the city. The staff here really know their stuff, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice if there’s too much choice, they can find you the drink perfect for your palette. With only 48 hours in Edinburgh, I would advise getting a few of their dishes to share so you can truly experience the culture, ‘Robert Burn’s Famous Haggis’ is their most popular menu item and definitely worth trying.
Afternoon: Historic Houses
Something that needs to be a part of your 2 days in Edinburgh Itinerary is Edinburgh Castle. Dominating our skyline, there is evidence of life on Castle Rock dating back to the Iron Age - 2800 years ago! One of my favorite things about this place is that you can see different time periods from the variations in brickwork. Every time the castle was taken over, demolished, or rebuilt, there was a change in the bricks and design, so this is a great example of the history of the city. Enjoy the panoramic view from the green in front of the building, where you can people-watch among the winding streets of the old town. Wander east along the Royal Mile, enjoying the traditional buildings as you pass, and head up to The Palace of Holyrood House. The picture of elegance and grandeur, this is where the Queen of England stays whenever she visits Scotland, and it’ll always be one of the top things to do in Edinburgh. Built in the 12th century, the palace has been home to famous monarchs such as Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie; it’s always been at the heart of royal history. Tour the majestic walls and gaze at the glamour of the 17th century décor which surrounds you, it’s the fanciest place in Edinburgh. After exploring the beautiful grounds, there’s a short walk to the parliament building and Queen Mary’s bath house for more historical discovery.
Day 1 Evening - Classy and cozy
After all that sightseeing, your 2 days in Edinburgh itinerary needs another comforting meal. The Whiski Rooms is one of my favourite places to go, and where every Edinburgh local heads for the best traditional food and drink. Serving hundreds of types of whisky, the staff here are experts and eager to help you find your favourite. Sitting in the centre of the old town, the restaurant is classy with sleek seating and low lighting but is housed in an old-style building which pays homage to Edinburgh’s proud history. I love to come here in the winter and sit in the window; you have a great view of the Christmas market here and can people watch while enjoying the lights. When you’re looking for what to see in Edinburgh in 2 days, be sure to come here, there’s something special about tasting years of traditional culture in the heart of our old town.
Day 1 Night - Dance ‘til you drop
One of the best things to do in Edinburgh at night is dance to your heart’s content at WhyNot Nightclub. Voted the ‘best club in Edinburgh’, WhyNot has 10 awards for its memorable and creative nights. With 5 quirky cocktail bars, an LED room, and Edinburgh’s only late-night outdoor area, there is room to suit every mood. Sip some colorful cocktails on the terrace before heading to the LED room for music that will keep you dancing all night long. The outdoor area also has some comfy chairs that you can slump into after an energy-fuelled few hours on the dance floor. With a mix of pop hits and chart music and a DJ who knows how to get you moving, WhyNot head here during your 2 days in Edinburgh?
Day 2 Morning - Rule Britannia
On the second morning of your 48 hours in Edinburgh, start your morning feeling like royalty. Past the residential area of Leith in the north of the city, the Royal Yacht Britannia sits in her final resting place. Unveiled in 1954, Britannia sailed over 1 million nautical miles and allowed Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh to complete their visits to the commonwealth. Today you can tour the royal quarters and see rooms preserved in their original opulence, as well as having an insight into where the 220 crew members spent their days. It’s right next to the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre, you can get the 22 bus straight here from the centre. After touring the queen’s favourite rooms, grab a quick bite at the Debenhams Britannia View Café. Serving simple sandwiches, salads and pizzas, you can enjoy your lunch while looking over at Britannia and the surrounding contemporary architecture.
Day 2 Afternoon - The Green City
A top tip from me; to really see the city you need to experience its green spaces. Something which makes Edinburgh unique is how much nature you can find near the centre; it’s one of Europe’s greenest cities. One of the top things to do in Edinburgh is climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Take the shallow pathway, the steeper side is made up of old stone slabs and is a lot windier; it can leave you feeling a bit unsteady. Thought to be the location of King Arthur’s Camelot, you can enjoy the breathtaking views of the centre while pondering this place’s ominous history. The Meadows (just west of here) are a top attraction in the springtime as cherry blossom trees line the paths. It’s a truly magical sight to see all the pink petals flying in the wind.
Another green space you shouldn’t miss is our Royal Botanic Garden. The 70 acres of beautiful grounds feature colourful flowers, great oak trees and an enormous glasshouse home to over 3000 exotic plants. Wander the water features and feel your worries float away; this is one of the locals’ favourite places to relax. This garden is so loved by the city’s residents that Edinburgh Gin created a special savoury gin in honour of it, infused with fresh herbs. After a fun-filled 48 hours in Edinburgh, exploring our green spaces is a great way to relax while still enjoying the sights.
Day 2 Evening - Gin Jolly
An ever-growing part of our drinking culture in recent years is gin; as it can be created and bottled straight away, it’s starting to rival the traditionally longer processes of Edinburgh whisky. The best gin experience in Edinburgh is found at Pickering’s Distillery. On your ‘Gin Jolly’, you could be treated to a tour of the distillery and a close-up view of how this spirit is made, a chance to sample all of the company’s gins and a trendy bar to relax in at the end of the day. An insight into this independent distillery is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh at night, as you can sample current culture while enjoying a drink with friends in the cosy bar
Day 2 Night - Dinner at The Dome
The best way to round up your weekend in Edinburgh is with dinner at The Dome. The picture of elegance, you’ll be blown away by the décor as you enter the main foyer. Grand pillars line the room and make you feel like a real VIP. With 2 restaurants, tea rooms, and 3 cocktail bars decorated to perfection, this is the ideal location to enjoy a sophisticated meal to mark the end of your time in our city. If you’re here in December, The Dome has the best Christmas lights in the city; I come every year to capture them in a photo even though I’ve lived here my whole life! Sitting on fancy George Street, with its high-end wine bars and designer shops, this is the best place in Edinburgh for a taste of the high life and to relax and reflect on the best moments of your 48 hours in Edinburgh.
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