Edinburgh is a true gem. For me not being too much of a city person, the culture and history dotted along these cobblestone streets swept me off my feet as soon as I arrived and I instantly fell in love with this city. Edinburgh offers a little something for everyone: coffee lovers, art lovers, culture lovers, history buffs, outdoor lovers, the whole shebang, which makes this the perfect place to start your adventure around Scotland and before you head out to the Scottish Highlands. If you only have 3 days in Edinburgh, or if you’re heading here for a short weekend break, this itinerary is going to take you through the gems of the city, incredible coffee spots, vegan eateries, and some offbeat places outside the city that you won’t want to miss. This itinerary is completely malleable, so you can swap different days and activities to fit in with your preferences, but I have curated it into specific locations for each day so that you’re not hopscotching around, but rather spending days in different areas of the city so that you can maximize your time and save a bit of money. If that wasn’t enough, I also made a map of everything mentioned on this itinerary so that you can save it to your google drive and always have access to any of the locations and stops along the route so you stay on track and have a visual!
This three-day Edinburgh itinerary is for anyone looking to maximize their time exploring Scotland’s capital and see all the highlights and more during your stay here.
This post may contain affiliate links for the products I mentioned, but as always, all opinions are my own. I make a small commission, at no extra cost to you, when you make a purchase or booking through these links. This helps to support this space and keep me blogging, which I am so extremely thankful for.
Headed To Edinburgh? Check out my other resources for the city!
- 6 Awesome Day Trips From Edinburgh, Scotland
- The 15 Best Coffee Shops In Edinburgh: A Coffee Lovers Guide
- The Ultimate Packing Guide for Scotland: Summer Edition
The Best Time To Visit Edinburgh
The Best Weather
June – August
For The Holidays / New Year
Mid-November – January 1
Late July – August
For Fewer Crowds
spring (mid march – may) / fall (September – October)
How To Get Around Edinburgh
I think the best way to immerse yourself in a city is by walking through all of the intricate architecture and seeing what small corners you can find amongst the hustle and bustle. I spent a couple of days wandering around Edinburgh and I still found new cafes and shops to stop into that I had missed before. If you want to save a bit of money on taxis or ubers, this is a great way to get around and experience the city.
If you need to get to the other side of the city or somewhere that is a bit too far of a walk, a bus is a cheap, and great, option for getting from point a to point b. You can purchase day passes, single tickets, and view all your different options on the Lothian Bus Website. If you’re buying a ticket as you board, make sure you have the exact amount since the drivers aren’t able to give you change.
By Taxi / Uber
This is the most expensive way to get around Edinburgh, and really any city, considering walking is free and the bus is only a few dollars. I took a few Ubers while I was around the city and I found them to be very convenient for meeting up with people and getting home after a long day. They’re everywhere, so you won’t have trouble finding one if you need one.
3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary
Three days in Edinburgh is just enough time to dip your toe into what this city has to offer. The cobblestone streets, pubs, and culture will have you wrapped up into Scottish History before you know it. There are tons of iconic spots in Edinburgh, so in this itinerary, I will be taking you through the polished gems of Edinburgh, as well as a few beloved local spots so that you can have the best of both worlds. There is so much to see in Edinburgh that it might be a bit overwhelming for first-time visitors (trust me, you’ll want to cram everything in like I did), but these awesome three days are going to be filled with photogenic spots, foods, coffee, and experiences that will get rid of that FOMO, fear of missing out. Of course, you can’t see it all in one go, which is all the more reason to return again. Trust me, you will want to.
Edinburgh Itinerary Day 1: A Warm Welcome On The Mile
The first day in Edinburgh is going to get you familiar with all your surroundings and take you through some of the most popular spots that are quite quintessential for everyone coming to Edinburgh, but always essential to see for first-time visitors. In the morning, you’ll caffeinate up at Brew Lab and enjoy a hearty, traditional Scottish breakfast at Breakfast, Brunch, and Lunch, and then for lunch or dinner, you cannot pass up The Baked Potato Shop. You can choose when you would like to stop by, and then the third meal of the day can be anything that has piqued your interest, a local pub, a nicer dinner, or anything that suits your style. Throughout the day, you’ll be headed to The Royal Mile to see the most iconic part of Edinburgh, maybe grab a souvenir, navigate your way through the various side streets, see some street performers, and the beautiful St. Giles Cathedral. From there, head over to Grassmarket Square where you’ll find vintage shops, century-old book stores, and other spots that explore Edinburgh’s quirky side. While you’re in the area, you’re going to pop into the National Museum Of Scotland where you can dive into the culture, history, and the world’s first cloned mammal, Dolly the sheep. Finally, you’ll finish off your first day exploring around Arthur’s Seat for sunset, but you’ll want to arrive a couple of hours before to give yourself plenty of time to explore around. Watch the sun go down over Edinburgh, return back to your hostel, hotel, or Airbnb, and rest well for day two.
Enjoy A Cup Of Joe At Brew Lab Coffee
We are going to start this day off the best way possible with a good ol’ local cup of joe from Brew Lab. Of course, there are many other places for a great cup of coffee in Edinburgh, but Brew Lab is a crowd favorite for tourists and locals alike, plus it’s in a great central location for our other spots for the day. Starting your morning off slowly with coffee, pastries, and people watching is hands down one of the best ways to feel the cool breeze of the morning and watch the city start to come alive. Try out their filtered coffee with a splash of plant-based milk, the best way to experience specialty coffees, and pair that with a filled baguette, avo toast, or some fresh, local granola from Union Of Genius.
Breakfast At Breakfast Brunch and Lunch
What would a morning in Edinburgh be without a classic Scottish breakfast? Breakfast, Brunch, and Lunch serves up traditional breakfasts (vegan and non): toast, sausage(s), baked beans, broiled tomatoes, mushrooms, and eggs. If that isn’t your vibe, then you can build your own breakfast from their scratch menu and they have dozens of options for everyone. Their vegan sausage is probably the best that I have had in my entire life (truly), so be sure to check out their full vegan Scottish breakfast!
For hundreds of years, the entire city of Edinburgh lived along this mile-long cobblestone street that may actually be the most popular street in all of the United Kingdom. If we want to get real specific, technically it’s a little over a mile long (107 yards longer or 1.7 kilometers for all my readers outside the United States), but in this case, it is a thousand times easier to round down to a mile than it is to say the exact distance, and it has a nice ring to it. Among the Royal Mile, you’ll find various side streets labeled “closes”, which were basically small gated communities way back. The small entrances resemble canyons, and for some the steepness of the stairs and ramps makes you feel like you are walking underground. If you want to find some closes with great views, Advocates Close, White Horse Close, Dunbar Close, and Mary King’s Close are all very notable that you should keep your eyes peeled for. Among the eye candy, you’ll find street performers, small handmade goods (I love the jewelry at Two Skies), and other ‘wee’ shops that you’ll find yourself popping into. There is so much to see in this one location, so really take your time here, enjoy the scenery, and learn the history. Knowing the history of what you’re looking at is going to make it a whole lot more special and memorable and you’ll be able to dive into Scotland’s past through various activities like free walking tours, and these fun stops along the mile:
The Real Mary King’s Close
Mary King’s Close is the most iconic close, or alleyway, that leads into underground passageways that were once home to many people from different social classes. It is named after Mary King, a merchant, and widow that lived there from 1635 on. If that time period sounds a bit familiar, you’re more than likely thinking of the bubonic plague. Ah yes, it was thriving during this time period, especially among residents of this close. But don’t let me spoil all the fun stuff for you. You can take day or night tours of this close that will tell the stories and give you all the disturbing, and maybe a little bit gross, history of this underground mystery. It’s one of the many great, unusual things to do in Edinburgh, and I know you’ll find it fascinating!
Scottish Storytelling Center
If you’re interested in Scottish history, folklore, or want to have a more quiet night in, this is a great spot to go. They have different events held each day or week with different themes, guests, and styles of live storytelling like music and theater. It just had its ten year anniversary back in 2016, and they aspire to keep the Scottish Storytelling Center as preservation for these stories so that future generations can come to love them as well.
The Heart Of Midlothian
If you’re enjoying your stroll up or down the Royal Mile and to your surprise you see someone spit aggressively onto the street, don’t be too repulsed because was, and still is, a tradition to spit on these stones arranged in a heart. This heart used to be where the entrance to The Old Tollbooth back in the day, a set of council buildings and a famous jail. This was the location where people would gather for public hangings, and if you were really unlucky, you would be sent inside to be tortured. If you were freed from the jail, it was customary to spit on the heart on the way out as a way of (in American terms) sticking it to the man. It’s in an incredibly open placement on one of the sidewalks on the Royal Mile and once you stop by here, it is coincidentally (but really my great planning) right next to St. Giles Cathedral, your next stop.
St. Giles Cathedral
St. Giles Cathedral was founded by King David I in around 1124, so this building is super old, but still breathtaking inside and out. The inside has intricate stained glass along the walls and ceiling with ornate archways that truly take you back in time. There is a lot of history of this church with The Jacobites, Bonnie Prince Charlie, John Knox, and John Calvin, and the Scottish tell it a whole lot better than I ever could, so brush up on it and explore this wonder. The entrance is free, but you can opt-in for a rooftop tour that is only six pounds per person. If you want some stunning photos of this small square with the church included, make sure you get up early and arrive before everyone else.
The Scotch Whiskey Experience
Did you even go to Scotland if you didn’t get trashed mid-day? All jokes aside, Scotland has some bomb whiskey and you’ll want to try it out before you leave. The Scotch Whiskey Experience has a collection of nearly 4,000 bottles of whiskey held in a marble and glass vault, the largest collection in the world. If you have the time, I recommend going on the full “Taste Of Scotland” to get more bang for your buck and an opt-in for the three-course dinner. Their menu does reflect local ingredient availability, AND they have a vegan and vegetarian menu (SCORE).
Grassmarket Street + Square
The Royal Mile is pretty iconic, but Grassmarket Street is the just as cool, hipster younger sister. The square reminds me more of that old-timey, community gathering spot a bit more than the Royal Mile, and it’s the perfect spot if you love quirky shops, outdoor dining, and that classic historical feel. There are tons of notable shops here like Armstrong’s Vintage, Aha Ha Ha, Mr. Wood’s Fossils, and Maison De Moggy (a cat cafe). Even more notably in the area, you can stop into The Elephant House, the place where J.K. Rowling wrote some of the first chapters of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone, Greyfriars Kirkyard, an iconic statue and burial place where a terrier with a heartwarming story behind him lay (essentially like the Balto of the United Kingdom but no life-altering journey), and the burial spot for Tom Riddle, another popular Harry Potter character that was inspired by Edinburgh. Both the terrier and Tom Riddle are buried in the same cemetery and then the statue of Greyfriars Bobby is in front of the restaurant. Legend has it that rubbing Greyfriars Bobby’s nose will bring you good luck! There is so much to experience here, so take it slow and explore all the little shops.
Lunch or Dinner At The Baked Potato Shop
To quote Lizzie Mcguire, even though we aren’t traveling in Italy, this IS what dreams are made of. What more could you want than a baked potato shop with over twenty different topping options?! The Baked Potato Shop is right off the royal mile and it’s a great spot to fill up after you spent the morning walking around the mile and exploring Grassmarket square. The potatoes come in three different sizes, but wait it gets better, and you can choose from 20+ toppings like vegan chili, baked beans, curried rice, mexican salad, and non-vegan toppings like sour cream cheddar cheese, and even get the potato greek style.
Honestly, folks, it doesn’t get any more iconic than this, so make sure you stop in for a quick bite and remember your reusable takeaway container.
Wander Around The National Museum Of Scotland
If you’re on the market to see the world’s first cloned mammal, prepare to give Dolly the sheep a visit at the National Museum Of Scotland. Even if you only go to see that, it will be well worth it since the entrance to this museum is absolutely free, however, you’ll want to explore the many other fascinating nooks of this place. like Arthur’s Seat Coffins, The Cramond Lioness, Muonionalusta Meteorite are just a few of the top things to see at the museum, but do a little bit of exploring to find your favorite pieces from Ancient Egypt, The Roman Empire, and more.
Hike Arthur’s Seat + Enjoy Sunset
Okay so don’t make the same mistake I did and only allow yourself around an hour to see this spot because there is so much more than it looks from the road. What appears to be just a gravel hiking trail up to this scenic lookout point is actually a series of trails and tiers that are well worth the difficult climb up them. Arthur’s Seat gives you the BEST view in all of Edinburgh and it’s the perfect spot to pack some sandwiches or grab some takeaway food and enjoy the sunset. You’ll want to arrive here a few hours before sunset if you plan on doing a lot of exploring and to get some nice photos of the area. You can see for miles and it was one of my favorite parts of the whole city. The coolest part about this spot is that it is an inactive volcano with several interesting myths and facts about it that go far beyond its eye candy.
Edinburgh Itinerary Day 2: Coastal Villages, Castles, + High Tea
For day two, we are headed a bit off the beaten path to some outer castles in Edinburgh and to some small, fairytale villages that you won’t want to miss. You’ll be starting your day at Twelve Triangles, a tasty coffee and pastry shop (my mouth is watering just thinking about going there) and from there, you’re going to head to the Palace of Holyrood. While you wander around the gardens, Holyrood Abbey and historical sites, keep an eye for the queen if she is on a visit since this is her official residence while she’s in Edinburgh. After you spend a bit of time there, right around the corner is Saint Anthony’s Chapel Ruins which make for a pretty sweet photo since it lies on a picturesque hill. The next stop is up north to a small coastal village known as Leith. Make sure your camera is charged and your appetite is ready for this fairytale village and a quick stop for some high tea. Once you’ve made your way around Leith and stopped in a local spot for lunch, you’ll head east to see some really incredible castles that not many travelers know about. They each have their own beauty to them, but if you could only see one, then head to Tantallon Castle. Once you finish up your exploring, we’re going to be headed back into Edinburgh to Calton Hill just in time for sunset. This spot is hands down one of the best views in all of Edinburgh and you’ll definitely want to be here to watch the sun go down. Finally, once the sun sets, you’ll get cleaned up for a nice dinner at David Bann.
Coffee + Pastries At Twelve Triangles
This place is every bread, pastry, and coffee lovers’ dream spot. There are few greater things than freshly baked bread and as soon as you walk in the door, you’ll be asking for everything in their bakery. Twelve Triangles has free-wifi and it’s dog-friendly, so you can enjoy fresh cinnamon rolls, sourdough bread, a steamy latte, and pet a pup all while enjoying the smell of carbs and coffee. If there was one cafe and bakery that you shouldn’t miss while in Edinburgh, it’s Twelve Triangles. If you want to see some of their dreamy creations, they post a ton on their Instagram page like this BEAUTIFUL sourdough loaf *drools*. Breakfast is your pick today, so enjoy a nice meal on the mile or a spot recommended by any locals you’ve met along the way.
Palace Of Holyrood + Holyrood Abbey Church
To start off the final day in Edinburgh, you’ll be headed out to the Palace Of Holyrood. This was the official residence of Queen Elizabeth II, and today, it is the official residence of Her Majesty The Queen when she is doing official queen-things while in Scotland. You can walk through many of the rooms, gardens, galleries, and even take a tour if you’d like to know more on the notable people that the palace is associated with like Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary Queen of Scots. On the same grounds, you can visit the Holyrood Abbey Church, which is essentially church ruins dating back to the 13th century. The church is stunning and the intricate details mixed with the moss and decay from centuries pass makes this a great photo location with that abandoned feel to it.
Saint Anthony’s Chapel Ruins
After you’ve indulged yourself in royalty, it’s time to head over to Saint Anthony’s Chapel Ruins. The chapel has been directly linked the Holyrood Abbey, but very little is known about this spot. The majority of the chapel is long gone, but the portion that is still standing overlooks St. Margaret’s Loch, Edinburgh’s New Town, and Arthur’s Seat. The location is quite beautiful, another one of those memorable views in Edinburgh, so make sure your camera batteries are charged.
Right along with Dean Village, Leith is another one of those quaint villages that will give you that old town feel. To get here you need to hop on the bus from Holyrood Palace to Leith Village, which you can easily schedule using the journey planner through Lothian Buses or you can walk the Water of Leith Walkway that takes you along a beautiful route up to the village. To save some time, I recommend taking the bus on the way up and walking the path back down to Edinburgh. According to Visit Scotland, Leith is “a vivacious area jam-packed with delicious delis, chic drinking spots, and top restaurants boasting some of Scotland’s finest chefs. The district asserts a jovial attitude and hosts an eclectic mix of people and cultures, making each a visit a unique experience.” I couldn’t describe it better myself.
Enjoy High Tea At Mimi’s Bakehouse
Our next stop for the day is up north in Leith at Mimi’s Bakehouse. This cute little spot is the perfect spot for high tea and/or lunch. They have a couple of different menus depending on what time you show up: beforenoon tea, afternoon tea, lunch, + drinks. If tea isn’t your jam, they have mimosas, bellinis, wines, sodas, and hot cocoa so there is a little something for everyone. They have a few vegan options on their menu but make sure you pre-book if you’re gluten-free and/or vegan so that they can prepare a little something-something for you. If you happen to arrive in the morning, from 9 am – 12 pm, you can have a look at their breakfast menu and even enjoy a full vegan Scottish breakfast or if that isn’t your jam then they have tons of other non-plant-based options on all their menus.
Explore The Outer Castles Of Edinburgh
For this next stop, you’re going to be venturing outside the city to explore some stunning castles that are often shadowed by Edinburgh Castle. You have a couple of options to get to these castles: bus, car, or uber. The most convenient and cost-efficient of these are going to be renting your own car for around 2-3 hours. If you choose to take a bus, it is going to take a lot longer and take up the most of the second half of your day, so I highly recommend grabbing your own car and making your own adventure out of it. Also, there is the option to Uber there in case you don’t mind to splurge a big for convenience, but if you make some friends and split the cost of the ride, then it will be a lot more reasonable, easier on your wallet, and you won’t have to drive. These castles are stunning and are entirely worth the visit to see them (and they make for some stunning photos). They all are on a single route on the way to Fa’side Castle, so you can hit them all in one go. You can use the Rome2Rio website for more alternative routes. If you were only going to see one, I recommend going to see Tantallon Castle since it is perched on a breathtaking cliffside looking over the Firth of Forth.
If you’re looking for one of those iconic ‘bridge leading into a dreamy, fairytale castle’, this is the spot for you. Dirleton Castle has pieces of its grounds dating back to the 13th and 14th centuries. It is one of Scotland’s oldest surviving fortresses and it housed three notable families until its abandonment after it was seized by Oliver Cromwell in 1650. There are tons to see here to make sure you take your time, explore the underground pathways, gardens, pigeon house and brush up on a bit of its history before you go.
Tantallon Castle is the most atmospheric castle you’re going to see. It looks out onto hundreds of miles of blue seas and stunning cliffs which makes this spot extra drone worthy for a sunrise or sunset mission. This castle was built in the mid 14th century and was eventually taken over by King James IV and King James V. Today it is kept by Historic Scotland and you can explore this castle on all sides seeing its curtain wall and inner and outer courts. It’s a true beauty and you can find the history of this castle in this great article. Other sources say this castle is semi-ruined, but it still stands tall in wonder and takes you back to the medieval era.
Fa’side or Fawside Castle looks like it comes right out of a fairytale, and the best part? You can spend the night here. Oh yes. Experience all of your princess dreams looking over small villages east of Edinburgh in your own private tower dating back to the 14th century. While it’s not made of the traditional stone as you saw on the previous castles, the white walls and dark roof give me total Disney Princess vibes and it’s in a quiet area with nothing but fields surrounding it, so it really feels like you have the place to yourself. Especially if you choose to stay there. If you’re not staying, enjoy the outside and snap some pictures from the field. What a dream it would be to stay in this beautiful spot to take in, and quite literally, experience 14th century Scotland.
Hike Calton Hill
The last thing or things, shall I say, that you’ll be exploring today is Calton Hill. This hill is actually a whole lot more than a simple hill because it has many monuments and a stunning panoramic view of Edinburgh that is the perfect spot for exploration before you watch the sun go down. The entire trail is around two miles there and back and it’s more of a leisurely walk than let’s say a hike, so if you’re swamped by the end of today, then this will be a perfect cool down. Calton Hill is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a few notable monuments from Scotland’s rich history:
This monument was modeled after the Parthenon in Athens, but it wasn’t completed fully, so there are twelve columns that protrude out of the ground to form this very Roman-esque architecture among the other two monuments on this list that hold that classic Scottish aesthetic. It was built to commemorate the soldiers that died during the Napoleonic Wars. This monument has labeled this hill as the “Athens of the North” and you can’t miss it once you reach the top.
The Nelson Monument gives me a leaning tower of Pisa and lighthouse kind of vibe, but it was really designed to look like an upturned telescope to honor Admiral Lord Nelson’s victory and death in the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. You can walk up to the top of the monument to get an even better look at Edinburgh, but make sure you do that before it closes. You can see the schedule here. It’s 127 stairs to the top, so brace yourself for that, but the view is entirely worth it.
Dugald Stewart Monument
This monument resembles that well on the way to Leith, but this one has a way better view and a history to it. The site was completed in 1831 and it is to honor the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart (you could have guessed that). It is just below the Nelson monument and is probably one of the most photographed parts of Calton Hill since you can get this monument and most of Edinburgh in a single photo.
This was opened right after I left Edinburgh. There was a lot of construction going on at Calton Hill while I was there, so I never got the chance to visit this place, but I would have in a heartbeat had it been completed. The design was by William Henry Playfair in 1818 and inspired by the Greek Temple of Four Winds. The first astronomer to study here in 1834, Professor Thomas Henderson, discovered parallax and how to calculate the distance to a star. I am such a nerd for anything astronomy, so I would have loved to give this a visit. So if you have extra time to stop in here, make sure you walk around the grounds and enjoy the architecture.
Dinner At David Bann
To finish off day two, we are heading to a moderately upscale dinner at David Bann. My mom and I ended up coming here for dinner one night and felt a bit under-dressed, but no one seemed to mind since we dined well, enjoyed some wine, and tipped properly. One thing to mention is that you may want to make a reservation ahead of time depending on what time you go since its a really popular spot among locals and tourists. They have an all-vegetarian menu, with vegan options, and varieties of food from all over the world which made it so hard to choose just one thing to eat. Give the menu a look, but I highly recommend the pad thai or Thai style dish with tofu (I couldn’t find it on the online menu, but it was there when I went). It’s so good and it’s just the right amount of food so that you’re satisfied, but still comfortable (aka you’re good if you order an appetizer and dessert). If you packed a little dress or some nicer clothing, you definitely want to show it off here, but don’t feel uncomfortable if you want to go in jeans.
Edinburgh Itinerary Day 3: The Heart Of The City
Your final day in Edinburgh is going to be a more relaxed day after the rendezvous of yesterday’s adventure. I always like to keep a good balance of activities, so this day is going to be more at your own pace so you can prioritize the things you want to see since they’re all in a central location. Of course, we are beginning our day with a lovely brew from a new, local coffee shop, Nomad. This small shop has taken over the third wave coffee scene in Edinburgh and it’s a true gem that is just being uncovered. Breakfast is your choice today, so if you found a cool little spot then go check it out, but my personal pick would be Loudon’s. Trust me, you need to try the vegan chocolate pancakes because they are absolutely incredible. After you fill up, its time to explore the heart of the city, Edinburgh Castle. There is no way you could have missed this gigantic castle looking over the Royal Mile and Grassmarket Street. I put this on your final day of the itinerary because you can easily spend half a day here learning about the history if you’d like. The next stop on the list is Dean Village. Around this time, your appetite is going to be calling, so stop in Holy Cow before heading off to the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh. To close your final day in this stunning city, you’ll be wandering around the Scottish National Gallery, and finishing the night off with dinner at Nova Pizza and a movie at Edinburgh’s oldest entertainment venue, The Cameo Picturehouse, that dates back to 1914.
Get Your Morning Brew At Nomad Coffee
The first stop of the day is at a lovely little cafe, Nomad Coffee. It has taken the Edinburgh coffee scene by storm since its recent opening which means that you don’t want to miss a solid brew and pastry combo at this place. The outside of this cafe is a beautiful blue color, so it is hard to miss as you’re passing by. I think my favorite part about this spot is that it’s nestled right on the city corner, so you can people watch and sip on your drink and indulge in one of their breads or croissants as you prepare for your last day in Edinburgh.
Relish In Edinburgh Castle’s History
As you’ve been navigating the city and wandering around Edinburgh, there is an extremely large chance that you have noticed the enormous castle overlooking the entire city. This is Edinburgh Castle. Honestly, I didn’t know too much about the castle and I didn’t quite know what to expect, but to make it easier for you all: expect loads of history and a TON of tourists. I was blown away at the sheer amount of people there was walking around this castle, so make sure you get there as early as possible and book your tickets online ahead of time. This way they will be cheaper and you can get in faster. I don’t really consider myself a history nerd by any means, but I could have easily spent an entire day walking around the castle grounds. All of it was so fascinating to me and you can see The Crown Jewels of Scotland within the castle grounds which was honestly one of the main highlights of the entire experience (It’s the crown, sword, stone (yes, a stone), and scepter that they use in the coronation of monarchs in Scotland). If I were to guess, they’re worth a shit ton of money (emphasis on shit ton) and you can’t even photograph them as you walk through, so make sure you don’t miss them! I recommend getting an audio tour to guide you through the castle since they’re only a couple of dollars and it’ll give you TONS of information that you would have missed by only walking around.
If it’s your dream to waltz around a small, fairytale village with a small river running through, you’re going to be stoked to explore Dean Village. The name means “Deep Valley” to the Scottish, and this little spot thrived for over 800 years until trade picked up and it began decaying and people abandoned it during the second half of the 20th century, but of course with its small charm and great location right outside the city, residency picked right back up and now it is extremely sought after (I mean just look at the place c’mon). There are shops, cafes, and small streets you can make your way around, but be sure to stop by the St. Bernard’s Well for some eye candy, as well as the Dean Village Cemetary and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art if you’re interested.
It’s lunchtime and time to head over to Holy Cow! This 100% vegan restaurant features burgers, sandwiches, soups, salads, open sandwiches, and many cakes and other sweets that will be calling your name once you see the menu. The menu changes with whatever local produce are available, but know that you’ll be getting a tasty meal and something moderately healthy since the other stops have been a bit indulgent, but hey that’s what travels all about, so order that extra slice of spiced pear and walnut cake or cheesecake.
Royal Botanical Gardens Edinburgh
Botanical gardens are one of my favorite places to go in cities since I can simultaneously be in a concrete jungle and a real jungle at the same time. These gardens, in particular, were founded in 1670 which really fascinates me since a lot of stuff has gone down since then and the gardens were still upheld and kept. You can walk around over 70 acres of greenery and see a stunning view of the Edinburgh skyline, so if you want a peaceful stop away from the hustle of the city and enjoy some time in “nature”. The Royal Botanical Gardens features a next level herbarium (a collection of dried plant specimens usually mounted and systematically arranged for reference) that contains over three million species of plants from over 300 years of collecting. With all of Edinburgh’s rich history, this didn’t surprise me at all and I found that most things in Edinburgh, even some that seem mundane, still have that special charm that can’t keep you away.
Scottish National Gallery
Who needs The Louvre when you have the Scottish National Gallery? Okay, I kid. I kid, but really, this gallery is home to some of the finest fine art in the world from artists like Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Leonardo da Vinci, Salvador Dali (my personal favorite) and hundreds, if not thousands of other notable artists from the Renaissance and onward. If you want to find some incredible works of art, The Culture Trip has a great article about 13 pieces of art that you cannot miss. If you’re an art lover, you’re going to love this place, and since it’s the last major stop on this itinerary, you can take your time here and explore all around the rooms.
Nova Pizza has one simple mantra, “Our mission is simple – serve cruelty-free food that tastes so good you’ll tell your friends about it.” Well, here I am, telling all my friends about this incredible pizza place with a menu chalked full of carby, greasy, Italian goodness. They’ve got calzones, pizzas, pasta, bruschetta, bread baskets, vegan ice cream, vegan cheesecake, (emphasis on bread basket) the list goes on. I would have a twelve-course meal here if I could stomach it. When you stop in, make sure you finish your meal off with one of their vegan calzone dolces!
Enjoy A Movie At The Cameo Picturehouse
Finish up that calzone for dessert, and head on over to The Cameo Picturehouse, the oldest entertainment complex in Edinburgh. It has almost, if not all its original decor and detailing which truly takes you back to the 1910s when this was built. They feature older and more modern movies and you can view the schedule here if you’re interested. They only play a handful of movies at a time, so find something you’ve never heard of or a flick you’ve been anticipating for months. You can go two ways with it: blast from the past or past meets modern. They have snacks, free wifi, and all sorts of other goodies that you can snack on during the movie. This is a great way to close off your final night in Edinburgh and get that last taste of history before setting off to Skye or your next destination.
3 Day Edinburgh Itinerary Overview
Coffee at Brew Lab
Breakfast at Breakfast, Brunch, and Lunch
Take on the Royal Mile
Explore Grassmarket Street + Square
Lunch or dinner at The Baked Potato Shop
Hike Arthur’s Seat for sunset
Enjoy coffee and pastries at Twelve Triangles
Explore Around The Palace Of Holyrood
Hit up Leith and enjoy some high tea
Relish in Edinburgh’s outer castles
Stroll up Calton Hill for sunset
Dinner at David Bann
Get your morning brew at Nomad
Explore Edinburgh Castle
Waltz around Dean Village
Lunch at Holy Cow
Visit the Royal Botanical Gardens
Explore The Scottish National Gallery
Dinner at Nova Pizza
Watch a flick at The Cameo Picturehouse
A Map of The Best 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary
What stop on this Edinburgh itinerary are you dying to see? Share it with me in the comments below!