Edinburgh is an amazing city to explore. You could spend a week there and not see it all, but you can also see quite a bit of it if all you have is one day. I’ve been fortunate enough to have gone to Edinburgh twice, once was a week-long trip during Hogmanay, that’s New Years to the rest of us. The other time was a whirlwind weekend trip that really only gave us one day in Edinburgh. I’ve been itching to get back to Edinburgh again sometime and since it was on my mind I thought I would put out my guide to seeing Edinburgh in 24 hours.
It is impossible to go to Edinburgh and not see Edinburgh Castle. I mean literally impossible. It’s right in the middle of town. If you get the bus from the airport you are most likely going to be getting off the bus with Edinburgh Castle towering over you. Be nearby for the one o’clock gun which should come as no surprise…goes off at one o’clock. The exceptions are Sundays, Christmas Day, and Good Friday.
Do You Need to Go In?
So, this might be somewhat of a controversial opinion…but, if you are short on time. If 24 hours is all you have in Edinburgh…don’t go inside the castle. The best views of it are from the streets below. If you really want to bask in its glory grab lunch and bring it to Princes Street Gardens.
Wander Historic Edinburgh
The Old Town areas of Edinburgh are like something out of a fantasy story. In fact, some of those streets served as inspiration for Harry Potter locations. So take some time and wander. You won’t regret it, the architecture really is amazing. While you’re there you’ll see the Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral, and more Harry Potter themed things than you can shake a stick at. Be sure to grab a deep-fried Mars bar while you’re there.
If you’re looking for somewhere to watch the sun go down in Edinburgh then Calton Hill is the place to be. The top of the hill has some of the best views of the entire city. I don’t recommend going up there solo though, it is pretty sketchy in the dark. Even if you can’t make it up for sunset then you should try to make it there at some point. It is an amazing and very unique angle to see the city from and a rare treat to see so much of an old city like that. Do not miss Calton Hill!
Palace of Holyroodhouse Tour
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh and you could easily spend an entire day exploring all of it. There are state apartments, an amazing art gallery, fantastic gardens, and so much more. The audio tour takes about an hour to complete and is well worth listening to. I recommend booking your tickets online in advance, you’ll save a bit of money doing it.
National Museum of Scotland
If you’re itching to go to a museum then you can’t go wrong with a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. It is completely free to visit and you’ll get to see a whole lot more than just what Scotland has to offer. It is several types of museum all rolled up into one including Fashion, Archaeology, World Cultures, Natural History, and Science. The highlight of the whole museum is Dolly, the cloned sheep who was stuffed and donated to the museum upon her death.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
If you want a bit of an outdoorsy countryside experience without leaving Edinburgh then you should climb Arthur’s Seat. What is Arthur’s Seat? It’s an ancient volcano just a mile outside of Edinburgh that is popular for hillwalking. It’s easy enough to climb that anyone can do it, including small children. I wouldn’t consider Arthur’s Seat a must-see and in fact, of everything in this article I would say it is the most easily skipped in favor of the others.
Just a 9 minute walk away from Princes Street is the quaint little area of Edinburgh called Dean Village or Dean Hamlet and it is a must-see for anyone who loves old architecture. To say that it is picturesque is to do it a disservice. It is stunning. Unfortunately, aside from being beautiful to look at for a few minutes, there isn’t anything to do there. It’s effectively all residential. That just means it’s a great spot for some photos and then you can move on to see other things!
All of this is of course just scratching the surface of all the amazing things that Edinburgh has to offer and of course, it doesn’t even go into food which…Edinburgh has too many amazing food options to even start listing. I just wanted to prove that even if all you have is one day in Edinburgh you can still have an amazing trip.