What to See in Edinburgh in 3 Days

3 days in edinburgh

3 days in Edinburgh itinerary – a complete travel guide to how to spend 3 perfect days in Edinburgh.

3 days in edinburgh

How many days to spend in Edinburgh

You’ll need 2-3 days. 

Almost all landmarks are packed in the city centre at a walking distance from each other. Overall for 3 days in Edinburgh, you can see the most famous sites plus take some tours. The easiest way to get around the city is by using a hop-on-hop-off bus tour.

How much time I spent

During my trip to Scotland, I spared 5 days for Edinburgh. However two of these days I spent exploring the rest of Scotland. Scotland is such a beautiful country and there is so much to see. Make sure to spare a day or two for some short trips from Edinburgh.

Since I fell in love with Vienna almost 10 years ago, I never imagined that another city can capture my heart again. Of course, I was so wrong! The moment I saw Edinburgh I knew that this city will have my heart forever. The city looks so old and romantic. It’s like taking a time machine back to medieval centuries.

I loved the architecture and I hated the weather. All seasons change few times a day. You get an hour bright sunny weather followed by an hour of rain and then it repeats. All this combined with constant wind. Yet, I am so in love with the city, that I can’t wait to go back.

Check out the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh to get the most of your time in this amazing city.

Where to stay in Edinburgh for sightseeing

The easiest way to get from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre is by using the City Airlink bus.


Luxury option – The Witchery by the Castle – this lavish hotel has one of the best locations in Edinburgh, right next to the castle.

9.5/10 Rating – See hotel images and 240+ guest reviews


Mid-range – The Rutland Hotel – located next to the Prince’s Street Gardens and close to the castle, the hotel is a great base to explore both the New and the Old Town.

9.2/10 Rating – See hotel images and 850+ guest reviews


Apartment – Old Town Chambers – 5-star luxury serviced apartments offering a home-from-home experience.

9.3/10 Rating – See apartment images and 1,400+ guest reviews


If you haven’t picked a hotel yet, check out the best places to stay in Edinburgh.

How to save money on your Edinburgh itinerary

Royal Edinburgh 2-Day Attractions Ticket

The Royal Edinburgh 2-Day Attractions Ticket includes:

  • skip-the-line entry to Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse and the Royal Yacht Britannia
  • 2 days access to Edinburgh’s hop-on-hop-off sightseeing bus

By using this ticket (52 GBP) you will save 15 GBP.

  • Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse and the Royal Yacht Britannia – 45 GBP
  • Hop-on hop-off buses – 22 GBP

3 days in Edinburgh itinerary

Day 1 – Explore the Old Town of Edinburgh

Morning – Visit the Holyrood Palace

08:30 AM – 09:30 AM

Breakfast

Start the first day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with a breakfast at Sugarhouse Sandwiches.

09:30 AM – 12:00 PM

Holyrood Palace

The history of the palace started with its abbey. King David I of Scotland founded the Holyrood Abbey in 1128. According to the legends, the king had a vision of a stag with a cross glowing between its antlers. He decided that this was a sign from God and built the abbey on the same spot he had seen the stag. From here came the name of the abbey and subsequently the palace – Holyrood. Holyrood means “Holy Cross”.

The Holyrood Palace used to be the residence of the Scottish rulers. You can explore the State Apartments and the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots. The abbey and the gardens are included in the ticket price.

Buy your Holyrood Palace tickets in advance and skip all the lines. You can also turn the ticket into a one year pass.

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Abbey

12:10 PM – 12:30 PM

Canongate Kirk

The church is famous for its notables buried in the churchyard. You can find the graves of the economist Adam Smith, Agnes Maclehose (Clarinda of Robert Burns) and the poet Robert Fergusson. A statue of the latter stands right next to the church gates. This is also the final resting place of David Rizzio, the private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Canongate Kirk

A statue of Robert Fergusson

12:30 PM – 02:30 PM

Lunch

Stop for a lunch at Oink or the Edinburgh Larder. If you love pork meat, go to Oink. Their pulled pork sandwiches are to die for.

Oink
Oink

Afternoon – Explore Mary King’s Close and Calton Hill

02:30 PM – 03:30 PM

Mary King’s Close

The Mary King’s Close is a series of tiny underground streets, hidden beneath the Royal Mile. People lived and worked here before the buildings were covered over.

You can visit Mary King’s Close only with a guided tour. In the tour, you will learn more about the lives of the people, the Great Plague and why it was wise to avoid these streets at 7 AM and 10 PM.

03:40 PM – 04:00 PM

St Giles’ Cathedral

St Giles’ Cathedral is a stunning 14th-century cathedral in the heart of Edinburgh. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, Saint Giles. It is free to visit the cathedral. However, if you want to take photos, you have to buy a £2 photo permit.

St Giles' Cathedral

04:20 PM – 04:50 PM

Old Calton Burial Ground

On your way to Calton Hill, stop in the Old Calton Burial Ground. It is one of the most famous cemeteries in Edinburgh. The cemetery is dominated by a huge black obelisk, the Political Martyrs’ Monument. This monument is erected in memory of five political reformists from the early 19th century.

Old Calton Burial Ground

05:00 PM – 06:00 PM

Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a home of few iconic monuments: National Monument of Scotland, Dugald Stewart Monument and Nelson’s Monument. You can climb the Nelson’s Monument for better views over the city. Even if you don’t, the views from Calton Hill itself are stunning. It is a very popular spot for sunset watching. I spent two evenings there watching the sun sets over the horizon. Keep in mind that it is very windy.

The view from Calton Hill

Dinner

Finish the first day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with some Scottish specialities at Howies Waterloo or Café Royal.

For really good and cheap Italian food, visit Taste Of Italy.

Taste Of Italy

Day 2 – Tour the popular museums

Morning – Visit the National Museum of Scotland

08:30 AM – 09:30 AM

Breakfast

Start the second day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with a breakfast at Brew Lab Coffee.

09:30 AM – 10:10 AM

Greyfriars Bobby Statue and Greyfriars Kirk

Greyfriars Kirk got its name from a small Skye Terrier. The dog’s story is a real example of true love and devotion. The dog loved its master so much, that it guarded his grave till its own death 14 years later. Greyfriars Bobby is buried in the church not far away from the grave of its master.

Greyfriars Bobby Statue

Greyfriars Kirk

While wandering around the Greyfriars Kirkyard, you can spot few Harry Potter’s characters on the stones. This is the place from where J. K. Rowling got some of the names in her books. You can see the grave of Lord Voldemort (Tom Riddle).

The grave of Lord Voldemort

10:20 AM – 12:30 PM

National Museum of Scotland

It is an outstanding museum and it is completely free. There is a full sized Formula One car simulation. The first cloned mammal ever, Dolly the sheep, is also exhibited here.

Dolly the sheep

Don’t miss the amazing view of the Edinburgh Castle from the rooftop terrace.

The view from the rooftop terrace

12:30 PM – 02:30 PM

Lunch

For a quick lunch stop at the Piemaker. They offer small delicious pies.

Piemaker

For a longer break and delicious traditional Scottish food, go to Mums Great Comfort Food.

Mums Great Comfort Food

Afternoon – See the Princes Street Gardens

02:30 PM – 03:30 PM

Scottish National Gallery

If you are into art, don’t miss the Scottish National Gallery. The entrance is free, so it is worth a visit even for an hour.

03:40 PM – 04:00 PM

Scott Monument

The Scott Monument is dedicated to the Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott. You can climb the 200 feet (about 61 m) high tower via a spiral staircase. Keep in mind that it is really claustrophobic and there are 287 steps to the top. I wanted to climb the stairs, but after checking few photos on google images, I gave up.

Scott Monument

04:00 PM – 04:30 PM

Princes Street Gardens and Wojtek Statue

The Princes Street Gardens is an ideal place to stop for a break and enjoy the view of the castle.

The view from the Princes Street Gardens

Don’t miss the statue of the soldier bear, Wojtek. This Syrian bear was bought by a Polish soldier during the WWII. The bear was helping the army by moving crates of ammunition. After the end of the war, it found a home in the Edinburgh Zoo and lived there for the rest of its life.

The statue of the soldier bear

While you are in the area, go and try some cookies from Ben’s Cookies. They are so awesome, that I would return to Edinburgh only to try them again.

Ben’s Cookies

04:40 PM – 05:00 PM

St John’s Episcopal Church

Make a short stop at St John’s Episcopal Church. Its most notable feature is the plastic ceiling vault, that was derived from King Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.

St John's Episcopal Church

05:00 PM – 05:20 PM

St Cuthbert’s Church

The church closes at 03:00 PM. However, its cemetery is open till later. Even if you are done with visiting churches and cemeteries, go for the view of the Edinburgh castle from the cemetery.

The view of the castle from the cemetery

Dinner

For some Scottish food go to the Royal McGregor. For a more fancy dinner combined with great cocktails, go to Devil’s Advocate.

After dinner

If you search for a good craft beer, BrewDog is your place.

BrewDog

Day 3 – Explore the New Town of Edinburgh

Morning – Visit the Edinburgh Castle

08:30 AM – 09:30 AM

Breakfast

Start the third day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with a healthy breakfast at Hula Juice Bar & Gallery. Their Maca Nana Bowl and avocado toast with salmon are very delicious.

Hula Juice Bar & Gallery

09:30 AM – 01:00 PM

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle is not only an iconic landmark, but it is also one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh. The castle dominates the skyline of the city more than nine centuries. There are plenty of things to do and see, so spare half a day there.

Avoid waiting in lines by buying your ticket for the castle in advance or booking a tour of Edinburgh Castle.

To explore the castle you can join in a walking tour (included in the ticket price) or rent an audio guide. I like to explore by myself, so I chose the audio guide option. The meeting point of the walking tour is through the Portcullis Gate past the audio booth by the clock.

If you have an Explorer Pass, you get a discount off the price of the audio guide. The Explorer Pass is a great way to save some money if you plan to visit more than two castles. I used it to visit the Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle and Linlithgow castle.

Edinburgh Castle

01:00 PM – 03:00 PM

Lunch

There are two Oink restaurants. If you missed it the previous day, you can try this time the one on Victoria Street. Another option for a quick lunch is Peppers Sandwich Bar.

If you want to finish the lunch with something sweet, try the cakes at Lovecrumbs or some gelato at Mary’s Milk Bar.

Mary's Milk Bar

Afternoon – Explore Dean Village

03:00 PM – 03:30 PM

St Mary’s Cathedral

This beautiful 19th-century cathedral definitely deserves a stop. Approach it from the Melville Street for the best view.

St Mary's Cathedral

04:00 PM – 06:00 PM

Dean Village

Dean Village was a separate grain milling village until the 19th century. Although now part of Edinburgh, it still keeps his medieval charm. Take your time and explore the beautiful banks of Water of Leith River.

I took this picture from the bridge that connects Hawthornbank Ln and Damside Str.

Dean Village

Dinner

For some Scottish food visit The Dogs and for steaks go to Wildfire.

For awesome Mexican food, go to El Cartel and try their tacos and frozen margaritas.

El Cartel

After dinner

Finish the third day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with some cocktails at Panda & Sons.

What else to do in Edinburgh

If you have more time or some sites in the itinerary Edinburgh in 3 days are not interesting for you, check out these suggestions.

Where and what to eat

Check out the must try food in Edinburgh and some great places to eat. To experience the Edinburgh’s awesome nightlife join a pub crawl tour.

Royal Yacht Britannia

Located on the bank of the North Sea, Royal Yacht Britannia is a little far away from the city centre. You can visit the Royal Yacht Britannia and get an insight how the royals travelled.

Take a ghost tour

Take a ghost tour and reveal the dark side of Edinburgh’s history.

Gin and whisky tours

There are few distilleries that offer tours. You can learn how the beverage is made and try different samples. For gin visit Edinburgh Gin Distillery or Pickering’s Gin Distillery and for whisky – the Scotch Whisky Experience. You can find the websites on the map at the beginning of the article.

Loch Ness and Highlands

Take a day tour to Loch Ness and Highlands, the most picturesque region of Scotland.

Arthur’s Seat

If you are up for a hike, this is the place you have to go. It is about an hour hike to reach the top. The place is known for the amazing views over the city. I had it on my itinerary but unfortunately, I never made it because of the weather. It was raining every day.

Map of the climbing routes

Arthur's Seat

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden is also a bit far from the Edinburgh city centre. Yet, if the weather is nice, don’t miss this green oasis.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions

If you want some variety of castles and churches, visit the Camera Obscura. It is a museum full of illusions.

Maison de Moggy (a cat café)

As a huge cat lover, it was on my list. However, to visit it you have to book a table for a certain 1-hour frame. It also has an entrance fee. As my schedule was full, I decided to skip it. Yet, if you are really into cats, you can give it a try.

Getting around the city

There is no underground in Edinburgh. However, you can easily get from one point to another using any of the numerous trams or Lothian Buses.

What to see in Edinburgh in 3 days – map

Map


Have you been to the city? What else is a must see for 3 perfect days in Edinburgh?

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perfect edinburgh itinerary 3 days

 
About the author
Avatar Milena Yordanova
I'm a travel blogger based in Sofia, Bulgaria. Travelling has always been my passion and I love to discover new places and cultures. I want to show you how easy it is to organize your vacation all by yourself.

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2 Replies to “What to See in Edinburgh in 3 Days”

  1. Many thanks, it was exactly what I’v been looking for

    1. Hi Anatoly, I’m glad the itinerary is useful to you. Have a great time in Edinburgh! 🙂

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