What to see in Edinburgh in 3 days? What are the best tourist attractions in Edinburgh? How to plan an itinerary for 3 perfect days in Edinburgh?
Almost all landmarks are packed in the city centre on a walking distance from each other. Overall for 3 days in Edinburgh, you can see the most famous sites plus take some tours.
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.
What to see in Edinburgh in 3 days itinerary – map
08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
Start the first day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with a breakfast at Sugarhouse Sandwiches.
09:30 AM – 12:00 PM
The Holyrood Palace served as the residence of the Scottish Kings and Queens since the 16th century. You can visit the State Apartments and the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots. The Holyrood Abbey and the gardens are included in the ticket.
You can turn your ticket in one year pass (more info).
12:10 PM – 12:30 PM
The church is known for its graveyard. This is the burial place of many famous Scottish people. Among them are the economist Adam Smith, Agnes Maclehose (Clarinda of Robert Burns) and the poet Robert Fergusson. The private secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, is also buried here.
12:30 PM – 02:30 PM
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.
02:30 PM – 03:30 PM
The Real Mary King’s Close
The Real 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 it 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
This late 14th-century cathedral is a real masterpiece from inside. It is free to visit it, but you have to buy a photo permit if you want to take pictures.
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. In its center you’d find a tall black obelisk, Political Martyrs’ Monument. It is dedicated to five political reformists from the 19th century.
05:00 PM – 06:00 PM
Calton Hill is not only the place where you should go for amazing views over the city. There are also few iconic monuments there: National Monument of Scotland, Dugald Stewart Monument and Nelson’s Monument.
You can visit the Nelson’s Monument for better views over the city.
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.
08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
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.
This site is a must visit for Harry Potter fans. J. K. Rowling got some of the names in her books from here. You can actually see the grave of Lord Voldemort (Tom Riddle).
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.
Don’t miss the amazing view of the Edinburgh Castle from the rooftop terrace.
12:30 PM – 02:30 PM
For a quick lunch stop at the Piemaker. They offer small delicious pies. For a longer break and delicious traditional Scottish food, go to Mums Great Comfort Food.
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
This 200 feet (about 61 m) high Gothic monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish writer. There are 287 steps to the top if you want to climb it. Keep in mind that the staircase is spiral and very narrow.
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.
Here you will also find the statue of the soldier bear, Wojtek. Bought as a small bear by a Polish soldier, Wojtek spent its first years in the army. The bear was helping by moving crates of ammunition during the WWII. After the war, the Edinburgh Zoo became its home.
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.
04:40 PM – 05:00 PM
St John’s Episcopal Church
Visit the church for its ceiling. The plastic ceiling vault was derived from King Henry VII’s chapel in Westminster Abbey.
05:00 PM – 05:20 PM
St Cuthbert’s Church
The church closes at 03:00 PM. However, its cemetery is open till later. Take a walk and enjoy the view of the castle from here.
For some Scottish food go to the Royal McGregor. For a more fancy dinner combined with great cocktails, go to Devil’s Advocate.
If you search for a good craft beer, BrewDog is your place.
08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
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.
09:30 AM – 01:00 PM
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.
There are also regular events in the castle (more info).
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. 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.
Don’t miss the One o’clock Gun fire.
01:00 PM – 03:00 PM
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.
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.
04:00 PM – 06:00 PM
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.
For some Scottish food visit Tthe Dogs and for steaks go to Wildfire.
For awesome Mexican food, go to El Cartel and try their tacos and frozen margaritas.
Finish the third day of the itinerary 3 days in Edinburgh with some cocktails at Panda & Sons.
What else to see
If you have more time or some sites in the itinerary Edinburgh in 3 days are not interesting for you, check out these suggestions.
Tours and tickets
Check out the most famous tours.
Where and what to eat
Check out the must try foods in Edinburgh and some great places to eat.
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.
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 yacht and get an insight how the royals travelled.
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 from 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.
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.
Day trip ideas
Check out these short trips from Edinburgh for some ideas.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
If you haven’t picked a hotel yet, find out where to stay in Edinburgh to get the best of the city.