How to Spend a Perfect Long Weekend in Edinburgh

3 days in Edinburgh itinerary

3 days in Edinburgh itinerary – a complete travel guide to a perfect long weekend in Edinburgh (including where to stay and eat).

3 days in Edinburgh itinerary

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

How many days in Edinburgh

You’ll need 2-3 days. The easiest way to get around the city is by using a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. You can also get a quick glimpse of the city by taking a historical walking tour.

Almost all the 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.

If you plan to visit several castles, buy the Historic Scotland Explorer Pass to save money.

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.

It has an amazing location and the amenities are superb.

Where to stay in Edinburgh

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


Radisson Blu Hotel – Best for families
Located right on the Royal Mile, the hotel is a great base to explore both the New and the Old Town.
9.0/10 Rating – See hotel images and 4,420+ guest reviews


Apex City Hotel – Best for couples
This lovely hotel has one of the best locations in the city, right next to the castle.
8.9/10 Rating – See hotel images and 3,340+ guest reviews


Old Town Chambers – Apartments
Luxury serviced apartments offering a home-from-home experience.
9.3/10 Rating – See apartment images and 1,420+ 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 2-Day Attractions Ticket

The Royal 2-Day Ticket includes:

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

By using this ticket (£55) you will save £17.

  • the Castle, Holyroodhouse and the Royal Yacht Britannia – £50
  • Hop-on hop-off buses – £22

Edinburgh itinerary 3 days

Follow this Edinburgh itinerary for a perfect long weekend to get the most of your time.

Day 1 – Old Town of Edinburgh

Morning – Holyrood Palace

Breakfast

08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
Start the first day with breakfast at Sugarhouse Sandwiches.

Holyrood Palace

09:30 AM – 12:00 PM
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.

You can also turn the ticket into a one year pass.

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Abbey

Canongate Kirk

12:10 PM – 12:30 PM
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

Robert Fergusson statue

Lunch

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.

Afternoon – Mary King’s Close and Calton Hill

Mary King’s Close

02:30 PM – 03:30 PM
If you ever wondered if the city is haunted, then add Mary King’s Close on your list.

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.

St Giles’ Cathedral

03:40 PM – 04:00 PM
St Giles’ Cathedral is a stunning 14th-century cathedral in the heart of the city. 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

Old Calton Burial Ground

04:20 PM – 04:50 PM
On your way to Calton Hill, stop in the Old Calton Burial Ground. It is one of the most famous cemeteries in the city. 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

Calton Hill

05:00 PM – 06:00 PM
Calton Hill is 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.

Calton Hill

Dinner

Finish the first day of the itinerary three 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 – New Town and museums

Morning – National Museum of Scotland

Breakfast

08:30 AM – 09:30 AM
Start the second day of this long weekend in Edinburgh with breakfast at Brew Lab Coffee.

Greyfriars Bobby Statue and Greyfriars Kirk

09:30 AM – 10:10 AM
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).

grave Lord Voldemort

National Museum of Scotland

10:20 AM – 12:30 PM
The National Museum of Scotland is superb 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.

Lunch

12:30 PM – 02:30 PM
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 – Princes Street Gardens

Scottish National Gallery

02:30 PM – 03:30 PM
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.

Scott Monument

03:40 PM – 04:00 PM
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 a few photos on google images, I gave up.

Scott Monument

Princes Street Gardens and Wojtek Statue

04:00 PM – 04:30 PM
The Princes Street Gardens is an ideal place to stop for a break and enjoy the view of the castle.

Princes Street Gardens

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

soldier bear, Wojtek

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

Ben’s Cookies

St John’s Episcopal Church

04:40 PM – 05:00 PM
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

St Cuthbert’s Church

05:00 PM – 05:20 PM
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.
St Cuthbert's Church

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 – Edinburgh Castle and Dean Village

Morning – Edinburgh Castle

Breakfast

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.

Hula Juice Bar

Edinburgh Castle

09:30 AM – 01:00 PM
The castle is not only an iconic landmark, but it is also one of the most haunted places. The castle dominates the skyline of the city for more than nine centuries. There are plenty of things to do and see, so spare half a day there.

Another option is to book a tour of the 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

Lunch

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.

Mary's Milk Bar

Afternoon – Dean Village

St Mary’s Cathedral

03:00 PM – 03:30 PM
This beautiful 19th-century cathedral definitely deserves a stop. Approach it from Melville Street for the best view.

St Mary's Cathedral

Dean Village

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.

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 evening with some cocktails at Panda & Sons.

3 days in Edinburgh – more ideas

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

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 into how the royals travelled.

Take a ghost tour

Take a ghost tour and reveal the dark side of the city’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 of the city. I had it on my itinerary but unfortunately, I never made it because of the weather. It was raining every day. For more information check out this map of the climbing routes.

Arthur's Seat

Royal Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden is also a bit far from the 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 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. However, you can easily get from one point to another using any of the numerous trams or Lothian Buses.

How to get from Edinburgh Airport to the city centre

The Edinburgh Airport (EDI) is about 15km from the city centre. There are several options to get there:

  • Take the Airlink bus – it runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (buses every 10 minutes during the day). The journey is about 30 minutes.
  • Take the tram – the tram runs between 06:00 AM and 11:00 PM (every 7 minutes). The journey is about 30 minutes.
  • Book a private transfer with a hotel pick-up for a stress-free ride to the airport.
Further reading for your trip

Find self-guided walking tours and historical insights in DK Eyewitness Travel Guide Scotland.

Check out where to eat the best haggis in Edinburgh.

Planning a romantic trip? Then find out how to see the best of romantic Edinburgh.

Visitors often combine Edinburgh with Glasgow – the largest city in Scotland. Follow this Glasgow 1 day itinerary to get most of your time. Also, check out these great places to stay in Glasgow.

If you consider renting a car, compare the car rental prices in Europe.

What else is a must see for 3 perfect days in Edinburgh?
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edinburgh itinerary 3 days weekend in edinburgh

 
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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3 Replies to “How to Spend a Perfect Long Weekend in Edinburgh”

  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! 🙂

  2. We used the Royal 48-Hour Ticket and it was such a great value! It’s the perfect way to see Edinburgh in 2 days.

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