There are lots of things to do in Edinburgh. While planning my recent trip to Scotland I realised it was going to be a real whistle-stop visit, every minute packed with sightseeing and refuelling—just how I like my city breaks.
While you won’t be able to see everything in 24-hours, with planning you can squeeze the main sights into a short stay. Here’s what I got up to.
Things to do in Edinburgh
Edinburgh Castle | Sat atop one of two ancient Scottish volcanoes (who knew?), entry to the castle is pricey at £17 so I just admired it from outside—and got major Hogwarts vibes.
Arthur’s Seat | Edinburgh’s other inactive volcano, Arthur’s Seat is famous for its views over the city—unless your climb is timed as poorly as mine. Still, the mist was so atmospheric I couldn’t be mad.
National Museum of Scotland | There’s a decent view from this free museum’s roof terrace, and inside you’ll find the infamous Dolly the Sheep plus mysterious miniature coffins found at Arthur’s Seat.
Calton Hill | This vibrant area of town is full of cafés, shops and bars (including gay bars) and offers another scenic angle from which to view the city.
All the Harry Potter stuff | From ‘Voldemort’s’ grave to the hotel where J. K. Rowling finished writing the very final pages of the Harry Potter series, check out my Harry Potter guide for the must-sees.
Where to eat and drink in Edinburgh
Mary’s Milk Bar, 19 Grassmarket | You’ve probably seen this cute shop on Instagram or Pinterest—but it’s not style over substance. It wasn’t exactly gelato weather when I visited but I had a dreamy hot chocolate float.
Bistro du Vin, 11 Bristo Place | As I’d booked a special deal at the Hotel du Vin, my room and dinner at the Bistro cost just £105. The food was excellent and, as you’d expect, there are plenty of wine options.
Spoon, 6a Nicolson Street | This new-ish spot replaced Nicolson’s Café, where where J. K. Rowling began to write the Harry Potter series. The fry up is perfect for refilling after you’ve climbed Arthur’s Seat.
Lovecrumbs, 155 West Port | This cake shop was on practically every Edinburgh guide I read, so I had to grab myself a slice for breakfast.
The Bow Bar, 80 West Bow | With over 200 whiskies available, visiting this bar is basically compulsory—even for non-whisky-drinkers like myself. The barman was able to recommend one that didn’t go down badly at all.
Places to shop in Edinburgh
Victoria Street | This curved 19th-century street has to be one of the most ‘grammed spots in Edinburgh and it’s not hard to see why people flock to the Old Town to shop and snap here.
W. Armstrong, 81-83 Grassmarket | This vintage shop is a total treasure trove of well-curated clothing and accessories. There are 3 city centre stores to rummage through.
Royal Mile | Actually 4 different streets, the famous Royal Mile is packed with shops and landmarks, including the castle.
Getting to Edinburgh
Edinburgh is well-connected by rail, including the famous (recently refurbished) Caledonian Sleeper, if you fancy a real adventure.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
I stayed at the Hotel du Vin, which is perfectly located and there’s a great special offer on Sunday night stays—dinner and a room for just over £100.
Hotel du Vin, 11 Bristo Place
Do you have any tips for things to do in Edinburgh that I can add to my list for next time?