A weekend in Edinburgh is the perfect time to explore this adorable city!
Quick facts about Scotland
|Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow Prestwick and Inverness
|English, Gaelic, Scots
Spending a weekend in Edinburgh
Edinburgh (pronounced Ed-in-bur-row) is the beautiful and historic capital of Scotland. The city is big so there’s plenty to do, but not so big that it’s lost its charm. Spending a weekend in Edinburgh is easy from other destinations in Europe and the perfect amount of time to get to know the city (although you should definitely devote a later trip to exploring the rest of beautiful Scotland!)
Where to stay in Edinburgh
I would highly recommend staying in the Old Town! Alternatively, you can stay on the other side of the river across from Old Town and easily walk to all the destinations.
I stayed at High Street Hostel, which was fun and social! Many hostels also have private rooms available, but if it’s still not your thing, you have plenty of options in Edinburgh!
Explore Edinburgh Old Town
Get your bearings in Edinburgh by taking a walk around the Old Town. There are many shops to see, as well as interesting cafes, such as the one where J.K Rowling started writing Harry Potter!
Start from the river and make your way through the Royal Mile, admiring the architecture and sights along the way. Better yet, do a walking tour to get your bearings of the city and learn something along the way!
Hint: If you’re a Harry Potter fan, Edinburgh is the city for you! Try out this unique Harry Potter walking tour to see where J.K Rowling got all her inspiration during her time in Edinburgh
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Once you’re in the Old Town, you can easily make your way to Edinburgh castle. This gorgeous castle sits atop a hill and provides a great view of the city. If you purchase a ticket, you can also view the inside of the castle, which used to be both a royal residence and a military fortress. View the living quarters and prison cells, as well as the oldest Crown Jewels in Scotland!
WARNING: Tickets sometimes sell out the so be sure and buy your tickets in advance here!
Even from other parts of Edinburgh, you can enjoy views of the castle, such as the park pictured!
Shop and eat at Grassmarket
Grassmarket is filled with lots of little stalls of handcrafted jewelry, leather, and food from all over the world! It’s about 2 minutes from the rest of the Old Town, so definitely worth checking out! There are also tons of nice restaurants surrounding the square, so you can stop for a bite to eat and people watch outside if the weather is nice. Otherwise, pick up some food from the stalls, such as authentic Japanese dumplings or Spanish paella.
Wander around Greyfriars Kirkyard
Is it a graveyard? Yes, yes it is. Is it still cool? Of course!
Greyfriars Kirkyard has been around since the late 16th century. It houses a lot of history, which you’ll be able to hear much more about on a walking tour.
This kirkyard is also where J.K. Rowling found the inspiration for many of the Harry Potter character names, such as Tom Riddle, McGonagall, and Moodie (albeit with different spellings). She has also stated that this kirkyard was her inspiration for Godric’s Hollow!
Take a trip to Loch Ness or the Highlands
Controversial because some people prefer to spend the entire weekend in Edinburgh. Let’s be frank: There are plenty of things to do in Edinburgh to occupy your weekend! For me though, it was my first time in Scotland so I was dead-set on visiting the Highlands.
Spoiler alert: It was AMAZING.
It’s a long day but totally worth it in my opinion! There are many tours leaving from Edinburgh that include both Loch Ness and a visit to the Highlands. You can also take a day trip to other parts of Scotland, such as St. Andrews and the other lakes. I did this tour, but most of the Highland/Loch Ness tours are very similar.
If you have the time or patience for a long bus ride, do it, but you should also dedicate a separate trip to explore the rest of Scotland!
Climb Arthur’s Seat
If you have opt not to leave Edinburgh or you just have the extra time, you can still get your fill of nature and hiking right inside the city by climbing up Arthur’s Seat.
Arthur’s Seat can be a difficult hike for some, but you’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the city and the sea! It’s nice to get some fresh air while still inside Edinburgh. Take some food and enjoy a nice picnic at the top! It takes an hour or so to do the hike if you’re not rushing to the top.
Go to the beach
That’s right folks, Edinburgh does in fact, have beaches! Albeit, it’s a very cold beach, but if you want some salty air here’s your chance! Sometimes it’s just nice to take a walk on the sand or enjoy a beer in the nearby restaurants.
There are a few beaches around the city, but one of the most popular is Portobello.
Go whisky tasting
You can’t go to Scotland without trying some scotch! There are distilleries scattered all throughout the city, although the most iconic one is the Johnnie Walker Experience. The Johnnie Walker Experience is amazing, but there are many other distilleries to choose from inside Edinburgh and the rest of Scotland, in case you want to save a bit of money or try a local dealer.
Definitely a must if you’re in Edinburgh!
Visit Carlton Hill for an amazing view
For another, short hike, make your way over to Carlton Hill. You may recognize this spot, as it’s used in many photographs and paintings of Edinburgh!
It’s still a bit of a climb up, although not as difficult as Arthur’s Seat, plus you’ll be rewarded with an amazing view of Edinburgh! You’ll see tourists and locals alike at the top, enjoying the views and the greenery.
I highly recommend spending a weekend in Edinburgh and enjoying this magical city!