View of Edinburgh - 48 hours in Edinburgh

48 hours in Edinburgh? here’s what you should do

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With its many iconic landmarks packed into a nice small area Edinburgh is ideal for a weekend visit. The spectacular views from around Scotland’s capital are not limited to it’s architectural delights. The royal parks and green spaces give their own insights into Scottish history and culture. With 48 hours in Edinburgh you can get to see all of this.

What to see in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

Of course, you can’t visit Edinburgh and not visit Edinburgh Castle. Sitting at the top of the Royal Mile the castle holds the crown jewels of Scotland the stone of destiny, a symbol of the Scottish monarchy from at least 800 years ago, as well as the Scottish military museum. Guided tours are available or grab yourself an audio guide.

Royal Mile

Leaving the castle and heading towards the cobbles of the Royal Mile. Enjoy the alleys, gardens,monuments and outstanding buildings of Old Town. Make sure to take in the sights like the St Giles Cathedral.

Scottish Parliament

At the bottom of the hill you come to the Scottish Parliament building. Love it or hate it the architecture is certainly different to anything else in Edinburgh. You can also book ahead for an hour long tour of the public areas of the building, including the debating chamber, depending on if parliament is in session.

48 Hours in Edinburgh - Scottish Parliament Building
Scottish Parliament Building – Photo by Chris Flexen on Unsplash

Holyrood Palace

Finally, as you pass the Parliament building you arrive at Holyrood Palace, a building that has served as the official residence of the Kings and Queens of Scotland for over 300 years.

Holyrood Park

Then take a trek up to Arthur’s Seat and get a breathtaking birds eye view of Edinburgh. Early risers could start the day in Holyrood Park and watch the amazing sun rise across Edinburgh or views out over the Firth, then reverse the route up the Royal Mile.

48 Hours in Edinburgh – Day 2

Calton Hill

After the sights of Old Town, the Georgian architecture of the UNESCO world heritage New Town is definitely a different side to the city.

Start the second morning of your weekend in Edinburgh at Calton Hill and climb the 143 steps of the Nelson Monument. Built to commemorate Admiral Nelsons victory at Trafalgar providing great views of city. While you are up on Calton Hill take in some of the other monuments including the National Monument and the Dugald Stewart Monument (on the left in the featured image)

Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Then take in a little culture with a visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery home to over 3,000 images of people who have shaped the history of Scotland.

Royal Botanic Gardens

A stroll along Dundas Street allows for the views the frontages and fenced communal gardens of the Georgian structures. The Royal Botanic Gardens provide you with one of the UK’s great gardens and the chance to enjoy the 17,000 species of plants.

Oxford Bar

Finish of the day with a little more culture as you visit the Oxford Bar on Young Street. Keep an eye out for authors, Ian Rankin is known to visit and the bar features in many of his books. A great place to enjoy a drink.

For the longer stays you could venture out to the Ocean Terminal and have a look around the Royal Yacht Britannia or, if its a Sunday, take a stroll around the stall of fresh produces, ceramics and jewlery of Stocksbridge Market.

Where to stay in Edinburgh

So, when you have 48 hours in Edinburgh where should you stay?

For Families – Raeburn Hotel, Stocksbridge

When visiting Edinburgh with a young family we recomend staying at The Raeburn. Situated in stocksbridge and a short walk from the Royal Botanic Gardens. This converted Georgian house is surrounded by bric a brac shops you can spend hours perusing.

Luxury Stay – Edinburgh Grand, New Town

If you are looking for that luxurious stay then look no further than the Edinburgh Grand. Sat on St Andrews Square and surrounded by many of Edinburghs higher end restaurants and shopping. The building features fully modernised appartments whilst still retaining many original features.

Budget Stay – Motel One Edinburgh-Princes

Hotel prices in Edinburgh can be extortionate but this budget gem, Motel One, is only a few hundred yards form New Town and Old Town and right on Princes Street alongside Waverley Street train station. Modern rooms in the centre of all of Edinburgh’s attractions, what more do you need?

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48 Hours in Edinburgh
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38 thoughts on “48 hours in Edinburgh? here’s what you should do

  1. I was in Edinburgh in 1994 and I don’t remember much about the visit. The three things I remember were things that really impressed me: 1) castle tour, 2) participating in my first ghost tour at night and 3) taking a Scotch distillery tour.

      1. I know the feeling! i was supposed to go to Budapest but had that cancelled – Keeping coming back for more Edinburgh tips though as we are visiting there again next month 🙂

  2. Thanks for providing such a great list! I live in the UK and Edinburgh has been on my bucket list for ages! If I were to go it would likely be for a weekend so this is a perfect itinerary 🙂

  3. Kerstin visited Edinburgh many years ago, as her sister studied in Scotland so they had a road trip when her sis graduated. But ai haven’t been yet and although I’m not a huge fan of north European countries, I’d love to visit Edinburgh someday! So thanks for this useful post!

  4. I loove Edinburgh, so I totally agree all these spots are fab for a visit. The only place I would add to the list is Arthur’s seat for gooorgeous views of the city!

    You were so lucky with the gorgeous weather when you visited!

    1. Hi Josy, thanks for the feedback, Arthur’s seat is in Holyrood Park but I’ll edit the article to make it a little clearer! You are right though amazing views to be had!

  5. The romance of Scotland and Edinburgh is so enchanting. Have never been there but feel close to it because of the hundreds of classics and romances that I have read about the place. 48 hours in Edinburgh sounds like 48 hours in paradise.

  6. I live in England and can’t believe I have never been to Scotland! Edinburgh looks and sounds amazing so I definitely need to take a trip there when I can. It’s a long drive but would be worth it 🙂

    1. It’s amazing how many people don’t explore the UK but will happily jump on a plane to the other side of the world, me included, this lockdown period has certainly made me think more about adventures in my own back yard and a only drive away!

  7. I am ready for this pandemic to be over so I can go back to Europe! As someone who’s only been to countries in the south of the continent, I’m ready to explore further north and Edinburgh looks like the perfect option. I never knew the Scottish Parliament building had such a unique facade! I love admiring architecture when I travel, so that’s probably where I’d head first!

  8. Great itinerary- that Scottish Parliament building has to be one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. Would love to see it in person!

  9. I’ve never been to Scotland before and this post will definitely help me get around Edinburgh. Seems like a history rich place! Can’t wait to see it myself ☺️

  10. I’ve been to Edinburgh for the day once a few years ago and that was really way too short to take it all in. I did make it up to the castle though and the Whisky Experience but would love to go back one day and visit properly. Thanks for these tips!

  11. great list of ideas of things to do if you only have 48 hours in Edinburgh. Obviously, there is tons to do there and it is such a cool city! The royal mile alone is packed with tons of restaurants, bars, and a few cool museums. I do recommend any of the Close tours (the underground of Edinburgh), the Scotch Museum, & Camera Obscura as well along the Royal Mile. We opted to hike up Arthur’s Seat rather than the easier Calton Hill climb. I loved it but Darcee probably would have preferred the 143 steps of the Nelson Monument and all the literature sites surrounding Calton rather than huffing and puffing to the top of Arthur’s seat!

    1. You are so right Eric there is so much to do! You could spend a day on the Royal Mile alone. I have not visited the Camera Obscura but its on my list for our next visit in August as well as Close tour.

    1. We are going to explore more of Scotland later this year too so hopefully we can give you some more tips! – Going to do a road trip around the North Coast 500

  12. This is a great 2 day itinerary, so much in such a short time (that’s how I tend to travel!). I would love to visit the Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Botanical Gardens. I love the architecture of the Scottish Parliament building, it is definitely unique.

  13. Edinburgh is one of my favourite places on Earth! I think I’ve seen all the places you listed and a few more on various visits over the years.

  14. I feel that there is tons to do in Edinburgh so 48 hours won’t be enough! I think I will spend so much time at the royal mile exploring the restaurants, bars, and the cool museums. I added the place in my bucket list.

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