As you’ll no doubt already know, we love Edinburgh! We lived in this beautiful city for 11 years and both of our kids were born here. Over the years, friends have often asked us for suggestions of things to do and see as well as the length of trip so we thought we’d put together the perfect 3 day Edinburgh itinerary for your first visit to the city. There is simply so much to see, do, eat and drink, it can be overwhelming to decide.

So how long do you need to make the most of your visit to the Scottish capital? Much depends on your interests but we think that 3 days is an ideal length of time to get round the main sites and to get a feel for the city. Despite being the Scottish capital, Edinburgh is of a really manageable size with most places being easily reached on foot. 

Here’s a quick summary of the 3 day Edinburgh itinerary:

Day 1: OLD TOWN – Edinburgh Castle, Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh Vaults Tour

Day 2: National Museum of Scotland, Grassmarket, Calton Hill, New Town

Day 3: Sightseeing bus, Royal Yacht Britannia, Royal Botanic Gardens

DAY 1 – Historic Edinburgh: The Castle + Old Town

Edinburgh Castle from the Esplanade

We’ll start our visit in Edinburgh’s Old Town

MORNING

Edinburgh Castle

You can’t miss Edinburgh Castle – the formidable fortress towers above the city and can be seen from most vantage points within the capital. We feel that the castle is a must-visit, even if you only walk up to the esplanade to get a close-up view of it. 

If you’re happy to splash some cash then buy some fast-track tickets with guided tour and get there early (it gets very busy during peak season and at week-ends). We suggest arriving at about 10am as you’ll need a couple of hours to get round the main sites. The highlights include the Scottish Crown Jewels (head there first to beat the queues), the Great Hall, the dungeons, the prisons of war, the national war museum, the dog cemetery and St Margaret’s chapel. Have a spot of lunch at the Red Coat Café – there are large picture windows with fantastic views across Edinburgh and towards Fife.

 Check this post for top tips on visiting Edinburgh Castle.

1pm: 1 o’clock gun

We then suggest you go watch the one o’clock gun which takes place at 1pm. We recommend getting there at about 12:45 in order to get a good view as it’s a popular event at the castle.

AFTERNOON

Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh, Scotland

The Scotch Whisky Experience (50-75 mins)

You don’t have to travel very far for your next stop! Located at the top of the Royal Mile, a stone’s throw from the castle, is the Scotch Whisky Experience. This 5 star visitor attraction is a mecca for anyone that adores Scotland’s amber nectar. And even if you’re not into “the water of life”, a visit to the whisky centre is both a fun AND educational experience. All tours include a unique ride – sit inside a whisky barrel, while you are transported through the various stages of whisky production. Although it’s not just about drink, the food in the relaxed Amber restaurant is amazing too. We particularly love the Scottish tapas!

Click here to book your ticket (includes a skip-the-line pass)

Wander down the Royal Mile

As you’ll already be on the Royal Mile and we recommend simply taking your time wandering down this lively street. You’ll often find street performers entertaining the crowds. You’ll want to admire St Giles Cathedral, the place John Knox famously preached in. It’s free to go in although donations are encouraged.

Other places of interest along the Royal Mile include Mary Kings Close (book tickets here), the Museum of Childhood and the Museum of Edinburgh although you’ll be pushed to fit them all in. The two museums mentioned above are free so you can easily just pop in for a quick in and out visit if you fancy checking them out.

You’ll no doubt be ready for a sit down after traipsing through the town and so we suggest you refuel at the fabulous Mimi’s Bakehouse conveniently located on the Royal Mile (close the Museum of Childhood). They do very tasty coffees and cake! Alternatively, check out the historic World’s End pub located towards the bottom of the Royal Mile/High Street. They do great food and are even dog friendly.

Evening

Why not join an evening walking tour and discover more about Edinburgh’s haunted past. We recommend going on an Underground Vaults Tour. This visit lasts 1hour 30 and takes you beneath the streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town and includes a visit to the famous cemetery, Greyfriars Kirkyard. It’s rather fascinating and a little spooky!

Dinner

There is SO much choice when it come to restaurants in Edinburgh.

DAY 2 – National Museum of Scotland, Grassmarket, Calton Hill & New Town

National Museum of Scotland

Morning

Start off at the National Museum of Scotland which is also located in the Old Town. This world-class museum is FREE and has so much to offer to all ages. Whether you’re travelling with kids or as a couple, we strongly recommend including this museum in your itinerary.

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