Become Enchanted with Edinburgh in a Day

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Advisor - Nicole Whelan
Curated By

Nicole Whelan

  • Edinburgh

  • Scotland

  • Couples Travel

  • Solo Travel

  • City Travel

  • History

  • Local Culture

  • Foodie

Edinburgh city with a carousel and high ancient towers.
Curator’s statement

Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh, enchants visitors with its historical charms combined with a modern metropolitan energy. If you’re a first time visitor, there’s no better way to experience its art, history, architecture and culture than by walking its famed Royal Mile. Let yourself fall in love with Edinburgh in a day and it will become a must-return destination for life.

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Where to stay in Edinburgh

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Things to do in Edinburgh

Skyline of Scotland.

Exploring the Royal Mile

No magical trip to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to Edinburgh Castle, dramatically perched atop a hill looking over the city. Once there, you can examine the Honours of Scotland (the oldest crown jewels in Britain) used at the coronation of Queen Mary of Scots. Also, take a look at the Stone of Destiny, used for centuries for the inauguration of monarchs and most recently at the coronation of King Charles III. During the month of August, it hosts spectacular performances by The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Tickets to the castle can sell out during the high season, so make sure to reserve early or tour as a part of a group.

When you depart the castle, explore the many shops, attractions, parks, and historical architecture along The Royal Mile. You can start with St. Giles' Cathedral, also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, for its stunning Gothic architecture and intricate stained glass windows. Afterward, head to nearby John Knox House to learn more about the key figure of the Scottish Reformation and one of the oldest and most striking homes in Scotland. If you would rather shop, doubleback to the Grassmarket area, known for its lively atmosphere and unique shops and restaurants. Take this chance to grab some lunch to fuel the rest of your walk.

Once you’ve purchased your goods and souvenirs, wander toward the Greyfriars Kirkyard, a historic cemetery that is said to have inspired parts of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. Then continue to the National Museum of Scotland to view exhibits on Scottish history, arts, and contributions to the sciences. Head back down the hill toward Princes Street Gardens to take a moment to sit and relax in the calm and peaceful setting of the green garden. When you’re ready and refreshed, walk down Princes Street toward Scott Monument for a great photo op. Your walk down Princes Street passes by The Balmoral, so you can drop off any souvenirs you’ve picked up along the way and continue your path toward Calton Hill to see the National Monument of Scotland and Stewart Monument. Take in the stunning views now looking toward the Edinburgh Castle as well as Arthur’s Seat towering nearby.

Make your way down from Calton Hill to admire the Scottish Parliament before stopping at the “end” of the Royal Mile – The Palace of Holyroodhouse. Considered the official residence of the Monarchy of Scotland, the Palace is now primarily used for national celebrations and events. However, it was once home to Mary, Queen of Scots, for most of her life and the scene of many dramatic plots and events throughout Scottish history. Finally, you can hike up to Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park – the park’s highest point and also an ancient volcano! Enjoy the view overlooking the route you’ve just walked in a day while contemplating which local restaurant you want to try out and reward yourself for a full day of seeing the jewels of the Royal Mile. You’ve earned it!

Places to eat & drink in Edinburgh

Chocolate croissants at a bakery in Edinburgh.

The Witchery: Open for both lunch and dinner service, this upscale restaurant serves traditional Scottish dishes with a modern twist, along with other luxurious staples you would find at any fine dining establishment. Make sure to try their renowned dishes like haggis, venison and Scottish salmon while enjoying breathtaking views of Edinburgh Castle.

The Mosque Kitchen: Located near the University of Edinburgh, they offer delicious Indian and Pakistani cuisine at affordable prices. Indulge in their aromatic curries, tandoori dishes and flavorful biryanis served in a relaxed, casual atmosphere.

Ondine: Ondine is for the seafood lovers in your party. Promoting the use of locally sourced ingredients, this elegant restaurant offers oysters, lobster, scallops and a variety of fish. A convivial environment and attentive service make this a great spot to enjoy a festive dinner.

Passorn Thai Brasserie: From fragrant curries to crispy stir-fried dishes, their menu offers a wide range of authentic options to suit almost every guest. Don't miss their signature Pad Thai or their delicious selection of Thai desserts.

Howies: A popular choice for Scottish cuisine (with two locations in Edinburgh), the location on Victoria Street just off the Royal Mile makes it a great option after a day of exploring. This restaurant prides itself on using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients to create delicious dishes like haggis, salmon and cranachan (a traditional Scottish dessert.)

Need to Know

For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Kelly Hendrix's guide, Culture & Adventure in Scotland: Edinburgh and Loch Lomond.

Advisor - Nicole Whelan

Travel Advisor

Nicole Whelan

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Edinburgh.