Edinburgh is an outstanding holiday location and a fantastic complement to a UK tour itinerary because it is both historically rich and scenically stunning. Whether you’re here for business, fun, as part of a multi-day trip, or on a staycation, there’s something for everyone. This European city has it all: history, shopping, cuisine, culture, hiking, and, of course, festivals. Here are some suggestions for making the most of your stay in the Scottish capital.
Where to fly in
Edinburgh metro area is served by Edinburgh Airport (EDI), located just eight miles from the city center. Scotland’s busiest airport with 14.7 million passengers in 2019, EDI operates with one main terminal and one runway.
Once on the ground, travelers can catch the Edinburgh Trams to head into the city center. One-way fare into the city costs £6.00; round-trip tickets cost £8.50 and are open-ended to be used whenever needed. Not heading to central Edinburgh? You can also catch a variety of buses to reach your final destination. The Airlink, Skylink, and Night Bus deliver passengers to much of Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. Consult the transit map to determine which bus route suits you best.
Alternatively, black cabs and ride shares are also available from EDI.
Where to stay
If this is your first time visiting Edinburgh, stay in the city center. Doing so will enable you to explore the city on foot from its best angle: up close and personal. There are a number of centrally-located, luxury hotels, like The Balmoral Hotel and Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, to satisfy your five-star taste. Nearby, the cozy four-star Grassmarket Hotel is just a few minutes’ walk to Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Mile, and more.
In Edinburgh on business? Here are our picks for where to stay:
- If you’re attending an event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, you can’t beat the convenience of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. The hotel is located just 0.1 miles from the conference center, and offers business travel-friendly amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, a 24-hour business center, and express check-out.
- If a hotel in the city center of Edinburgh is what you’re after, look no further than the DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre. Travelers are just a few minutes’ walk to city attractions such as Usher Hall, the Grassmarket, and the shops of Princes Street.
- Looking to leverage your Concur Hipmunk membership? Book a stay at the Haymarket Hub Hotel. You’ll be just 10 minutes’ walk from the city center and steps away from major transit stops. Plus, you’ll receive special perks such as a discount off your stay and we’ll automatically add your plans to TripIt.
How to get around
Part of Edinburgh’s charm is its easy walkability. Plan accordingly by packing comfortable shoes for walking from place to place. When walking isn’t feasible, Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses can be your go-to for getting around. A single-ride fare costs £1.70 or a day-pass costs £4. Travelers can purchase tickets on the bus with exact change or ahead of time on the m-tickets app. You can also download the Transport for Edinburgh app to plan your journey, check real-time departure times, and more.
Edinburgh Trams span 16 stops—starting at Edinburgh Airport and terminating at York Place—and offer eco-friendly transport to city attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Murrayfield Stadium, and Princes Street. Similar to Lothian Buses, tram tickets can be bought via the m-tickets app and displayed in the Transport for Edinburgh app upon boarding. Ticket vending machines are also available at every tram stop. Adult fares start at £1.70 for the city zone and £6.00 for getting to/from the airport.
Alternatively, if you’d rather get to your destination in a jiffy, hail a black cab—they’re everywhere in the city center and offer free Wi-Fi (look for the code on the back of the driver’s seat). Plus, cab drivers are helpful guides to learn about the city. Uber is also available in Edinburgh and if you manage your travel and expenses with Concur, your Uber trip receipt will automatically populate into your expense report.
Pro tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. You can find Navigator within your flight, hotel and rental car details screens. Plus, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table.
Where to eat
If you only have time for one meal during your trip to Edinburgh, try the haggis. You should try it in its traditional form—haggis, neeps, and tatties (that’s haggis served with mashed turnips and potatoes and topped with brown gravy)—but you’ll also see it served in a variety of ways. For instance, I’ve had it in spring rolls at The Whiski Rooms or as a burger topping at Holyrood 9A.
Haggis aside, there are lots of options for meat-eaters and vegans alike in Edinburgh. For casual dining, check out The West Room for locally-inspired bites or Holyrood 9A (as mentioned above) for great burgers and local beers. If you’re in the Bruntsfield neighborhood, definitely stop in to Meltmongers—home of the UK’s #1 cheese toastie (AKA grilled cheese). Order The Big Cheese, an oozing combination of three cheeses and chili chutney on plump sourdough, with a side of sweet potato fries. Yum.
For upscale dining, venture to Leith to visit the Michelin stars: Martin Wishart and The Kitchin. Looking for a high-end spot that’s more centrally-located? Head to Angels with Bagpipes located right on the Royal Mile or Twenty Princes Street located on, you guessed it, Princes Street.
What to do
If you’re visiting Edinburgh during soccer—nay, football—season, be sure to catch one of the local clubs in action. A fierce rivalry exists between the Hibernian FC and Hearts FC, so be sure to choose your allegiance carefully. More of a rugby fan? Head to Murrayfield Stadium, the largest stadium in Scotland and home of Scottish Rugby.
If your family tagged along on your business trip, there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do in Edinburgh. Start your day atop Castle Rock at Edinburgh Castle. You’ll not only enjoy the views, the castle itself is a series of buildings filled with the history of Scotland. Be sure to arrive well before 1 PM; the kids will get a kick out of the daily one o’clock gun. From the castle runs the Royal Mile, a stretch of shops, restaurants and pubs; some are a bit touristy but otherwise a great place to check out local street performers and vendors. If you’re looking for something outdoorsy—and you catch a nice, sunny day—hike up Arthur’s Seat. It’s located just past Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament building (both worth a visit) in Holyrood Park. The hike takes about an hour and, again, offers incredible views of the city.
If you’re looking for a structured way to see the city, book a walking tour like Iconic Edinburgh Tours. Or, if you prefer to explore with a little more flexibility (and maybe a little less in the budget), Edinburgh World Heritage has created a self-guided list of 101 Objects so you can explore the city’s literary, military, culinary—and sometimes colorful—past. More than 75 percent of the 101 Objects are free to visit and the EWH website offers a few suggested itineraries to get you started.
By night, head to The Forth Floor at Harvey Nichols for fancy drinks with great views. Juniper Bar is another great option for fancy drinks and cityscape views. Alternatively, both the Grassmarket and Rose Street have charming pubs and restaurants that are ideal for sitting outside in pleasant weather.
Pro tip: Speaking of pleasant weather, the weather in Scotland is notoriously unpredictable. Locals say that you’ll experience all four seasons in one day—and they’re not exaggerating! If you have any sort of rain jacket, pack one, or if not, buy one. Sure, you could buy an umbrella in any number of shops, but it won’t stand a chance against the strong winds Edinburgh often experiences. Skip the umbrella and sport the rain jacket; you can’t blow a hooded rain parka inside-out, and this will leave you hands-free for snapping photos.
Read also: Travel Guide to Coquet Island
How many days do you need in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is not a large city compare to cities like Newyork or Tokyo. I believe you could cover most of the important sights in the city in three days, but there would be plenty to do in a week if you wanted to explore further.
Two nights in Edinburgh will allow you to view the majority of the city’s great attractions, but at a slower pace. For example, you may start at Edinburgh Castle, have lunch in fashionable Haymarket, walk along the Royal Mile in the afternoon, and conclude the first day atop Calton Hill, before combining a morning in Leith and an afternoon atop Arthur’s Seat on your second day.
Is Edinburgh worth visiting?
Yes, Edinburgh is well worth a visit! It is one of Scotland’s most picturesque places. It is the breathtaking city that has everything for everyone and is well-known as one of Europe’s most picturesque attractions. If you want to experience mediaeval history and the country’s most prominent tourist sites, this is the place to go.
This city offers it all, whether you want a culture fix, a lively nightlife, rolling hills, or amazing food. The whole town centre is a World Heritage Site, stretching from the Castle, the oldest section of which dates from roughly 1100AD, through the Royal Mile of historic structures to the Palace of Holyrood House, to the stunning Georgian and Edwardian of the “new town.” Edinburgh is steeped in history, and the people there are kind and have a fantastic sense of humour. London reminded me too much of New York, and while I appreciated some of the historical qualities, it was just too fast-paced.
It’s probably a great location to be if you’re young and want to party. From Edinburgh, it is simple to take buses to tiny villages and castles, as well as trains to other castles and tourist attractions.
What is the best time of year to visit Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is best visited between May and August, when average high temperatures reach 65 degrees Fahrenheit. However, this is also the busiest period for tourists in the city, particularly in August when festivals fill the calendar. May has lengthy days that are reasonably warm (10°C to 15°C) and relatively dry.
Next best is the first part of September, when the weather is still lovely while being a little wetter.
Both have inexpensive travel and lodging costs, as well as less people. Edinburgh comes alive during festival season. Summer is the greatest time to come if you’re seeking for entertainment, from the world’s largest performing arts event, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, to more focused programming at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and Edinburgh Jazz Festival.
July and August are the busiest months for tourists in Edinburgh. During these months, the greatest temperature is 19°C. The days are bright and occasionally rainy, and it is also the season of the most popular summertime events. For a variety of reasons, visiting Edinburgh at the wrong time may be a frustrating experience. With unpredictable weather, a crowded calendar of yearly events, and numerous peak tourist seasons, you must select the optimum time to visit Edinburgh.
What is the main shopping area in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh has a plethora of fashion businesses, antique shops, art galleries, and, of course, souvenir shops. Shopping in Edinburgh, Scotland, is a fantastic experience that caters to all interests, styles, and budgets. The city offers a mix of upscale brands, massive street stores, and enticing boutiques. The one disadvantage to shopping in Edinburgh is that some of the city’s businesses close early (at 6 pm). Although, in recent years, establishments have been keeping extended hours and closing between 7 and 8 p.m. The Royal Mile’s souvenir stores are usually open every day until 8 p.m.
Valvona & Crolla is a local institution that dates back to the 1930s. The Crolla family, local culinary legends, manage the tiny deli business on Elm Row near the Edinburgh Playhouse. It’s hardly the place to go for cheap’scran,’ but it does provide a variety of Scottish and foreign cuisine and drink specialties. With a royal warrant for the provision of cheese to HM the Queen, you may be certain of finding the greatest goods and mouth-watering mementos.
Epitome, a New Town boutique, has a single goal: to bring together some of the top worldwide names under one roof for Edinburgh residents searching for a relaxed-but-upscale shopping experience. The store itself is professional without being ostentatious. Epitome carries classic, elegant pieces from all sizes of garment labels, comfortable Norse Projects accessories, and tough Danner men’s footwear.
Hello, I’m Hannah! I’ve been slowly traveling around the world for four years. I hope my stories and tips will inspire you to do it too