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How to spend 48 hours in Edinburgh

How to spend 48 hours in Edinburgh

We'd talked about going to Edinburgh on almost every trip we'd taken from London to Newcastle. Finally, this June we did! Here are our highlights of how to spend 48 hours in the picturesque Scottish capital.

The iconic sights of Edinburgh

A morning to wander and get your bearings: Edinburgh Castle & The Royal Mile

view of Edinburgh Castle from central Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle

views from outside of Edinburgh Castle

Views from the Castle

Red shopfront of Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe along the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe

Exterior of St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

St Giles Cathedral

The Royal Mile links Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse, just below Arthur's Seat. It's about a 25-minute walk between the two and there are plenty of places to pop in to eat and drink, and independent shops to discover. My absolute favourite was Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe - as a huge Christmas fan, this gorgeous shop was my equivalent of being a kid in a sweet shop! It's packed with gorgeous decorations, some with a Scottish flavour - we picked up a beautiful tartan Christmas tree.

On our visit, we didn't have time to go into the Castle itself, wandering to its entrance and seeing the views from there instead. We asked the local barista at The Milkman for his top tips, and a tour of the Castle was definitely recommended.

There are also so many closes that lead off the Royal Mile, if you enjoy wandering and walking, you could easily spend an hour or two walking up and down these. Each seems to have a different story to tell.

Don't miss the Physic Garden at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. It's a lovely little gem, open to the public. Incredibly peaceful and tranquil, there's a flowering meadow, little spots to sit, beautiful raised beds. Read more about the project here.

An afternoon: Calton Hill


When you think of views of the Edinburgh skyline, the view from Calton Hill has to be one of the most iconic. You can see Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh Castle to The Balmoral and Scott Monument all laid out before you. It's a gentler, easier climb than Arthur's Seat and there are benches to sit on and drink it all in. A UNESCO World Heritage site, there are historic monuments to see, from the National Monument to the Dugald Stewart Monument.

Half a day: Holyrood Park & Arthur's Seat


We walked up Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill one after the other, as Calton Hill was on our way back from Holyrood Park. You might want to split these up on different days (or even choose one over the other) or stop for a bite to eat between the two!

Arthur’s Seat is an ancient volcano with absolutely spectacular views over Edinburgh. I’d recommend good footwear - the terrain gets pretty rocky and can be quite steep in parts. Also, take layers as it can be very windy once you get to the summit.

There’s lots more to see within Holyrood Park, such as the lochs and an old Chapel.

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Half a day: Portobello beach

Portobello Beach and Promenade in Edinburgh

A half-hour bus ride from Princes Street, Portobello beach is a charming place to spend some time. It's a sandy beach with a pretty promenade, with a short stretch of lovely independent bars and cafes. If you like being by the seaside, make sure you include a trip! Although a chilly, grey day when we went, it was pretty peaceful outside of the Friday lunchtime bustle!

If you have time to spare: enjoy a stroll around Princes St Gardens when you arrive back in the city centre.

Looking down Princes St gardens in Edinburgh

Colourful-planting with red flowers in-Princes-Street-Gardens

Eating & drinking

So most of my recommendations are for lovely cocktail bars! Each has a different vibe and identity and I would definitely suggest pre-booking, especially whilst capacities are limited.


Cocktails on table at Panda and Sons

Panda & Sons - 79 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4NF. A bar with a quirky, speakeasy vibe. You'll find a big range of cocktails, as well as craft beer and wine.

Cocktails on table at Bramble Bar

Bramble Bar - 16a Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JE. Another with a speakeasy feel, perhaps as it's a basement bar. Super friendly, knowledgeable service - when you tell them which drink you'd like, they explain the highlights and tasting notes which I really liked. My favourite cocktail of our trip was also here!

Vintage posters on walls and interior of Bon Vivant

The Bon Vivant - 55-57 Thistle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DY. Kitted out with gorgeous vintage posters, this is a bar and restaurant with great cocktails.

Early evening views from Nor' Loft

Nor' Loft Champagne Lounge in Market Street Hotel. Up on the 7th floor of the hotel sits this rooftop bar with fantastic views of the Edinburgh skyline. It was our base for our stay and situated a short stroll from Waverly station, we found it fabulous for getting around the city.


Gordon St Coffee - 6 Market St, Edinburgh EH1 1DE. More than a coffee shop, they roast and blend their own beans! Whilst we were sitting in there with our lovely coffees, you could see them doing exactly that, filling pouches ready for customers to purchase.


The Milkman - 52 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1PB. Named after memories of the owner's great-grandfather, this is one cool coffee shop. Just off the Royal Mile, it's the perfect pit stop after a day out walking. We stopped by after climbing Arthur's Seat and Calton Hill, it was just what was needed. They have fantastic selection of coffee and cake - including vegan options - and the friendliest, most welcoming staff. I loved that my pot of peppermint tea came with a timer to tell me when it was ready for the perfect brew!



Oink for a quick but scrumptious lunch. Delicious pulled pork (hog roast) rolls, you can choose from a range of sizes, sauces and stuffing. I went for apple sauce with sage and onion stuffing and every morsel was packed with flavour. They have a few locations across the city, we went to the one on colourful Victoria Street.

Dough Pizza - a tasty option for a quick lunch or dinner. We went to the Rose St branch - mostly takeaway but they had a handful of tables too.

Dairy-free cake on plate in window of Beach House, Portobello

Beach House Cafe, Portobello. We popped in for a quick treat after the lunchtime rush had passed. My husband opted for waffles, and there were dairy-free cake options available for me as well as alternatives for cow's milk. The vegan chocolate muffin was delicious (I made a total mess!) and we had the perfect seat indoors with a view of the promenade and beach. Tables outside on the promenade were also available.

Saved for next time

48 hours isn't long at all, and we are already talking about 'next time'! A tour of the Castle, Dean Village, Leith and the Water of Leith Walkway are all definites we would love to do.

Have you been to Edinburgh? What places would you recommend?

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