How to Spend a Weekend in Edinburgh

How to Spend a Weekend in Edinburgh

Chelsea Davies

Updated January 16, 2020 Updated January 16

Scotland’s capital city is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, impressive architecture and beautiful natural landscapes. Combined with its buzzing atmosphere, friendly locals and some of the best whisky money can buy, a visit to Edinburgh makes for one amazing weekend.

Getting to Edinburgh is remarkably easy, with excellent rail and air connections to the rest of the UK. Waverley train station is ideally located in the middle of the city within walking distance of the major attractions and several hotels.

If you’re travelling from the south of England, it’s worth flying, especially if you’re short on time. Budget airlines have incredibly cheap tickets, often costing less than the train. The tram conveniently stops right at the airport and brings you into the center of the city in just 30 minutes.

Come rain or shine there’s an abundance of things to get up to – explore the winding cobbled streets in the medieval Old Town, peruse the shops in the Georgian splendor of New Town and, of course, roam around the world-famous Edinburgh castle. Here are some of my favorite ways to spend a weekend in the city.

Friday evening in buzzing Grassmarket

Once you’ve arrived in Edinburgh, there’s no better way to kick off your weekend than heading to the lively area of Grassmarket, home to welcoming pubs, a lively atmosphere and a multitude of great restaurants to choose from.

Head to Victoria Street for an Insta-worthy shot of one of Edinburgh’s most photographed streets, then make for The Bow Bar to try a dram of whiskey.

Spend the rest of the evening sampling some of the finest whiskeys in the world – you’ll be spoilt for choice with a mind-boggling 390 single malts to choose from!

Explore the historic heart of Edinburgh

Perched atop an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle majestically overlooks the city and is an impressive sight to behold.

Spend your morning exploring the historic battlements and royal bedchambers – start your day early and you’ll be rewarded with a much quieter experience exploring it. For a guaranteed, hassle-free entrance at the best price, be sure to book your ticket in advance online.

From here, you can work your way down the Royal Mile, exploring the shops and historic buildings on the way. Make sure to visit St Giles’ Cathedral, some of the oldest parts of this building have been standing since 1120!

You can also head to the fascinating Real Mary King’s Close. Although this street has disappeared from the modern-day city, you can delve underground and learn about the lives of those who lived there 400 years ago.  

Afternoon views from Arthur’s Seat

At the opposite end of the Royal Mile to the Castle, you’ll find Holyrood Palace, the official royal residence in Scotland and once home to Mary Queen of Scots. This serves as an excellent starting point for a brisk afternoon walk up to Arthur’s Seat.

It only takes around 30 minutes to reach the top of this now-extinct volcano and your efforts will be rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the city and its surrounds.

Treat yourself in New Town

What better way to wrap up a jam-packed day of sight-seeing than with a top-notch meal in classy New Town, where you’ll be surrounded by gorgeous Georgian architecture? Head to Princes Street to work up an appetite with some retail therapy before walking up to Thistle Street. Here you can enjoy a sumptuous meal at some of the finest restaurants in the city.

Picture-perfect Sunday morning

To experience a slice of tranquility in the middle of the city, head to beautiful Dean Village. This area was once home to the water mill workers and is just a 15-minute walk from Princes Street.

A peaceful oasis in the middle of the city, there are picture-perfect spots around every corner. Try the Dean Path bridge crossing over the Water of Leith or wander down Hawthornbank Lane for the best vantage points. 

Alternatively, take a short bus ride to the riverside suburb of Leith. This recently regenerated area is now a bustling port and is where you will find the majority of the city’s hipster population. It’s famous as the home of Scotland’s so-called Michelin Mile, due to the number of restaurants with Michelin stars. So, treat yourself to a fancy Sunday lunch or simply enjoy a stroll along the water’s edge.

This article was originally published in June 2019 . It was last updated in January 2020


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