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48 Hours in Edinburgh (A Local's Itinerary)

Edinburgh, UK

Edinburgh's a wonderful city for a city break so I thought it might be fun to design a 48 hours in Edinburgh itinerary! I've had several friends visit Edinburgh for the first time which I've shown around, so this guide is roughly what I where I would take them. One last point before we start, as Scotland’s well-loved comedian Billy Connolly said, “There are two seasons in Scotland. June and winter". Therefore, just be aware when you’re visiting Scotland that you come prepared and don’t just expect lovely weather in Summer!

Old Town - View from The News Steps

Day One (Exploring Old Town)

It’s your first day in Edinburgh and where better to start than Edinburgh's Old Town. To me, Old Town is unlike anywhere in the world and is most likely one of the reasons which have drawn you to visit Edinburgh. Early examples of skyscrapers rise in a disordered, jumbled fashion to create the magnificent cityscape that so many recognise and love. Depending on what time of the year you visit, Old Town can get very busy so I'd recommend starting your day as early as possible, especially if you visit in the summer months. 
  • Coffee
Before we start exploring, why not stop for a tea or coffee at one of Edinburgh's brilliant independent coffee shops. There are so many dotted around Old Town so here are just a few of my suggestions: The Milkman, Zebra Coffee, La Barantine, and the Hideout Old Town.

The Milkman, 7 Cockburn Street

  • Edinburgh Castle
Okay, let's get Edinburgh's most iconic landmark out of the way first, Edinburgh Castle. Yes, it's touristy, but I'm not sure about you but (despite not enjoying crowds) I still enjoy visiting a city's iconic attraction when I go on holiday. So, one option is to pay to enter, where you can spend the morning wandering around the castle, visiting  the oldest crown jewels in Britain, the oldest building in Edinburgh, and various well-curated exhibitions. If you do enter, don't forget to take their free walking tour! However, it can get extremely busy so if that's not for you, I'd recommend having a stroll around the esplanade (which is possible every month except August) to soak up views of the city and visiting the Grassmarket which boasts wonderful views of the castle.

Entrance & Exit to Edinburgh Castle

  • Lunch 

Time for a spot of lunch. Old Town is crammed full of wonderful cafes and restaurants so there should be something for everyone's tastes. If you're looking for a few suggestions, here are some of my favourites:
  1. Indulgent... The Witchery or Angel and Bagpipes
  2. Cheap & Cheerful... Hideout Old Town or Union of Genius 
  3. Scottish Food... Howies or The Cellar Door 
  4. Street Food... Tupiniquim or Haggis Box
  5. Afternoon Tea... The Colonnades or Clarinda's Tearoom 
Hideout Cafe Old Town (5 Upper Bow)

The Colonnades at the Signet Library

  • A stroll down the Royal Mile

After lunch, let's start exploring The Royal Mile. The great thing about the Royal Mile is that it's impossible to get lost so you won't have to spend time constantly checking your phone for directions plus with many of Edinburgh’s most iconic tourist attractions located here, there's just so much to see and do. I’ve listed a few of my recommendations below so you can pick and choose which interest you:

  1. Victoria Street - Easily one of Edinburgh's most popular and picturesque streets, Victoria Street is a must-see. 
  2. St Giles - St Giles is the High Kirk of Edinburgh and is at the heart of Old Town. It's open to the public and there are also rooftop tours (something I still want to tick off my Edinburgh Bucket List) which boast magnificent views, click here for more info.
  3. Edinburgh Closes - A personal favourite of mine is all the little “closes” (alleyways) that led off the Royal Mile, you never know what you'll discover. A few of my favourite are: Advocates Close, White Horse Close, Dunbar’s Close and Chessels Court.
  4. Writers' Museum, Edinburgh Museum, Museum of Childhood - There are also various lovely museums dotted along the Royal Mile which are great to pop into (especially on a rainy day).
  5. Holyrood Palace - At the very foot of the Royal Mile, you'll find Holyrood Palace, the Queen's official residence when she's in town. The Palace is another attraction which you can pay to enter to see its beautiful interior, Holyrood Abbey, the Queen's Gallery. However, just a reminder, you can't take photos inside the Palace. 
View down the Royal Mile
Writers' Museum

Advocates Close
  • The National Museum of Scotland

If you have spare time, I would also highly recommend a visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Plus, it’s a brilliant place to head if the weather has taken a turn for the worse. The grand hall is one of my favourite spaces in Edinburgh, even on one of the dreariest days of the year, it still manages to feel light, airy, and calming (except when they host school events!). The rest of the museum is a wonderful cavern of various exhibitions, from fashion and Scottish history to wildlife and a brilliant interactive hall designed for families. You could easily spend the whole day here. Before you leave, don't forget to head to their roof terrace that boasts nearly 360-degree views of the city and is the perfect way to soak up the cityscape if you don’t have time to climb Arthur’s Seat. 

View from The National Museum of Scotland roof terrace
  • Evening
For dinner, Edinburgh has many wonderful restaurants to chose from, I rarely go out for dinner so I don't feel qualified in recommending where to go, so check out these wonderful foodie blogs for inspirations Plate Expectations, The Wee Food Blogger, Tartan Spoon, Vegan Edinburgh, and Gluten-Free Edinburgh.

View from the Outsider restaurant

Day Two (Exploring New Town)

As we leave behind the higgledy-piggledy charm of Old Town which we explored on your first day, we're going to crossover into the uniform and elegance of New Town. New Town is regarded as a Georgian masterpiece and is one of the largest complete examples of town planning from the Georgian period anywhere in the world, making it a lovely area for a wander.
  • Morning walk up Calton Hill


I can't think of a lovelier way to start your morning than by a walk up Calton Hill. The humble-in-size hill offers spectacular 360 degree views over the city and out to the Firth of Forth which rivals its considerably taller neighbour, Arthur’s Seat. As well as views, Calton Hill is also home to the Collective Art Gallery, a beautiful contemporary art gallery which has sympathetically incorporated itself into the historic City Observatory and City Dome. If you fancy a to-go coffee or morning pastry, you'll find Cafe MILK within the Collective!

Once you've explored Calton Hill, I suggest taking the Greenside path (at the rear of the hill) to Blenheim Place. This will bring near to the top of Leith walk where you'll find one of the best bookshops in Edinburgh, Topping & Company. If you're a book lover like myself, you won't want to miss a browse here!

  • Independent Shopping at Broughton Street

Broughton Street is one of the select few streets in Edinburgh which has become a melting pot for brilliant independent businesses. It's also a great place to browse if you’re looking for a gift or to treat yourself. A few of my favourites include, Scandinavian lifestyle store, Lifestory; the quirky gift shop, Curiouser & Curiouser; the tea shop with 140 different teas to choose from, Rosevear Tea; plus many more.

Lifestory

Narcissus

Rosevear Tea

  • A walk through New Town through Circus Lane
From Broughton Street, we're going to slowly make our way to the village-like neighbourhood Stockbridge via one of the prettiest streets in Edinburgh, Circus Lane. This walk will hopefully give you a chance to experience the charm and elegance of New Town.

Circus Lane is regarded as one of the most picturesque lanes in Edinburgh - each little mews house is utterly sweet - and the little lane leads to the quaint suburb of Edinburgh, Stockbridge.

Little Free Library on Scotland Street
Circus Lane

  • Lunch in Stockbridge, and a walk along the Water of Leith

Welcome to Stockbridge! Originally, a small village outwith Edinburgh, it has kept lots of its village-like characteristics – and those who love the area are quite fierce about protecting its independent, village-like feel. There are so many reasons why I love the area, I've even written a "Exploring Stockbridge - An Edinburgh Neighbourhood Guide" blog post, so if you'd like more info click on the link.

By this point, you might be feeling a little peckish and I've brought you to Stockbridge with that in mind. I'd recommend a walk down Stockbridge's main high street, Raeburn Place, as there are various different cafes and restaurants. Here are also a few suggestions in and around the area:
  1. Cheap & Cheerful... Cowan & Sons, Hectors, or Leo's Beanery (near Circus Lane)
  2. Scottish Food... The Scran & Scallie
  3. Street Food... Stockbridge Sunday Market
  4. Sweet Treat... The Pastry Section, La Barantine, or Soderberg
Brunch at Leo's Beanery
The Pastry Section

  • Water of Leith and Dean Village

If you have spare time after you've finished exploring Stockbridge, I'd recommend a leisurely walk along the Water of Leith walkway. If you haven't heard of the Water of Leith, it's a river that runs through Edinburgh, from Balerno to Leith, and is accompanied by a footpath. A section of the river connects Stockbridge and Dean Village, and makes for such a lovely walk. You'll be surrounded by nature, the sounds of the rushing river, and look out for neo-classical temple structure called St Bernard’s Well.

Water of Leith
  • Dinner
Your second day in Edinburgh is nearly over, so once again I'll link a few wonderful foodie blogs for dinner inspiration Plate Expectations, The Wee Food Blogger, Tartan Spoon, Vegan Edinburgh, and Gluten-Free Edinburgh.

View from the Lookout by the Gardener's Cottage

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