How to Spend One Day in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, and one of the most renowned cities not just in Europe, but all over the world. It’s easy to see why tourists flock to Edinburgh; the Scottish capital is home to world-class museums, picturesque nature, historic landmarks, and a number of fun festivals. In fact, you could easily spend a week and still not get to see all that the city has to offer.

With that said, spending one day in Edinburgh is quite the tall order and might seem like an impossible task for some. However, with proper planning, you can maximize your day and get a glimpse of the beauty that Edinburgh has to offer. Below is our ultimate guide to exploring the city in a day.

One-Day Itinerary in Edinburgh

Before you begin your day trip to Edinburgh, there are some tips and tricks that you should know, such as the following:

  • Stick to the city highlights this time around. One day is too short so you need to create a manageable itinerary, which only includes the most popular attractions. Additionally, book all your entrance tickets in advance to skip the queues in ticket booths.
  • The summer season in Edinburgh falls from June to August, which is the best time to come visit. However, it is the peak season, so expect sites and landmarks to be crowded.
  • Since you only have one day in the city, it’s best to use an Edinburgh luggage locker to store bags, suitcases, or backpacks so you don’t have to carry them around.
  • There will be a lot of walking around so wear comfortable shoes.
  • Having a hop-on hop-off bus ticket will help maximize your time in the city. It’s also a good way to give your feet a break from all the walking. You can book your ticket here.

Below is a sample itinerary for an exciting day trip to Edinburgh:


The best way to start any morning is to watch the sun come up and the best place to do it in Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat. Located inside Holyrood Park, this 251-meter tall extinct volcano in the heart of the city has become a popular tourist attraction and viewpoint. At Arthur’s Seat, you not only get a panoramic view of Edinburgh, but you also have the best seat in the house for the sunrise.

There are two ways to reach the peak of Arthur’s Seat. First, you can hike up through the hilly, well-maintained path in a little under an hour or take a cab that will bring you to the rocky summit. It all depends on your preference and how much time and energy you want to save. You can check other cool points of interest inside the park such as Saint Anthony’s Chapel.

After the sun has risen, you can make your way back down from the peak of Arthur’s Seat and make your way to the Royal Mile, which is often regarded as the most famous street in Edinburgh. The street is lined with restaurants and cafés where you can grab breakfast before continuing with your plans for the day. Some popular breakfast joints here include The City Café, Loudons and Urban Angel.

Once you’re done fueling up, you can continue wandering around Royal Mile. In the area, you will find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen’s official residence in the city. Since you only have a day, you don’t have time to tour the inside of the palace. Simply admire it from the outside.

Head over to Princes Street after, which is considered the main shopping district in the city. Also found in the area are the Princes Street Gardens, which are actually made up of two adjacent parks called East and West Princes Gardens, and great spots for strolling.

You will eventually find yourself at The Mound, an artificial slope that divides the two parks and the location for top attractions such as the Scottish National Gallery, Museum on the Mound and the Royal Scottish Academy. If you have the time, we highly recommend going to the Scottish National Gallery (book tickets here) to see some of the country’s finest art pieces and collections.


Once you’re done at the gallery, head back to Princes Street for lunch. The spot is teeming with famous restaurants and eateries where you can get fantastic meals. If you have no idea where to go, you can choose from the Princes Street restaurants found on this list by CultureTrip. There are so many great restaurants and venues in the city to dine at when you visit, and you’ll certainly be spoiled for choice at Christmas time when planning the annual party. Luckily, you can look at and hire such Edinburgh Christmas party venues conveniently and easily online, if you’re in the process of organizing such a party.

After your meal, it’s time to head to the city’s most iconic landmark – the Edinburgh Castle. The castle is situated right at the end of the Royal Mile and is a must-see when in the Scottish capital. Towering over the entire city, it’s impossible to miss this amazing and historic building.

The castle played a vital role in the city’s history and you can learn all about it through the guided tours they offer. Some of the highlights inside the building include the opulent Great Hall, which was constructed for King James IV, and the St. Margaret’s Chapel. You can also view the displays of different armors, weapons, crowns, and royal jewels inside. You can book tickets to enter Edinburgh Castle through their official website.

After your tour of the castle, the perfect ending to your sightseeing is to watch the sunset. One, if not the best spot in Edinburgh to do so is Calton Hill, which is fairly easy to reach and offers stunning views of the city as well. To get to the viewpoint, climb up the staircase at Regent Road for about 3 to 5 minutes. You can also check some interesting monuments in the area such as the National Monument of Scotland and the Dugald Stewart Monument.


After the sun is gone and the full day of hiking, walking and sightseeing is behind you, the only thing left for you to do in Edinburgh is to relax, eat and unwind, which you can all do in the renowned medieval market square known as Grassmarket.

Once a site for public executions, the historic public square is now home to several shops, restaurants, and bars, making it the perfect spot to end your day in Edinburgh. Some of the acclaimed restaurants located in Grassmarket include Petit Paris, O’Oliviero, Agua and The Mussel and Steak Bar.

When you’re finished with dinner, you can end the night by having a few drinks and dancing the night away. Luckily, Grassmarket is also the center of nightlife in Edinburgh. Whether you’re looking for a pub, a dance club, or a wine bar, you’ll definitely find a spot to hang out here.