A Weekend In Edinburgh: How to Get the Best from Your Trip

Scotland’s capital is one of the most captivating places in the UK, with a whole host of attractions to keep you busy. There are world-class museums, stunning natural attractions and secret spots galore. Your only difficulty will be in fitting it all in! We’re sharing our favourite things to do with a weekend in Edinburgh, to help you make the most of your time.

Weekend in Edinburgh – Day 1

To get your bearings, head to Calton Hill, around a mile from the Castle and the Old Town. This UNESCO World Heritage site has quite a few iconic landmarks including the City Observatory and the Nelson Monument. After the 5 minute climb, you’ll enjoy panoramic views over Edinburgh and towards Fife.

Calton Hill, Edinburgh, Scotland and June dining tipsFor an even better view, pay the £5 fee to ascend the Nelson Monument. Completed in 1815, it has a time ball at the top that was added in 1852 to help sailors navigate, as well as the only W.C. on the hill.

Nelson's Monument, Edinburgh, Scotland
There’s a small exhibition on the ground floor but the real draw is the vista at the top. Be warned that the door at the top is very narrow.

View from Nelson's Monument, Edinburgh
The City Observatory was inspired by a Greek temple and dates from 1818. It’s currently being redeveloped and will be open to the public in the not too distant future.

City Observatory, Calton Hill, Edinburgh, ScotlandYou get a great view of Arthur’s Seat from here and it’s a lovely place for a hike. This ancient volcano is 251 metres high and stands within the 640 acre Holyrood Park. It’s around 48 minutes walk from Calton Hill so might be best saved for another day.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh viewThere are also 3 lochs or lakes in the park including Dunsapie Loch, an artificial lake created at the request of Prince Albert in 1844.

Dunsapie Loch, Edinburgh, ScotlandFrom Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat, return to the centre and the iconic Royal Mile. There are actually four connecting streets on the Royal Mile: Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate. On the High Street, St Giles’ Cathedral is the main place of worship of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh.

St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, ScotlandEdinburgh is built on several hills and has historic narrow alleyways  leading down to the New Town. Advocate’s Close is one of them, dating from the 16th century. There’s a stylish bar called the Devil’s Advocate in a Victorian pump house.

Advocate's Close, Edinburgh, ScotlandWe came across this bagpipe player in New Town but they are dotted around the city for your listening pleasure!

Bagpipe player in Edinburgh city centre
By now we imagine you’ll be getting pretty hungry! Edinburgh is a foodie city and there are lots of great places to eat in Edinburgh. From a foraging restaurant to delicious doughnuts and a speaker bar accessed via a bookcase, there’s something for everyone.

Weekend in Edinburgh – Day 2

One of the best things to do on a weekend in Edinburgh is to take the Leith Walk along the river to Dean Village. It’s hard to believe that you’re so close to the city in this bucolic enclave.

Dean Village, EdinburghAt one point there were 11 water mills here, but today it’s a residential area that has been beautifully restored.

Dean Village, Edinburgh
From here it’s a short 10 minute walk to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Occupying two handsome buildings either side of
Belford Road, they’re open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The lawn outside Modern One is a work of art itself, designed by Charles Jencks and the building itself was designed by William Burn in 1825 in a neoclassical style.

Modern Two dates from 1833 and houses many more artworks along with a charming cafe and shop.

Modern Two, Scottish National Gallery of Modern ArtWhilst not everyone is a fan of modern art, these free to enter galleries will reconcile many people to contemporary artworks. Tourists by Duane Hanson certainly stands out. Although the figures were cast from life, they weren’t a couple and indeed never even met.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
There’s a sense of fun throughout, from neon signs in the grounds to a man peeking out of the pavement.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art visitNo visit to Edinburgh would be complete without seeing the iconic Castle. Open daily from 9.30 am, it houses the Crown Jewels of Scotland and many other interesting attractions. The castle really catches the light at certain times of day.

Edinburgh Castle panoramic viewThe Royal Palace within the castle has been witness to so much history. It’s here that Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in in 1566.

Edinburgh Castle review
If you’ve visited the castle on a previous visit, then the Royal Yacht Britannia in Leith is a great alternative. Voted Scotland’s Best Attraction in the TripAdvisor Traveller’s Choice Awards, it’s a fascinating day out for children and adults alike. After the Royal Yacht was decommissioned in 1994, there was a public competition to host the ship and Edinburgh had the winning bid.

It’s an intriguing peek into life on board, with the surprisingly modest private Royal Bedrooms. Prince Philip’s bedroom is top left and the Queen’s bedroom is top right.

Royal Yacht Britannia review
The State Apartments are more lavish as they were used to entertain business contacts and visiting dignataries, but the Royals often mingled with staff below deck in the officers’ bar. There was an operating theatre and laundry room on board, and even a Rolls-Royce Phantom V! One of the nicest things about the Yacht is just how friendly all the staff are. Leave time for refreshments in the Royal Deck Tea Room or buy delicious homemade fudge in the sweet shop. Thanks to the free annual pass, once you’ve purchased your ticket you will be able to return any time you like within the next 12 months and will also get a 15% discount in the Tea Room and Gift Shop.

Royal Yacht Britannia bar

Other Unmissable Attractions

Whilst we didn’t have time to visit these great attractions, they’re all highly recommended, and there are lots more suggestions on the Visit Scotland website.

– Scottish National Gallery – free to enter and with a world-class collection of Scottish paintings, Old Masters and Impressionists.

– Dynamic Earth – telling the story of planet Earth in a fun, interactive way

– Holyrood Palace – the official residence of the Queen in Scotland.

Also, if time permits, consider hiring a car and getting out of Edinburgh to Fife and the coast. It’s a very scenic drive across the Fife Road Bridge to St Andrews, the home of golf.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

The Old Town Chambers has a fantastic location just off the Royal Mile and Advocate’s Close, with spacious family friendly rooms. There’s a huge gym with Rogue Fitness equipment that’s open 24/7 and a stylish lobby.

Old Town Chambers reviewThese 50 luxurious serviced apartments are excellent value yet they don’t skimp on style. With Cowshed toiletries, high speed complimentary Wi-Fi and most importantly, a warm welcome, they’re a real home from home. We found the laptop safe very convenient and enjoyed using the Bose sound system and Nespresso coffee machine. Our apartment had a large main bedroom, as well as a second clever bed-deck and open-plan living and dining area.

Old Town Chambers serviced apartments
Many of the rooms have balconies with lovely views of the Scott Monument and the New Town.

Old Town Chambers balcony
Best of all is the luxurious breakfast box from Edinburgh gourmet deli Valvona and Crolla. With an appealing array of meats, cheeses, pastries and fresh fruit, it’s a fantastic innovation that other serviced apartments could learn from. In terms of location, value for money and sheer convenience the Old Town Chambers takes some beating. Just make sure to book your accommodation well in advance if you want to visit Edinburgh during the famous Festival Fringe, the world’s largest art festival, as this place is in high demand.

Valvona & Crolla, Old Town Chambers, Edinburgh
All this activity makes for quite a jam-packed weekend in Edinburgh so you might wish to extend your stay for a few more days…We’re already plotting our return! Have you been to Edinburgh and if so what tips would you give to visitors?

A Weekend in Edinburgh - How to Make the Most of Your Time

  • I went to Edinburgh for the festival once and the atmosphere was fantastic! I need to go back and explore properly though – thanks for the tips!

    • Suze

      It must be such fun to be there during the Festival, that’s definitely on my to do list!

  • Mei Suen

    Your photos are stunning, Suz! After seeing them, I am reminded that I need to go back very soon, although after my last trip, I do want to go back again, as there are so many things I did not manage to do, even though I did a lot in my long weekend. One place not to be missed for eating and drinking is The Cafe Royal, an upscale pub and oyster bar, located down an alleyway, across the street from The Balmoral Hotel and Waverley Station. You are welcomed to read my review on Yelp! 🙂

    • Suze

      That’s so kind, Mei! Thanks for the tip about The Cafe Royal, I’ll check out your review

  • I love your entries about Edinburgh! What a lovely weekend itinerary and that view from Carlton Hill is simply stunning!

    Miriam x

    • Suze

      Calton Hill is amazing – apparently it’s the best place to watch the fireworks in the city too

  • pranita deshpande

    Best blog & best pictures

    • Suze

      That’s very kind, thank you!

  • everything looks really stunning!

    Beauty Candy Loves

    • Suze

      Edinburgh is a lovely place, Candice

  • Hayley Rubery

    Oh god this looks SO dreamy Suze! I headed to Edinburgh back in January for the first time and loved it – was a tad cold and dreary though so I’d love to go back in the summer and see it with blue skies! I definitely need to go back and explore again!

    Hayley xo

    • Suze

      Summertime is ideal, as Arthur’s Seat looks beautiful then

  • What a stunning post! I love the look of your hotel room here, the decor is really quirky and unique.

    How happy does Paul look in the photo with the dog and the beer!

    Looks like you both had such a great stay, have’t been to Edinburgh before but it would be nice to visit sometime.

    Laura xo

    • Suze

      Ha ha, Paul does indeed look very happy! I reckon you would love Edinburgh too

  • I’m very fascinated by the city observatory! How interesting that they took inspiration from the Greeks. I would love to visit the Lochs too – I’m watching a gripping drama on ITV at the moment called the Loch so I definitely need to put Scotland back on my travel radar as you’ve showcased some wonderful places to explore!

    • Suze

      They’re redoing the city observatory, I’ll be keen to visit once it’s been renovated. I must check out The Loch, thanks for the tip

  • I didn’t know some of these about Edinburgh. It’s an interesting and fascinating place.

    • Suze

      It’s really historic yet modern at the same time

  • Ellie Adams

    Ahh this is making me want to head back to Edinburgh so much, I never had enough time there last time. Dean Village looks absolute perfection!


    • Suze

      Dean Village is tiny but absolutely lovely – hope you get to visit

  • This is a great guide! Looks like you managed to pack so much in to your stay!

    Ash | http://www.liakadatravel

    • Suze

      There’s so much to see, I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • You saw so much in just a weekend and some new places which I need to add to my Edinburgh itinerary. I love the look of Old Town Chambers – the perfect base for a weekend of sightseeing.