Unravel Edinburgh in 4 days

12 August 2021

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Friendly disclaimer! 

We want to be as accurate as possible, but given these challenging times, we urge you to recheck that the venues are open when you decide to visit.

When Scottish author R. L. Stevenson described Edinburgh as “what Paris ought to be”, there certainly was truth to it. Its rolling hills and beautiful rivers interspersed with stunning buildings and innovations of the human race create the perfect balance between the past and the future. 

 

Explore Old Town Edinburgh, where history and legends of this mysterious city come to life. Shop to your heart’s content at Princes street, and muse upon its stunning architecture, popular literature, and internationally recognized art. Visit its many well-preserved museums and galleries while getting a taste of British royalty at its finest. Edinburgh has much to offer.

 

Unearth the secrets of this enchanting Scottish capital through our four-day Edinburgh itinerary.

Edinburgh 4-day itinerary at a glance

Day 1

Start your day off with a visit to, arguably, the most important destination in Scotland, the National Museum. Right across the museum is the Greyfriars Kirk and Kirkyard, which has served as inspiration for many characters in the Harry Potter series. Sign up for a Harry Potter walking tour; an absolute treat for Potterheads. Pay a visit to the St. Giles Cathedral as you stroll along the famous Royal Mile of Edinburgh. End the day on a high (literally) by signing up for the Scotch Whiskey Experience, where you can learn, explore and taste the world-famous Scotch-style whiskey.

 

  • National Museum of Scotland 
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard 
  • Victoria Street
  • St. Giles Cathedral 
  • Royal Mile
  • The Scotch Whiskey Experience

 

Day 2

Begin your day at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, which stands as a testament to the pinnacle of Scottish history. Explore the intriguing illusory exhibits at Camera Obscura, one of the oldest purpose-built attractions in Scotland. Museum hop between the Writer’s Museum and the Museum on the Mound, which elaborates on the key literary and financial aspects that continue to draw people to the country. Later, head to the Scottish National Gallery to gaze upon local and international masterpieces across eras. Spend the evening strolling through Princes Street, exploring the different shops and attractions that line the bustling thoroughfare.

 

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
  • Writer’s Museum
  • Museum on the Mound
  • Scottish National Gallery
  • Princes Street

 

Day 3

Have an early start to the day and scale Arthur’s Seat at daybreak for a beautiful sunrise. Get a taste of British royalty and explore the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the Queen in Edinburgh. Browse the enlightening exhibits of Dynamic Earth, a museum that explores the past, present, and legacy of planet Earth. Stop by the Museum of Edinburgh for some truly unique displays pertaining to the history of the city. In the evening, climb up Calton Hill for picturesque sunset views and experience the dark side of Edinburgh by signing up for a ghost tour.  

 

  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Palace of Holyroodhouse
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Museum of Edinburgh
  • Calton Hill
  • Ghost Tour

 

 

Day 4

Begin your final day aboard the iconic Royal Yacht Britannia, which once served Queen Elizabeth II. Get some fresh air as you explore the incredible biodiversity of the Royal Botanic Gardens. Spend your afternoon strolling around the historic streets of Dean Village. In the evening, you can pay a visit to the well-curated Surgeons’ Hall Museums to learn more about medical history in Europe. Call it a day with live music at some of the best pubs in Edinburgh. 

 

  • Royal Yacht Britannia
  • Royal Botanic Garden
  • Dean Village
  • Surgeons’ Hall Museums
  • Live music

 

Detailed 4-day Edinburgh itinerary

Day 1

Visit the National Museum of Scotland

By Maccoinnich/WikiCommons
By Maccoinnich/WikiCommons

The National Museum of Scotland was formed by merging the Royal Scottish Museum and the Museum of Scotland in 2006. With invaluable artefacts pertaining to natural history, cultures of the world, science, technology, art, and design, the museum is the most popular destination in the UK, outside of London. 

 

Things to do:

  • Visit the main attractions of the National Museum, including the Grand Gallery, Scottish Galleries, Fashion and Style Gallery, the Miniature Museum and Dolly the sheep.
  • Stop by at the Elephant House, where J. K. Rowling first put the magical world of Harry Potter into words.

 

Useful information:

Browse the Greyfriars Kirkyard

By Carlos Delgado/WikiCommons
By Carlos Delgado/WikiCommons

The burial grounds of the Greyfriars Kirk has been functioning since the 16th century and is a peculiar tourist site in the heart of Edinburgh. Visit the graves that served as inspiration for J. K. Rowling’s world of wizards and learn about the ghosts that haunt this legendary graveyard. 

 

Things to do:

  • Tour the Greyfriars church and museum
  • Visit the gravestone of Bobby, a Skye Terrier who guarded the grave of his owner in the 19th century and is celebrated by the city even today. (Make sure to rub the nose of Bobby’s statue, situated right across the graveyard).
  • Spot the tombs of William McGonagall, Tom Riddell, Moodie, Scrymgeour, and Cruikshanks, that helped J. K. Rowling name her characters! The graveyard is also the inspiration behind Harry’s parents’ graveyard at Godrics Hollow.

 

Unravelog tip: Old Edinburgh has some of the most amazing restaurants in Scotland with Greyfriars Bobby Bar being one of the popular spots for lunch.

 

Useful information:

Sign up for a Harry Potter walking tour

By Jim Divine/Unsplash
By Jim Divine/Unsplash

Edinburgh is famously known for being the inspiration for many places and characters of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. Explore the mysterious world of Harry Potter through a walking tour that is offered by The Potter Trail, starting in front of the Greyfriars Bobby statue and culminating at the famous Victoria street which was the inspiration for Rowling’s Diagon Alley.

 

Useful information:

Stop by the St. Giles Cathedral

By Nilfanion/WikiCommons
By Nilfanion/WikiCommons

This 14th century Gothic Presbytarian cathedral has been associated with many significant events and people throughout the course of Scottish history like John Knox and the Scottish Reformation. Admire the stained-glass windows, the magnificent Reiger organ, and the iconic Thistle Chapel as you tour what is considered an important part of the culture and legacy of Edinburgh. 

 

Unravelog tip: Arrive at the Cathedral around 10:30 am or 2:30 pm for a free guided tour of the cathedral.

 

Useful information:

  • Location: High Street
  • Cost: Free entry. 
  • Timings:
    • Monday – Wednesday: 10:00 am-2:00 pm.
    • Thursday – Saturday: 10:00 am-4:00 pm.
  • Website: https://stgilescathedral.org.uk/ 
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Victoria Street (line 23, 27, 41, 42).

Learn about the history and lives of Scottish people at the Royal Mile

By Emran Yousof/Unsplash
By Emran Yousof/Unsplash

The main thoroughfare of Edinburgh connects the Edinburgh Castle on the West end with the Palace of Holyroodhouse on the right. Explore the history, culture, and people of the streets of the scenic Royal Mile by visiting important attractions in the area, shopping, and savouring Scottish food and drinks. You’ll be returning to the Royal Mile again and again during your time here because a single day of exploration doesn’t do justice to the centuries of historical changes that the streets witnessed.

 

Things to do: 

  • Visit the John Knox house to spend time with the Scottish Storytelling centre, who will interest you with stories of the Scottish Reformations and the lives of the people of Edinburgh around 400 years ago
  • At High Street, you’ll come across the Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped pattern in the pavement that is supposed to bestow luck on all those who spit on it
  • If you’d like to stretch your feet and relax for a while, visit a pub like the Ensign Ewart Pub or The Albanach for drinks and company.
  • Explore the city’s history in some of the overlooked buildings in the Royal Mile, such as the Museum of Childhood, The People’s Story, Gladstone’s Land and the Real Mary King’s Close.

 

Useful information:

  • Cost: Free entry.
  • Timings: Always open.
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Victoria Street (line 23, 27, 41, 42).

Try the Scotch Whiskey Experience

By Adam Wilson/Unsplash
By Adam Wilson/Unsplash

Formerly known as the Scotch Whiskey Heritage Centre, the Scotch Whiskey Experience showcases and is a testament to the rich history of Scotch Whiskey. Tours of the Scotch Whiskey Experience offers some of the best whiskey tasting sessions paired with the right food and ambiance. You can also dine at the Amber Restaurant & Whisky Bar adjoining the centre.

 

Useful information:

  • Timings and Cost: Varies depending on the type of tour chosen and reservations.
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Mound Place, Victoria Street (line 23, 27, 41, 42).

Day 2

Explore the scenic Edinburgh Castle

By Mohammed Alhinai/Unsplash
By Mohammed Alhinai/Unsplash

Dating all the way back to the 12th century, Edinburgh Castle has decorated the city’s skyline for hundreds of years. Explore the glorious history of the Scots by scaling the heights of the picturesque viewpoints and browsing the different museums and exhibitions housed by the iconic castle. 

 

Things to do: Visit the important attractions in the castle premises, such as the Portcullis Gate, Argyle Battery and Tower, the Lang Stairs, the Military Prison, the Royal Scots Museum and so much more!

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Castlehill, Royal Mile
  • Cost:
    • Regular rate (adults aged 16-64): £15.50.
    • Reduced rate (seniors aged 65+): £12.40.
    • Free entry for children aged 0-15.
  • Timings: 
    • Summer (April 1st to September 30th): Daily, 9:30 am-6:00 pm.
    • Winter (October 1st to March 31st): Daily, 10:00 am-4:00 pm.
  • Website: https://www.edinburghcastle.scot/ 
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Mound Place.

Get lost in the Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

By Christian Michelides/WikiCommons
By Christian Michelides/WikiCommons

Founded in 1835, Camera Obscura remains the oldest purpose-built attraction in Scotland and is very popular among tourists. Have fun touring the various illusory exhibits that challenge your perception of reality and get on top of the tower for a 360-degree view of Edinburgh and beyond!

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Castlehill, Royal Mile
  • Cost: 
    • Regular rate (people aged 16-64): £18.00.
    • Reduced rate 
      • For students and seniors aged 65+: £16.00.
      • For children aged 5-15: £14.00.
    • Free entry for children aged 0-4.
  • Timings: Daily, 8:00 am-10:00 pm.
  • Website: https://www.camera-obscura.co.uk/ 
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Mound Place

Learn about the lives of celebrated Scottish writers at the Writer’s Museum

By Christian Bickel/WikiCommons
By Christian Bickel/WikiCommons

Located in the bustling Lady Stair’s Close on the Royal Mile, the Writer’s Museum celebrates the three most famous Scottish writers – Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Robert Burns. Visit the historic building to gain a deeper insight into the lives and works of these literary geniuses through a variety of personal exhibits including manuscripts and portraits. 

 

Useful information:

Visit the Museum on the Mound

By Barney Elo/Pixabay
By Barney Elo/Pixabay

Housed in the iconic building that was once the Head Office of the Bank of Scotland, the Museum on the Mound offers visitors everything they need to know about money in Scotland. Discover every nook and cranny of the museum, from Scotland’s oldest remaining banknote to a tutorial on how to crack open a safe!

 

Useful information:

  • Location: The Mound
  • Cost: Free entry.
  • Timings: 
    • Monday and Saturday: 1:00 pm-5:00 pm.
    • Tuesday – Friday: 10:00 am-5:00 pm.
  • Website: https://museumonthemound.com/ 
  • How to reach: 
    • Bus: Mound Place.

Go shopping along the Princes Street

By Anthony Ashley/Pixabay
By Anthony Ashley/Pixabay

The National Gallery of Scotland has been tracing the history of Scottish and international art ever since 1859, when it was first opened. Visit the gallery to view Scottish masterpieces like Raeburn’s The Skating Minister as well as works of celebrated international artists like Van Dyck, Botticelli, Raphael, Monet and Rembrandt. 

 

Useful information:

Day 3

Go hillwalking over Arthur’s Seat

By Adli Wahid/Unsplash
By Adli Wahid/Unsplash

Situated in the heart of the 650-acre Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat is a historic volcano that towers over the city and offers some of the best views of the Edinburgh skyline during sunrise. Holyrood Park also offers attractions such as St. Anthony’s Chapel, St. Margaret’s Loch, the Hunter’s Bog and Salisbury Crags. 

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Holyrood Park
  • Cost: Free entry.
  • Timings: Always open.
  • How to reach: Can be accessed via the Blue Route, the Black Circuit or the Zigzag Path.

Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse

By ArrivalGuides
By ArrivalGuides

Situated at the Eastern end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse (or the Holyrood Palace) was founded in the 12th century and is presently the official residence of the Queen while in Edinburgh, which she visits every summer. Explore the different highlights and learn about Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and other historical figures who have been associated with this classical palace.

 

Things to do: Visit important attractions in the palace, like the State Apartments, the Throne Room, the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots, the Great Gallery, the Queen’s Gallery, the Holyrood Abbey and more. 

 

Unravelog tip: We recommend that you try the quintessentially Scottish tea and scones at Clarinda’s Tearoom

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Canongate
  • Cost: 
    • Regular rate: £16.50.
    • Reduced rate:
      • For seniors aged 60+ and students: £14.90.
      • For children aged 5-16 and the disabled: £9.50.
    • Free entry for children aged 0-4.
  • Timings: 
    • April 1 – October 31: 9:30 am-6:00 pm.
    • November 1 – March 31: 9:30 am-4:30 pm.
  • Website: https://www.rct.uk/visit/palace-of-holyroodhouse 
  • How to reach: 
    • Bus: Scotsman Office (line 35).

Explore Dynamic Earth

By  Michaela Wenzler/Pixabay
By Michaela Wenzler/Pixabay

Dynamic Earth is a not-for-profit museum that showcases the past, present, and future of planet Earth in the form of interactive exhibits, engaging tours, and a planetarium. Gain insight into the different evolutionary species and natural processes that shaped, and continues to shape, human civilization as we know it.

 

Useful information:

Browse the Museum of Edinburgh

By simple/Pixabay
By simple/Pixabay

Earlier known as the Huntly House Museum, the Museum of Edinburgh houses collections that elaborate on the historic events, people and legends that shaped the city as it stands today. Find the original copy of the National Covenant from 1638, original drawings of the New Town, miniature replicas of Edinburgh from different periods in the city’s history and more at the Museum of Edinburgh. 

 

Unravelog tip: Spend time relaxing amidst the pretty shrubbery and trees of the secret gardens in Dunbar’s close, located across the street from the museum.

 

Useful information:

Catch the sunset at Calton Hill

By  Connor Mollison/Unsplash
By Connor Mollison/Unsplash

Calton Hill is a picturesque UNESCO World Heritage site promising stunning sunset views and historic monuments. The National Monument, left unfinished, resonates with the pillars of the Parthenon and decorates the vistas of the hill, while the City Observatory and Nelson Monument draw the attention of visitors with their rich history. 

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Calton Hill
  • Cost: Free entry. 
  • Timings: Always open.
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Regent Terrace (line 35).

Go on a spooky ghost tour

By David Drummond/Pixabay
By David Drummond/Pixabay

Edinburgh is famous for being one of the most haunted cities in the world. What better way to learn more about the gruesome and horrifying past of Old Town Edinburgh than through a Ghost tour of the city at night? Tours are offered by many operators, but make sure to consider highly rated tours like those offered by Mercat Tours, Free Ghost Tour, City of the Dead Tours and The Ghost Bus Tours.

 

Useful information:

  • Cost and Timings: Varies depending on the tour chosen.

Day 4

Tour the Royal Yacht Britannia

By ArrivalGuides
By ArrivalGuides

Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia served Queen Elizabeth II for 43 years, from 1954 to 1997. Today, it is stationed permanently in Edinburgh, open to visitors to explore a piece of British royalty as they tour the State Apartments, the Royal Deck Tearoom, and more.  

 

Useful information:

    • Bus: Ocean Terminal (line 11, 22, 34, 35).

Relax at the Royal Botanic Garden

By ArrivalGuides
By ArrivalGuides

Founded in 1670 as a garden for growing medicinal plants, the Royal Botanic Garden is the oldest botanic garden in the United Kingdom outside of Oxford’s. Explore the 72-acre garden and glasshouse and the biodiversity that they have nurtured in the past 350 years while also offering scenic views of Edinburgh. 

 

Things to do: 

  • Visit the different gardens of the Royal Botanic Garden, including the Woodland Garden, Chinese Hillside, Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden, and more
  • Check out the glasshouse, complete with diverse landscapes and over 2400 species of plants from all over the world.

 

Useful information:

Stroll around Dean Village

By  Clark Van Der Beken/Unsplash
By Clark Van Der Beken/Unsplash

The neighbourhood of Dean Village is situated next to Edinburgh’s largest river, Water of Leith, where centuries-old water-powered mills are preserved even today. Enjoy a pleasant walk around the historic buildings of the village and visit attractions like the iconic Well Court and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Dean Path
  • Cost: Free entry.
  • Timings: Always open.
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Dean Bridge (line 19, 36, 37, 41, 43, 47, 113).

Visit the Surgeons’ Hall Museums

By Kim Traynor/WikiCommons
By Kim Traynor/WikiCommons

Managed by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, the Surgeons’ Hall Museums has been open to the public since 1832, making it one of the oldest museums in Scotland. Explore the Wohl Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery Museum, and The Dental Collection to gain insight into different diseases, development of dental techniques and the evolution of surgical methods through the centuries.

 

Useful information:

  • Location: Nicholson Street
  • Cost:
    • Regular rate: £8.00.
    • Reduced rate (for students, children aged 5-15 and seniors aged 60+): £4.50.
    • Free entry for those children aged 0-4.
  • Timings: Daily, 10:00 am-5:00 pm.
  • Website: https://museum.rcsed.ac.uk/ 
  • How to reach:
    • Bus: Surgeons’ Hall (line 3, 5, 7, 8, 14, 29, 30, 31, 37, 49).

Explore live music in Edinburgh

By  Matheus Ferrero/Unsplash
By Matheus Ferrero/Unsplash

Edinburgh is a popular live music destination, with venues varying from small, intimate settings to bustling and highly entertaining ones. Check out live music nights in pubs like  Bannermans Bar, Whistle Binkies, or Finnegan’s Wake to listen to some of the best performers in the country and cheer for a good night. 

 

Useful information:

  • Cost and Timings: Varies depending on the venue chosen.

Looking for unique experiences on your Edinburgh trip? Among the most local things you can do is to book yourself a mind-bending hour, locked up in Edinburgh’s Escape Rooms. We’ve put together a list of some of the best and scariest ones in town. Check them out here.

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