Edinburgh in One Day: Jam-Packed Itinerary Options

Free things to do in Edinburgh Humes Royal Mile Edinburgh

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Wondering how to pack everything into Edinburgh in one day? I know we’re biased, but 24 hours is never enough in Scotland’s capital, yet we appreciate that some trips are tight on time, so we’ve created this jam-packed one-day Edinburgh itinerary that ticks all the exciting bucket list items around the Old and New Town.

If you’re looking for historical attractions, fun tours, perfect photo spots and secret local locations, keep reading. We’ve also included recommended restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as pubs, bars and, if you plan to stretch your one day in Edinburgh into the wee hours, nighttime entertainment!

Since there is so much to do, we’ve created five options for you to choose from. We really know our city well and want you to get the most out of your short visit.

Note: Edinburgh attractions are constantly responding to Government announcements. Please check for opening times. Remember to pre-book tickets online and reserve tables for meals and drinks.

If you have never been to Edinburgh before, start with this guide. Coming from the States? Check out this article on things every North American should know before visiting Scotland.

Are you not sure what month to book or what season to visit? Read our best time to visit advice.

Finally, don’t forget to read our Edinburgh packing list or our post on how much Edinburgh costs.

Join my Scotland Facebook group to ask questions about your trip to Scotland; it’s free!

Get Your Bearings

Edinburgh is split into a handful of areas (neighbourhoods). If this is your first visit, it is recommended that you book accommodation in the Old Town or City Centre so you can squeeze as much as possible in during your day.

Here is a quick overview of Edinburgh’s areas:

  • Old Town: Cobbled streets, historic monuments, popular tourist attractions, Royal Mile
  • City Centre: Shopping, dining, Princes Street Gardens, a mix of Old and New Town
  • West End: Independent shops, restaurants, Charlotte Square and Georgian houses
  • Leith (New Town): Hip, young, independent restaurants, bars, canal walks
  • Stockbridge (New Town): Pretty, affluent, cafe culture, independent shops
  • South Side: Walking distance to Old Town, student life, affluent, Meadows (park)

Not sure which area to choose? Read our detailed guide on where to stay in Edinburgh before you book.

Bute House West End

Getting Around Edinburgh

Trams, buses, hop-on/off tour buses, trains, taxis, Uber, e-bikes – there’s no shortage of public transport in Edinburgh.

Lothian Buses cover the vast majority of the city, and there are bus stops all over.

Lothian also runs NightBus services every night of the week on selected routes.

Arriving by bus? Here’s our Edinburgh Bus Station guide.

This Edinburgh Airport post details how to get to the city from the airport via bus, tram or taxi.

On a budget?

Edinburgh is very walkable. Its small size means you can explore lots on foot, looking up, down and around to take all the history and beauty in.

The furthest (/farthest) points on this itinerary are just under 50 minutes walk apart, so we’ve tailored five different options so you can decide how much walking you are up for.

We’ve also pointed out tasty spots for food and drink to break up the time between attractions.

Tram transport West End

Tight streets, cobbled roads, traffic lights and construction can make driving in Edinburgh a nightmare.

Parking is only free after 18:30 and on a Sunday morning. If you have to drive, read our full guide to parking first.

There are a handful of hotels that offer parking if you require an overnight stay with a space.

Edinburgh Hop On and Off Bus Tour For Speed and Stories

If you really want to pack a lot in with minimal effort, consider an Edinburgh hop-on/off bus tour. This HOHO bus offers three routes and two types of passes – 24 or 48 hours.

The official starting point is St Andrews Square in the New Town, but you can hop on, or off, at any of the stops.

It’s an efficient way of seeing the city if you are short on time and want to learn more about the city and its stops.

The Majestic Tour goes as far as the Royal Yacht Britannia in the lesser-known area of Leith. Read our HMY Britannia review here.

If visiting the royal holiday yacht is a definite for your one-day in Edinburgh plans, then definitely consider the HOHO bus pass.

HOHO is also a great option for when it rains in Edinburgh.

Royal Yacht BRITANNIA at Leith Dock Tour

Edinburgh in a Day Must-See Attractions

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s dive into how to spend a day in Edinburgh.

Since everyone’s tastes differ, we’ve included a variety of options so you can pick and choose what suits your travel style.

Edinburgh Castle on a hill - view From Grassmarket

Morning in Edinburgh Old Town

The first stop on your fun-filled Edinburgh itinerary is breakfast, which is typically eaten around 7:30 – 9:30.

If your hotel offers breakfast, dine as soon as you’re up so you can get started as soon as you’re out.

Foodies will be looking out for a full Scottish breakfast, which consists of link or square sausage, bacon, black pudding, haggis, beans, mushrooms, toast and potato scone.

While pubs tend to do a pretty good full Scottish to feed the hangover, they tend to not open until around 11:00, so unless you are planning a leisurely day, you’ll want to avoid that option.

You can find out more about the types of food you have to eat when you visit Edinburgh here.

Cafes that serve full-cooked breakfasts:

  • Scotts Kitchen – The Scotts Big Breakfast, local produce with views over Victoria Street
  • Circus Cafe Bistro – Friendly staff, indoor and outside dining at 8 Saint Mary’s Street
  • Loudons New Waverley – Huge cafe serving full Scottish and signature eggs Benedict with haggis!
  • Here’s our full brunch in Edinburgh article.

If you are planning a trip from the States, check out this article on things every North American should know before visiting Scotland.

Loudons Eggs Benedict Food - Brunch in Edinburgh

If you prefer something other than a full Scottish:

  • Hula Juice Bar – Acai and smoothie bowls for a healthier breakfast in Edinburgh at West Bow
  • The Milkman – Good coffee in a very aesthetically pleasing cafe on Cockburn Street
  • Laila’s – Instagram-worthy pancake stacks on Cockburn Street

If this doesn’t make you salivate, we have heaps of food recs in our Edinburgh restaurants guide.

Now that your belly is taken care of let’s find out how to work off those calories! Here’s our rammed one day in Edinburgh itinerary

Hula Acai Breakfast Edinburgh Food

Visit the Edinburgh Castle

The Royal Mile is the long, interesting street where heaps of the city’s landmarks and activities are located.

Edinburgh Castle sits at the top of a volcano crag called Castle Rock, and it is one of Edinburgh’s famous 7 Hills. The cobbled street running up to the castle is called Castlehill.

This castle is one of the oldest fortified attractions in Europe, with a building dating back to the 12th century!

You won’t be surprised to read that this is the most popular paid-for tourist spot in the city, so if you plan to go inside the castle, reserve an early-timed ticket.

The Castle sits at 443 feet (135 metres) above sea level, which you will be able to picture later during this 1-day Edinburgh itinerary.

Starting at the Edinburgh Castle esplanade, enjoy the views over the city and spend time reading the plaques surrounding the castle, including The Witches Well. Access is free.

The esplanade is where the Edinburgh Tattoo and music concerts starring the likes of Elton John and The Proclaimers are held.

If visiting the castle is a must-do Edinburgh activity for you, you can reserve your ticket here.

On arrival, walk through the gates to redeem your ticket and collect an audio guide to learn about the many historic sieges and other stories.

Alternatively, join this guided tour and enjoy skip-the-line access to Edinburgh Castle.

Things to do at Edinburgh Castle

  • Walk up the Lang Stairs
  • Look up at the decoration celebrating Thomas Randolph, nephew of King Robert the Bruce, who captured the castle from the English in 1314
  • Discover Mons Meg, the world’s most dangerous Medieval gun, which could fire as far as 3.2km (2 miles)
  • Sneak a peek at Edinburgh’s oldest building, St Margaret’s Chapel, which was built around 1130
  • Find the 110-foot-deep Fore Well, which was deliberately blocked by Bruce’s troops
  • Meet the Seven Sisters at Half Moon Battery
  • Marvel at the oldest Crown jewels in Britain, the Honours of Scotland
  • See the Stone of Destiny, which Scottish students saved from Westminster Abbey! Read more about its movie
  • Check out the carvings at the medieval Great Hall on Crown Square
  • Visit The Royal Palace where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to James VI in 1566
  • Explore the Prisons of War, National War Museum and Regimental Museums

You could spend all day at Edinburgh Castle, but since you are limited in time, try to keep your trip to two hours and plan to listen out for the 1 O’Clock Gun wherever you are in the city at… 1 o’clock.

Note: The esplanade area is flat and suitable for wheelchair users and prams/pushchairs. There is a courtesy vehicle which takes people with disabilities to the top of the castle.

The Crown Jewels, Stone of Destiny and associated exhibitions have ramp and elevator access.

Free Braille guides and hands-on models of the Crown Jewels with Braille texts are available.

Edinburgh Castle Front Entrance Royal Mile Edinburgh Activities

Camera Obscura

If history isn’t your thing but you appreciate epic 360-degree views of cities, check out Camera Obscura.

This whacky world of illusions has over 100 activities, including magic mirror mazes and an LED light tunnel.

Its rooftop has striking views over the Old Town, including an up close and personal sighting of its neighbour, Edinburgh Castle!

The estimated time to cover all attractions is two hours.

Read our review of Camera Obscura here.

Ramsay Garden

Take a quick detour to Ramsay Garden to see the popular Instagram spot and views over the New Town.

It’s just to the side of Camera Obscura via Ramsay Lane, so it will only take five minutes.

Developed by Patrick Geddes as part of an 1890s housing programme in the Old Town, Geddes described the area as a “seven-towered castle I built for my beloved.”

He lived at number 14 with his family.

From the front, which you can see from Princes Street Gardens, the ‘towered castles’ look like doll houses peering through the trees.

Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Experience

Whisky is one of Scotland’s biggest exports, and luckily for you, you don’t have to visit one of the islands or distilleries to learn more about it.

Next to Edinburgh Castle is the five-star Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Experience. This is a 3D experience, so be prepared to be wowed while you learn.

Its famous vault hosts over 3000 bottles of whisky, and you get to try a dram!

Set aside 1.5 hours.

For more options, read our whisky tour guide.

Whisky Experience Activities Royal Mile Edinburgh Toilets

The Witchery By The Castle

Hopefully, you are ready for lunch by now.

The Witchery By The Castle is a fine dining experience on The Royal Mile.

While the dining experience comes with great reviews for evening meals, there is also an affordable lunch menu.

The menu typically comprises Scottish plates, including game, beef and seafood.

What about afternoon tea instead? You can choose whether to dine in the Secret Garden or the decadent baroque candlelit Witchery dining room.

For full details, here’s our afternoon tea in Edinburgh guide.

Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Close

From The Witchery, make your way down the Royal Mile’s Lawnmarket and nip through to Makars’ Court to photograph the Writers’ Museum, which documents the lives of three Scottish literary giants, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.

It is free to enter, like many of Edinburgh’s museums. A self-guided visit takes around 20 minutes.

The building was once owned by The Countess of Stair, who is reported to have been the first black servant in Edinburgh. Learn more about Edinburgh’s Black history on this walking tour.

Since there is so much more to explore, we are going to offer a series of options for you to choose from or tag onto each other.

Writers Museum Edinburgh

Option 1: Princes Street Gardens & Dean Village

Instead of heading back to the Royal Mile, it’s time to step into Edinburgh’s New Town.

Head down the stairs to Princes Street Gardens and access the East Gardens, where you will find the Scott Monument. You can climb its 287 steps in ten minutes for city views. Some visitors spend between 10-30 minutes taking in the experience.

Continue walking to through the park and crossing over to West Princes Street Gardens for Ross Fountain.

Look up to see Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock.

This saunter through the gardens can take 20 minutes or two hours, depending on your speed. If it’s sunny, stop and smell the roses.

If you have time, you may want to take a 10-minute detour to Dean Village.

Once a city slum, now a historic hidden gem. Set aside 30-40 minutes for a wander.

From Dean Village, you can walk along the Water of Leith to the upmarket Stockbridge and to the hip Leith.

However, you’ll need to bookmark those ideas for your next trip to Edinburgh because you’ve still not explored everything the City Centre or the Old Town has to offer!

If you’re peckish, pick a bagel at Bross Bagels or a deli sandwich at Victor Hugo’s.

If your feet need a rest, park up at West End bar or grab a seat at a Rose Street pub. You deserve a beer!

Option 2: Grassmarket

From the Writers’ Museum, head back to the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile.

Look up for Deacon Brodie’s two faces on the pub named after the Edinburgh figure.

Deacon Brodie Pub Edinburgh Royal Mile Old Town

George IV Bridge

Head right on George IV Bridge, walking past The Elephant House.

If you’re a Potterhead, you might want to scrap this 1 day in Edinburgh itinerary and opt for our Harry Potter locations guide instead.

If you need a pit stop, check out McGonagalls Gin & Whisky Emporium (bar), The Outsider (upmarket restaurant) or Vittoria (restaurant).

Views of Edinburgh Castle from The Outsider Bar

Greyfriars Bobby

On George IV Bridge, stop at the statue of a dog on a plinth.

This is Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal Skye Terrier who has been featured in books, movies and features as our logo.

He died on 14 January 1872 after guarding his master’s grave for 14 years. To keep locals happy, take a selfie with Bobby instead of rubbing his poor wee nose.

Behind the statue is Greyfriars Kirk, where you’ll find Bobby’s master, John Gray and a number of gravestones that inspired Harry Potter character names.

Visiting with kids? The National Museum of Scotland is two minutes away from here and is free to enter. Here’s our post on family-friendly activities in the city.

Greyfriars Bobby Edinburgh

Grassmarket and Victoria Street

Wind down Candlemaker Row and follow the castle views to the Grassmarket.

Edinburgh Castle Cars View From Grassmarket

Head to The Vennel for that Instagram pic and reward your hike up Jean Brodie’s Steps with an ice cream from Mary’s Milk Bar.

Edinburgh Castle Gemma Tartan Cape Walk Orange_Vennel

The Grassmarket is a popular pocket of bars and restaurants in Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Every Saturday, the Grassmarket Market wafts the area with smells of international food.

Historically, the Grassmarket was a public execution spot.

Just outside of The Last Drop is where ‘criminals’ including those accused of witchcraft were hung.

Maggie Dickson is one of those victims, and guess what?

She survived!

You can read more about her here and have a drink in the bar named after her.

You could easily end your Old Town itinerary here, pub-crawling your way back up to the Royal Mile.

Grassmarket Food Pub Edinburgh

For those not ready to end the day with drinks, consider dinner on the Grassmarket, but not before photographing the West Bow and Victoria Street, the pretty street said to have influenced Diagon Alley!

Potterheads pop into the Museum Context for memorabilia and souvenirs.

Victoria Street near Grassmarket Edinburgh

Option 3: Royal Mile Attractions

Instead of heading along George IV Bridge from the Writers’ Museum, walk down the High Street on the Royal Mile and look out for the incredible views of over Princes Street and Scott Monument from Advocate’s Close on the left.

Advocates Close

Down this close, you’ll find The Devil’s Advocate, which is a popular restaurant with a beer garden and cocktail list.

The myriad of Old Town alleys, wynds and closes make this European city unique!

You could easily spend a day discovering what’s at the end of each close and where it leads to next.

Advocates Close Edinburgh Old Town Royal Mile_

Hume and St Giles’ Cathedral

Head back to the Royal Mile, past the statue of Hume. Take a look at his toe!

Traditionally, students would rub it for luck.

To the right is St Giles’ Cathedral and the cobbled Heart of Midlothian.

This heart mosaic is where Old Tolbooth was located.

It played many roles over its 400 years, from Burch Council offices, tax collection, and a place of torture and public hangings.

Locals used to spit on the heart, which is probably not advised now!

Storytelling Centre and John Knox House

Continue walking down to the Scottish Storytelling Centre, which has a cafe, puts on events, and a shop selling Scottish literature for kids.

It is also the entry to John Knox House.

Built in 1470, this is the oldest medieval building which still stands on the Royal Mile.

With age comes a story, and this museum has many secrets to share.

It is thought that its most popular resident was John Knox, who lived here during the siege of Edinburgh Castle!

You can learn more about the part this building played during The Scottish Reformation via the museum audio tour, which takes around 30 minutes.

You may also like our guide to museums in Edinburgh

John Knox House

The World’s End

Close to the oldest medieval building is one of Edinburgh’s most popular pubs, The World’s End.

This cosy pub has a decent drink list, good banter, and serves pub grub.

The Worlds End Royal Mile Old Town Edinburgh Pub

Inside, you can see the plaque, which states that the gates to the walled city were located just outside of the pub!

Edinburgh’s old walls ended where The World’s End building stands today.

The Old Town is packed with history; a building is never just four walls.

If you need a sugar fix, pop down to Moo Gelato Pie (St Mary’s Street) to see what crazy cookie ice cream sandwich is available. You will not regret it!

The Worlds End Pub Sign Royal Mile Old Town Edinburgh Pub

Underground Vaults Tour

Did you know that the city also existed down below?

This spooky tour meets on the Royal Mile at Lawnmarket, where you will learn about Edinburgh’s city slums before going underground to the newly discovered South Bridge Vaults.

Your knowledgeable, costumed guide will share tales of the city’s legends, the reasons for the underground life of debauchery, and why residents of the Old Town, mostly women, were persecuted as witches.

Conditions can be damp and uneven underfoot, so wrap up warm and wear closed-toe shoes with grips.

Book your one-hour tour here. Read our Edinburgh Vaults Tour review.

Dunbar Close Gardens

If you’re looking for some quiet space, pop into Dunbar’s Close and enjoy the plants and shrubbery just off the Canongate.

If you’re looking for a late lunch, snack, small dinner, or tea, as Scots call it – see our lingo guide here; Oink can be found across the round from the garden.

The People’s Story Museum at the Canongate

This lesser-known museum shares the lives of working-class people in Edinburgh from the 18th to the 20th Century.

The People's Story Museum Woman Fishing Statues Scotland

Option 4: Holyrood Park

Between an Arthur’s Seat hike, a Holyrood Palace tour, time at The Queen’s Gallery, a visit to the Scottish Parliament and also Dynamic Earth, you could honestly spend a full day in Holyrood Park.

One of the most loveliest things about Edinburgh is its green spaces.

At the bottom of the Royal Mile, continuing down from the Canongate, you will find 650-acre (260 ha) of the park, three lochs (St Margaret’s Loch, Dunsapie Loch, and Duddingston Loch) and an extinct volcano called Arthur’s Seat.

Arthurs Seat in Edinburgh Nature_

Arthur’s Seat is the highest peak in the city at 251 metres (823 ft). As well as Arthur’s Seat, you’ll see Salisbury Crags, a series of 46-metre (151 ft) cliffs.

The Arthur’s Seat hike takes under 2.5 hours, and the distance is 4.75 km/3 miles.

There are paths that can be hiked in trainers (sneakers) during dry weather.

It’s not a solitary hike.

The summit’s 360 views of the city and over to The Kingdom Of Fife pulls in locals and visitors at all times of the day, all year round.

Look out for the unusual historic ruin called St Anthony’s Chapel.

St Anthonys Chapel Holyrood Park Edinburgh Views

Holyrood Palace

Fancy a nosey at where the King carries out official engagements in Scotland?

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, less formally known as Holyrood Palace or Holyroodhouse, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland.

Holyrood Palace Quadrant Garden on a bright day

It also has ties to historic royal figures such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Holyrood Palace is located in Holyrood Park, at the very bottom of the Royal Mile.

To help get your bearings, Edinburgh Castle is at the very top of the Royal Mile, and Holyrood Palace is at the bottom.

Holyrood Palace Edinburgh Activities_

During the tour, you can use the audio guide to find out more about the opulent decor, portraits on the walls and family pictures.

Visitors get access to the King’s Bedchamber, which has a four-post bed draped in red velvet, the Throne Room and the Great Gallery.

As you walk around, remember to look up; the roof decor is very detailed.

Holyrood Palace Abbey Grand Stair Image Audio Tour Device Edinburgh Scotland

Holyrood Abbey is also of interest to visitors.

It was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland after he envisioned a stag with a cross glowing between its antlers during a hunting trip, or so legend says!

The Abbey is said to have been wealthy as it housed many who gave up their own land and property.

The size that you see today is only a quarter of what it was originally.

It is thought that it was built around 1195. During your visit, you will see Romanesque-style architecture and also Gothic art, which was popular in the 13th century.

Its location was protected by forest, and it had access to underwater streams from Arthur’s Seat, making it well-resourced.

The Abbey wasn’t exclusively for its own people; it was also open to the Canongate community for prayers and devotion.

There is also a royal link: James II was born, crowned, married and buried in the Abbey.

After the Reaffirmation in 1560, there was no monastery at Holyrood since the Catholic religion was wiped out and Protestant Christianity was promoted.

It is thought that the Abbey was taken in as part of the palace expansion, destroying some buildings and using the naive for worship until 1768, when the roof caved in after a storm.

Holyrood Abbey ruins in Edinburgh

When the community started using Canongate Kirk (below) instead, and that repairs were going to be costly, the Abbey was left as a ruin.

Remember to pre-book your tickets before you arrive.

Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh Royal Mile

The Queen’s Gallery

The Queen’s Gallery hosts changing exhibitions from the Royal Collection, including old master paintings, unique furniture, decorative arts and images from the royal photograph collection.

Queens Gallery Edinburgh Holyrood_

Scottish Parliament

Scotland has its own devolved Parliament where its 129 MSPs meet to debate and vote on issues such as education, health, crime and transport.

The First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, lives at Bute House on Charlotte Square in the New Town, and while you can’t see inside her late 18th-century home, you can visit where she works.

Scottish Parliament Arthurs Seat Edinburgh

The Scottish Parliament building design by Enric Miralles was quite controversial.

Over budget and not to the taste of everyone in Edinburgh, it certainly is a talking point and landmark in the Old Town.

The building was opened in 2004. Parliament has been meeting since 1999.

The horseshoe-shaped Debating Chamber differs from that at Westminster in London. This setting is said to encourage discussion, not conflict.

If you don’t plan to take a tour inside, you can wander around the outside of the building, reading the inscriptions.

Scottish Parliament Quotes Edinburgh

Dynamic Earth

If you are visiting with kids you might want to check out the state-of-the-art museum, Dynamic Earth.

Here, you can explore prehistoric worlds, experience the rainforest and blast off into space!

Option 5: Calton Hill, One of Edinburgh’s 7 Hills

From Makars’ Court in Option 1, either head down to the New Town from the steps at the bottom of the court or head back to the Royal Mile and look out for Cockburn Street to your left.

Snake your way down this street with its stylish cafes on your right.

If you are feeling brave, take the steps at Fleshmarket Close, stopping at the Jinglin’ Geordie for a pint and a breather!

If you prefer a coffee pick-me-up, Gordon Street Coffee (Market Street) makes award-winning coffee to sit in and take out.

Gordon Street Coffee Food Edinburgh

Whatever route you choose, aim to end up on Market Street.

If you are visiting with kids, you might enjoy the gory history of Scotland told at Edinburgh Dungeons.

The Edinburgh Dungeons Tour_

From here, head up to the busy shopping stretch that is Princes Street.

Turn right and walk past Waverley Train Station and the prestigious Balmoral Hotel.

We stayed at The Balmoral! You can read our review here.

Balmoral Edinburgh Blue skies

Carry on walking over North Bridge and head to Howie’s Restaurant at Waterloo Place. This is a fantastic restaurant if you are looking for an airy, upmarket option that serves Scottish produce.

From Waterloo Place, walk up the small set of stairs to Calton Hill, an open-air museum with free 360-degree views of Edinburgh.

This is a great spot to watch a sunset over the Old and New Town.

From the Dugald Stewart Monument side (below), the views stretch over another of the 7 Hills, Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street in the New Town.

Edinburgh city centre airbnbs Calton Hill views

Calton Hill Monuments

On top of the hill, you will see a number of monuments, including:

  • National Monument of Scotland, the 12 pillar Parthenon, aka National Disgrace, as it was never finished!
  • Nelson Monument, the tall tower that resembles a telescope turned upside down
  • Dugald Stewart Monument celebrates the Scottish philosopher Dugald Stewart and is a focal point for many photographers
Scottish Monument 12 pillar Calton Hill Edinburgh

After spending some time on Calton Hill, head back down to Waterloo Place.

From here, you can walk to Princes Street to hit the shops or walk through Princes Street Gardens; see option one.

The streets behind Princes Street are called Rose Street and George Street.

Both streets have lots of shops and pubs worth checking out.

We’ll list some bars and food options below, starting with the closest to the Calton Hill side of the city centre.

City Centre Pubs and Restaurants

  • Juniper Bar Hotel Indigo Princes Street for epic views of Edinburgh Castle
  • The Victorian Guildford Arms with its cool spinning door
  • Cocktail bar and music venue, Voodoo Rooms
  • Champagne and oysters at the ornate Cafe Royal
  • Popular modern Chinese restaurant, Tattu
  • Gatsby-style decor at The Register Club, Grand Cheval Hotel
  • Rose Street Gardens for alfresco dining and drinks
  • The Dome, especially to see the Christmas decor
  • Black Rose Tavern for rock music and pints
  • Steak pie at the cosy Auld Hundred
  • Chaophraya Thai Restaurant and Castle views

This is just a selection of bars and restaurants. Find out more in our Edinburgh restaurant guide.

The Dome Decorations Christmas Tree Winter Edinburgh George Street_

Things to do at Night in Edinburgh

If you can muster up any energy to hit the city in the evening, there are plenty of booze-fuelled and non-alcoholic activities to choose from.

The following ideas are just a selection; you can see our full guide here.

Late Night Paranormal Tour

Head underground to learn more about life in the South Bridge Vaults.

Meet the spirits that roam below and above in the city’s most haunted graveyard.

This 75-minute tour kicks off at 9pm and is for adults only. Be prepared to get a fright! Wrap up and wear sensible shoes.

We love the dark side of Edinburgh and have a dedicated guide to all the spooky tours in the city.

Catch a Live Band

While Glasgow, Scotland’s biggest city, is better known for its music scene, Edinburgh still competes with its live music offerings.

In the Old Town, you can catch a live band at Stramash (Cowgate), Whistle Binkies (South Bridge) or Brewhemia (Market Street).

Sneaky Petes, Liquid Rooms and Usher Hall are the best music venues to see local and international bands and DJs.

Brewhemia Inside Pub Edinburgh

Rooftop Bars and Beer Gardens

Fancy a pizza under the castle or a pint while watching live sports?

Edinburgh’s reaction to the pandemic has seen secret beer gardens pop up everywhere, and luckily for us, some have roofs and heaters!

Here is our full guide to the best beer gardens in Edinburgh.

Beer garden under Edinburgh Castle

Plays, Musicals, Comedy and Movies

Edinburgh has no shortage of stages, so if you prefer to see a play or ballet or sing along at a musical, have a look at what The Playhouse or Festival Theatre is showing.

There are two comedy clubs in town, the original The Stand (Queen Street) and the Monkey Barrel Comedy (Blair Street).

If you love comedy, make a plan to return in August for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Three weeks of shows that take over the city.

There are a couple of unique movie houses in the city.

The Cameo (Home Street) is a vintage century-old cinema, and The Dominion (Morningside) has seats for two and waiting staff! A cute date night idea! Looking for more? Here’s our guide.

Dominion Morningside in Edinburgh Cinema

Edinburgh Hotels

Here’s a quick glance at hotels for all budgets in the City Centre. For more, check out our accommodation guide.

House of Gods Hotel Edinburgh Old Town Dark Red Room With Bed

Final Words

Hopefully, you now feel equipped to plan your perfect day in Edinburgh, from the first bite at breakfast to the last sip of the nightcap! While you won’t be able to fit every idea into your itinerary you have lots to choose from and a reason to rush back.

We’d love to know why you are only visiting for a day. Is it a day trip to Edinburgh from elsewhere in Scotland? A layover or maybe a quick business trip?

Tell us in the comments or email us at hello(at)everythingedinburgh(dot)com.

Edinburgh in a day - Victoria Street bright colored shops and Edinburgh Castle skyline

Any questions or comments?
Let us know below.

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4 thoughts on “Edinburgh in One Day: Jam-Packed Itinerary Options

  1. NL Roche says:

    Absolutely great all-inclusive guide. Been reading up for a first time week-long solo tour in September and found info here I hadn’t seen elsewhere. Only thing missing for me was advice and comments on possible mobility difficulties (long stairs etc) for elderly travelers. I would also appreciate advice on dining for solo visitors, particularly at some of the upscale hotel tea venues. Is it comfortable doing tea for one? Thanks for any advice!

    • Everything Edinburgh says:

      Thanks for your comment and kind words! Edinburgh is pretty hilly around the Old Town and be cautious of watching your step around the cobbled streets. When my Grandparents visit they get off at Waverley and take hop on the bus along Princes Street if they need to get to the other end.

      Dining solo wise, lots of people travel solo to Edinburgh. I mostly visit solo although I’m more inclined to visit cafes. I think you’ll feel welcomed 🙂

      Get back to me and let me know how you get on?

      Have a lovely trip!

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