The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has global fame as a must-see destination in the UK. Known for its historic streets, fairly moody but atmospheric weather and Harry Potter connections, this city is brooding and majestic.
One day in Edinburgh is just about enough time to see the highlights (although more is always better if possible!).
So whether you’re travelling Scotland and only have a short time in its capital or are in the city for a layover and are looking for a complete Edinburgh itinerary for one day, you’re in the right place!
Here are all the best things to do in Edinburgh in 24 hours.
One day in Edinburgh itinerary
Many hotels in Edinburgh offer free breakfast, but we recommend Loudons or the Edinburgh Larder if you’re looking for a tasty meal to begin your time in the city!
Whenever I go to a new city, I always get my bearings with a walking tour. GuruWalk offers fantastic walking tours of Edinburgh, with a few different options depending on your tastes.
If it’s your first time in the city, I’d definitely recommend doing a historic free tour or if you’ve visited before, try their paranormal tour or a Harry Potter-themed excursion!
The free walking tour takes place at 10:00 am every morning, so it’s the perfect place to visit on your first morning!
All free tours are tips-based, so it’s expected that you leave a tip for your guide at the end of the tour. For paid-for tours, you can leave a tip, but it’s not expected.
Possibly the most famous attraction in Edinburgh, the castle is an absolute must-visit.
Dating back to 1103 AD, the castle served as the official seat for the royals in Scotland and was also a military garrison, fortress and prison!
Visiting it is an awe-inspiring experience, and there are lots of opportunities to learn about the history of the building and the city.
Walk along the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile leads down from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Spend some time walking down the Royal Mile, taking photos of the historic buildings and visiting St Giles’ Cathedral and the modern Scottish Parliament.
Walk to the historic Grassmarket, which was actually once the site of public executions, but is nowadays a thriving market with plenty of places to grab a bite to eat or even a lunchtime cocktail (you’re on holiday after all!).
If you’re into dark tourism recommend visiting The Last Drop pub which tells sordid tales of public executions!
Although it’s located a little way out of the city centre, Arthur’s Seat is well worth making the journey during your day in Edinburgh!
It’s an ancient volcano and sits 251 metres above sea level. There’s a hill fort and 15th-century medieval chapel here and you can take in immense views of the city.
Plus, it’s been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and boasts a plethora of fauna and flora.
Arthur’s Seat is at the end of the Royal Mile, close to Holyrood, so it’s the perfect place to end your walk up the famous road!
Try some Scotch whiskey!
Next up is Scotland’s favourite drink – when in Edinburgh!
The Scottish Whiskey Experience offers a tour of the distillery and comprehensive whiskey-tasting sessions! With rates from just £19, this is an essential experience while you’re in the Scottish capital.
Harry Potter Locations
J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh while she was writing the Harry Potter books, which means that there are lots of Hogwarts-related locations to check out!
Here are a few:
- Victoria Street: This is thought to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley.
- Greyfriars Kirkyard: There’s a grave here for a certain “Tom Riddle” – and we all know what character he could have inspired…
- The Balmoral Hotel: This is where J.K. Rowling finished the seventh Harry Potter novel!
If you don’t want to see all of the attractions independently, GuruWalk also offers a Harry Potter tour in Edinburgh that visits many more magical world-related attractions!
The World’s End Pub
If you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy a pre-dinner tipple, head to World’s End Pub, which took its name from the fact that it was located just outside of the city walls during the 16th century – which was then thought to be “The World’s End”!
It’s one of the most popular historic pubs in the city and is renowned for its local drinks – plenty of Scotch here – and delectable British classics like fish and chips and a Sunday roast (of course!).
You can eat here if you like – it’s definitely worth it – but the city is also renowned for its Michelin-star restaurants.
Number One Restaurant
One of these, and arguably its most popular, is Number One Restaurant.
This elegant eatery is sophisticated and classy; there’s not much elaborate decor but it focuses on serving delicious food, with options for both meat-eaters and vegetarians.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
There are a range of fantastic accommodation options in Edinburgh, from backpacker hostels to luxury hotels! Here’s a selection of hotels:
Haystack Hostel is an excellent option for budget-minded travellers, in a prime city centre location, close to Edinburgh Castle.
With dorm rooms, all with reading lights and USB sockets, there’s also fast WiFi.
Edinburgh Sixteen is a perfect hotel with huge beds, a HD TV and coffee machine in every room.
Free breakfast is on offer every morning, and it’s situated in the popular area of Newington.
Named after the royal family’s residence in Scotland, The Balmoral is one of the most popular luxury hotels in Edinburgh.
In a gorgeous Renaissance building, this hotel has a fully-stocked bar and hotel, along with a sauna and steam room.
Rooms have comfortable beds and luxury features like marble en-suite bathrooms with high-end toiletries and lavish decor.
Edinburgh is a city that’s on so many people’s bucket lists for a reason.
Hopefully, this guide has shown you all of the best things to do in the city, but trust me – you’ll be coming back for more! You can never be tired of Edinburgh!