Home to ancient castles and foot-stomping ceilidhs, Edinburgh is a perfect place to lose yourself in a weekend soaking up Scottish culture. Here are some of the best ways to spend two days in Scotland’s capital.
Where to stay
If you’re looking for accommodation with style and a central location, check in to the Edinburgh Grand, Hotel Indigo or the famous Balmoral Hotel. For a cheaper but more homely alternative, settle into one of the city’s many B&Bs.
The Balmoral Hotel is one of the city’s famous spots | | © tony french / Alamy Stock Photo
Arthur’s Seat happens to be one of the best places in the city to watch the sun rise and is well worth the early start. This dormant volcano requires a moderate 45-minute hike to the top. Your reward? Unrivalled panoramic views of Edinburgh, including the castle, the Pentland Hills and East Lothian.
Take in spectacular views of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat | | © DTR Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
The descent will lead you back around Holyrood Palace and up towards the bottom of the Royal Mile – one of Edinburgh’s oldest and most famous streets. Take a lunch break at Whiski Bar & Restaurant to sample its traditional Scottish menu of Cullen skink, haggis and locally sourced salmon.
Continue up the Royal Mile where you’ll happen upon some of Edinburgh’s prettiest streets, including Victoria Street and its scattering of antique shops, bars and cafés. Drop by Hula Juice Bar for a great coffee or reviving smoothie, or take a few steps across the Grassmarket to Mary’s Milk Bar for a scoop of fresh ice cream. From here, head up Candlemaker Row and choose between the National Museum of Scotland, Camera Obscura and the Museum of Childhood. Lovers of Scotland’s national drink can stop in at the Scotch Whisky Experience for a tasting or blending session.
The Royal Mile is one of Edinburgh’s oldest and most famous streets | | © Cavan Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Walk five minutes up Calton Hill to find the Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage perched on the edge of Edinburgh’s second most popular peak. It’s a dinner spot you can’t afford to miss, with a menu featuring top-quality Scottish ingredients grown on site. It also has a creative choice of desserts, including sourdough ice cream. At £33 for three courses, you can enjoy lobster bisque, fresh scallops and champagne cocktails without breaking the bank, accompanied by beautiful views across the city’s skyline. If you find yourself with some extra time in Edinburgh, check out our list of free things to do in the city.
Conveniently, some of Edinburgh’s most popular bars are located a leisurely 10-minute stroll from the bottom of Calton Hill. Broughton Street and Leith Walk are both densely populated with a selection of the city’s best-loved bars and restaurants, providing a ready-made pub crawl on your doorstep. Party animals can carry the night on in the buzzing Cowgate area – a 15-minute bus ride or 30-minute walk away – where bars and clubs stay open until the wee hours.
When it comes to sourcing a delicious brunch, Edinburgh locals head straight for the New Town. Favourites include Dishoom for its genius Indian spin on the humble breakfast roll – bacon and eggs in a warm naan – washed down with authentically made chai. Leo’s Beanery is known for its croque-mon-scone (a halved scone with bacon and cheese).
After fuelling up, wander down through Canonmills to the Royal Botanic Garden. With over 10,000 plants, 10 glasshouses and a history stretching back 350 years, the garden is one of the best ways to spend a relaxing couple of hours in the city. If you’re visiting in the winter, don’t miss its twinkling festive light show.
The Royal Botanic Garden is a relaxing escape in the city | | © John Peter Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Head back down through the cobbled streets of nearby Stockbridge, not forgetting to check out Instagram-famous Circus Lane. One of Edinburgh’s more well-to-do areas, this neighbourhood is the best place in the city to find independent boutiques and even unearth some charity shop treasures. If you’re visiting on the weekend, Stockbridge Market is open every Sunday, selling local artwork, Scottish cashmere and delicious takeaway food (don’t miss the dumplings).
It’s time for dinner at the Scran & Scallie in Stockbridge. This gastropub is the brainchild of two of Scotland’s top chefs, Dominic Jack and Michelin-star Tom Kitchin. ‘Scran’ is Scots for food, which this pub showcases in its proudly Scottish menu; expect a blend of modern dishes such as fish and chips sat alongside forgotten classics like sheep’s heid Scotch broth. The Scandinavian-inspired rustic interior gives your eating experience maximum hygge alongside maximum taste.
Stockbridge is one of Edinburgh’s more well-to-do areas | | © Micheile Henderson / Unsplash
Nip round the corner to Good Brothers Wine Bar for candlelit drinks in a relaxed and cosy setting. For something more lively – if a little less polished – adventure down to the Pitt food market in Leith, which is open every Saturday and Sunday. Twenty minutes on a bus from Stockbridge, this event serves street food and locally brewed beers from an industrial warehouse. Always buzzing with chat, live music and great food and drink, it’s a great casual spot to get to know some of the city’s friendly residents.