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Calton Hill | © Matt Machin/Flickr
Calton Hill | © Matt Machin/Flickr

How to Spend 48 Hours in Edinburgh

Picture of Tori Chalmers
Updated: 30 May 2017
Although Edinburgh is one of those memorable cities that lures you back forever, life gets in the way and sometimes a whistle-stop visit is necessary. Between Old Town wanderings and New Town explorations, see all the main sites of interest and enjoy our 48-hour guide to Scotland’s capital city.

DAY 1 — OLD TOWN


MORNING

Kick off the day’s festivities with a hearty breakfast at the Saint Giles Cafe and make sure to go wild with the waffles. From there, meander up the cobble-stone street until you reach Edinburgh Castle. It’s worthwhile participating in the scheduled tours and the mandatory selfies! After all castle conversations, start working your way down the Mile — look out for the beloved David Hume statue — and make a pit stop at St Giles’ Cathedral. This breathtaking 14th-century cathedral, striking crown steeple and all, honours Edinburgh’s patron saint. Look up at the angelic ceiling and take note of the breathtaking sculptures. Once outside, have a gander at the Heart of Midlothian stone mosaic and spit on it — Scots do it for luck mostly!

AFTERNOON

Have a food-stop at any of the many eateries punctuating the Royal Mile, bearing in mind that any are worth sitting al fresco on a rare sunny day, if only for the people watching! Consider Mary’s Milk Bar for a delectable sweet fix and revel in the heavenly hot chocolate float and sublime gelato. Next, swing by the Scottish Storytelling Centre at the historic John Knox House and explore the wealth of cultural narratives surrounding Scotland and more. Hours can be spent here. The string of shops in store span the whole gamut from tartan to Scottish paraphernalia worth perusing. If the desire sets in, take a tour of the ornate Palace of Holyrood House and uber modern Scottish Parliament HQ designed by Enric Miralles.

Hot Chocolate | © Maxime Loncke/Flickr // Courtesy Of The Scottish International Storytelling Festival // Holyrood Parliament Edinburgh | © dun_deagh/Flickr

Hot Chocolate | © Maxime Loncke/Flickr // Courtesy Of The Scottish International Storytelling Festival // Holyrood Parliament Edinburgh | © dun_deagh/Flickr

EVENING

After the Royal Mile madness, explore a different side of Edinburgh by scaling the city’s historic mountain peak Arthur’s Seat. This mighty hill holds the key to some of the most exquisite panoramic views. When hunger can no longer be ignored, a number of nearby restaurants await, including David Bann (contemporary delicious vegetarian), The Grain Store (rustic romantic, gourmet and intimate), The Outsider (trendy and sleek), Cucina (Italian) and of course The Witchery (super fancy and atmospheric). End with a night out on the town and hit up the many bars and age-old pubs in the Cowgate and Grassmarket areas.


DAY 2 — NEW TOWN


MORNING

Day two means New Town meanderings! This pretty part is overflowing with impressive Georgian architecture and praised as a masterpiece of city planning. Start the day with coffee and breakfast at Burr & Co., a hip coffee shop on George St with first-class, ethically sourced beans and dynamite bites. The shops in the area are also worth frequenting. Next head to Dean Village, a picturesque part of town and former grain milling spot for 800 years, and soak up the serene essence topped with the trickling Water of Leith. Pop into the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and behold masterpieces by all the great artists like Hockney, Warhol, Henri Matisse, Scottish Colourists, Francis Bacon, Ken Currie and way more.

Coffee | © Pexels // Water Of Leith | © Spencer Means/Flickr // Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art | Courtesy Of This Is Edinburgh

Coffee | © Pexels // Water Of Leith | © Spencer Means/Flickr // Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art | Courtesy Of This Is Edinburgh

AFTERNOON

For the afternoon’s festivities, head back towards the Princes St Gardens and climb all 287 steps of the Scott Monument, the largest monument ever made in honour of a writer. Afternoon tea at the Balmoral is always an absolute joy, as is touring the works of fine art in The Scottish National Gallery. For lunch, Café Andaluz boasts some life-affirming tapas perfect for sharing, while Tigerlily sports great cocktails. Browns is a good British brasserie option too. Once fed, it’s only fair to get watered over a booze-infused tour at the famous Edinburgh Gin Distillery. Learn all about the gin-making process and become a juniper-related connoisseur.

EVENING

For the last evening in Edinburgh, why not go out with a bang and cram as much fun into one as possible! Dinner choices are never-ending but eateries like California-cool Calistoga and gourmet steakhouses Steak on Stones or Kyloe always go down a treat. Alternatively, take a taxi to Leith, a cultural hotspot graced with sublime seafood options and some of the best restaurants in town — The Kitchin and Restaurant Martin Wishart. Strolling by the docks is also an option. Entertainment wise, head to Bramble Bar for craft cocktails and hit up the Stand Comedy Club to witness the best local and renowned talents. Take your pick from a plenitude of theatres — the Playhouse, the King’s, Traverse — and soak up some mind-reeling plays. Last but not least, climb to the top of Calton Hill and prepare to be overwhelmed with transformative views of the Scottish stars and city lights. Until next time Edinburgh.

Steak At Calistoga | Courtesy Of Calistoga // Theater Seats | © Pexels // Calton Hill | © Matt Machin/Flickr

Steak At Calistoga | Courtesy Of Calistoga // Theater Seats | © Pexels // Calton Hill | © Matt Machin/Flickr