How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Edinburgh

Blackness Castle is a hidden gem on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland
Blackness Castle is a hidden gem on the outskirts of Edinburgh, Scotland | © DGB / Alamy Stock Photo
Callum Davies

At once ancient and brimming with culture, Edinburgh is worthy of a weekend trip at any time of year. The Scottish capital is rightly lauded as one of Europe’s cultural hotspots, as evidenced by the world-famous Fringe Festival, which lands in the city every August. Here’s an itinerary for the perfect weekend in Auld Reekie.

1. Climb Arthur's Seat


View of Edinburgh from the Arthurs seat
© DTR Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
What better way to get to know Edinburgh in the first instance than climb to its highest point? Arthur’s Seat is far from just a patch of green in the city centre – it’s a full-blown hike, offering a stunning vista, which feels well and truly earned. Arthur’s Seat is what remains of an ancient volcano; it rises 250 metres (820ft) above sea level, and, on a clear day, you can easily see the whole city from the summit. Once you’re done, the surrounding Holyrood Park provides a gorgeously expansive green space to potter around in.

2. Learn about the history of scotch whisky


Of the many things Scotland is known for, whisky tends to rank pretty high. So, why not take advantage of your time in Edinburgh to get a bit more educated? The Scotch Whisky Experience offers tours around the city’s Royal Mile, stopping off at bars and distilleries along the way. You’ll learn (and taste) how the whisky is brought to life, as well as the history underpinning it, and, in the process, you’ll get the chance to get your bearings around one of the most picturesque areas in Edinburgh.

3. Explore the Scottish National Gallery

Art Gallery

Interior of the National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Sitting just near the Mound on Princes Street, the National Gallery is a hulking structure, walled by Greek-style columns and looking every bit as impressive as any large gallery should. Inside, you’ll find the entire history of Scottish art unravelled from the Renaissance up to the early 20th century, as well as art from all over the world. Exhibitions take place on a rolling basis, and you can easily while away hours there, exploring the gallery’s sprawling space or even just taking some time to relax at the cafe.

4. Complete the Royal Mile

Historical Landmark

Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Lowlands, Scotland, United Kingdom.
© agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo

To get a real sense of Edinburgh’s history, there are few better things to do than walking the length of the Royal Mile. This stretch between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace contains some of the oldest landmarks in the city, including the Tron Kirk, the Canongate and Parliament Square. As well as being a great sightseeing route, there are plenty of bars, cafes and restaurants along the route, and it is almost always alive with buskers and other street performers that keep visitors entertained along the way.

5. Have a few laughs at The Stand


The Stand Comedy Club, Edinburgh; Scotland; Europe
© Kevin George / Alamy Stock Photo

Twinned with another club of the same name in Glasgow, The Stand encapsulates Scotland’s cultural pedigree in comedy and live performance. Depending on the night, you’re as likely to find a local up-and-comer as you are to find a famous comic brushing up on their material, and, during Fringe season, the bill is alive with special performances. Fringe nights and special appearances sell out quickly, so it’s worth keeping an eye on their website if you’re planning on visiting, but, if you take the time to book in advance, you’ll be in for a real treat.

6. Discover Blackness Castle

Historical Landmark

While it might sound like the setting of a Gothic horror novel, Blackness Castle is actually a hidden gem sitting on the outskirts of Scotland’s capital. It takes around 35 minutes to reach from the city centre, either by car or bus, but it’s well worth the extra mileage. Built in the 15th century, it was a prison for a time before becoming an artillery fortification against English invaders and finally falling to Oliver Cromwell in 1650. Today, all this history can be learned about as you explore the castle and take in the stunning views over the Firth of Forth.

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