How to Spend One Day in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Edinburgh is one of the prettiest cities that I’ve had the pleasure of visiting, and there is so much to do there whether you prefer outdoor activities, shopping, or both! It’s perfect for both families or solo travelers, and it’s completely possible to spend one day in Edinburgh and see the highlights.

Plus, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then this is an absolute must-visit. I’ve put together this Ultimate Edinburgh Travel Guide to help you with your next visit to this amazing city!

Keep reading to learn how to spend one day in Edinburgh!

How to Get to Edinburgh

Long street with red and brick buildings in Edinburgh
Victoria Street is one of the most picturesque streets in Edinburgh!

There are a few different options to get to Edinburgh. You could go by plane, train, car, or bus, no matter when you go, whether it’s one of the best times to visit Scotland or not.

Travel to Edinburgh by Plane

Flights, at least those I’ve found during my time in Europe, tend to be pretty affordable to get to Edinburgh Airport. The airport also is not that far from downtown Edinburgh, so you’re in luck!

From the airport, you could easily book a taxi or take the Airlink 100 Express Bus. The bus will leave the airport every 10 to 15 minutes, and it takes about 30 minutes to get downtown. The bus runs 24/7. If you’re hoping to save time, you could purchase your ticket online ahead of time!

I personally took a plane into Edinburgh, and it was super easy to get downtown afterward. I flew in from Dublin.

Ducks in a lake at the bottom of Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh, Scotland
This area near Arthur’s Seat is a must-see.

Travel to Edinburgh by Train

Another option is to get to Edinburgh by taking a train to the central station, Edinburgh Waverley Station. This station is already entirely downtown, so from there, you could catch other modes of transportation to get to your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb.

The station is located right next to Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Travel to Edinburgh by Car

If you have a car or rent one in the United Kingdom, you could quickly get to Edinburgh by car!

One pro to taking a car is that the views are absolutely spectacular. With a car, you could even take a North Coast road trip! If you do, be sure to check out these 15 North Coast 500 tips to know before you go.

The mountains are really amazing all throughout Scotland, and if you have a car, you’ll even be able to explore more of Scotland than you would be able to without one. Here are 8 helpful things to know about driving in Scotland!

🚗 Click here to check rates on Scotland rental cars.

Travel to Edinburgh by Bus

Lastly, you could get to Edinburgh by bus. This can also be quite an affordable option, though it’s best to book your tickets very much ahead of time. Some of the bus companies that run in the United Kingdom to Edinburgh include Megabus and National Express.

View of Edinburgh from atop Arthur's Seat. Cityscape and ocean are in the background, with people walking down a hill in the foreground
Arthur’s Seat has some of the best views of Edinburgh from above.

How to Get Around Edinburgh

If you’re wondering how to spend a day in Edinburgh, you’ll have to know how to get around Edinburgh first.

The easiest way, in my opinion, to get around Edinburgh is on foot! I found Edinburgh to be a very walkable city. As soon as you’re downtown, everything is so close! Plus, if you’re walking, you get to know the city better. I basically walked everywhere in Edinburgh.

Another way to get around Edinburgh is by bus. Edinburgh has two major bus companies, so remember which one you’re using because they have differing prices. The most commonly used bus companies are First and Lothian.

If you’re looking to save money and plan on using the buses often, it might be worth paying for a day ticket, which is only available with the Lothian buses. This also includes unlimited tram travel, which brings me to my next mode of transportation.

Tram! There is only one tram that connects the airport to York Place. I never even used the tram, nor did I ever actually see it. Since it only has one route, I feel like it’s not super convenient to use unless you’re using it to get to and from the airport.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

Edinburgh has so many places to stay, so I researched and thought I’d recommend one high-end place, a mid-range hotel, and a hostel!

Of course, there are way more places to stay besides these recommendations, so feel free to do your own research if none of these places sounds like the right accommodation for you!

Tall hotel with a clockface tower in the middle. Luxury hotel in Edinburgh
The Balmoral is one of the fancier stays in the city.

The Balmoral: A Luxury Accommodation

First of all, if you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you might want to make a stop to view the outside of this hotel!

J.K. Rowling herself stayed here while finishing off the Harry Potter series. You can now book the suite she stayed in, and it’s filled with a whole bunch of series memorabilia.

In addition to that, this hotel is very centrally located. If you stayed here, you probably wouldn’t have to use any public transportation at all. It’s also 3 minutes from Edinburgh Waverley Station.

This location also has two bars, a pool, a gym, and a sauna! Rooms start at £120 a night.

Click here to check out the latest rates and availability at The Balmoral!

Edinburgh Travelodge Cameron Toll: A Mid-Range Hotel

This is the hotel that I opted to stay at! I stayed here with one other friend, and we found it to be the perfect fit.

It’s slightly outside of the city, located near the University of Edinburgh and the Cameron Toll shopping center. However, I quite liked the location.

It’s budget-friendly, and there are quite a few places to eat nearby. Rooms start at £44 a night.

Click here to check out the latest rates and availability at Edinburgh Travelodge Cameron Toll!

Castle Rock Hostel: A Budget-Friendly Accommodation

My friend and I actually really wanted to stay at this hostel because it’s known for being one of the best hostels around!

It’s located right next to Edinburgh’s Old Town. It’s super close to Edinburgh Castle. There’s also a movie room, lounge, and even a kitchen.

This might be a great option if you’re traveling solo or looking to save money. You could also easily meet other travelers if you stay in a hostel! Prices start at £10 for a mixed dorm room!

If you choose to stay in a hostel, be sure to bring all the hostel essentials.

Click here to check out the latest rates and availability at Castle Rock Hostel!

If you’re still looking for a place to stay, consider the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa, which is one of the best spa breaks in Scotland!

What to See in Edinburgh in 1 Day

If you want to visit Edinburgh in one day, you’ll have to know about the must-visit spots.

There are so many things to do in Edinburgh! I’ve put an asterisk next to the things I managed to do in my one day in Edinburgh, but of course, you could pick and choose which items you’d rather do. Or, you could even opt to see Scotland like a local!

If you’re visiting Scotland, you might want to consider purchasing a Scotland Explorer Pass.

historic edinburgh castle on a hill
Edinburgh Castle towers above the whole city.

Edinburgh Castle

If you’re wondering what to do in Edinburgh for a day, don’t miss out on Edinburgh Castle.

It’s impossible to visit Edinburgh and not at least see Edinburgh Castle. You can see it from almost everywhere in the city because it’s situated atop an extinct volcano!

Edinburgh’s royals used to live here for a time, but it’s now a museum that’s open to visitors.

The view from atop the extinct volcano is also spectacular. You can see all of Edinburgh down below. Tickets to enter Edinburgh Castle start at £17.50.

Victoria Street

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, then you definitely have to visit here. It’s the inspiration for Rowling’s Diagon Alley! Once you see it in person, you can definitely see the parallels between the two. The only difference is that this picturesque street is a lot brighter and more cheerful!

The street is lined with so many shops and great places to eat. I recommend taking time to walk along the street and pop into some of the stores.

long street with historic buildings
Victoria Street is easily one of the more picturesque spots in the city.

Right across the street from The Boy Wizard is a place I recommend stopping at for lunch called Oink. They have amazing and affordable pulled pork sandwiches!

There isn’t much seating, but if you’re okay with getting it to-go, you could eat out on the street and take in the street’s beauty.

Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

This is yet another Harry Potter stop if you’re a fan. J.K. Rowling commonly walked this church’s graveyard, and she drew many of her name inspiration from people who were actually buried here. Be sure to look out for the Potters and even the inspiration for Tom Riddle.

There are many self-guided walking tours for the Kirkyard as well, which might be helpful if you’re hoping to hit every Harry Potter tombstone.

view from calton hill
Calton Hill is another spot with great views.

Calton Hill

This hilltop in Edinburgh offers some amazing sweeping views of the city. It’s not that hard to get to either. There are also some great monuments at the top if you’re interested in viewing them, though some of them were actually never finished!

This is a great place to bring a picnic too. Pack a lunch or a snack to eat up at the top while you soak in the view!

Girl sitting on Arthur's Seat looking out at Edinburgh.
Be sure to snap a photo at the top of Arthur’s Seat! I sat here for a while… I couldn’t get enough of this view.

Arthur’s Seat

If you have the time, Arthur’s Seat is a worthwhile hike. There are different routes to get to the top, with varying difficulties. Arthur’s Seat is another one of Edinburgh’s extinct volcanoes. The views at the very top are unbeatable.

If you’re hoping to hike to the top, it will take 1-2 hours. It took me about an hour and a half.

If you’re looking to do this hike, try to go earlier in the day. I did it right around 9:30 AM, and it was already super busy! It can get hectic at the summit with everyone up there, so plan accordingly and wear proper footwear.

Stone castle under a clear blue sky.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Located right next to Arthur’s Seat, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is where the royals of Scotland lived for a time. Now, it serves as the Queen’s residence in Scotland.

You can visit the palace year-round as a tourist, but be warned that they can close the palace at a moment’s notice if someone important comes to stay! Unfortunately, there was someone staying during my day in Edinburgh, so the closest I got to the palace was the gates.

cockburn street with brick buildings

Cockburn Street

I always feel like I have to mention the best place to take a photo in every city, and I believe that’s Cockburn Street! It’s very similar to Victoria Street, but I’ve found that it’s less busy. It’s also one of the most photographed streets in all of Edinburgh!

Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is another easy place to visit in Edinburgh, especially if you’re already going up to see Edinburgh Castle! You’re honestly bound to walk some of it just to get to the castle in the first place. Here are some of the must-sees on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh!

You may even hear some bagpiping in the area, which is one of the top Scottish traditions.

What & Where to Eat in Edinburgh

There are so many places to eat in Edinburgh, so this is by no means a fully comprehensive list! If you’re looking for a great cafe, be sure to check out this post on the best 5 specialty coffee shops in Edinburgh!

Scottish Shortbread

I am not a huge fan of Scottish Shortbread, but it is worth trying while you’re in Scotland. Try having them with tea! They’re available almost everywhere. I ended up trying it because my Airbnb host left them for me.

Scottish Tablets

I find it quite hard to describe Scottish tablets. It reminds me of fudge… but it tastes like candy corn! If you can, definitely try the vanilla flavor. The other popular flavor is whisky.

black and pink restaurant
Oink is so cute on the outside with its pink accents.


If you’re looking for a great place to eat near Victoria Street, I suggest Oink. They serve pulled pork sandwiches for an affordable price. There isn’t much seating, but you can quickly grab it and walk the rest of Victoria Street while you eat!

Scotch Eggs

A Scotch egg is a hardboiled egg covered in sausage. It’s pretty good! You can get these almost everywhere, but I tried mine from a grocery store and fairly enjoyed it.

Street with cars parked along it in Edinburgh.

Frequently Asked Questions: 24 Hours in Edinburgh

How many days should I stay in Edinburgh?

It’s recommended that first-time visitors spend at least one day in Edinburgh to get a good sense of the city and all it has to offer. If you have a larger budget, spend closer to 3-4 days.

How far from Edinburgh to Balmoral Castle?

The castle is located about 100 miles from Edinburgh, in the Scottish Highlands. The drive takes about two hours and 30 minutes.

How long to see Edinburgh Castle?

I would say that two to three hours is a reasonable amount of time to spend at Edinburgh Castle. Of course, if you want to explore every nook and cranny of the castle, then you may need more time.

Alternatively, if you only have a limited amount of time and just want to see the highlights, then you can probably get away with less time.

How do I get to Edinburgh?

The easiest way to get to Edinburgh is by flying into Edinburgh Airport.

When to visit Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is a beautiful city that can be visited at any time of year. However, the best time to visit Edinburgh is during the months of April, May, and June when the weather is mild and the days are long.

How to get from Dublin to Edinburgh?

The easiest way to get from Dublin to Edinburgh is by flying. Flights between these cities are generally cheap if you don’t mind flying Ryanair.

Why go to Edinburgh?

There are many reasons to visit Edinburgh, Scotland. The city is rich in history and culture, and there are plenty of things to see and do. Edinburgh is also a great place to shop, with a variety of shops and markets selling everything from Scottish souvenirs to designer clothes.

And if you’re looking for a place to relax and enjoy the scenery, Edinburgh has plenty of parks and green spaces to explore. Whether you’re visiting for a short break or planning a longer holiday, Edinburgh is sure to have something for everyone.

Final Thoughts: 1 Day in Edinburgh

Want to spend longer in Scotland? Check out this one week in Scotland itinerary or this Edinburgh 2 day itinerary! You can even try going up north to spend one day on the Isle of Skye.

Have you been to Edinburgh? I’d love to hear about your experience and your recommendations that weren’t in this one day in Edinburgh guide in the comments below!

Watch our vlog all about our 24 hours in Edinburgh!

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  1. Unfortunately I’ve only ever visited Edinburgh very briefly as an overnight trip from Newcastle, which mostly involved pubs and a tour of the whisky distillery! I’d love to go back to see some of the places you’ve mentioned in this post 🙂

  2. I’m heading to Edinburgh later in the year hopefully so this will come in handy. I haven’t been for a long time so it’ll be very different now to how I remember it.

  3. Edinburgh is such a special place. I used to study there but haven’t been back in years so I’m just having a look to see what’s going on there these days to plan a return visit. This was really helpful!

  4. I´m a massive Harry Potter nerd lol but still haven´t made it to Edinburgh! The city looks so pretty! Thanks for the suggestions! Saved for the future trips

  5. Great post! When we went, we did most of the above. Not so sure about the Scottish eggs. My husband’s favorite thing was The Scottish Whiskey Experience. I set him up with a tour / taste testing. I got to shop and go to a museum. This way we both go to do what we love.

  6. I would have been in Edinburgh this year June but had to cancel all travel plans unfortunately. I hope I get to be there soon! Lovely blog.. Being a Harry Potter fan, I am going to hit all these places 🙂

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