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! Once you’re done exploring Edinburgh, try going up north to spend one day on the Isle of Skye!
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How to Get to Edinburgh
There are a few different options to get to Edinburgh. You could go by plane, train, car, or bus!
Travel to Edinburgh by Plane
Flights, at least the ones that 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, which costs £7.50 for a return ticket. A one-way ticket costs £4.50. 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.
Travel to Edinburgh by Train
Another option is to get to Edinburgh by taking a train to the main station, Edinburgh Waverley Station. This station is already completely 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 are renting a car in the United Kingdom, you could easily 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!
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 if you 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.
How to Get Around Edinburgh
The easiest way, in my opinion, to get around Edinburgh is by 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 even better. I basically walked everywhere in Edinburgh.
Another way to get around Edinburgh is by bus. There are two major bus companies in Edinburgh, so be sure to 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 it to pay for a day ticket, which is only available with the Lothian buses for £4. 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
There are so many places to stay in Edinburgh, so I did some research and thought I’d recommend one high-end place to stay, 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!
If you’re considering staying in a hostel, be sure to check out this post on Should I Stay in a Backpacker Hostel? It might help you make your decision!
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 that 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 even a sauna! Rooms start at £120 a night. I think it might be more to book the Rowling suite.
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 for us. It’s slightly outside of the city, located more 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.
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. In fact, it’s super close to Edinburgh Castle. There’s also a movie room, lounge, and even a kitchen.
This might be a great option for you if you’re traveling solo or you’re 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, here are 10 essentials for your hostel packing list!
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
There are so many things to do in Edinburgh! I’ve put an asterisk next to the things that I managed to do in my one day in Edinburgh, but of course, you could pick and choose which things 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. Krista the Explorer has a great blog post on if the Scotland Explorer Pass is worth it which you should read before buying!
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. I personally didn’t have time to go inside, but I did love taking photos of it from the outside!
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. I know next time I’m in Edinburgh I am definitely going to take the time to go inside!
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 cheerful!
The street is lined with so many shops and great places to eat. I stopped into The Boy Wizard, which is a really cool shop filled with a whole bunch of Harry Potter memorabilia.
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, then you could eat out on the street and really take in the street’s beauty.
This is yet another Harry Potter stop if you’re a fan. This church’s graveyard was commonly walked by J.K. Rowling, 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.
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!
If you have the time, then Arthur’s Seat is a very 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 take a hike to the top, it will take anywhere from 1-2 hours. It took me about an hour and a half. I will say that 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 kind of hectic at the summit with everyone up there, so plan accordingly and wear proper footwear.
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 of 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.
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!
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!
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!
I personally am not a huge fan of Scottish Shortbread, but it is something 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 actually left them for me.
I find it quite hard to describe Scottish tablets. It kind of reminds me of fudge… but it tastes like candy corn! If you can, definitely try the vanilla flavor. The other popular flavor is whisky.
If you’re looking for a great place to eat near Victoria Street, then I suggest Oink. They serve pulled pork sandwiches for a really affordable price. There isn’t much seating, but you can easily grab it and go walk the rest of Victoria Street while you eat!
A Scotch egg is a hardboiled egg covered in sausage. It’s actually pretty good! You can get these almost everywhere, but I actually tried mine from a grocery store and fairly enjoyed it.
Have you been to Edinburgh? I’d love to hear about your experience and your recommendations that weren’t in the Edinburgh Travel Guide in the comments below! 🙂