2 days in Edinburgh

2 Days in Edinburgh

There is so much to see and do in Scotland’s capital you could easily spend 2 weeks and not get bored! But if you’ve only got 2 days in Edinburgh you can still do and see a fair bit of it if you plan carefully.

Packed with everything you’d expect from a major city Edinburgh really is a very enjoyable place to visit.  History, famous sports stadiums, shops, restaurants, parks, museums and Cathedrals.  And fantastic architecture from the Georgian New Town to the Medieval Old Town which has a bit of a Gothic feel going on.  This is what we managed to pack in to 2 days in Edinburgh.

Day 1 - Views and outskirts

Calton Hill

Calton Hill is a great place to take in all the views of Edinburgh.  Very accessible and close to the city centre, you get to see everything at a fairly close range.  The walk is uphill but not too strenuous to this UNESCO World Heritage Site.  And it’s a great place to start to get your bearings.

From here you can see right down the length of Princes Street, the Royal Mile up to the Castle and down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new Scottish Parliament building.  On the other side is the Firth of Forth and right in the distance the Forth bridge. 

As well as the views there are a number of interesting buildings and monuments on Calton Hill.  The Dugald Stewart Monument, Nelson Monument and the National Monument to Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars.  This monument was left unfinished due to lack of funds.

If you time your visit right you may be there to hear the One O’clock Gun firing.  The gun is fired at this time every day (except Sundays, Good Fridays and Christmas Day).

Admission  Free

Opening hours  24hours 365 days of the year

Location  At the end of Princess Street off Regent Road

Scottish National Gallery

If you’re a fan of art you will almost certainly enjoy the Scottish National Gallery.  A truly beautiful, quiet, calm and serene interior houses portraits painted by greats such as Botticelli, Raphael and Titian.  It’s also home to the famous Monarch of the Glen by Edwin Landseer and a 10 minute walk from Calton Hill.

Admission  Free

Opening times  10am to 5pm Thursday until 7pm

Location The Mound

Dean Village

Dean Village is a picturesque residential area around a 20 minute walk from the National Gallery. There are some great photographic opportunities here but we’d say only make the effort if you have time to do the other things on day 1 of your 2 days in Edinburgh.

Admission  Free

Opening hours  24hours 365 days of the year

Location  Bells Brae Off Lynedoch Place 

Greyfriars Kirk and Kirkyard

Opened in 1620 Greyfriars Kirk is a church in Edinburgh surrounded by a large cemetery called Greyfriars Kirkyard.  In the heart of the City it’s worth a wander.  Especially for fans of Harry Potter.  This is the home of the tomb of one Thomas Riddell Esq.  Not Lord Voldermort you understand.  As we’re all (or have been) Harry Potter fans this was towards the top of our list of things to do in Edinburgh.

Also in the graveyard is a headstone dedicated to Greyfriars Bobby.  Legend says that the Skye Terrier, visited the grave of his master every day for 14 years.  A statue stands nearby on Chambers Street.

It’s a 25 minute walk from Dean Village or 10 minutes from the National Gallery.


Admission  Free

Opening times  Daily 

Location  Greyfriars

Arthur's Seat

The path to the top of Arthur’s seat is around 20 minutes from Greyfriars Kirkyard and the hike up and down will take at least an hour.  But we thought it was absolutely worth it.  Even if it was getting dark!

An extinct volcano, make no mistake this is a short but tough hike.  Not a walk for the faint of heart.  Especially if it’s windy or raining.  In fact the final sections are more of a scramble and getting off the summit isn’t any easier.  Especially when the rock is wet.  You have been warned!  But, exhilirating and exciting, it’s definitely worth doing.  Those views!

It takes at least half an hour to get to the top and slightly less to get back down.

Admission  Free

Opening hours  24hours 365 days of the year

Location  Holyrood Park

Day 2 - History and City Centre

National Museum of Scotland

We started the second of our 2 days in Edinburgh at this truly great museum.  There is a huge collection of some fantastic exhibits over 3 levels and the architecture inside is simply stunning.  You could probably spend an entire day here.  If you decide to, there’s a restaurant and a cafe and also some areas to picnic, although these are small and can be difficult to get hold of.  It can be busy, particularly if it’s raining.

Exhibits range from Dinosaurs to Dolly the cloned sheep and Ancient Egypt to Nintendo games consoles.  Something for everyone.  national-museum-of-scotland

Admission  Free

Location  Chambers Street

Victoria Street

Approximately a 5 minute walk from the National Museum, Victoria Street sweeps up from the Grassmarket to George IV Bridge.  A striking, colourful street it has two levels and it’s worth taking one of the staircases up to get the full experience.  Full of independent shops there’s a Harry Potter store here and it’s said to be J K Rowling’s inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Admission  Free

Opening hours  24 hours 365 days

Location  Between Grassmarket and George IV Bridge, Old Town

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile things to do in Edinburgh

On the way to the Castle you’ll walk up part of the main street in the Old Town.  The Royal Mile stretches from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.  And it’s a mile long!  It’s also very atmospheric with a bit of a Gothic feel. 

It’s a hilly walk up to the Castle which would take around 20 minutes without stopping.  But, with an abundance of shops, restaurants, cafes and bars along the way you most certainly will!  At the bottom is the Palace of Holyroodhouse and just before it is the Scottish Parliament Building. 

Most of the 2nd day of our 2 days in Edinburgh was spent on or just off this famous street.

Admission  Free

Opening hours  24hours 365 days of the year

Location  Old Town

Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh Castle things to do in Edinburgh

Approximately a 4 minute walk from Victoria Street, the Castle itself is magnificent.  Standing proudly, high at the top of the Royal Mile it can be seen from just about anywhere in the city.  But you also get some great views from here.  You can walk right up to it for free but there is a fee payable to enter the Castle.  www.edinburghcastle.scot

Admission  Adult (16-59 years) £19.50 Concessions (60 years + and unemployed) £16 Children (5 – 15 years) £11.50

Opening hours  

Summer (1 April – 30 September ) 9.30am to 6pm (last entry 5pm)    

Winter (1 October – 31 March) 9.30am to 5pm (last entry 4pm)

Location  Castle Hill

The Writers’ Museum

Honouring Scotland’s rich and impressive literary history, The Writer’s Museum is small but interesting.  Especially if you’re a reader, writer or historian.  You access the museum through an alleyway off The Royal Mile (Lady Stair’ Close) just 3 minutes walk from the Castle.  Writers honoured here include Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.  edinburghmuseums.org.uk/writers-museum 

Admission  Free

Opening times  Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm

Location Through Lady Stairs Close off The Royal Mile

Museum on the Mound

2 minutes walk away from The Writers’ Museum, this little one is wonderful and perfect if you’re short of time.  We have to say it was possibly, for us, the most fun of the things to do in Edinburgh as a family.  Home to the head office of Lloyds Bank in Scotland, The Museum has lots of interactive activities.  You can crack a safe, win some (chocolate) money, construct buildings and see what £1 million actually looks like.   museumonthemound.com  

Admission  Free 

Opening times  Tuesday to Friday 10am to 5pm Saturday 1pm to 5pm Sunday and Monday Closed   

Location  The Mound

St. Giles Cathedral

The High Kirk of Edinburgh, St. Giles Cathedral was founded in 1124 and is a beautiful example of Gothic architectural design 2 minutes walk from the Museum on The Mound.  St Giles is a working Church and visitors are welcomed but as it’s a working church access may be restricted without notice.  www.st.gilescathedral.org.uk

Admission  Free although donations are encouraged.  Tours £6 per person

Opening Hours  Monday to Saturday 09.00 to 17.00 Sunday 13.00 to 17.00

Location  The Royal Mile

Museum of Childhood

A 4 minute walk down The Royal Mile will bring you to The Museum of Childhood, which really does take you back.  Perfect if you’re looking for things to do in Edinburgh as a family.  Most visitors will have fond memories of having owned or at least played with many of the exhibits on display in this, the first museum in the world dedicated to the history of childhood.


Admission  Free

Opening times  Monday to Sunday 10am to 5pm

Location  The Royal Mile

More info on spending 2 days in Edinburgh

If you’re thinking of visiting Edinburgh:

  • Check out our Edinburgh page.  It covers how to get there, where to stay, how to get around and food, drink and money. 
  • This guide really helped us with our planning and while we were there.
  • We stayed at The Hilton Edinburgh Carlton and thought it was very good.

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links. Clicking on them will result in no additional cost to you but may earn us a small commision.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Don't miss another post!

Feel free to share!


Don't miss out

Get notification of any new posts straight to your email inbox.