One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Edinburgh is a city rich in history, culture, and things to do! Spending 2 days in Edinburgh on a budget is like stepping back in time and entering a fairy tale. Edinburgh has always been at the top of my bucket list (mostly because it inspired Harry Potter), but after having visited it quickly became one of my favorite (and most expensive) cities in the world!
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2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
After having visited Edinburgh for over 6 days, I had enough time to see and do it all! This 2 day in Edinburgh itinerary will show you the best of Edinburgh on a budget. This guide will highlight popular places like the Royal Mile, Arthur’s Seat, and Calton Hill while introducing you to some hidden gems like Dean’s Village and Greyfriars Kirkyard.
With 2 days in Edinburgh on a budget, planning may be required. You’ll want to book a few things in advance to make the most of your time!
So without further ado, let’s get into the nitty-gritty details first.
How Many Days Do You Need in Edinburgh?
No time in Edinburgh is enough, as it is a magical city year-round. But, if you are visiting Scotland for a finite amount of time 2 days is the perfect amount in Edinburgh to see the main sites and have a taste of this beautiful city.
If you have time to spare, 3-4 days would be perfect to get to know the city in depth and see it all. With 2 days in Edinburgh, your goal will be to see the main sites of the city and a few hidden gems.
Overview of Edinburgh
2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
Edinburgh is a relatively small and compact city with most attractions within walking distance. Edinburgh is divided into two sections, Old Town and New Town.
In Old Town, you can find a majority of the main tourist attractions in a compact area, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and a plethora of charming side streets. In New Town, you will find state-of-the-art shopping on Princess Street, relaxing parks, and chic hotels.
The beauty of Edinburgh is its walkability and Old Town and New Town are connected with wide sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly crosswalks. Like most cities in Europe, it is very pedestrian friendly.
How to Get to Edinburgh
When planning your 2 days in Edinburgh trip, your first step will be figuring out how to get to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is located in the south of Scotland and is home to a decent-sized airport as well as the Edinburgh Waverley Train Station.
The Edinburgh Airport (EDI) is situated about 8 miles from the center of downtown Edinburgh and is roughly a 30-minute drive or train ride into downtown. EDI airport is well connected to downtown.
From the airport, you have 3 options to get to the city center, car/taxi, tram, or bus. The bus will be the cheapest option for those visiting Edinburgh on a budget. For me, I opted for the tram as it was very easy to use and runs every 7 minutes. Beware, its hours are 7 am-7 pm, so if you arrive late this will not be your best option.
To get to the tram, exit the airport and turn left. Walk along the marked path and follow the pink signs to the Tram. You can buy a one-way or return ticket once you arrive.
If you are arriving in Edinburgh by train, The Edinburgh Waverly Train Station is centrally located on the line between Old Town and New Town. From the train station, you should be able to walk to your accommodation. If not, you can grab a taxi or navigate the bus system to get you where you need to go.
Where To Stay For 2 Days in Edinburgh
As mentioned, Edinburgh is an expensive city, and the accommodation is where it can add up quickly. As far as location, the Old Town and New Town are both fantastic places to stay. If you are a solo traveler, you will find the most popular Hostels in Old Town, but if you have more money to spare, the chic hotels are located in New Town.
- Castle Rock Hostel – Located in the heart of Old Town, this hostel is a perfect location to see the sights and make friends.
- CoDe Pod – The Court – This Hostel is an old jail now converted into a hostel and it’s location is hard to beat in Old Town
- Royal Mile Backpackers – Also centrally located in Old Town, this hostel is in the heart of the tourist district. Located on the Royal Mile, this hostel has you next to all the action.
Best Budget Hotels
- McCrae’s Bed and Breakfast – A quick 15-minute walk to the center of Old Town, this bed and breakfast is an affordable way to have more privacy during your 2 days in Edinburgh trip.
- Dragon Suites Apartment – In New Town you will find these apartments right next to the popular Princess Street. These rooms are perfect if you are planning to do more shopping.
How Do You Get Around Edinburgh?
2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
Although it’s a very walkable city, there is also a great public transportation system to get around. Busses, Trams, and Trains are all available and connect the city very well during your trip.
The hop-on hop-off bus is a great option if you want to drive around Edinburgh and learn a bit about the city as well. For just $20, you have access to the busses for 24 hours.
Additionally, the Tram connects major stops in Edinburgh and the outskirts of Edinburgh. If you are looking to travel a bit outside of the main tourist spots, consider using the tram.
Want more? Here are 21 FREE Things To Do in Edinburgh!
2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
Day 1: 2 Days in Edinburgh – Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral, Victoria Street, MUSEUM, Grassmarket, Calton Hill & Walking Tour
On your first day in Edinburgh, you will visit the main historical sites in the Edinburgh Old Town, enjoy a free walking tour, and add in a bit of shopping along the way. Let’s get started!
8:30 Breakfast at The Larder
Start your day in Edinburgh with a warm Scottish breakfast. Depending on where your accommodation is, it may be best to eat close to there. But, if you’re ready to go early, I recommend hitting The Larder for breakfast.
This restaurant opens early in the morning and is located next to all the sites you will soon be visiting. It’s cozy atmosphere and large menu is a perfect way to begin your trip. The prices are moderate but well worth it.
Looking for just a coffee instead? Try The Milkman. This cafe is adorable and very picturesque! By waking up early you should have nearly the whole street to yourself to take some amazing pictures too.
Spend about an hour at breakfast and getting settled in. This will also be your time to make a game plan for the day.
Important Note: Like the rest of Europe, life is more laid back here. By waking up early, you will be rewarded with empty streets, as the city doesn’t come to life until almost 10 am. By starting with breakfast, you’re already ahead of the crowds!
9:30 Explore the Royal Mile or Visit the Edinburgh Castle
When you google Edinburgh, you’ll find thousands of pictures of the Royal Mile. The Royal Mile connects the Holyrood Palace to the Edinburgh Cathedral and is the main shopping street in the Old Town. It’s home to plentiful souvenir shops, tourist attractions, museums, street performers, and more!
Use this time to wander the streets, get lost in the “closes” and explore the adorable shops. I recommend using this time to get acquainted to Edinburgh and see what it’s really all about. Stop and watch street performers and enjoy the atmosphere.
Here are the best places to stop.
- St. Giles Cathedral – The most iconic Cathedral in Edinburgh is located right in the middle of the Royal Mile, you can’t miss it! Standing taller than the rest, this medieval Presbyterian church is open every day, including Sunday afternoons.
- The church is free to enter and also offers free guided tours! The guided tours are best to book in advance as they do fill up. Book online here!
- Souvenir Shopping – All along the Royal Mile you will find tons shops. This is the largest souvenir collection in all of Scotland, so use this time to pick up anything you might want to bring back home.
- Victoria Street – Connected to the Royal Mile you will find the famous Victoria Street. Arrive early to beat the crowds, read the plaques and soak in all the magic because this street as become packed! This is the rumored street to inspired Diagon Alley in the popular Harry Potter books, and these loads of odes to it too!
Here are the must visit stores on Victoria street.
- Museum Context – This shop is so popular you will often find lines outside to get in! In this Harry Potter themed shop you are transported into the wizarding world and can buy exclusive memorabilia.
- John Kay’s Bookshop – This old antique shop is home to a plethora of books, old maps, and unique antiques. Here you can buy the the first Harry Potter book written in Scottish. A unique item only sold here!
- The Cadies and Witchery Tour – With its dark facade, this shop is home to all this dark magic and mystery. It’s definitely worth a stop inside to view the lesser known side of Edinburgh.
- Greyfriars Kirkyard – The last stop on your Royal Mile exploration, while not necessarily on the Royal Mile is Greyfriars Kirkyard. Here you can find headstones that were used as inspiration in Harry Potter as well as interesting odes to the historic witches of Edinburgh. On a nice summers day, you will find locals picnicking here … a bit eerie if you ask me!
If you are passionate about visiting Edinburgh Castle, you can skip out on this time and use this time to see the castle. This is by far the most iconic castle in Scotland but also comes with crowds and an expensive entrance fee. For this reason, I have not prioritized it on this itinerary.
Additionally, you will want to book your castle visit a few days (or weeks) in advance, depending on the time of year you are visiting.
12:00 Lunch in the GrassMarket
Between Victoria Street and Greyfriars Kirkyard you will find the Grassmarket. Find any restaurant on this street and you won’t be disappointed. There are plenty of restaurants here in a great location.
1:00 Free Walking Tour of Old Town
One of the best things to do in a city like Edinburgh is to attend a walking tour. Spending 2 days in Edinburgh on a budget, you can find a free walking tour of the city. During my visit, I actually did 3 free walking tours! I attended the Edinburgh Old Town tour, Harry Potter tour, and Ghost tour. For the sake of this itinerary I recommend one of the first
Here are the tour start times:
- Harry Potter tour starts at 2
- History Tour 10 am, 11 am, and 1 pm.
These tours are best to book a few days in advance, but can be booked day of too. Take your pick as to what tour suits your group the best. I loved both of them! The Harry Potter tour was so much fun, and also offered additionally history about the city of Edinburgh.
If you want to learn about the Old Town, why it’s built how it is, and even see the “underground”, I recommend the history tour.
The Edinburgh FREE tour company is really well done, and i had a great experience with them.
Please note: While the tour advertises “FREE”, it’s a pay-what-you-like model. Meaning, at the end you can tip your guide what you believe the tour is worth. Most people tip around $10-$12 per person.
3:00 Explore the Free Museums of the Royal Mile
Edinburgh is an AWESOME city, and one reason for this is its plethora for free museums! The Royal Mile is home to many free museums so you might as well take advantage of it!
Take your pick as to what museum you’d like to explore. All of these are located on the Royal Mile.
- Museum of Edinburgh – this cozy museum home to many artifacts and drawing to help you see what like may have been like in the early days of the town. If you opted for the history tour, this museum brings to life alot of what you learned on the tour
- The People’s Story Museum – In this museum you will find history, crafts, culture, and daily life of normal people in Edinburgh. Here you will get an insider’s look at local life in Edinburgh in the 18th to 20th century. I enjoy this museum because it is home to first-hand accounts of what life was like in this fascinating city during a tumultuous time.
- The Writers Museum – Learn about the famous Scottish Writers Robert Burns, Sit Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. Here you will be transported back in time to see personal items from the authors, learn about the printing process, and hear stories about these writers’ lives.
- Museum of Childhood – This small museum is home to a collection of toys used throughout many eras. It can get a bit creepy with all the old dolls and such!
- Museum on the Mound – A hidden-gem museum that focuses on economics and money of Scotland
You’ll spend your evening with a small hike with a sunset and traditional Scottish dinner. Depending on the time of year, these activities can be reversed.
5:00 Calton Hill
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Calton hill is the spot to be during sunset, but really any time of day will do. You’ll immediately notice the similarities between here and the famous Parthenon in Greece, which the Scottish have named The National Monument of Scotland.
This and many other monuments at the top offer beautiful picture spots as well as a relaxing place to enjoy the views of the city.
This 5-10 minute up hill walk can be done by anyone in good health and when you reach the top you will find 360 degree views of Edinburgh.
6:30 Traditional Dinner
By now, you are probably getting hungry from your big day of exploration! Spend your evening enjoying a warm traditional Scottish dinner.
The famous dish in Scotland is call Haggis. Haggis is a mysterious combination of a sheep’s liver, heart, and lungs. If you are an adventure eater, this is for you to try.
Most places on the Royal Mile will be crowded and more expensive, so I recommend exploring the side streets to get a better deal if you are on a budget!
Day 2: 2 Days in Edinburgh – Arthur’s Seat, New Town, National Museum of Scotland & Dean Village
Your second day in Edinburgh, you will get your workout in with a hike to Arthur’s Seat, shop til you drop in New Town, visit the biggest museum in Edinburgh, and relax in Dean Village. Here we go!
7:45 Light Breakfast
This morning will be a big one, so it’s important to fuel up properly. Hopefully, your accommodation has some snacks or breakfast included, but if not, head to a convenience store and buy some snacks and water for your big hike.
It’s likely you’ll be some of the first visitors on the streets this morning, so take advantage of your walk and take lots of pictures as you head toward Arthur’s Seat.
8:30 Arthur’s Seat Hike
Located in Holyrood Park, next to Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal Mile you will find the trailhead to Arthur’s Seat Hike. This free hike is one of my favorite things to do with 2 days in Edinburgh.
This almost 2.5-mile loop takes you up an extinct volcano and rewards you with 360-degree views of Edinburgh. The views from the top are spectacular! You can see Old Town, New Town, the Scottish rolling hills, and even the North Sea.
This hike is best to do on a clear day but can be done almost any time of year. Plan about 2 hours for the hike, but luckily starting early you should avoid the bulk of the crowds. This hike is very popular among tourists and locals alike.
Pro-Tip: During the hike, pack warm, when you reach the top it will be chilly and windy.
10:30 Go back and freshen up
Once you are finished with the hike, you will probably be sweaty. Continue your workout by walking back to your accommodation to freshen up for the day.
11:30 Brunch at a Cafe
One of my favorite meals of the day, brunch! After your hike, you may want to rest your legs at a fun brunch. You can choose your own, maybe close to your accommodation, but here are some of my favorites.
- Urban Angel – In the middle of Old Town, this cafe offers a large brunch menu with many options as well as a cozy atmosphere.
- Greenwoods Edinburgh – A traditional English breakfast spot in the middle of all the action.
- Southern Cross Cafe – A large cafe with an even larger menu, this cafe has loads of indoor and outdoor seating.
1:00 Princess Street
It’s time to do some shopping, but today’s shopping is less touristy and more clothing. Even if you aren’t a shopper, both of these areas are fun to visit to view architecture and walk around.
First, wander around Princess Street. This street is home to a variety of affordable shops like H&M, Primark, pharmacies, and more. The real draw to Princess street is that is runs parallel to Princess Street Gardens.
On a nice day, Princess Street Gardens Park is packed! This large public park is gorgeous and filled with walking trails, statues, and open space for locals to enjoy outside. It also is at the base of Edinburgh Castle, offering stunning views of the Old Town.
Additionally, along Princess Street, you will find the famous Scott Monument. The Scott Monument is a must-see for locals and tourists to stop and take some pictures, and you may recognize it as a landmark in the city.
This monument is dedicated to the Scottish writer, Sit Walter Scott, and is one of the largest monuments to any writer in the world!
You can observe the beauty of the monument from Princess Street, or elevate your experience by going up in it on a tour! During a guided tour, you will get the opportunity to go inside and view the stained glass windows and 3rd-floor observation deck. These tours need to be booked in advance.
2:00 St. James Quarter
I know another mall, but let me tell you, this one is cool! The St. James Quarter is a modern building and only a 10-minute walk from Princess Street. The reason this mall is on the list is because of its open-top deck.
When you visit St. James Quarter, feel free to do some shopping, but don’t miss the rooftop! The rooftop bar offers awesome views of Edinburgh in a relaxed atmosphere.
3:00 National Museum of Scotland
A 15-minute walk away you’ll find the National Museum of Scotland. This is a must-do on any 2 days in Edinburgh Itinerary because it is the largest museum in Scotland!
This free museum is located just off the Royal Mile, next to Greyfriars Kirkyard, and is home to a wide array of exhibits taking you through Scotland’s past.
Most people take around 2-3 hours to visit the museum, making it a perfect rainy-day activity.
While here, take a trip up to the rooftop terrace. Today is the day of views of Edinburgh and here is another one! This hidden gem is the easiest free way to see Edinburgh, without any major hiking.
5:00 Dean Village
A bit of a walk away, you’ll find Dean’s Village. If you are up for waking here, it will be about a 20-30 minute walk, or you can take a cab. But this village is not to be missed.
Dean Village is a quiet and picturesque residential neighborhood that is perfect to walk around in. Don’t expect food or any facilities to use here, are you are quite literally in a neighborhood, but they expect a lot of tourists.
While here, walk along the Water of Leith. This stroll is along the river in the neighborhood and is very beautiful. The actual walk itself goes about 18 miles, so just walk a little and find a good spot to turn around!
After all that walking, it’s time for dinner. It’s your last meal in Edinburgh, so lets make it a good one. I recommend walking back towards the New Town. New Town is the closest to Dean Village and will also give you a new selection of food.
2 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
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