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Heading to the gorgeous hilly capital of Scotland, Edinburgh for 3 days? Here’s a perfect Edinburgh itinerary to guide you to the best things to do & explore in this lovely city in 3 days.
Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of the most charming cities which you can simply not miss out to visit while you are in United Kingdom. The Gothic and medieval architectures, cobbled streets, gorgeous landscapes, upbeat events, Scottish literature richness and the famous Scottish drinking experience will stay with you forever. Edinburgh is also a haven for Harry Potter fans. Being extremely accessible and walk able, it’s very easy to explore this lively city.
This 3 day Edinburgh itinerary brings in together all the best attractions and some general information including best ways to get around the city, where you should be staying and some day trip ideas in case you are planning to stay longer. Here is the best way of spending 3 days in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Itinerary : 3 Days in Edinburgh
Day 1 : Visit the iconic Edinburgh Castle, explore the attractions along the Royal Mile
Morning : Edinburgh Castle
First up on our Edinburgh itinerary is the glorious Edinburgh Castle. It tops the list of all the amazing things to do in Edinburgh. This castle is perched on top of a volcanic hill and can be seen from many spots in the city. The legendary Edinburgh Castle has preserved the history of Scotland since it has served as a royal residence, military base as well as a prison during both the World Wars.
You would be walking through some courtyards, palatial rooms, towers and amazing exhibits that include glittering royal crowns, costumes, weapons and artifacts. The St. Margaret’s Chapel, which is known to be Edinburgh’s oldest surviving building and the Great Hall where all the major events used to be held are also the highlights of the castle. The incredible view of Edinburgh’s skyline is also a must do from the castle.
- Entrance Fee : £19.50 (USD 24 approx) for Adult, £11.50 (USD 15 approx) for Child, £16 (USD 20 approx) for Senior Citizen of age 60+
- Opening Hours : 9:30 AM till 6 PM (last entry is at 5 PM)
Travel Tip : The Edinburgh Castle gets crowded by afternoon, so make sure you reach there as early as possible to make the most of your tour. We would recommend you to purchase the tickets online in advance to get the best slot and also to skip the over the counter queue. You can book your tickets for the Edinburgh Castle here.
Afternoon – Evening : The Royal Mile
Royal Mile is the street that connects the Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace (Queen Elizabeth II’s official residence in Scotland). This famous street will take you on a tour to the world of history, illusions, Scottish culture and much more through it’s beautiful alleys. There are many attractions on the Royal Mile including museums, cathedral, cafes, stores and restaurants, so you might just end up spending your entire day here. Below are some of the must do’s along the Royal Mile;
St. Giles Cathedral
The St. Giles Cathedral is a very beautiful church located at the heart of Edinburgh. It’s famous crown shaped steeple supports the breathtaking skyline of the city. This church was founded in 1130 and has been dedicated to Saint Giles. St. Giles Cathedral is one of the major worship places in Scotland. Although the admission is free to the church, you can take a guided rooftop tour for a small fee. The impressive architecture of St. Giles Cathedral include beautifully decorated ceilings, stained glass windows, gorgeous illumination and intricate wood work.
- Entrance Fee : Free
- Opening Hours : Summers: Monday – Friday 9 am – 7 pm, Saturday 9 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm; Winters: Monday – Saturday 9 am – 5 pm, Sunday 1 pm – 5 pm
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
This attraction will take you through various optical illusions, magical tricks, artistic maze, fun games and illuminations. The Victorian Camera Obscura placed at the top floor of the building is the main highlight which showcases a 360 degree panoramic view of Edinburgh. Interestingly the Camera Obscura has been existing since the 19th century which makes the experience all the more fascinating.
- Entrance Fee : £16 (USD 20 approx) for Adult, £12 (USD 15 approx) for Child
- Opening Hours : 9:00 AM till 9 PM
Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky Experience has the world’s largest collection of whisky. The tour at this place would start with a fun filled barrel ride that would be taking you around. You would get to learn about the history, origin and varieties of whisky and would also be amused by the display of one of it’s kind whisky collections. You can also dine at the restaurant there and try out the finest Scottish whisky.
- Opening Hours : 10:00 AM till 5 PM
Scottish Story Telling Center, John Knox House
The Scottish Story Telling Center is the world’s first modern live story telling center. It’s the best place to know about the historical Scottish tales. Many musical, literature, arts and theatrical events are held at this center, one of the most well known to be the Scottish International Story Telling Festival. Every August, it also serves as a venue for Edinburgh Festival Fringe which is world’s largest art festival.
- Entrance Fee : £6 (USD 7.5 approx) for Adult, £1 (USD 1.25 approx) for Child, £5 (USD 6.5 approx) for Senior Citizen
- Opening Hours : 10:00 AM till 6 PM everyday except on Sundays John Knox House remains closed.
Day 2 : Make a Visit To The Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat
Morning – Afternoon : The Holyrood Palace
Start your day with a visit to the stunning Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch Queen Elizabeth II. The palace remains open for public throughout the year, except on the days when the Queen or members of the royal family are in the residence.
The Holyrood Palace has been serving as a residence for several Scottish royals since the 16th century. A self guided audio tour would give you a great overview of the historic sagas and tales related to the royals which are very fascinating. The royal state apartments where Mary, the Queen of Scots stayed, an impressive garden and the Holyrood Abbey are the highlights of the palace. Save yourself at least two hours to explore the Holyrood Palace.
- Entrance Fee : £16.50 (USD 21 approx) for Adult, £9.50 (USD 12 approx) for Child, £14.50 (USD 18 approx) for Senior Citizen
- Opening Hours : November till March – 9:30 AM to 4:30 PM, April till October – 9:30 AM to 6 PM
Evening – Night : Arthur’s Seat, St. Anthony’s Chapel
Going on a hike to the Arthur’s Seat is absolutely one of the best things to do in Edinburgh. The beauty of this place would awe you in no time. The incredible views of the city from this highest peak in Edinburgh makes the climb worthy. The hike is really short and may take about half an hour. Do put on some comfortable shoes and a jacket to keep yourself warm if it gets windy at the peak.
St. Anthony’s Chapel
One of the trails leading to the Arthur’s Seat has the ruins of St. Anthony’s Chapel which dates back to the 14th century. The stone ruins have a great backdrop of the city and a river referred to as St. Margaret’s Loch.
Day 3 : Visit the Calton Hill, Scott Monument and the Princes Street Garden
Morning – Afternoon : Calton Hill
The very picturesque Calton hill is one of the best places to visit in Edinburgh. You may be gushing over the beautiful architectures in the city from the hill if you could reach there during the sunrise. There are many monuments in the Calton hill, each showcasing a different perspective of the gorgeous city Edinburgh.
The Dugald Stewart Monument, National Monument, Observatory House and Nelson Monument are the noteworthy sites to visit at the Calton Hill. This hill is also a great spot to catch up a mesmerizing sunset. Visiting Calton Hill would be an unforgettable experience for you and is a must in your Edinburgh itinerary.
If you have missed out hiking the Arthur’s Seat, the Calton Hill would be an easier climb and totally worthy.
- Opening Hours : 10 AM till 4 PM
Evening – Night : Princes Street Garden and the Scott Monument
Princes Street Gardens
The gorgeous Princes Street garden is a public garden and a very popular spot. There are two parts of the garden, Princes Street Garden East and Princes Street Garden West separated by a man-made hill. Wandering through these gardens would take you across many monuments, statues, a beautiful fountain and a breath taking view of the mighty Edinburgh Castle.
If you are visiting Edinburgh during Christmas, do visit the fun filled Winter Wonderland festival held at the Princes Garden East. This festival has lots of amusement rides, games, lip smacking cuisines and a Christmas market.
- Opening Hours : 7 AM till 10 PM
The Princes Garden is a home to many monuments including the iconic Scott monument which is a writer’s paradise. The Scott Monument is the largest monument to a writer in the world. It is well known for showcasing significant contributions and statues of legendary Scottish writers and poets including Sir Walter Scott.
General Information On Edinburgh
Where To Stay In Edinburgh?
The best place to stay in Edinburgh is the Old Town area which is the historical and cultural heart of the city. With all the major attractions located nearby, a walk on the cobbled streets and alleys is what you would be looking forward to each day during your trip. The city’s tradition, heritage, architectures and nightlife all can be explored conveniently if you plan your stay in the Old Town area. Here are our highly recommended hotels in Edinburgh;
Budget Stay (Under $70) : The ibis Centre South Bridge Hotel is one of the best budget stays in the old town due to it’s proximity to the Royal Mile, pubs, restaurants and more. It’s a deal you should not miss out! Click here to book this hotel or to check its availability.
Mid Range ($70 – $150) : The Apex City of Edinburgh Hotel is a gorgeously designed hotel with an award winning restaurant and 4 star boutique bedrooms. The luxurious services, beautiful rooms, top class amenities and stylish interiors make it a perfect place to stay in Edinburgh. This hotel too is located close to all the major attractions Edinburgh. Click here to book this hotel or to check its availability.
High End ($150+) : The Radisson Blu Hotel is a luxurious and stylish hotel with all the modern amenities. This hotel features spa, fitness center, stylish bar, gorgeous ambiance, spacious rooms and much more, making your stay all worth it. This hotel is super centrally located and is close to all the major attractions in Edinburgh. Click here to book this hotel or to check its availability.
How To Get Around Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is an extremely walk-able city with all it’s attractions and tourists points located very close to each other. You would not be needing any cabs or local buses unless you are headed to countryside or to a farther attraction such as the Royal Yacht Britannia, Botanical Gardens, etc.
A great way to explore Edinburgh is the Hop-On Hop-Off bus tours which is inclusive of fast track admission tickets to all the Royal sites – the Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and Royal Yacht Britannia. It also allows 48 hours of unlimited travel on it’s bus tours making your journeys all the more convenient. This bus tour is also a great way to save money and time on the ticket purchases.
Some Cool Day Trip Ideas From and within Edinburgh
There are many adventurous and exciting day trips that you can take while you are in Edinburgh. If you happened to have another day in this beautiful city, here are some other amazing things to add to your Edinburgh itinerary;
- Take a magical tour to Harry Potter filming locations and ride the Hogwarts Express.
- Enjoy a cruise on Loch Ness, explore the ruins of Urquhart Castle and wander through varied landscapes of the Scottish Highlands: mountains, bogs, moors, green hills, lochs, and more!
- Explore the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands on a full-day coach tour to Loch Ness, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and the Trossachs National Park. Go to a working whisky distillery for an optional tasting. Stop for lunch in Fort Augustus and more.
- Visit the Outlander sites including three castles and an exceptionally well-preserved village.
And there you have it – Edinburgh in 3 days! We are sure that you are going to have a great time and would fall in love with Edinburgh’s wonderful vibes. This easy 3 day Edinburgh itinerary would definitely help you in exploring everything this city has to offer.
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