48 Hours in Edinburgh || Quick City Guide

Scotland's beautiful & historical capital Edinburgh is a city well worth a visit.  It's a city rich with culture, delicious fish & chips, authentic whiskey, ancient castles, and some of the friendliest people I have met to date.  I can totally see why J.K. Rowling took much of her inspiration from this city sitting on the hills.

Sadly, Edinburgh was one of the places I wasn't able to spend as much time as I would have liked, but it was well worth the RyanAir flight over the pond (by the way, to my German readers out there Bremen --> Edinburgh is as low as $40/round trip these days!). 

Wanted to share with you all a very short and simple guide to Edinburgh if you're like me and only have a few days but want to experience as much of the Scottish culture and sights as possible.  Hope you enjoy! If you've been to Scotland and have any recommendations, please send them my way.  I will be heading back in September and am anixous to see more of this magical place.

Where to Stay? Macdonald Holyrood Hotel

When you are short on time in a new city it's best to stay somewhere conveniently located to all of the top sites on your list, near city transportation, and that is a comfortable place to lay your head after a busy day.  Macdonald Holyrood Hotel provided all of the above at a great price point, plus the delicious Scottish style breakfast was huge bonus.

Exploring Arthur's Seat and seeing the Holyrood area topped our Edinburgh list and Macdonald Hotel was located a 5 minute walk from both destinations.  Plus, the infamous Princes Street is a quick walk away for all your UK shopping (which I was pretty thrilled about)!

Top Sites to See

There are so many things to do and see during your time in Edinburgh, but be sure to bring a rain jacket and umbrella.  The Scottish weather can be quite predictable most days with cloudy skies and scattered rain showers.  However, if you come prepared, the rain will not bother you and it'll just be part of the whole Scottish experience.


Walk Along Princes Street and into The Old Town

Princes Street is famous for shopping and its grand views of the Edinburgh Castle, the Old Town, and the lush valley in between.  Construction of Princes street dates back to the late 1700s and was named after King George III's eldest two sons, Prince Frederick and Prince George. Princes Street is a "Scottish Mile" long and filled with plenty of things to see and do, restaurants, and of course shopping.


Arthur's Seat

Arthur's Seat is the largest of three parts of an extinct volcano system.  It's a popular tourist site, but you definitely have to do a bit of work to get those beautiful views.  Once arriving to the trail head you have two options: straight up the mountain or around the mountain.  I would recommend going around the mountain and enjoying views of the city while making the climb.  

The climb takes about 45 minutes, but if you're like me and stopping every few minutes to take way too many photos and bask in all the pretty views, it could take more like 1 hr 15 minutes. Once at the top of Arthur's Seat, you have even more spectacular views of the city, ocean, and the Highlands from afar on a clear day. 

If you're looking for a way to get out of the hustle and bustle of the city and escape to a calm and beautiful place, Arthur's Seat is well worth the visit if you're in Edinburgh, even if just for a few days.

Princes Street Gardens

Edinburgh Castle

The oldest parts of the castle date back to the 12th century and since then it has been expanded and renovated over the centuries. When one thinks of the Edinburgh skyline, the castle is what first comes to mind and there is good reason.  It stands tall over the rest of the city in such a commanding sort of way. 

Although we didn't take a tour inside the castle, I have read that it is well worth it if you have the time and are interested in the history of the castle and seeing how it has evolved over the years. However, I felt like walking around the grounds and taking in the grand view from outside of the castle was more than enough.  Being the historical landmark that is is, the Edinburgh Castle should top your list on things to see in Scotland.


A Day Trip with Rabbie's Tours

Although I love exploring new cities, I always have such a great appreciation for getting out of the city and experiencing the beauty surrounding a place. Since we were short on time I didn't want to rent a car (plus, this whole driving on the wrong side of the road thing was messing with my brain too much), so I opted for a day trip with a local tour guide.

Okay, okay. This is typically totally against anything I would normally do, but desperate times call for desperate measures.   I wanted to see the countryside of Scotland and as much of it as possible in a day.  After doing some research I read about Rabbie's Tours and decided to go for it.

What I really enjoyed about the Rabbie's Tours was that it was a small group of 12 people and we spent about 8 hours and were able to see some really amazing things.  I did get a little antsy having to sit in a car for that long and be on someone else's schedule, but other than that it was a great way to see sites that I wouldn't have been able to otherwise.

We took this tour with Rabbie's which included these spots:

  • Loch Lomond National Park
  • The Trossachs
  • Rob Roy Country
  • Stirling Castle
  • The Kelpies (my least favorite stop)

If you're short on time and looking for a way to see a lot in one day, than I can recommend Rabbie's Tours.  However, if you have more time, I would definitely suggest renting your own car and exploring the top sites on your list!

As always, thanks for reading along and would love to hear if you've been to Edinburgh. If so, what are the best spots?