48 Hours in Edinburgh, Scotland’s Vibrant Heart

Our Thoughts

Find out why Edinburgh deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world.

From the medieval tenements of the Old Town to the elegance and grace of the Georgian New Town, Edinburgh thoroughly deserves its reputation as one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities in the world.

Cathy and I just love Edinburgh and its warm friendly people. Only four hours by train from London King’s Cross railway station to Edinburgh Waverley station, or an hour by air, Edinburgh is a breeze to travel to from anywhere in the United Kingdom.

Edinburgh readily gives up its secrets but has more to offer than just history written in stone. It’s a cosmopolitan city too, with Michelin-starred restaurants, a thriving café culture, vibrant and varied nightlife, great shopping and a strong contemporary arts scene.

Of course, you can’t think of Edinburgh without thinking of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, (known to locals as simply the Fringe), but it’s not just a summer city. As the days shorten, Edinburgh lights up for Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations, but with festivals—from film to jazz to food and beyond—happening every month of the year, there’s no off season in Edinburgh. We try to go mid-week when there are less tourists, and unless you love crowds avoid August at all costs!

Day One

Much of Edinburgh looks like something out of a fairytale.

Walk from the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa (overlooking Edinburgh Castle), 15 minutes to the Grassmarket. After viewing the shadow of a gibbet on the paving where public hangings used to take place, raise your spirits with a visit to Hawico (71 Grassmarket) for the most exquisite cashmere in the city. From there, head up Instagram-ready Victoria Terrace, taking the steps halfway along up to the Lawnmarket for Edinburgh Castle.

By the time you’ve finished at the castle you might want to rest your feet, so head downhill to the elegant Signet Library in Parliament Square for a coffee, making a quick detour into the historic Great Hall at Parliament House, home of the high courts of Scotland.

Edinburgh Castle

Be sure to book a ticket for Edinburgh Castle in advance on the website, as it’s Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction. Edinburgh Castle is one of the oldest fortified places in Europe. With a long rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress, it is alive with many exciting tales. When you climb Castle Hill, you will walk in the footsteps of soldiers, kings and queens—and even the odd pirate or two!

Bagpipers are a common sight at Edinburgh Castle.

Finish your day at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where Queen Elizabeth II spends one week in residence at the beginning of each summer. Don’t forget to see the Queen’s Gallery, as well as the impressive ruins of Holyrood Abbey. The Scottish Parliament is also just across the road and its controversial design and architecture make it well worth at least a quick walk by.

Dinner Suggestion

The Witchery

A unique and dare I say, slightly magical, dining venue situated a short walk from Edinburgh Castle. You can dine indoors or outside in the garden if the weather is good. The Witchery has been delighting tastebuds for  many years and has gained an outstanding reputation for providing superb cuisine at reasonable prices.  Scottish seafood, lamb, game and a legendary Angus beef steak tartare feature on an inspirational menu.  Open for lunch and dinner, diners can also opt for a pre and post theatre supper.

Day Two

The best way to explore this city and its people is on foot, so be sure to wear your walking shoes.

From the hotel, walk towards Princes Street but head into the gardens at Ross Fountain and stroll along the gardens to the Mound, a tunnel that divides the East and West gardens of Princes Street Gardens, the best known park in Edinburgh.

Princes Street Gardens are two adjacent public parks in the centre of Edinburgh, Scotland, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

The Gardens are full of interesting sights, including a Festival Wheel,  the Royal Scots Monument, and the world’s first floral clock, built in 1903. It’s also worth just pausing to take in the city and people watch whilst admiring this well-groomed floral park.

Cross the street towards House of Fraser and go inside for a peek of the architecture of this iconici building which opened in 1838 and has dominated Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare ever since.

Keep going along Princes Street for about 10 min and enter the park at Calton Hill. Take your time here as you visit the National Monument of Scotland, Scotland’s national memorial to the Scottish soldiers and sailors who died fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Be sure to also visit the Observatory House for a great view of the entire city.

Just outside of Carlton Hill, which is the headquarters of the Scottish Government and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Head back the same way towards bustling Princes Street, and when you reach  House of Fraser head away towards Georges street and the trendier Thistle Street. Shops of all kinds abound here so hold on to your wallet!

Dinner Suggestions

Our concierge suggested Fishers in the City. Boy, did Cathy and I love this spacious and stylish space, which is set in an old converted warehouse and features fresh seafood.

Fresh seafood at Fishers in the City.

If you’re looking for standard pub fare near the hotel where locals abound, try the Red Squirrel, which is known for its gourmet burgers, locally-sourced dishes and craft beers on draught. We loved the atmosphere, and how friendly the clientele and staff were.

Where to Stay

Since my first visit to Edinburgh, I have always stayed at the Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa. It’s a large business hotel, but it’s hard to beat the proximity to the castle and notable sights. Bonus: it’s a Marrott Bonvoy hotel that was recently renovated.

For hobbyists there is an awesome model store, Wonderland Models, within minutes of the hotel that I love browsing in…childhood memories flood back.

Cathy and I fell in love with this great city and can’t wait to go back and see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual series of military tattoos performed by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth and international military bands.

Andrew Taylor

For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.

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