Edinburgh is Scotland’s bustling, vibrant capital that is known as the city of festivals, playing host to annual arts, literature and theatre events that draw thousands of visitors to its streets every year, the most famous of which is known as a the Fringe festival.
Aside from its thriving arts scene which is a draw for culture lovers, it’s fascinating medieval and Georgian buildings and a history of clans and battles would satisfy history lovers, whilst the mouth-watering cuisine will be sure to tempt epicureans.
Scotland is the ideal short city break destination and 48 hours will give you a taste of the wealth of what Scotland has to offer and entice you to return for more! In this lightning guide to Edinburgh in 48 hours, you’ll discover the very best places to explore, eat and immerse yourself in.
If you’re wondering how many days in Edinburgh is ideal or how many days do you need in Edinburgh? well it all depends on what your plans are? You could easily spend 2 weeks in Edinburgh or 2 months and still not see or do everything.
Below is a great guide on what to do in Edinburgh for 2 days because sometimes 2 days in Edinburgh is all you have, especially if you’re going over on a cruise or you’re short on time and want to be able to tour some of the other areas within Edinburgh.
This guide is perfect for those who only have 48 Hours in Edinburgh – A 2 Day Edinburgh Itinerary. We will show you what to do in Edinburgh, where to stay, what to eat and how to get around, whether it’s a weekend in Edinburgh Scotland or just a quick trip.
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How to get to Edinburgh
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and has an international airport where flights arrive daily from all over the world.
For those travelling from around the UK, the fastest and most comfortable method of transportation is train. There are trains connecting London, Manchester and Glasgow to Edinburgh, to name a few.
For budget travellers, there is always option of cross-country bus with companies such as Megabus and National Express offering national coach trips to Edinburgh with excellent prices.
The best time to visit Edinburgh
Scotland, in the northernmost part of the United Kingdom is prone to tempestuous weather which has provided a dramatic backdrop to numerous movies and is not to be sniffed at! Even in the summertime, the occasional rainstorm may make an appearance.
Summer is undoubtedly the most popular time for tourists, the city comes alive with an array of festivals held during this period. This is also the most expensive time to travel.
Springtime between April and May can be charming with temperatures warming up and frequent showers, and September and October are also other ideal periods to travel there. It’s always advisable to dress in layers and bring a waterproof coat when planning a trip to Edinburgh.
For those who can brave the bitter cold, the Hogmanay Festival is held in December and Burns Night is celebrated and it’s a lively time of year despite its lack of daylight hours and low temperatures.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
There is accommodation to suit all budgets and here are some of the very best stylish hotels in Edinburgh. If hotels arent your jam, you can check out Airbnb:
Haymarket Hub Hotel – This three-star hotel is perfectly situated just opposite Haymarket train station and is one of Scotland’s innovative firsts, a “smartphone hotel” where guests are able to use free smartphones during their visit to the city.
The rooms are simple, minimalistic and sleek with comfortable hypnos beds that guarantee a good night’s sleep.
Stay Central – Situated in Cowgate, this three-star budget hotel is in a vibrant and buzzing district where you can find plenty of bars and restaurants.
The urban minimalism of the rooms makes the hotel effortlessly cool and hotel facilities include a cafeteria and daily breakfast for an additional surcharge, there are also on-site tennis courts.
Grassmarket Hotel – This centrally-located hotel is situated just a few minutes stroll from Edinburgh Castle and the sights of the city.
The rooms are compact and snug, decorated in a unique, contemporary style and guests booking direct will be greeted with a bottle of Prosecco upon arrival, as well as a snacks and drinks and the bathrooms have rainfall showers.
Facilities include a communal lounge where you can enjoy board games and coffee and a restaurant where you can pay for the continental breakfast. There is also a bike rental service if you want to explore the city on wheels.
Tigerlilly – This gorgeous and stylish boutique hotel is established in a listed Georgian Townhouse and is situated in one of the most fashionable areas on George Street. For the discerning yet budget-conscious traveller, the hotel offers a wealth of restaurants and bars on its doorstep.
Each room is unique in its décor which is both sumptuous and contemporary with smooth, Egyptian cotton sheets, bathrooms are stocked with luxury toiletries and equipped with GHD hair straighteners! There is also free room service breakfast. The onsite facilities include a restaurant, bar and cocktail bar.
The Witchery – For ultimate luxury and indulgence, book yourself into the Witchery, one of the most famous and opulent hotels in Edinburgh. The nine gothic and richly decorated suites have hosted many celebrities and offer pure luxury with their four-poster beds, damask curtains and oak beamed rooms with views of the Castle.
The hotel has a well-renowned restaurant which is something you cannot miss during your stay. Some packages include Champagne, newspaper and a delicious breakfast hamper which you can enjoy from the comfort of your suite or a candlelit Scottish breakfast served up in their theatrical Witchery Dining Room.
48 Hours in Edinburgh
Day 1 in Edinburgh
Lets start your 2 day itinerary for Edinburgh by starting the day right, head to Saint Giles Café and tuck into a filling breakfast to keep you fuelled all day long. After breakfast it’s time to explore the city and it’s cobbled streets and head towards the majestic Edinburgh Castle which sits astride Castle Rock.
This magnificent castle dominates the skyline of the city and has been the seat of royalty since the 12th century, with the reign of David the first. In the 17th century it was later converted from royal residence to a military barracks.
Early morning is a good time to go to get ahead of the crowds. Booking your entrance ticket online in advance is a good idea, especially if you’re looking at the 9:30 am slot. You’ll also save a couple of pounds booking online and it will ensure that you won’t be disappointed.
After visiting the castle you can meander down to the Royal Mile and take in the stunning architecture of St. Giles’ Cathedral dedicated to the patron saint of the city.
The Royal Mile is a network of streets that weave through the streets of the UNESCO World Heritage site “old town” of Edinburgh and the nearby area of Grassmarket is worth a visit, it’s a trendy district full of hip and happening restaurants and bars, as well as a popular vintage shop named Armstrongs, if you feel like doing some shopping. This area is the perfect place to stop for lunch.
In Grassmarket you’ll find the White Hart Inn, a traditional Scottish pub famed for its haggis, minced offal which includes sheep hearts, lungs and liver combined with spices and oatmeal and boiled for three hours inside a sheep’s stomach.
It may not sound appetising but this is a Scottish classic and it’s worth giving it a go. For the less adventurous there are other Scottish classic dishes such as steak and ale pie and fish pie that will warm you up from the inside! The pub is also said to be haunted, and you may even hear a tale or two about this historic watering hole.
After a hearty and filling lunch, head to Princes Street Gardens to visit the Scott Monument, a climb up the 287 steps will definitely help you burn off that heavy lunch and you can marvel at this monument dedicated to the famous Scottish author. You can follow this up with a visit to the Scottish National Gallery, where you can admire works of famous artworks by Scottish artists both old and new.
If you fancy more of a challenge and want to burn off even more calories, head up to Arthur’s Seat on a one-hour hike and check out the spectacular 360-degree views of Edinburgh. After all that walking, you’ll need a nice cup of tea and there is no better place to enjoy that than the Balmoral Hotel.
This hotel is a Scottish institution and you can enjoy the elegance of the glass-domed Palm Court where you can enjoy sipping daintily on tea in the finest china whilst enjoying finger sandwiches, dainty pastries and cakes..
For the budget-conscious traveller, head to Mary’s Milk Bar to indulge in some gelato or chocolate, this retro and cosy café serves up delicious hot chocolate floats and the owner, Mary, trained as a chocolatier in Bologna in Italy.
An indulgent sundae for two costs around €17. After Mary’s, head down to Victoria Street, which is considered to be one of the most photographed places in Edinburgh because it’s a Harry Potter Fans dream spot! This section of road was used in one of the Harry Potter movies!
Dinnertime in Edinburgh is early, around 18:00 pm and there are plenty of excellent restaurants to choose from. For a romantic dinner, head to the three-floored restaurant Cannonball, with spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle. Here you can savour local, seasonal ingredients in Scottish classics with a contemporary twist and a main course starts at €19 per dish.
For the budget-conscious, Pickles is a brilliant option even though it’s a 20 minute walk from the city centre. This Broughton Street cellar serves up delicious chutneys, artisanal cheeses and pates on sharing platters where you can enjoy a filling meal shoulder to shoulder with the locals for only €17 which goes down well with a bottle of wine.
When the sun sets on Edinburgh, a darker side of the city emerges. You can visit the underground vaults of Blair Street on an evening guided tour to learn about dark tales of ghosts, torture and witchcraft and scare yourself silly whilst exploring the dark and sinister vaults. The one and a half hour ghost tour costs €20 per person and is a fun way to explore the dark lore of this Scottish city.
What better way to end your evening than with a tumbler of Scotch whisky in hand? Head to The Whiski Bar and enjoy some live Scottish folk music before walking around the centre to take in the ambience and atmosphere of Edinburgh’s vibrant nightlife scene.
Or maybe you might want to enjoy Scotch whisky experience, which to me is heading to a local bar an asking the bartender to pick you a selection of their favourite whiskies!
Day 2 in Edinburgh
Today you will be heading to Leith, a gorgeous and trendy neighbourhood which has fantastic shops, bars and restaurants all by the harbourside. You can visit the Queen’s very own floating palace, the Royal Yacht Britannia which is moored at Ocean Terminal. Before you get started, tuck into a hearty breakfast of eggs Benedict or a full Scottish breakfast.
When you arrive at Leith, pay a visit to the Royal Yacht before exploring the area and the thriving art scene. Leith hosts The Shutter Project which is a street mural project where street artists paint on the shutters of all the businesses along Leith Walk.
Leith also has an artist haven in Out of the Blue which is established in the Old Army Drill Hall and is a shared space for artists where you can find performances and art exhibitions as well as a monthly flea market held in the venue. There is also a fantastic café where the budget-conscious traveller can enjoy a delicious lunch.
From Leith you can take a stroll along the river which leads from the port to the Pentland Hills and enjoy the forest scenery just a short distance from the hustle and bustle of the waterfront.
Now it’s time for lunch and you’re spoilt for choice. You will find some excellent seafood restaurants including the famous Michelin-awarded chef Tom Kitchin’s “The Kitchin” with a three-course set lunches at €40 per person. Reservations are required in advance.
Alternatively, you can visit The Ship on the Shore, a seafood restaurant with fresh catch of the day and the perfect place to savour the local seafood.
After lunch it’s time for a pint and you can try some wonderful craft ales at the microbreweries situated in Leith which boasts a world-class programme for brewing and distilling ales. Check out Pilot’s Brewery and Stewart Brewing’s Taproom.
If beer isn’t your thing you can enjoy some tea, scones and cake at the famous and chintzy Clarinda’s Tea Room at 69 Canongate.
Take an evening walk along the Forth Bridge as the sun is starting to set where you can enjoy the beauty of the city lights dancing on the waters in a colourful kaleidoscope.
If you want to immerse in the culture, head down to the Ghillie Dhu at Rutland Place on a Friday or Saturday night and take part in a ceilidh, a Scottish dance which is incredibly fun and anyone can do! They also serve traditional Scottish fare on their menu if you want to savour some authentic local cuisine.
What a way to end your 2 day Edinburgh itinerary!
Tours to do in Edinburgh
Royal Yacht Britannia Tour
Visit Her Majesty the Queen’s very own luxurious yacht, or floating palace on a tour of all five decks, exploring the sumptuously decorated rooms which include the Queen’s bedroom which she used for more than 40 years! Learn about life as a Royal on this self-guided tour.
Edinburgh foodie tour
Visit some of Edinburgh’s culinary hotspots on a three-hour tour with a local foodie guide. You will get to taste some traditional Scottish dishes such as Neeps and Tatties, Haggis and even some excellent single malt whisky.
The tour keeps groups small, with no more than 10 people and will give you a taste of the city and its flavours.
Discover the world of whisky
Learn about Scotland’s most famous export, malt whisky. You will explore the Diageo Claive Vidiz collection of whiskies which is one of the largest in the world with a whopping 3,384 bottles!
You will test your senses with a blind taste test and learn about the process of whisky-making with an experienced guide.
Recommended tours in Edinburgh
- Loch Ness, Glencoe and the Highlands Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
- 2-Day Jacobite Experience including the Hogwarts Express
- 3-Day Isle of Skye and Highlands Tour from Edinburgh
- Skip-the-Line Edinburgh Castle Walking Tour
- City Sightseeing Edinburgh Hop-On Hop-Off Tour
- Outlander Day Tour from Glasgow or Edinburgh
- Edinburgh Castle Entrance Ticket
- St Andrews and The Villages of Fife Day Trip from Edinburgh
- The Royal Military Tattoo, Edinburgh City Tour, Rosslyn Chapel Tour and Dinner from Edinburgh
- Royal Edinburgh Ticket with Hop-On Hop-Off Tours, Edinburgh Castle Admission
- Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
- Discover Malt Whisky Small-Group Day Tour from Edinburgh
- Private Central Highlands driving tour
- 3-Hour Edinburgh Secret Food Tour
- Royal Mile Guided Walking Tour in Edinburgh
- Camera Obscura and World of Illusions Admission Ticket
- The Royal Yacht Britannia
- Edinburgh Private Walking Tour
- Edinburgh Famous Underground Ghost Tour