I’m just back from an awesome two days in Edinburgh, where we ate, drank and explored our way around as much of the city as possible. Here’s what we got up to on our Edinburgh weekend.
I was invited for Easter, with Ben, courtesy of Visit Scotland, to see how easy it was to combine a 48-hour trip to Edinburgh, with a road trip to another part of Scotland, this time, Dumfries and Galloway.
Scotland has just been named *Most Beautiful Country in the World* by Rough Guides readers, so now you definitely need to visit!
It’s a relatively small city, so you can definitely fit a lot into 2 days in Edinburgh. It’s a great amount of time to fit in the big sights, some stunning views, and a few tasty restaurants, before either heading home or spreading your wings and seeing what the rest of Scotland has to offer.
I’ve been to Edinburgh before, in fact, this was my third time – I’m starting to learn the lay of the land. So here’s a quick 48-hour Edinburgh itinerary to show you exactly what you can expect from two days in Scotland’s capital city.
Day one in Edinburgh
Here’s a map of Edinburgh for day one.
See, it’s only an hour’s walk between everywhere I recommend, and you won’t go to all the restaurants, will you?
If you’re into war museums, views, jewels and Scottish history you could probably spend all day at the Edinburgh Castle, there’s so much to do up there. Traverse the slanted walk way up and, after the entrance, you’ll be treated to a labyrinth of walk ways, galleys, exhibits to see and history to learn. Don’t miss the memorial building where the records go way back so you can see if you have any named relatives archived in the records.
There’s also a little coffee shop, right by the 1 o’clock gun, that still fires every day.
At least two hours…
The Witchery is an iconic restaurant, right at the start of the Royal Mile, just as you exit the Edinburgh Castle. You can get a lunch deal here for £22. Expect to be surrounded by tourists, but this place is obviously popular for a reason. I’ve never been, it just sounds fun, and it’s right there.
The ‘Traditional Scottish Restaurant’ sign drew us in to The Cellar Door. We had every intention of fish and chips but then realised we could get the two-course lunch menu for £12. With only 48 hours in Edinburgh I jumped in at the deep end with a haggis burger for my first meal, although it was vegetarian, admittedly. The highlight here was the Thistly Cross cider, elderflower for me, and whisky for he – it was delicious and we spent the rest of our trip testing the bars to see if they had it – no such luck until our final drink at Edinburgh Airport.
Elephant House. Legend has it that this is the place where JK sat to write her first Harry Potter book. It’s a firm favourite on the many Harry Potter Edinburgh tours you can do. Even though they now charge for you to use the toilet because of all the HP tourists (fair, I think) it’s still a good price cafe. On the Thursday we were there it didn’t seem too busy at all. If you want a sandwich or a jacket potato with a bit of literary history, this is a good option.
It’s also just opposite The Cellar Door so you can decide between the two by looks.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
You get to go in a ride! Like a rollercoaster, but about 1% as scary.
After cruising around the Scotch Whisky Experience in a barrel, you get to go to a tasting room and learn more about the process of whisky making, and how it became such an important icon of Scotland. You’ll also get to see the largest collection of unopened whisky bottles IN THE WORLD. You can tell by my face above, it was pretty cool.
Save some time for after and you can do your own whisky tasting in the bar there, the bar which has views over Scotland like this. Pretty amazing hey?
One hour + bar time
Ensign Ewart for gin tasting
I’ve done the Edinburgh Gin Distillery before (fully booked this time), and sampled a cheeky gin flight at the Ensign Ewart, and personally, I like the experience at the Ensign Ewart best. Sometimes you just want to drink the gin, pick your fave and drink some more. All while seated in a nice pub, near the historical centre of Edinburgh.
If you can get in the Distillery, then great, try it, but if you can’t, or you just want to sit down at your own pace go to the Ensign Ewart. This time round I particularly enjoyed the Edinburgh Gin Cannonball, with bitters tonic.
I love the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – I’ve been every time I’ve been to Edinburgh. It’s full of interactive science / trippy exhibits that really make you think. It’s genuinely mind bending and good fun for all ages – feel like you can’t say that about many things now. You also get to go up high to the sixth floor, and experience the amazing views out to Edinburgh Castle, and beyond.
You probably need to relax after all that, so head back to your hotel down the Royal Mile to see more of the city, and the shops and bars. Also, you’ll pass Princes Street Gardens, which make for a nice walk around.
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Where to stay
This time round we stayed at the super plush Chester Residence. We had the penthouse apartment, with a lounge and kitchen diner, a huge bathroom with large bath and a massive bedroom too. Swit-swoo.
It was just a short walk from views of the Edinburgh Castle, and from the Edinburgh Gin Distillery too. We also found a great little whisky bar on the corner.
Apartments start at around £175 here and go all the way up to VIP suite with eight-seat Jacuzzi, bespoke Louis Vuitton furnishings and a private cinema room, kinda prices. It’s just made it into GQ magazine’s top 33 hotels for 2018. And keep scrolling to see our breakfast, it was lush.
I’ve also stayed at The Bonham, just around the corner. If you like history and old buildings, go for the Bonham, if you like plush luxury, the Chester Residence is the one for you. But if you’re more budget minded, then check out the prices for the hundreds of other hotels in Edinburgh.
READ MORE: Reviewing The Bonham in Edinburgh
La P’tite Folie – A typically French restaurant with a cosy ‘ambience’. I made the excellent choice of (big, fat) mussels in a coriander sauce, followed by salmon on pea and bean risotto which is basically my new favourite dish in restaurants, since I had it at Hutchinson Beach Resort in Florida. Risotto as a side? I’m fully on board.
Then we shared the sticky toffee pudding. A delicious meal perfectly devoured alongside a bottle of Malbec.
And if you’re staying at the Chester Residence, La P’tite Folie is only a 7-minute walk away.
Civerinos – I went to this pizza place back when I visited Edinburgh for Hogmanay in 2014/15. It’s a great place to visit if you’re in a group. Get a sharer board, you definitely won’t regret it.
El Cartel – Seeing as we were there on Easter weekend, and El Cartel is one of the most popular restaurants around, and only small, we found that we definitely couldn’t just waltz in at 6pm and get a table. Next one wasn’t till 10pm they told us, as we backed out. It’s a cool Mexican restaurant, known for it’s frozen daiquiris and tasty burritos. El Cartel looked great – glad I saw it and definitely one for next time I’m in Edinburgh, or for you…
Edinburgh has this whole scene of cool, underground cocktail bars. I’m putting together a little guide to where they all are, but my favourite was the Lucky Liquor. Cocktails are £10 a pop so slow and steady wins, but still, a great little place to enjoy a few drinks out, and not far from all the aforementioned restaurants either.
Day two in Edinburgh
Breakfast at the Chester Residence was awesome. Delivered to the door at a time to please and set out in a way that pleased me greatly. We could sit in our dressing gowns and scoff the brie, parma ham, bread and croissants, washed down with fresh coffee. Loved it.
Royal Yacht Britannia
– Map for day two in Edinburgh
It’s hard to narrow down what to see in Edinburgh in 2 days, but as the city’s number one tourist attraction, the Royal Yacht Britannia has to be up there. Get the 22 bus out to the Ocean Terminal to see the permanently docked Royal Britannia ship. It’ll take about 30 minutes to get there so you can admire the views of Leith out the window, and get a bit more of an understanding of how the new town (that’s older than America) fits together.
The Royal Yacht Britannia is great – so interesting to look around. You’ll get to see Charles and Diana’s honeymoon suite, their sailing yacht, where the queen had guests for dinner, and where the staff spent their play time.
You’ll get a walkie talkie type thing to explain the ship to you as you go, and, and, you get some of the best fudge I’ve ever tasted. Seriously.
Two hours +
I can definitely recommend the on board cafe. The views are great and the food yum too. I had Cullen Skink soup and a ham sandwich with potato wedges.
Or, you could check out the options at the shopping centre attached. There’s a Nando’s, an Elfalafel, Pizza Express, Wagamamas, and Zizzi’s.
When you’re done you could spend time looking round the shopping centre attached to it (I needed jumpers in H&M, ok…), you could have a walk round Leith, or you could jump on the bus back into the main part of Edinburgh. This is a great place to pick up those Scottish souvenirs you’ll want tor bring home.
– Not the Scott Monument
If you’ve decided to come back to Edinburgh get off at the Scott Monument. This is the largest monument dedicated to a writer in the world (till mine gets made anyways). You can pay £5 to go in and have a look. Once you’re done here walk west to Calton Hill, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and walk up for more views over Edinburgh.
Walk back down the other side and you can enjoy the Royal Terrace Gardens, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, Dynamic Earth or the Museum of Childhood. Up to you.
Rendezvous Chinese Restaurant – it took us a long time to decide on this restaurant. None of the menus were floating our boat and we didn’t know what we were looking for – who knew it was a Chinese banquet? The food here was delicious, we ended up eating, and spending loads, but we were happy, and that’s the main thing. Also, again, just round the corner from the Chester Residence.
Bon Vivant – if I’d had the energy and thought, and it wasn’t raining, this was where I would’ve liked to go. They do Scottish tapas with elegantly put together cocktails on the side. Looking at their menu, I feel like I could spend a lot of money in a place like this. Next time.
Day three in Edinburgh
And with another Chester Residence breakfast (go on, scroll up for that pic again), you can get off. But whether that’s for more Edinburgh in your life (walk through Prince’s Gardens, or the Meadows, or clim up Arthur’s Seat?), or to catch your train / flight home, or to explore more of Scotland, is for you to decide.
How to do a road trip from Edinburgh to Dumfries is coming on the blog very soon, but for now, check out my pics from the beautiful island of Skye up in the Highlands.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle stop tour of Edinburgh in 2 days, like me, I’m going to guess that you’ll want to come back again ASAP.
My 2 days in Edinburgh were mostly courtesy of Visit Scotland. I flew from Southampton to Edinburgh with FlyBe, got the tram in, stayed at the Chester Residence and then had a hire car from Enterprise to drive down to Dumfries and Galloway.