One Day in Edinburgh Itinerary
If you've got just one day to spend in Edinburgh, here's a walking itinerary you can follow which takes you around some of Edinburgh's most-loved visitor attractions.
This one-day itinerary includes inter alia Edinburgh Castle, Victoria Street, The Grassmarket, Greyfriars Bobby and Kirkyard, Princes Street Gardens, The Scottish National Gallery, the Scott Monument and Calton Hill. Please note that one day simply isn't long enough in Edinburgh, so we've handpicked places and routes that we think will give you a great feel and appreciation for this magical city.
We've also included places to have breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you'd like a personal photography tour of Edinburgh with myself, David Wheater, (3hrs) you can find out more here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To follow this itinerary please have a Map of Edinburgh handy (or on your phone). Postcodes have been mentioned throughout to aid navigation on smartphone apps. Enjoy Edinburgh!
9.30am: Café Hub – breakfast (1 hour)
Cafe Hub - Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE
Open: Mon-Sat 9.30am - 5pm & Sundays 10.30am - 5pm
You have a lot to fit into your one day in Edinburgh, so start off by fuelling up at The Hub Café. The building perches at the top of the Royal Mile and is a busy venue each year during the Festival. The excellent breakfast menu includes plenty of vegetarian options, and there’s an option for just having a breakfast roll and tea/coffee. Please note that the Hub does not open until 10.30am on Sundays. If the Hub is full, you can always have a bite to eat at the cafés in Edinburgh Castle, which is your next destination.
Directions to Edinburgh Castle: The castle is about a 10-minute walk up the adjacent street 'Castlehill'. Turn left as you come out of the Hub, go up the hill past the Witchery restaurant, The Scotch Whisky Experience and Camera Obscura and you'll arrive at the Castle esplanade in under 10 minutes. Enter the castle over the bridge. Inside, the toilets are left and the ticket office right.
10.30am: Edinburgh Castle (2 hours)
Edinburgh Castle - Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG
Open: Summer (1 Apr - 30 Sep) 9.30am-5pm (last entry) & Winter (1 Oct - 31 Mar) 9.30am-4pm
Admission: Adults £16.50, Children £9.90. Children under 5 go free.
Two Cafés, Shop & Toilet facilities
Guided tours & Audio-guide tours available in different languages
If you only see one thing in Edinburgh it should be the castle. It would be possible to spend the whole day here, but if you don’t have that much time we recommend that you set aside 2 hours to see the highlights, which include: St Margaret's Chapel (the oldest building in Edinburgh), the 15th-century siege cannon Mons Meg, the Great Hall and its wonderful hammer beam roof, Scotland's Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny (The Honours of Scotland), the Scottish National War Memorial, the Prisons of War Exhibition and the One O'Clock Gun (cover your ears at 1pm!). The castle has excellent cafes and good toilet facilities near the entrance and further inside. Take a moment to sit in lovely St Margaret's Chapel. It's a very serene and peaceful little chapel. There are handy itineraries on the castle website so you can make the most of your time. The audio guides are also very worthwhile.
Next Destination: Your next destination is beautiful Victoria Street, The Grassmarket and Greyfriars Bobby. It takes around 10 minutes to walk from the Castle to Victoria street. See next entry for directions.
12.30am: Victoria Street, The Grassmarket & Greyfriars Bobby (½ hour)
Victoria Street - EH1 2HE - http://www.ewht.org.uk/visit/street-stories/victoria-street
The Grassmarket - EH1 2JU - https://www.greatergrassmarket.co.uk/
Greyfriars Bobby - EH1 2QE
After the Castle, retrace your steps down Castlehill (Royal Mile) towards The Hub where you had breakfast and then, at the roundabout, walk down the small, steep lane marked Upper Bow (it's the narrow lane located between Ness Clothing and the Church with the red doors). After a couple of minutes, you’ll come to the walkway above Victoria Street. Take a moment to look up and down the street from this great vantage point.
Go down the steps onto Victoria Street, turn right at the bottom and make your way down Victoria Street, following the curve in West Bow, to arrive in the Grassmarket. You’re in the heart of the Old Town now. Take a few minutes to admire the scene, then turn left along Cowgatehead and then right onto Candlemaker Row (at the small roundabout). Carry on up to the top of Candlemaker Row and you’ll see the small statue of Greyfriars Bobby on your left, directly opposite the pub of the same name. Make time to take a photograph of this most famous of dogs before you turn right (up the side of the pub) to enter Greyfriars Kirkyard which is your next stop.
1pm: Greyfriars Kirkyard (½ hour)
Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ
The Kirk itself, Museum & Shop are open Mon-Sat between April and October (check website)
Spend a little time in the kirkyard, seeing the graves of Greyfriars Bobby and his master John Grey, as well as the Covenanters’ prison, the mausoleum of “Bluidy” MacKenzie (reputed to have a poltergeist which attacks unsuspecting tourists!) and, for Harry Potter fans, a grave with the name “Thomas Riddle”. From April to October you can see inside the Kirk and also visit their excellent museum to learn more about the church. After all that you'll be needing some lunch.
Next Destination: For lunch, we recommend the nearby The Outsider and, as a budget option, Bobby's Sandwich Bar. To get to The Outsider, turn left coming out of Greyfriars and walk northwards, along George IV Bridge, for around 5 minutes (see picture below). Bobby's Sandwich Bar is even closer - simply turn right out of Greyfriars and it's a few paces away on Greyfriars Place.
1.30pm: The Outsider – lunch (1 hour)
The Outsider - 15-16 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EE
Book a Table: (0131) 226 3131
Book a table for lunch in this stylish restaurant. The lunchtime specials are popular and there’s a cosy feel despite the high ceilings. Try to get a table by the back windows for a wonderful view over the city!
- OR -
for a budget option try:
Bobby’s Sandwich Bar
Bobby's Sandwich Bar - 4 Greyfriars Place, Edinburgh EH1 2QQ
If you want a lower priced lunch we recommend Bobby’s Sandwich Bar just outside the entrance to Greyfriars churchyard. I had probably the best bacon roll I've ever had here, a perfectly placed sandwich shop which sells soup, sandwiches, snacks and drinks. Enjoy!
Next Destination - The Grassmarket & Princes Street Gardens: Head back down Candlemaker Row and turn left at the small roundabout to the Grassmarket (Candlemaker Row is the street that brought you to the Greyfriars Bobby Statue).
2.30pm: Grassmarket & Princes Street Gardens (1 hour)
The Grassmarket - https://edinburgh.org/discover/explore-areas/grassmarket/
West Princes Street Gardens EH2 2HG - https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory_record/940791/princes_street_gardens
Ross Fountain EH1 2EU - https://ewh.org.uk/project/ross-fountain/
Wojtek the Soldier Bear EH2 2HG - https://blog.historicenvironment.scot/2018/05/wojtek-the-bear-that-went-to-war/
The Floral Clock EH2 2EL - https://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/directory_record/167918/floral_clock
After lunch, walk back down Candlemaker Row to the Grassmarket and take a few moments to look around. If you love fashion, you might want to have a quick look in the amazing vintage fashion emporium W. Armstrong & Son at 83 The Grassmarket EH1 2HJ (http://www.armstrongsvintage.co.uk/). Continue walking westwards through the Grassmarket and turn right when you see the castle into Kings Stables Road (at Red Dog Music shop). Keep going for about a quarter of a mile, under the bridge, until you see the gate into West Princes Street Gardens on your right (opposite the multi-storey car park). Turn in here and walk past the Castle rock looming over you on your right.
Princes Street Gardens separate the Old Town and the New Town. Look out for the Ross Fountain and monuments such as the statue of Wojtek the bear, commemorating Polish veterans of WW2. Walk eastwards through the gardens – a great opportunity for photography – until you reach the Floral Clock (flowers July-October) and The Mound. Climb to the top of the stairs and at the top you’ll see the Scottish National Gallery, on The Mound, which is your next destination.
3.30pm: Scottish National Gallery, Scott Monument & Calton Burial Ground (2 hours)
The Scottish National Gallery - The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL - (1 Hour)
Free admission. Cafe & Toilets. Open daily 10am-5pm (Thurs 7pm)
The Scottish National Gallery is the building furthest away from Princes Street and houses a wonderful collection of works from all over Europe, from Gothic and Renaissance art up to Impressionism. Entrance is free and, although you could spend all day here, it’s recommended that you spend at least an hour. There are details of highlights not to be missed on the website and staff will give information and floorplans at the entrance.
- then visit -
The Scott Monument - East Princes Street Gardens, EH2 2EJ - (½ Hour)
£5 adults & children (cash only), no wheelchair access. Open daily, Summer (Apr-Sept) 10am-7pm and Winter (Oct-Mar) 10am-3.30pm
If you visit the gallery shop you’ll get to the garden level which leads directly out into East Princes Street Gardens. Walk eastwards through the gardens to the Scott Monument, the memorial to Walter Scott, which you can climb for amazing views of the city. There are 287 spiral staircase steps to the top and four viewing platforms. It's well worth venturing up to at least the 1st floor for great views. Last entry in the winter is 3.30pm, so you may have to come back another day if you've been to the National Gallery. Afterwards, make your way up to Princes Street and turn east along Princes Street towards the Balmoral Hotel. As you’re walking along, past The Balmoral Hotel, you’ll see directly ahead of you, the Nelson Monument and the National Monument of Scotland on top of Calton Hill – this is where you’re aiming for.
- if time allows, then visit -
Old Calton Burial Ground - 27 Waterloo Place EH1 3BQ - (½ Hour)
Free admission. Open 24hrs, but does appear to be locked from time to time.
Keep on to the end of Princes Street, along Waterloo Place, to the Old Calton Burial Ground (est 1718) on your right. If you have time, it’s well worth nipping into the burial ground to see some fascinating monuments and graves, including that of the Enlightenment philosopher, David Hume, the Political Martyrs' Monument (the tall obelisk) and Scotland's American Civil War Memorial.
Next Destination - Calton Hill: Turn right after leaving Calton Burial Ground and cross the road. Just after Howies Restaurant and crossing Calton Hill road, you’ll see the steps up to Calton Hill on the left-hand side. Make your way up the steps to Calton Hill for amazing views of the city and beyond.
5.30pm: Calton Hill & The Collective Gallery (1 hour)
Calton Hill, Edinburgh EH7 5AA
Calton Hill is one of the seven hills of Edinburgh and boasts some of the greatest views of the city. You can see as far as the Bass Rock to the East, as well as the hills of Fife and beyond to the North and West. It’s a great opportunity for photography and there is a fantastic view down the length of Princes Street. Take time to have a look at the City Observatory in the Collective Gallery, the National Monument, the Nelson Monument (which you can climb for even better views) and the Dugald Stewart Monument and enjoy the wonderful view of Arthur's Seat, Queens Park and the Firth of Forth. If you need some refreshment, there's a small cafe kiosk at the entrance to the Collective which sells tea, coffee, cakes and snacks (open daily 10am-4pm). If you need the loo, there’s one in the Collective under the restaurant building (donation of 50p).
Now, it's time to think about having dinner somewhere special - The Café Royal.
Next Destination - Café Royal: Head back down the way you came and make your way back toward Princes Street to the Café Royal on West Register Street for dinner (around a 10 minute walk).
6.30pm: The Café Royal – dinner (2 hours)
The Café Royal, Circle Bar, 19 West Register Street, Edinburgh EH2 2AA
Open: Sun-Wed: 11am - 11pm / Thurs: 11am - Midnight / Fri & Sat: 11am - 1am
Book a Table: (0131) 556 1884
An Edinburgh institution dating back to 1863, the Café Royal is an easy 10 minute walk from Calton Hill. It's located in a small lane, accessed near the Apple Store, opposite the Balmoral Hotel. Enjoy the wonderful interior of the Café Royal, either in the restaurant for high-class dining, or in the bar for a more informal (and lower priced) experience. The seafood, in either case, is highly recommended. See if you can spot the place where the scene from “Chariots of Fire” was filmed in the restaurant.
On Friday and Saturday, the bar is open till 1am, so you might be happy to enjoy the atmosphere here till late, but if you fancy going somewhere else, head for Broughton Street, one of the liveliest and trendiest streets in Edinburgh, with several bars and clubs, including the popular 'The Street' (about 10 minutes walk away from the Café Royal).
8.30pm: The Street
The Street, 2b Picardy Place, Edinburgh EH1 3JT
Open: Midday - 1am daily.
Nightclub (downstairs) open until 3am every Friday and Saturday
Telephone: (0131) 556 4272
Around a 10 minute walk away from the Cafe Royal, The Street is set over two floors for eating, drinking and dancing. The Street Nightclub is open till 3am at weekends (Fri & Sat) – check out the website for which DJs are on and what kind of music. If drinking and chatting is more your style stay upstairs and relax in the lively atmosphere.
- OR -
if you fancy something a little more traditional, try
Sandy Bell's Folk Bar
Sandy Bell's 25 Forrest Road, Edinburgh EH1 2QH
Open: Mon-Sat: 12.00 noon - 1am / Sundays: 12.30pm - Midnight
Telephone: (0131) 225 2751
Sandy Bell's is located a couple of minutes walk up from Greyfriars Bobby (which you visited earlier in the day). It's about a 20-minute walk away from the Café Royal, westwards along Princes Street, left up The Mound, along Bank Street and George IV Bridge to Forrest Road. You could also get a taxi here from Princes Street or Waverley Station if your feet are tired. There's traditional, live folk music here every night and a great selection of whiskies. See their website for sessions and events.
I hope you find this itinerary useful and that you have a wonderful time. If you’d like a personal tour of the city with me please get in touch. I specialise in photography tours of the city, but I’m happy to tailor a tour to your own needs and interests.
This article is one of a series on Edinburgh by David. For more articles on Edinburgh, please click on the ‘Edinburgh’ tab below.