Your Edinburgh Itinerary: 3 Days to Explore
Discover the best that the Scottish capital has to offer, from a 16th century palace to deep fried Mars Bars
Ah, Scotland. The land of haggis, kilts and bagpipes. And yes, there’s Mel Gibson screaming ‘freedom’ at the top of his lungs. Drive far enough out there and you’ll find Hogwarts too. This free, wild land has much to offer. But no trip ‘beyond the wall’ is complete without visiting the charming neighbourhoods of Edinburgh. The Scottish capital has it all. History, culture, food, drink and much, much more. In fact, you may not know where to begin. Fortunately for you, here at Plum Guide we’re experts in all things travel, and absolutely love doing the hard work for you, so below, we’ve put together the essential Edinburgh itinerary of 3 days, just for you.
Day 1: Visit Edinburgh Castle before heading to Old Town
Start your trip with a ‘proper’ Scottish breakfast at The Royal Mcgregor. Inside these wee walls, they’ve been serving up traditional Scottish ‘scran’ for a good 20 years. The breakfast is a classic with all the usual suspects but it’s the added specialities of haggis and ‘tattie scone’(?) that make it truly Scottish. A must eat.
Indeed, breakfast may need to be walked off. So, take a stroll up part of Edinburgh’s extinct volcano (yes, they used to have volcanoes in Scotland) to Edinburgh Castle. Here, you’ll be treated to fine views of the city whilst taking in the history and culture of the settlement’s past. It’s one of the UK’s most iconic tourist attractions and, rightly so, they’re rather proud of it. We particularly enjoy the historical re-enactments – some (questionable) acting helps bring the place to life and takes you right back to medieval times.
Next, make your way down into the old town to explore the cobbled streets, historic buildings and everything in between. Disappear into a pub or a cafe for an hour if you fancy, but do make time to shop on Victoria Street. Your bank account may not thank us for telling you this but, here you’ll find Edinburgh’s best selection of independent boutiques. In Swish, your contemporary fashion items meanwhile, formal, tweed-based attire is on offer at Walker Slater. There’s also designer homeware in The Red Door Gallery. Of course, shopping is hard work and you may work up an appetite. So if you’re feeling peckish, take a moment to explore cheesemonger’s I.J. Mellis or the hog roast of Oink. The array of flasks and bottles at Demijohn and The Whisky Shop are also worth a mention.
Whisky? Did someone say whisky? It’d feel wrong not to include the Scotch Whisky Experience on our Edinburgh itinerary of 3 days. The Scots are well known for this strong alcohol - it’s their national drink. Here, you can learn all about its history, taste, and smell and if you want to push the boat out, there are tasting classes, blending and training sessions to be enjoyed too. For dinner, head to Café St Honoré. It’s one of the best spots for a smart bistro meal. Originally of the French variety, the menu now reflects the best that Scotland has to offer. Fresh food cooked with local ingredients in warm, rich sauces. Delicious.
Finish the day at Cameo, a 100-year old independent cinema showing one-offs, documentary works and the classics. It has the seal of approval from none other than Quentin Tarantino, who described it as one of his favourites. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for us.
Day 2: Wander along the Royal Mile before eating a Michelin star meal
Head to Loudons for breakfast. They have 14 variants of bennys (that’s eggs benedict for us non-Scottish folk) and if that’s not caught your attention, the long queues will. We promise it’s worth the wait. Next, learn more about this fascinating country at the National Museum of Scotland. There’s a blend of old and new here with a natural history section that will no doubt entice you into the highlands (the carnivorous dinosaurs have since moved on, thankfully), as well as a collection of galleries.
Now that you're feeling much more knowledgeable, stroll along the famous Royal Mile, taking in some of the oldest buildings in Edinburgh. In the summer this stretch plays host to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - a brilliant time to visit with hundreds of shows and exhibitions dotted all over the city. Not only will the Royal Mile take you past some of the city’s oldest buildings, it will also lead you to one of the most famous. Holyrood Palace. Walking around this charming palace, it’s not hard to see why Queen Elizabeth makes it her accommodation of choice whenever staying in Edinburgh. Queen Mary of Scots also lived here between 1561 and 1567.
When it comes to Edinburgh accommodation, whilst we can’t quite offer you Holyrood Palace, we do have a rather impressive collection of Plum Guide homes. All handpicked by our experts, naturally. Depending on the time of year, watch sunset from Arthur’s Seat. This is another part of the extinct volcano and, at 250m, it offers what we think are the best views of the whole city. Bring your camera. Having worked up an appetite hiking up, head back down for dinner at The Balmoral. This building is one of Edinburgh’s most loved and famous hotels and its Michelin-starred restaurant Number One – led by head chef Mark Donald – seals the deal.
For evening entertainment, head over to The Stand. Here, you’ll find a healthy mix of comedians at the top of their game practicing new material whilst up-and-comers take centre stage for the first time. We guarantee a great night of drinks and laughter – as it should be during an Edinburgh itinerary of 3 days. If you're celebrating a special occasion, like a birthday in Edinburgh, make sure to add this to your agenda.
Day 3: Enjoy a walk up to Calton Hill and explore Leith
For breakfast, Word of Mouth cafe. It’s true what they say. Word of Mouth is still the best, trust our word of mouth (get it?) recommendation on that. This is an unfussy, snug little eatery offering hearty breakfasts and caffeinated beverages. The perfect way to start the day.
Now, two options for you here. If it’s raining (it’s Scotland), head to Camera Obscura. Here, five floors of optical illusions and other bewildering exhibits can keep you entertained for hours. There are also some great views looking down the Royal Mile. If it’s dry, we suggest a short walk up to Calton Hill for more vistas and perhaps a picnic, if you fancy. We’d even argue that the views here are better than those from the much busier Arthur’s Seat.
For the afternoon and evening, regardless of the weather, head to Leith. This neighbourhood has been transformed from ‘steer-clear’ to one of the best in the city. Enjoy a stroll along the charming seaside front as fishermen bring in their fresh hauls or enjoy a spot of tea on the deck of the Royal Yacht Britannia. As is custom when visiting any seaside town across the UK, treat yourself to exquisite fish and chips at The Mermaid. This family-run chip shop serves fresh fish and chips, kebabs and deep fried-everything. Yes, that includes the infamous deep fried Mars Bar. We’ll leave that one up to you.
If in search of something a little more sophisticated (than the deep fried Mars Bar), it has to be The Kitchin. Thanks to the flawless, locally sourced food and impeccable service, it won its first Michelin star just six months after opening its doors. We'd recommend booking…immediately. Expect to wait around three months for a mid-week night table, and up to six for a weekend night.
Round your Edinburgh trip off with a few more drinks at one of many fine pubs and bars in the city. Personally, we love The Oxford Bar. Opened in 1826 it’s as old as old school gets – plenty of Scotch Whiskey on offer here to say farewell to the city in style.