If you’re booking a 3 days in Edinburgh Scotland getaway, you’re in for an extraordinary time full of bagpipes, beautiful natural scenery, and mesmerizing old-world architecture!
During a weekend in Edinburgh, you can cover a lot of ground and see the absolute best places in the city, while enjoying a couple of insightful guided tours along the way.
So, prepare for your weekend trip to Edinburgh 3 day itinerary with the essential guide for first timer’s to Scotland!
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- TOP EXPERIENCES & TOURS IN EDINBURGH
- BEST HOTELS IN EDINBURGH
- PRACTICAL INFORMATION FOR EDINBURGH
About This Edinburgh Itinerary 3 Days
A long weekend in Edinburgh is the perfect way to see the capital city of Scotland. Set on the east coast, this historic city is very compact, so even if you have just 3 days in Edinburgh, there’s still plenty to see.
We set up this 3 day Edinburgh itinerary with all the sights to see in Old Town and New Town on the first 2 days. Then for day three, you will find a menu of options.
If you have enough time, a day trip to the Scottish Highlands will be the highlight of your trip. Short on time? Don’t worry. You can mix and match a few tours depending on your interests. We have great options below.
Best Time to Visit Edinburgh, Scotland
- June & July – Summer is the warmest and often the most pleasant time to visit Scotland. We visited at the end of June and although it was rainy and quite busy it wasn’t crowded like the cities in Southern Europe. In the biggest tour group spot, the Royal Mile, there were tons of people, but you could just walk one street over and it was peaceful. You can expect temperatures in the 60’s (15-20°C) during the day that drop to the 50’s at night (10-14°C). However, there can be heat waves (or rain) in the summer!
- August – If you love a festive atmosphere, every August in Edinburgh the Fringe Festival (the world’s largest arts and comedy festival) comes to the city. Prices soar, bookings fill up, and the streets are packed – but it is certainly a fun time to be in the city! Conversely, skip August if you don’t like crowds.
- Shoulder Season – Otherwise, the shoulder seasons of late Spring and early fall are also great times to visit Edinburgh, including April and May as well as September.
How to Get Around Edinburgh & Scotland
Edinburgh has an excellent public transportation system, primarily made up of trams and buses.
The city center is compact and easily walkable, but if you need to travel further, buses and trams are convenient options. Purchase an Edinburgh Travel Pass for unlimited travel on buses and trams within the city.
If you intend to explore Scotland beyond Edinburgh, we highly recommend renting a car. We use Discover Cars for all of our rentals in Europe and have had a great experience.
It’s important to book a car well in advance because a road trip in Scotland, especially during high season is very popular.
What to Pack for Scotland
- Power Adapter: The UK uses a Type G Plug Adapter or you can use a universal travel adapter. Plugs in the UK and Ireland are different from the rest of Europe.
- Rain Gear: I travel with this Windproof/Waterproof Raincoat that fits into a tiny pouch. It’s really lightweight, takes up no space in your suitcase and definitely comes in handy. Or bring a rain poncho that will also cover your backpack.
- Day Pack: Bring a day pack that you can use for water, your raincoat/umbrella, etc. We love this 35 liter daypack that works as a carry-on or folds up into a small pouch. Here are our favorite Anti-Theft Travel Bags too.
- Walking/Hiking: There are multiple streets with cobblestones so bring good walking shoes. If you plan to hike, bring trail runners or hiking shoes. Here are our day hike essentials for travel.
Is a Weekend in Edinburgh Enough?
While you can easily see most of city’s main attractions in 2 days, it will be rushed. A 3-day Edinburgh itinerary, basically a long weekend, will allow you to enjoy the city at a more leisurely pace.
Additionally with more time, you can see more of the city areas like Leith and take day trips to nearby places like Glasgow, St. Andrews, or Stirling. Or take a day trip to the Scottish Highlands.
Finally, since the weather in Scotland is unpredictable, having a long weekend in Edinburgh will give you more time to duck into a pub if it starts raining and enjoy the cultural feel of this incredibly charming Scottish city.
3 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary
Edinburgh Itinerary Day 1 – Royal Mile & Old Town
Royal Mile Tour & Edinburgh Castle
Start your day by exploring the famous Royal Mile, one of the oldest cobbled streets in Edinburgh that runs through the heart of the city. It starts down at Holyrood Palace and shoots up to the iconic Edinburgh Castle – an obvious must-see for a weekend in Edinburgh!
Along the street, you can visit the stunning St. Giles’ Cathedral with its blue vaulted ceilings. Also, stop into one of the numerous closes (small squares nestled down narrow passageways) like Lady Stair’s Close and Mary King’s Close.
For a closer look at the history of this special area during your 3 days in Edinburgh itinerary, book a guided Royal Mile Walking Tour. Explore hidden gems, see Parliament Square, old-world architecture, and all the best places along the Royal Mile as you make your way up to the main event – Edinburgh Castle.
You can also try the Harry Potter Tour which will take you through many of the same places, beginning at William Chambers Monument, while sharing HP trivia, secrets, and places that inspired J.K. Rowling’s most magical books.
Lunch at Grassmarket
For lunch, wander through the nearby Grassmarket in Old Town, a 14th-century marketplace full of independent merchants, eateries, and a stunning view of the city’s hilltop castle.
On a nice day, restaurants have lots of outdoor seating. It’s an enjoyable place to people watch and soak up the atmosphere of Edinburgh.
Walk Down Victoria Street
After a nice lunch in the Grassmarket area, next on this 3 day Edinburgh itinerary is a visit to one of the spookiest (yet wonderfully lovely) spots in the city’s Old Town.
However, we recommend walking there while passing through Victoria Street, one of the most postcard-worthy streets in the city.
The charming colorful storefronts will draw you in to eat or buy souvenirs. A tartan scarf, wool blanket, or umbrella – especially if it’s raining would all be great choices! Or go for a tweed driving cap or some delicious Scottish cheese.
Victoria Street is a big draw for Harry Potter fans as it is possibly the inspiration for the infamous Diagon Alley. Pick up something magical at one of the Harry Potter themed souvenir shops.
As for the spooky spot, we’re talking about Greyfriars Kirkland (kirkyard, which means churchyard) is one of the oldest graveyards in Edinburgh.
There are nearly 600 headstones here with many of Scotland’s most notable residents residing underground here. You can book a tour through the attached museum or simply wander along the shaded, mysterious pathways.
National Museum of Scotland
Afterward, and your last big stop of the day, head over to the fascinating National Museum of Scotland. This museum is great for all ages and a perfect pitstop if it’s raining.
This incredible museum is full of historic relics, Scottish history on all things from clans to ancient harps, a fun-filled science floor, industrial remnants, a charming cafe, and so much more.
It’s like having a science museum, natural history museum, antiquities and art museum all rolled into one. It truly showcases the bredth of Scottish history.
Best of all, the entry to the museum is free. They have places around the museum where they mention making a donation of £5, which is still a huge bargain for the amazing collection.
Dinner at a Scottish pub
During the evening, indulge in some quintessential Scottish culture. So, hop over to a traditional pub for a hearty dinner! Pair your meal with a local artisan beer or a glass of whisky for the full experience.
Spending the day in Edinburgh’s Old Town, we recommend The Piper’s Rest. They use local ingredients to whip up some delicious Scottish scran (a way of referring to food in Scotland).
We stayed at the Lane Hotel in Morningside, which has one of the most notable pubs in Edinburgh called The Canny Mans.
This 152 year old family run pub is filled with nostalgic memorabilia and is a great place to go if you want to experience a true local’s pub.
Edinburgh Itinerary Day 2 – Edinburgh New Town
On day 2 of this Edinburgh Itinerary, you’ll venture out of the main tourist area and
Princes Street Gardens & Ross Fountain
After breakfast, get ready for another wondrous 3 days in Edinburgh. Your first stop of the day is Princes Street Gardens, just across from the Edinburgh Waverley Train Station.
This is one of the best places to visit in Edinburgh for lovely castle views, scenic walking paths among fresh flowers, and cozy picnic spots. Don’t forget to walk by the Ross Fountain with its iconic castle background, too!
Scottish National Gallery
Across the gardens near the train station, you’ll find the Scottish National Gallery. Home to impressive works of art throughout the ages, this museum is well worth a visit during your weekend away in Edinburgh.
And remember! Public museums are free to enter in Scotland and throughout the UK!
Circus Lane & Stockbridge Lunch
For another beautiful street in Edinburgh, Circus Lane is a picturesque cobbled street begging to be photographed. It’s a residential area full of flower-covered terraces that curls into a lovely U shape.
We recommend stopping in the Stockbridge area for lunch between Circus Lane and the Botanic Gardens. We ate at the Scran & Scallie. The food is upscale gastro pub fare. The steak pie was delish. Make a reservation ahead.
Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens
Plant lover or not, the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens (also know as The Botanics) are spectacular. Spanning 72 acres, the park showcases nearly 17,000 species with about 34,000 plants.
It was raining for my visit so rather than getting a nice stroll, I took a quick run trough some of the walking paths to see the beautifully manicured gardens.
If it was a gorgeous day, I could see spending a few hours here strolling around. The garden is open daily and entrance is free.
Walk along the Water of Leith where you can see the old-world St. Bernard’s Well on your way to the picturesque Dean Village. With a 3 day itinerary for Edinburgh, you can definitely stop at The Village.
This 19th-century Bucolic village is nestling between a stream with gardens and even a museum! It’s thought to be the oldest village in Edinburgh showing up on maps from the 1500’s.
We found it a little difficult to park so you might want to take a taxi or the Edinburgh Hop On Hop Off Bus, which is a great way to get around while you learn about Edinburgh along the way.
From here, you can easily look back down to Princes Street and enjoy a little shopping (there are many side streets with local boutiques and souvenir shops) before continuing on to the next stop on this weekend in Edinburgh itinerary.
We recommend trotting up Calton Hill around Golden Hour for some impeccable cityscape and countryside views, and even nice vantage points of the coastline.
Calton Hill is a spectacular compilation of historic monuments bundled up on a hillside that overlooks the city.
It’s one of the city’s best photography spots and if you come around Golden Hour/sunset, you can really take advantage of it all.
Even if you have just 2 days in Edinburgh, you’ll already have seen so much of what the city has to offer by this point.
Edinburgh Itinerary Day 3 – Take an Edinburgh Day Trip or Tour
We highly recommend carving enough time out of your Edinburgh Itinerary to do a full day tour to the Scottish Highlands. Here are 2 great choices. If you don’t have enough time, check out the Edinburgh tour options below.
Loch Ness & Highlands
Scotland and the Highlands go hand in hand. This area is deeply embedded in Scottish culture, from clans and kilts to towering hills, and seeing it with your own eyes is something truly special.
A Loch Ness & Scottish Highlands Tour is the top day trip to see some of the prettiest places in Scotland.
Hop on a Loch Ness boat cruise in search of the infamous Loch Ness Monster. Spot Highland cows, visit Urquhart Castle and the beautiful village of Pitlochry, and enjoy an amazing day filled with the beauty of Scotland.
This tour sells out so book your spot in advance.
Glenfinnan, Fort William, and Glencoe Day Tour
We love this Glenfinnan, Glencoe and Fort William Full-Day Tour because you get a chance to spend time in beautiful villages like Pitlochry and Glencoe.
You will also see the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct from Harry Potter. Fans will love a chance to snap photos of the legendary Jacobite steam train, just like Hogwarts Express, as it journeys through the Highlands.
Your guide will share fascinating Scottish history along the way as you see the highlights of the Highlands.
Fun Edinburgh Tours and Activities
Morning at Arthur’s Seat
For your last day in Edinburgh, start it off strong with a trek up Arthur’s Seat. After two days in Edinburgh, you’ll probably have caught a glimpse of this ancient volcanic hill a time or two.
Start at the bottom of Holyrood Park, at the very end of the Royal Mile, to begin your hike up the hill. The total journey will take about two hours round trip leisurely and the views will be well worth it!
Remember to bring comfortable shoes for this part of your 3 days in Edinburgh! You can also pack lunch and celebrate on top of the hill as you enjoy the iconic views from above.
Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
Once you’re back in Old Town in the afternoon, Camera Obscura is one of the best places to visit during a long weekend in Edinburgh.
Located in the Outlook Tower, this attraction has lured visitors since 1853 with its light illusions and 360-degree views of Old Town.
Scottish Whisky Experience
For the rest of the day, choose a tour (or two) of your preferences. Curious to try and learn more about Scottish whisky?
Skip the line with The Scotch Whisky Experience Tour that takes you through the whisky-making process and you’ll even get to sample some along the way! This is a great tour to relax a bit after seeing Edinburgh in 3 days.
Underground Vaults Ghost Tour
If the spookiness of Greyfriars Kirkland wasn’t enough for you, hop on an Underground Vaults Ghost Tour to see the city in a whole new, dimly-lit light.
Plus, did you know Edinburgh is considered one of the most haunted places in the UK? Hear ghost stories, visit the very eerie Underground Vaults on Blair Street, and enjoy a complimentary drink at Megget’s Cellar.
Where to Stay for a Long Weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland
For this long weekend in Edinburgh itinerary, we recommend booking a place to stay in Old Town or New Town to really make the most of your short trip.
At the historic heart, the Old Town neighborhood is full of winding cobblestone streets and historic buildings. The area exudes charm and character, and there are many amazing boutique hotels to choose from.
Located to the north of the Old Town, the New Town area of Edinburgh offers a more modern and upscale experience while still full of historic buildings.
The neighborhood is known for its stunning Georgian architecture and public squares, plus tons of beautiful accommodation options in Edinburgh.
Here are a few recommendations but we have a full guide for the best boutique hotels in Edinburgh to find your perfect stay.
- The Lane Hotel (9.2) – If you have a car, this bed and breakfast is tatefully decorated, so comfortable and affordable. We stayed here are thought it was terrific. If you don’t have a car, it is about 10-15 minutes away from everything.
- Native Edinburgh (8.9) – an aparthotel in New Town. It’s perfect if you need extra space or want to prepare some of your own meals. It’s stylish, affordable, and they have a laundry room!
- House of Gods Hotel (8.6) – walking distance to everything in Old Town, this hotel decorated in dark red tones will definitely make for a memorable stay.
- Virgin Hotels Edinburgh (8.9)- if you want one of the coolest hotels in town that’s stunning, has a great rooftop with amazing views and is close to everything, this is it. Mid price range for Edinburgh. Truly a great choice.
- Gleneagles Townhouse (9.2) – high priced, elegant, luxury hotel with a fitness center, rooftop deck and 5 star amenities..
Final Thoughts About an Edinburgh Itinerary for 3 Days
Whether you are traveling to Edinburgh as part of a larger trip to Scotland or just spending a few days to see one of the best cities in the UK, a long weekend in Edinburgh willl give you enough time to take in all the best sights.
If you are planning your trip for the high season during summer, especially in August during the Fringe Festival, make sure to plan ahead, especially with your hotels.