With its atmospheric medieval streets, elegant Georgian townhouses, and hilltop castle, Edinburgh is one of Europe’s prettiest cities. It’s also blessed with a fascinating history, rich arts and literary scene, and great nightlife. With only one day in town, you’ll want to experience as much as possible, so here’s how to make the most of 24 hours in Edinburgh.
Morning: See the Sights
The cobblestone streets, hidden courtyards, and winding alleys of Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town make it a pleasure to explore on foot. To catch all of the area’s top sights and learn about its literary—and often dark—history, join a private or group walking tour that leads you along and around the Royal Mile. Alternatively, a hop-on hop-off bus tour is ideal for travelers who want more flexibility: you can get off at any point of interest along the route—including Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland—and spend as long as you like there.
Afternoon: Explore Edinburgh Castle
Some walking tours and bus tours include entrance to Edinburgh Castle, the historic fortress perched atop an extinct volcano that dominates the city’s skyline. Even if your morning tour does not include entrance, the castle deserves a focused visit; book a tour that includes skip-the-line entry to ensure you don’t waste time lining up for tickets. Private and group guided tours provide historical and cultural insights into the castle and its grounds and take you to see such sights as the Crown Jewels of Scotland, including the Stone of Destiny, which was used in the coronation of Scottish monarchs.
Night: Enjoy the Nightlife
Edinburgh is a city of cozy traditional pubs filled with talkative characters, good drinks and comforting food, and, often, live music and storytelling. Get a taste of the local nightlife on a pub crawl through the Old Town, which includes free drinks at several different spots, or by booking an evening excursion that includes a traditional dinner accompanied by Scottish songs, bagpipes, and poetry. Another option is a whisky-focused evening excursion, which includes sampling single malts while immersing yourself in the deep-rooted Scottish tradition of storytelling for a more rounded experience of Scottish culture.