How to visit Edinburgh in 3 days

Edinburgh 3-Day Itinerary: The Perfect Guide!

Edinburgh is second only to London as the most visited city in the United Kingdom. It’s easy to see why it’s a city full of charm, bursting with amazing historic buildings, cobbled streets, endless gardens, and public spaces surrounded by beautiful scenery. The following post gives what I believe to be the perfect Edinburgh 3-day itinerary to get the best out of a visit to this fantastic city!

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How To Get To Edinburgh


Edinburgh International Airport is approximately 10 miles away from the city centre. Once at the airport, the city centre can be reached easily by public transport. For the best deals on flights, I recommend Skyscanner!

Transfer by tram – There is a regular tram link into Edinburgh city centre; for more details, check out Edinburgh Trams.

Transfer by bus – There are several bus links from the airport to various areas around Edinburgh; however, the airport link 100 runs every 10 minutes into Edinburgh’s city centre. For more details on bus services within Edinburgh, check out the Transport for Edinburgh.


The main city centre train station is Edinburgh Waverley, located slap bang in the middle of Edinburgh within walking distance of the old and new town. For more information and booking train tickets within the UK, check out The Trainline.

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Edinburgh can be reached by bus from most other UK cities. For low-cost bus operators, check out National Express.

A helpful app for checking out routes around the UK and the rest of Europe is Omio. This app will give you options for planes, trains and Buses and the ability to book securely through the app.

Where To Stay In Edinburgh?

Whatever your budget, many hotels, guesthouses and hostels are located within the city centre and close to most of its attractions. The best area to stay in is the old town, close to the Royal Mile; most of Edinburgh’s attractions will be right on your doorstep. For the best deals on hotels, I recommend using

Another area worth looking at is Princes Street, Edinburgh’s new town district. Edinburgh’s Main train station, Waverley, is located between these areas, giving easy access. However, wherever you decide to stay, you will find it extremely easy to get into the city centre with the excellent public transport links.

My preferred hotel in Edinburgh is The Ibis South Bridge. It is ideally situated close to the Royal Mile and is excellent value for money. The hotel has Ibis Sweet Beds, air-conditioned rooms, a flat-screen TV, a desk, a hairdryer, and tea and coffee facilities. All have en-suite bathrooms with shower and complimentary toiletries. Prices start at £100 a night for a standard double room and £150 for a Premier room with a sitting area.

For those of you who want a more budget-friendly option in Edinburgh, I recommend Budget Backpackers. I stayed here on my first trip to Edinburgh and thought it was a fabulous hostel! It’s a very comfortable, clean hostel with an on-site bar, lounge and chill-out area. The staff are extremely friendly and offer a variety of excursions and advice for those new to the area. For only £12 a night, I thought it was excellent value for money. 

For those unsure about staying in hostels, check out my guide on surviving your first time in a hostel!

Edinburgh 3-Day Itinerary – Day One

Walk The Royal Mile!

Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the heart of this historic city, running from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace. Along the route, you will find fascinating museums, historic landmarks, secret places and various shops, restaurants and cafes.

Edinburgh 3-day itinerary, the perfect guide

Start the day early with a hearty breakfast at your hotel or the many cafes along the mile. Once you’re all filled up, walk up the mile towards Edinburgh’s most iconic landmark, Edinburgh Castle.

I recommend purchasing tickets in advance especially during the summer high season.

Ticket prices range between £15.50 – £19.50 for adults and £9.00 – £11.40 for children, depending on the time of year.

For those with Historic Scotland membership, entrance to the castle is free. It is also free for 2nd-year members of English Heritage and Cadw and half price for 1st-year members. I would still recommend booking tickets in advance, even with a membership, as you will avoid queueing to get in. (they will still be free; make sure you pick the relevant type of ticket online).

After spending an hour or two exploring Edinburgh Castle, make your way down the mile; along the way, you’ll be spoilt for choice with shops selling souvenirs, cafes for grabbing a much-needed snack or coffee, as well as many small alleyways to explore called closes. One such close to check out is Lady Stairs Close; you’ll find the quaint Writers Museum here.

The Writers Museum is free to enter and showcases three of Scotland’s most famous writers, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Once back on the mile, the next port of call will be the beautiful St Giles Cathedral. From the outside, it doesn’t look as impressive as the Liverpool Anglican Cathedral or London’s St Paul’s, but inside, it is stunning, and the attention to detail in parts is exquisite.

Entrance is by donation; the suggested donation is £6.

After wandering around the Cathedral, you’ll probably need some lunch. Stop in one of the many cafes or restaurants for a bite to eat and then continue down the mile towards Holyrood House.

If interested along the route, you will also go past some fascinating museums such as The Museum of ChildhoodThe Museum of Edinburgh and the Peoples Story Museum. If you have the time, I recommend all these museums, especially if you want to learn more about Edinburgh and Scottish history. 

At the bottom of the Royal Mile, you will find the beautiful Palace of Holyrood House.  Holyrood Palace is the official royal residence of His Majesty the King in Scotland. It also has a close association with some of Scotland’s most historic figures, such as Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie. 

The entrance fee is £22 for adults (only £20 if booked online) and includes an audio guide that walks you through the various rooms and areas of the house, providing a detailed history along the way. The tour also includes the remains of the Holyrood Abbey and the beautiful gardens.

After exploring the palace, you could either head back to your hotel for a freshen up and go back out to enjoy a meal and some of Edinburgh’s nightlife, or you could head up to Arthur’s Seat to watch the sunset. 

Arthur’s seat sits prominently looking down over Edinburgh, and although it’s a bit of a trek to reach the summit, the views from the top are stunning! There are numerous walking trails up to the top, but the main trail begins behind Holyrood House.

How to visit Edinburgh in 3 days

Be warned, It’s colder up the top than below, so bring some extra warm clothes and snacks. The climb is relatively easy, depending on your route. The quicker routes are generally the steepest, making it harder for some. Check out GeoWalks for the best route for you.

Edinburgh 3-Day Itinerary – Day Two

The Best Museums

After a good night’s rest and a hearty breakfast, it’s time to explore more of Edinburgh’s iconic landmarks and museums. 

I would first visit the University of Edinburgh to see the Surgeon’s Hall Museum. Although it may not be everyone’s cup of tea, I found it absolutely fascinating! I highly recommend this museum for those interested in health sciences or anatomy.

This museum gives a fantastic insight into the history of surgical techniques without it being a gory medical establishment! The exhibits are shown interestingly and educational, with some, have a go yourself technical challenges. There is also an interesting pathology exhibit, which, I will warn you, houses hundreds of body parts in glass jars. However, it’s not as gory as you would imagine.

Entrance into the museum is £9.50 for adults and only £6 for NHS workers with valid ID (I never had my ID with me, but they still gave me the discount).

After you finish exploring the surgeon’s hall, I recommend heading back towards the town and visiting The National Museum of Scotland, one of Edinburgh’s best museums.

The museum itself is enormous and has a multitude of displays and exhibits. This diverse collection will take you on a historic journey not only in Scotland but around the world. The museum is open daily from 10 am -5 pm and has free admission.

By now, it’s time to grab a bite to eat and then head back to the Royal Mile. Walking through Lady Stairs Close past The Writers Museum, you will find yourself across the road from The Museum on the Mound. This museum is all about the history of money and is well worth a visit if you have time; if not, check out the grounds, as it has fantastic views across the city!

In the distance, you will see The Scott Monument and the Princes Street Gardens. Both are worth a visit; you can climb to the top of the Scott Monument and enjoy some fantastic views and visit a small museum for an £8 entrance fee.

If you are tired of wandering around museums, why not check out the fabulous shopping district around Princes Street or walk up Calton Hill to check out the Nelson Monument and the National Monument of Scotland?

Edinburgh 3-day itinerary, the perfect guide

In the evening, why not do an underground tour? There are many to choose from. I recommend the ‘Double Dead’ underground and graveyard tour from The City of the Dead Tours

This tour starts from outside St Giles Cathedral. It takes you deep into Edinburgh’s historic underground South Bridge vaults and a ghostly tour of the Covenanter’s Prison in Greyfriars’s Graveyard. Warning! It’s not for the faint-hearted! Tour prices start from around £16

If ghosts aren’t your thing, then a Real Mary Kings Close tour will get you to experience Edinburgh’s underground streets without the scary ghost stories! Entrance is opposite St Giles Cathedral with a £22.50 entrance free with tours running every 15 minutes throughout the day and up to 9.30 pm in the summer months.

Edinburgh 3-Day Itinerary – Day Three

Explore The Surrounding Area

After all that exploring, today is a time to chill out and get some wonderful sea air with a trip to Cramond island and, if you fancy it, to see the iconic Forth bridges.

Cramond Island is a lovely island reached only by a causeway during low tide. The surrounding area is beautiful, with plenty of walking trails to explore. If you want to walk across the island, check out the tidal times so you won’t want to end up stranded.

The Forth Railway Bridge is an iconic landmark in Scotland and is now one of three bridges stretching across the Forth River. The bridges are situated in the quaint town of South Queensferry, with its lovely promenade and pretty houses. The area is well worth a trip out and will make a great day combined with a trip to Cramond Island.

Edinburgh 3-day itinerary, the perfect guide

If, after all that exploring, you still have time to fit in one last spot on the tourist trail, why not have a good old tipple at The Scotch Whisky Experience? They have a variety of tasting tours on offer and also have an onsite restaurant serving traditional Scottish fare. It sounds like the perfect way to finish an excellent three days in Edinburgh!

Final Thoughts

So there you have it, my perfect 3-day itinerary of Edinburgh. Of course, there are plenty of other things to do in Edinburgh, so if you fancy changing a few things or spending more time in the area and need some more inspiration, check out my other Edinburgh guides.

Thanks so much for stopping by; I appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and make it to the end! I have lots of exciting new content in the next few weeks, so make sure you pop back to catch up! 

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Happy travels!

Edinburgh 3-day itinerary, the perfect guide
Edinburgh 3-day itinerary, the perfect guide

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