Edinburgh Itinerary for 3 Days

Planning a trip to Scotland? Here’s an easy 3-day Edinburgh itinerary for first-time visitors to help you sort out your trip.

I’ve been trying to get Elissa to write about her post-Korea trip for a while now! She went to Europe for a few weeks to meet up with her sister, Jen, who was about to study abroad in Glasgow. She totally went above and beyond and sent me a TON of information on Scotland alone. I thought I’d split it up into a few different guides, so here’s the first: an Edinburgh Itinerary for 3 days.

Why Edinburgh?

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and a great base for anyone traveling through the country. It’s a beautiful area along the sea with the perfect rocky landscape for a backdrop.

The city itself is historically important to Scotland, and it’s also been home to some very prolific writers over the years. You’ve got Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, Muriel Spark, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — all from Edinburgh!

Travel Tip: Edinburgh is pronounced Ed-in-bruh or Ed-in-buh-ruh. I only say this because everyone will look at you funny if you pronounce it Eden-burgh!

The Perfect 3-Day Edinburgh Itinerary

Since our hostel was along the Royal Mile (the main street that connects Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse), it was extremely easy to walk everywhere.

Once you’ve dropped off your things at your accommodation, you can easily fit in the following for day. one.

Day 1: History & Harry Potter

Interior of the National Museum of Scotland
National Museum of Scotland, Photo by Filip Pižl

Visit the National Museum of Scotland

This National Museum of Scotland has a little bit of everything, but definitely, check out the exhibits on Scottish history and culture.

Hang out at the Elephant House

The Elephant House is where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter + the Sorcerer’s Stone. You know, only a casual, little book that shaped the lives of children and families everywhere…

Its views of Edinburgh Castle even served as inspiration for Hogwarts! Since it’s a cafe and restaurant, you can also plan to grab something to eat or take a coffee/tea break here.

Of course, this isn’t the only place for HP fans to visit in Edinburgh…

Visit more of the places important to JK Rowling while she wrote Harry Potter.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan, there are a ton of book-related things to see.

The easiest way to see most of them is to go on the Harry Potter Tour! It lasts around 2 hours beginning at the William Chambers Monument. For fun, they’ll sort you into your Hogwarts House and have little trivia questions throughout for you to earn points. See more details & book here

Day 2: History & Scotch Whisky

Visit St. Giles’ Cathedral.

St Giles’ Cathedral is a pretty cathedral with an interesting history. You can pop into it while walking along the Royal Mile.

edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle via Pixabay

Wander around Edinburgh Castle

This castle has a long and fascinating history, and it has great views of Edinburgh. Definitely recommend booking your ticket ahead of time.

Enjoy a Scotch Whisky Experience

If you love whisky or want to learn more about it, then definitely check out the Scotch Whisky Experience. It has an amazing selection and gives a good overview of Scotch (or Scottish whisky), especially if you don’t have time to visit individual distilleries. Book tickets here

Go on a Real Mary King’s Close Tour

A friend of Jen’s recommended Real Mary King’s Close, and it didn’t disappoint! This immersive tour is a great way to learn more about the daily lives of the people of Edinburgh during the 17th century. Book tickets here

Day 3: Dean’s Village & Calton Hill

Photo of Dean's Village by the river in Edinburgh, Scotland
Dean’s Village, Photo from Jen

Wander around Dean Village

This is my favorite part of Edinburgh! There isn’t much to do here besides wander around the streets and walk along the Water of Leith (Edinburgh’s largest river), but it’s worth it! It looks straight out of a fairytale.

carlton hill and views of Edinburgh, Scotland
Carlton Hill, Photo by Elissa

Get a beautiful view of the city from Calton Hill

This is a hilly area overlooking Edinburgh, with great city views. It’s gorgeous!

Other Things to Do in Edinburgh

Here are a few things we just didn’t get a chance to see or Jen saw later while studying in Scotland. If you’re super efficient, you could fit them into one of the three days or add a 4th day to your itinerary and visit then.

Visit the National Galleries of Scotland

There are three different art museums with a great collection of Scottish and international art. You’ll want to look for the National Gallery, National Gallery of Modern Art, and the National Portrait Gallery. Admission is free with the exception of some exhibitions.

Holyrood Park, Photo by Miguel Parente

Hike Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park

We didn’t make it here because of time and rain, but Jen went later in her semester and loved it! It also poured when she hiked it so it’s definitely doable in the rain, you’ll just get drenched…but it’s Scotland so it’s bound to happen.

Visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse

When the queen is in town, this is where she stays! The current palace has been around since the 17th century, and there’s even a lovely cafe if you’d like some afternoon tea. Book tickets here

Go to Fudge Kitchen for the best fudge possibly ever.

It’s located on the Royal Mile, and I still think about it 1 ½ years later…

Edinburgh Travel Tips

How to Get into Edinburgh

We were coming from Inverness, so we actually took the Megabus! It’s about a 3 1/2 – 5-hour bus ride depending on which of the times you pick. If you’re coming from Glasgow, it’s only about an hour journey. The bus will drop you off at the Edinburgh Bus Station.

If you’re flying into Edinburgh from abroad, you can use the Edinburgh Airport. Check here for transfers into the main part of the city or your accommodation.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

We stayed in a 10-bed female dorm at the Royal Mile Backpackers, and it was lovely! The people who worked there were extremely friendly and helpful, and the room we stayed in was spacious enough that it didn’t feel like there were eight other people in the room. To save money, we bought some food from the local market to eat for breakfast and dinner!

Have you been to Edinburgh yet? I was a huge Harry Potter fan as a kid, so this city has been on my list for well over a decade now. Let us know if we missed anything below, and a big thanks to Elissa for these guides!

For more European travel, read these posts next:

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