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From Dawn to Dusk The Best of Edinburgh in 24 Hours

From Dawn to Dusk: The Best of Edinburgh in 24 Hours

Anyone who thinks it’s impossible to fall head over heels in a single day clearly hasn’t experienced the allure of Edinburgh. 

As a UNESCO World Heritage site, Edinburgh has stunningly preserved landmarks and historic buildings. It also offers whimsical hotspots, captivating landscapes, and world-class restaurants that will enchant visitors.

Embarking on a first date with Edinburgh and not sure what to do with the limited time you have? I’ve come up with a 24-hour itinerary just for you so you can enjoy speed-dating the city!

How do I spend a day in Edinburgh?

A great way to spend a day in Edinburgh would be to visit iconic spots such as Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh Castle, and Camera Obscura. One should also have a pint at Cold Town and sample traditional fare at Maison Bleue.

Keep reading to get to know these places in more detail! I’ve organised this from the start of the day to the end so you can follow it in order and complete the itinerary in 24 hours.

1. Take a sunrise hike to Arthur’s Seat.

Take a sunrise hike to Arthur’s Seat's Homepage
 Photo by Sarah from My Veggie Travels

Conquering Arthur’s Seat at the crack of dawn is the best way to start your day in bonnie Edinburgh. Rising majestically above Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat reigns supreme as the highest point in the area.

Before heading out, I make sure to check the weather forecast first. Believe me, you do not want to be stuck there when it rains or becomes too windy – which is usually the case in our city.

Also, I always check the time of the sunrise. Then, I start climbing around 40 minutes to 1 hour before, so I can reach Arthur’s Seat just in time for the amazing sunrise view.

Next, I wear something with a grip, like sturdy walking shoes or old hiking boots. No, you cannot wear heels to “look cute,” nor can you wear a new pair of hiking boots or flip flops.

Regardless of the forecast, I always make sure to wear layers, bring my rain gear, and pack water, along with some nibbles.

Weekends are often bustling with visitors. I tend to steer clear of weekends to avoid the crowds.

For first-timers in Edinburgh, I recommend taking the Zigzag Path. This particular route would only take you a mere 25 minutes to ascend from the main parking lot.

The breathtaking panoramic 360-degree view from the top, going as far as the North Sea, is well worth the climb. After admiring the tantalising sunrise, you can now bask in Scotland’s natural beauty.

2. Get a full Scottish breakfast at The Edinburgh Larder.

Get a full Scottish breakfast at The Edinburgh Larder's Homepage
 Photo by The Edinburgh Larder 
Address15 Blackfriars St, Edinburgh EH1 1NB, United Kingdom
Contact Details+44 131 556 6922
Opening HoursMon-Fri: 7:30 AM–3 PMSat-Sun: 8 AM–3 PM

Nothing beats having a steaming cup of rich coffee and relishing a hearty full Scottish breakfast after a hike. That’s why I recommend popping in at The Edinburgh Larder.

If you’ve still got the energy, you can make your way here on foot from Arthur’s Seat. Otherwise, you can catch a bus at the Scottish Parliament and get off at the Museum of Childhood. 

This place offers proper delicious, handcrafted artisan coffee. It’s open at 7:30 AM on weekdays and 8:00 AM on weekends. 

I typically order their full Scottish breakfast. It’s made up of smoked back bacon, black pudding, haggis, Cumberland sausage, roasted mushroom and cherry tomatoes, a potato scone, beans, a poached egg, and buttered granary toast.

Do you know why I love this dish? The savoury meats are paired perfectly with the tangy beans and tomatoes, and the toast has a nice, comforting crunch.

Every cup of coffee they serve is a masterpiece, but my taste buds are completely smitten with their flat white. It’s the perfect blend of velvety milk and rich espresso, with just the right amount of sweetness to balance everything out! 

If a full Scottish brekkie is not for you, then I suggest you go home. Just kidding! This cafe is also quite famous for their delicious eggs benedict, porridge, and hash, as well as their scrummy dark chocolate and nut brownies.

3. Visit the National Museum of Scotland.

Visit the National Museum of Scotland's Homepage
Photo by Wikipedia
AddressChambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, United Kingdom
Contact Details+44 300 123 6789
Opening HoursMon-Sun: 10 AM–5 PM

From the Larder, take a leisurely 6-minute walk to the National Museum of Scotland by heading south, on the scenic Cowgate and Chambers Street route. The museum is nestled at the crossroads of Chambers and the National Cycle Route 75. 

The National Museum of Scotland is actually the most popular visitor attraction in the country, welcoming over two million visitors every year! 

I wouldn’t recommend going here during peak tourist season (summer months). The crowds can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first-time visitors.

Also, I always check the museum’s events schedule before a trip. Then, I can plan a visit around any special exhibitions or events that I’m interested in.

The Scottish galleries showcase the nation’s history and culture, while the Natural World galleries boast an extensive animal collection, including a life-size cast of a blue whale!

Are you an art or fashion lover? Visit the Art, Design, and Fashion galleries, which display a range of works from contemporary art to traditional Scottish textiles.

Are you a science nut? The Technology and Science galleries are for you to enjoy, with its interactive displays on modern innovations.

Before going here, I suggest you go on their website and check out the galleries you’d like to post on Insta for the next week or so. I mean, the galleries you’d like to explore – you know, for culture and stuff.

Since we’re heading straight to Edinburgh Castle after the museum, lunch may be delayed. I recommend grabbing a quick bite at Balcony Café on level 3, where you can find fresh sandwiches, hot soup, tea, and coffee.

Lastly, don’t miss the chance to visit the rooftop terrace, which offers stunning views of Edinburgh Castle and the city skyline!

4. Explore Edinburgh Castle.

Explore Edinburgh Castle's Homepage
Photo by Wikipedia
AddressCastlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, United Kingdom
Contact Details+44 131 225 9846
Opening HoursMon-Sun: 9:30 AM–6 PM

After immersing yourself in what the museum had to offer, you can now take a brisk 7-minute walk towards Edinburgh Castle. Fun fact: It’s located on top of an extinct volcano, which last erupted 340 million years ago. 

If you’re afraid that it might erupt while you’re there, well, I can’t promise you anything, but I’ll pray for you. Nah, you’ll be fine, mate!

I suggest that you book your tickets in advance online to avoid long queues at the entrance.

For history buffs, you can choose to go on a guided tour, so that you can learn more about the castle’s origins.

As for the attractions, I’d like to recommend three in particular.

First, visit the Scottish Crown Jewels, which include the crown, sceptre, and sword of state. Gaze in awe at the glittering symbols of royalty that you and I could never have.

After sufficiently feeling like a peasant, you can now pop by the Scottish National War Memorial. It honours the sacrifices of Scottish soldiers in various conflicts throughout history.

Before having your late lunch, I suggest waiting for the One O’Clock Gun ceremony. It fires every day (except Sunday) at precisely 1:00 PM and can be heard throughout the city.

5. Have a pint at Cold Town House.

Have a pint at Cold Town House's Homepage
Photo by Cold Town House
Address4 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JU, United Kingdom
Contact Details+44 131 357 2865
Opening HoursMon-Wed: 12 PM–11 PM
Thursday: 12 PM–12 AM
Friday: 12 PM–1 AM
Saturday: 11 AM–1 AM
Sunday: 11 AM–11 PM

Feeling famished after getting doused with a healthy amount of culture? Don’t worry, Cold Town House is just a mere 3-minute walk away. 

Hailed as one of the best rooftop bars in Edinburgh, this three-floor tavern serves award-winning craft beer and top-notch treats.

Whenever I want to enjoy their breathtaking rooftop space, I make a very advanced booking. Don’t wait until the last minute to secure your spot since this place is quite popular.

For the appetiser, I highly recommend trying their haggis loaded fries. These crispy skin-on fries are topped with smoky bacon, flavorful haggis, and a delicious peppercorn sauce.

As for the main grub, my personal fave is their fresh Morningside pizza.

The tomato sauce provides a tangy and slightly sweet flavour, while the fresh mozzarella gives a hint of creaminess. The fresh basil adds a bright and herbaceous note, giving you the perfect bite.

They have other fab dishes as well. From their hearty steak frites to their juicy burgers, you’ll be so full you’ll need to be rolled out the door!

Of course, the real gem is their signature Cold Town Lager. This refreshing lager is brewed right on the premises using the finest Scottish barley and Czech hops, ensuring a truly authentic taste of Edinburgh.

6. Have a blast at Camera Obscura.

Have a blast at Camera Obscuras' Homepage
Photo by Camera Obscura
AddressThe Royal Mile, 549 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2ND, United Kingdom
Contact Details+44 131 226 3709
Opening HoursMon-Thurs: 9 AM–8 PM
Friday: 9 AM–9 PM
Saturday: 9 AM–10 PM
Sunday: 9 AM–9 PM

I think your date with Edinburgh is going well so far; you’ve gotten to know each other’s backgrounds. This part of the date is where you let your hair down! 

Only a 6-minute trek from Cold Town lies the marvel that is Camera Obscura & World of Illusions. It offers a feast for the senses and transports visitors to a world of wonder and optical trickery.

Feel free to try all of the quirky experiences that Camera Obscura has to offer. My top three must-tries would have to be these:

  • The Camera Obscura itself. It provides me with a breathtaking 360-degree view of Edinburgh from atop the tower.
  • The Mirror Maze. This is where you can test your navigation skills as you attempt to find a way through a maze of mirrors.
  • The Rooftop Terrace. Hands down one of my favourite spots, it offers stunning panoramic views of Edinburgh and is the perfect spot to relax and take in the sights.

Now, if you’re like me who gets dizzy easily, then do not, I repeat DO NOT, go in the Vortex Tunnel. The illusion of a spinning, disorienting tunnel might be fun for some, but let’s just say I almost lost my lunch at one point.

7. Stroll along the Royal Mile.

Stroll along the Royal Mile's Hoempage
Photo by Wikipedia

As the sun begins to set and the day draws to a close, what could be more enchanting than a romantic stroll along the fabled Royal Mile? It’s a picturesque walkway that oozes with charm, character, and centuries of Scottish roots.

Since you’re new to Edinburgh, make sure you stop by the incredible St Giles’ Cathedral. It’s seriously impressive and one of Scotland’s most significant religious landmarks. 

Also, you gotta check out the street performers and musicians that often entertain visitors along the Royal Mile. I think they’re proper brilliant, and their mad skills make for a cracking good time.

If you want to bring a piece of Edinburgh with you, then do stop by the braw wee shops and boutiques scattered along the Royal Mile for some delightful souvenirs and unique gifts.

Feel free to also explore the hidden closes and alleyways that branch off from the Royal Mile for a glimpse into the city’s past. Their mysteries are waiting to be discovered by intrepid explorers like yourself.

Speaking of mysteries, The Royal Mile is said to be one of the most haunted streets in Edinburgh, with many ghost stories surrounding the area. But, don’t let the possibility of running into a vengeful ghost stop you from having a good time!

8. Have supper at Maison Bleue.

Have supper at Maison Bleue's Homepage
Photo by Maison Bleue
Address4 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JU, United Kingdom
Contact Details+44 131 357 2865
Opening HoursMon-Wed: 12 PM–11 PMThursday: 12 PM–12 AMFriday: 12 PM–1 AMSaturday: 11 AM–1 AMSunday: 11 AM–11 PM

What a perfect way to end your date with Edinburgh – a romantic supper at one of the best dinner spots in town: Maison Bleue.

This charming restaurant is only 2-minutes away from the Royal Mile. I love the interior of the restaurant because it’s cosy and inviting, with its exposed brick walls, wooden beams, and vintage lighting.

I eat dinner here at least twice a month, and I usually start with their calamari on a bed of chilli and peppers. It’s crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and the chilli and peppers give it a bit of a kick.

If I’m feeling a bit fancy, I get their fondue de camembert as well. Nothing quite like dunking croutons in a pot of melted cheese to make you feel like you’re living your best life.

My absolute fave is their chargrilled ribeye steak that comes with pommes châteaux and red wine jus. On some nights, however, I think of my cardiologist and order their fresh parsley-crusted fillet of cod instead. 

I usually end the meal on a sweet note and order their yummy creme brûlée. The velvety custard is complemented by the crackling burnt sugar crust that shatters with every spoonful, making it the perfect ending to an indulgent meal.

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