Only have time to spend one day in Edinburgh, Scotland? There’s a lot you can do in the city in just a short amount of time! Check out these fun things to do with just 24 hours in Edinburgh.
I’ve been to Edinburgh a couple times now, and when I took Kevin to Scotland we only had a short amount of time in the city. But we made the most of our time with this one day in Edinburgh itinerary that sees everything from the iconic Edinburgh Castle to the bustling pubs.
If you only have 24 hours in Edinburgh, this is the perfect itinerary for you!
One Day in Edinburgh Itinerary
1. Visit Edinburgh Castle
Sitting atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle has dominated the city skyline since the 12th century. The castle has had 26 sieges in its 1,100 years, making it the most besieged place in Great Britain.
The castle houses St Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in Edinburgh; the Royal Palace, which holds the Honours of Scotland: the crown, the sceptre, and the sword of state; the Scottish National War Memorial; and the One O’Clock Gun, which is a time signal fired every day at 1 p.m. sharp.
You’ll definitely want to spend some time touring the castle on your 24 hours in Edinburgh!
They have self-guided tours, or you can join a guided tour. The castle offers optional 30 minute guided tours as part of your admission. You can also book in-depth guided tours with other companies. I recommend either going with the castle’s guided tour or touring on your own.
I suggest visiting Edinburgh Castle earlier in the day. The castle gets crowded at mid-day when visitors line up to hear the One O’Clock Gun.
2. Walk the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the mile of street between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.
If you’re really dedicated, you can walk the whole Mile, and I’ve done it before; just remember that the Mile back toward the castle is all up hill. We only walked half of the Mile this time, and we had plenty of adventures along the way.
Up near the castle, the Royal Mile is peppered with tourist shops. In one of these, Kevin got fitted for and bought a kilt.
Along the street, buskers and street performers try to catch your eye. There is no lack of bagpipe players, of course, but you’ll also find hilarious street magicians and pyrotechnics.
And of course, the Royal Mile is the perfect place to get some haggis.
3. Dinner at The Royal Mile Tavern
The Royal Mile Tavern is a fitting place to get a taste of haggis, a traditional Scottish dish.
Haggis is made of sheep heart, liver, and lungs mixed with suet and spices and traditionally boiled in a lining of the sheep’s stomach, but more often now it’s encased in a sausage casing.
Kevin had a burger topped with haggis, and I had chicken stuffed with haggis. Both were delicious!
4. Visit Craigmillar Castle
Three miles south of Edinburgh city-centre are the ruins of Craigmillar Castle, best known for its association with Mary, Queen of Scots.
This is where the “Craigmillar Bond” agreement was made, in which many of Mary’s noblemen conspired to “remove” Mary’s unpopular husband.
At Craigmillar Castle, you get free reign over the grounds. At admissions, they tell you to try out all the doors, and if a door is unlocked then you are welcome to explore what’s behind it. On the walk up to the castle, you may be greeted by the castle cat who likes to wander the fields.
The keep of the castle was four stories tall and had plenty of rooms. There was so much to explore, we thought we might never get out of the castle!
At the top of the tower house, you can see views of the city, from Edinburgh Castle right down to Arthur’s Seat. The ruins are in surprisingly great shape, and there’s almost no room you can’t explore.
Once we’d poked our head into every chamber and taken every stairway to nowhere, we checked out the gift shop where I bought a Mary, Queen of Scots teddy bear. And I’m obsessed with her, she’s so freaking cute.
Mapping Out Your One Day in Edinburgh
Ready to explore Edinburgh’s top attractions and hidden gems? Use the map below to help plan out your one day in Edinburgh, Scotland.
I hope this itinerary for 24 hours in Edinburgh helps you plan the perfect vacation!
We stayed in a cute little townhouse hotel called Hotel Ceilidh-Donia just south of Arthur’s Seat. The room had a king-sized bed and a large bathroom. Even being in the front room right by the door, it wasn’t very loud and guests coming and going didn’t bother us. Highly recommend for a short stay in Edinburgh!
More Edinburgh Tips
Find even more fun things to do in Edinburgh, Scotland with these itineraries:
- 5 Free Things to See and Do in Edinburgh, Scotland
- Visiting Craigmillar Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland
- Visiting Edinburgh Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland
Ready to visit Edinburgh, Scotland? Plan your trip with these tips.
- Book Your Flight: Find the cheapest flights using Skyscanner, my favorite flight search engine.
- Find Accommodation: You can find top hotels in Edinburgh using Booking.com.
- Start Packing: Check out my packing list resources so you’re prepared for your trip.
Did you find this one day in Edinburgh guide helpful? How will you spend your 24 hours in Edinburgh, Scotland? Let me know in the comments below!