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24 hours in Edinburgh

Danielle WattLonely Planet author

Edinburgh is a walking city – one that repays those who tramp its cobbles with stately Georgian grandeur.  So with 24 hours up your sleeve, where would you go and what can you see?


Head over to Valvona & Crolla for breakfast.  This Italian delicatessen is an Edinburgh institution.  Counter staff can help select ingredients for an al fresco breakfast, or explore the deeper recesses of this foodie’s haunt and eat in the cafe.

Edinburgh Castle is a must, and there’s plenty to see as you make your way there.  Princes Street can be explored en route. The street is only built up on one side, allowing a spectacular view of the Princes Street Gardens and the castle itself.  Do some window-shopping and keep an eye out for a copy of The List (Edinburgh’s entertainment guide) – handy for choosing evening entertainment.

When you make it to The Royal Mile, it’s less window-shopping and more tourist tat-dodging as you approach the castle, but take a few minutes to appreciate the solemn grandeur of St Giles Cathedral. Even in non-festival time there could be a couple of street performers on the Mile to entertain you.

Sure, you could take half a day to explore Edinburgh Castle, but why not try these top three sights within: the tiny St Margaret’s Chapel, which dates from the 12th century; the Great Hall, with its 16th-century hammer beam roof; and the Scottish National War Memorial.

On the way back down The Royal Mile, pop into Edinburgh Woolen Mills for some traditional Arran knits, or if you prefer something a little less traditional, check out Ness for some brightly coloured tweed fun.


A five-minute walk down George IV Bridge will bring you to the National Museum of Scotland which is a must see even if only for its breathtaking, Crystal Palace inspired, main hall.  Hungry? Grab a bite at the comfy, affordable Assembly Bar.

When in Paris you go to see the Mona Lisa.  When in Edinburgh you go to see Greyfriars Bobby. This statue, honoring the memory of the faithful Skye terrier who sat watch on his master’s grave for 14 years, can be found near the Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Cross from Medieval Old Town to Georgian New Town by retracing your steps to Princes Street.  New Town, laid out according to enlightenment principles, is easy to navigate and retains its Georgian glamour.  Be sure to look both up and down as the buildings are lovely and Edinburgh has a basement level to explore throughout the whole of New Town.

Take the path beside Dean Bridge and stroll along beside the Waters of Leith, walking as far as the Royal Botanic Garden, established in 1670. Make a bee-line for the iron, stone and glass beauty of the Victorian Palm Houses. If you feel like escaping the crowds you can continue along the Waters of Leith and see ‘6 Times’ the Antony Gormley statues on the way to the National Gallery of Modern Art.

Time for a cuppa, so stop in to The Terrace Café in the gardens or stop by the Circle Café en route to a stroll down Alexander McCall Smith’s famous Scotland Street.


Thinking about dinner? If you like to plan ahead, make a dinner booking at Bells Diner (the restaurant is the size of a postage stamp) and so’s the menu but their burgers are excellent and their milkshakes to die for. A walk-in alternative is L’Alba D’Oro for a fish supper (fish & chips) – get it doused in ‘chippy’ sauce (an Edinburgh specialty).

After dinner make your way to The Cumberland Bar for a quiet drink or two.  If the weather’s nice you can take your tipple in their beer garden (a rarity in Edinburgh). If you’ve been clever enough to plan ahead, you can take a  ghost tour of underground Edinburgh with Mercat Tours (best to book ahead). Otherwise order another drink, flip open your copy of The List and see where the evening’s entertainment will take you.

Fancy staying longer than a day? Grab the latest Edinburgh Encounter from Lonely Planet and get straight to Edinburgh’s finest times.

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