Scotland’s capital has long been a popular tourist destination. With its romantic medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town, its lush gardens and the ever watching Edinburgh Castle standing high above it, there is plenty to do and see in this atmospheric city. So here are some recommendations of sights that you shouldn’t miss on a 24 hour visit.
1. Royal Mile
Take a morning stroll down the bustling Royal Mile. Walk along the famous cobblestones admiring the medieval architecture, and try to spot some of the sights, like the statue of David Hume and the impressive 14th-century St Giles’ Cathedral. If you’re looking to buy any souvenirs this is the perfect place as you’ll find shops selling all things Scotland, from tartan to flags to scrumptious shortbread.
2. Princes Street Gardens and Scott Monument
Created in the 1820s following the draining of the Nor Loch, Princes Street Gardens are two adjacent public parks in the centre of the city. The beautiful gardens separate the New Town from the Old Town, and sit in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Filled with statues and monuments, the tiered gardens host incredible floral displays, such as the floral clock. Also in these gardens, standing proudly at the top of 287 steps, is the Scott Monument. One of the most iconic Edinburgh landmarks, constructed in 1846 the sandstone tower is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and is one of the largest monuments to a writer anywhere in the world. The views across the capital from here are also spectacular.
3. Lunch at the Elephant House
The famous food institution of Edinburgh, situated on the George IV Bridge, Elephant house is popular with both locals and tourists. The café offers a range of tasty snacks and hot drinks, and has several strong literary connections which add to its friendly atmosphere. Authors Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith frequent the cafe and it is also said to be where JK Rowling sat while writing the early Harry Potter books.
4. Greyfriar’s Bobby
An essential stop for any animal lovers is Greyfriar’s Bobby, a hundred yards or so from the Elephant House. This small statue commemorates one of the city’s most well-loved residents, a Skye terrier known as Greyfriars Bobby. The little dog faithfully guarded his owners grave in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard for fourteen years, and became famous following numerous books and a Disney film.
5. Edinburgh Castle
Now onto the essential tourist spot and the city’s most iconic landmark, Edinburgh Castle. The building towers majestically over the city, perched atop a volcanic outcrop which stands out from miles around. Head up early in the morning to avoid the crowds, or on last entry when its also quieter and offers a view of the city at dusk. However there is plenty to see at the castle so be sure to check ahead how much of it you want to explore, so that you leave enough time to do so. If you are particularly into history or after more spectacular views of the city, also check out Arthur’s Seat, a bit of a climb but definitely worth it.
6. Jenners or a museum
Depending on your preference, take a trip to Jenners, the city’s most famous department store, or head to one of its brilliant museums. The former, also known as the ‘Harrods of the North’, has been located in the grand old corner building directly across from the Scott Monument since it was founded in 1838. If you prefer the latter, visit the National Galleries of Scotland complex a couple of minutes walk from Jenners. With free entry, it comprises of the Royal Scottish Academy and the National Gallery of Scotland and houses works by many old masters, including Titian, Da Vinci, Raphael, Vermeer, and others renowned artists such as Monet, Degas, Constable, Turner and Cezanne. Additionally, the National Museum of Scotland, just across from Greyfriars Bobby, houses collections celebrating Scotland’s culture, history and people and is a great way to explore Scottish history from the primeval age right up to the modern era, also with free entry.
Edinburgh has a great food scene, with award-winning eateries and top restaurants to suit all budgets scattered around the city, as well as the most Michelin stars outside of London. The Dome, located in George Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, is a popular choice. It was originally the old Physicians Hall before becoming a bank, and then reopening in 1996 as a renowned bar and restaurant. A great place to relax and refuel for the evening.
8. Drinks at The Grassmarket
The Grassmarket, in the centre of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town, is one of the most vibrant, picturesque and lively areas of the city. A haven of independent merchants, designers and artisans, as well as having some of the best shopping in Edinburgh it also has a reputation for its great restaurants, and for having some of the most animated and eclectic bars in the city. A drink or two in any one of these cool places is a great way to round off your busy day of sightseeing, before heading home to one of the many hotels, hostels and B&Bs available in the city.