How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Edinburgh
Scotland’s enchanting, condensed capital city is a hilly maze of historic buildings, cobblestone streets, and breathtaking views. As the second-largest city in Scotland and home to many of its modern businesses, Edinburgh remains astoundingly preserved. The city is the second-most visited destination in the United Kingdom after London.
Millions of tourists flock to Edinburgh’s incredible cultural and historical sites, such as Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile. Far from your average city, Edinburgh is also nestled between rugged hills and peaks, perfect for hiking. Therefore, as a diverse destination with a lot to offer, Edinburgh is the ideal place for a weekend away.
What to See in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
Interconnected streets which run through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile is a must-see on your trip to the city. These streets connect the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the city’s official royal residence, and Edinburgh Castle. In total, it is almost exactly a mile long. The Royal Mile includes many of the city’s most famous landmarks, as well as plenty of unique shops and pubs worth exploring. A gentle stroll down the Royal Mile will give you a real impression of what makes Edinburgh so magical.
High up on Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is a looming fortress which overlooks the city and surrounding areas. As the second-most visited paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, Edinburgh Castle welcomes over 2 million people each year and serves as a symbol for both the city of Edinburgh and Scotland in general. The castle has played an important role in Scottish history, which you can learn all about as you explore the castle and grounds freely. There are guides and characters along the way who can outline some of the castle’s fascinating past. Don’t miss the one-o-clock daily gunfire, a tradition which dates back to 1861 and once helped ships set their maritime clocks.
Edinburgh’s untarnished natural surroundings set it apart from other major cities, and Arthur’s Seat is a perfect example. This extinct volcano is the main peak within the hills that surround the city. About 1.6km east of Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat is very accessible from the city centre. On a mild, sunny day, climbing Arthur’s Seat is a great outdoor activity and a new way to appreciate Edinburgh. The hill is often cited as one of the possible locations of the mythological kingdom of Camelot, hence its legendary name.
Harry Potter fans will rejoice to find out that Edinburgh is the story’s true birthplace. Author J K Rowling lived and worked in the city as she wrote the Harry Potter series, leading to speculation that various sites around the city inspired aspects of the story. Victoria Street is said to be the original Diagon Alley, a reputation which it fully embraces. Pop into some of the themed Harry Potter shops which line this colourful street, or stop here on the Potter Trail walking tour. This free tour takes you all around Edinburgh, walking in the footsteps of Rowling as she created the magical world of Harry Potter.
Where to Go in Edinburgh
Perhaps the most photogenic spot in the city, Calton Hill boasts stunning views of Edinburgh and its many iconic landmarks. From this peak between Edinburgh’s Old and New Towns, you can see the sprawling outline of Edinburgh Castle, the clock tower on the Royal Balmoral Hotel, and the ornate spire of the Scotts Monument. Further, Calton Hill’s many old monuments may explain Edinburgh’s nickname, “The Athens of the North.” The headquarters of the Scottish government as well as the National Monument of Scotland, the Nelson Monument, and the Dugald Stewart Monument, are on Calton Hill.
National Museum of Scotland
Consisting of two main buildings, the National Museum of Scotland explores the country’s own history as well as exhibiting artefacts from around the world. You can follow Scotland as it develops from a mere early settlement to a modern, thriving city. One of the museum’s buildings is the original elegant Victorian structure, while the other is a unique contemporary addition. The museum is a great activity for a rainy day and can suit tourists of all ages who want to learn a bit more about Scotland.
The Real Mary King’s Close
For a closer look into life in Edinburgh throughout history, nothing beats the Real Mary King’s Close. This one-of-a-kind preserved historical area showcases what life was like in the city during the 1600s. Take a guided tour and journey into the past, exploring a real 17th-century street located underneath the famous Royal Mile. Shrouded in myths and legends, the Close was once home to quarantined sufferers of the Bubonic Plague that swept Europe. Therefore, the exhibit can be spooky, detailing the supposedly paranormal events that have taken place there ever since. Nevertheless, The Real Mary King’s Close is an intriguing place worth checking out.
The Elephant House
Another site that will appeal to fervent Harry Potter fans, J K Rowling wrote parts of the beloved books in this very cafe. Thus, it has taken on the title, “The Birthplace of Harry Potter.” The cosy cafe features a gourmet coffee and tea selection as well as delicious cakes, pastries, and other treats. The bathroom walls are covered in the writings of Harry Potter admirers from around the world, pilgrimaging to the cafe to pay their respects to the story and the esteemed writer. The cafe is also only a one minute walk from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, another favourite writing spot for Rowling where you might find some familiar character names among the tombstones.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
4* InterContinental Edinburgh The George
Situated on George Street, this luxurious hotel offers great access to the city’s main attractions. Guests will find themselves just a short distance from the castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Royal Mile. In addition, the hotel itself is inside an elegant 17th-century building. Spacious guest rooms reflect the buildings historical beauty, with exquisite designs and rich colours. The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen is the hotel’s own on-site restaurant, featuring original cocktails as well as cherished classics.
3* DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh
Right in the heart of the city centre, this hotel brings you the utmost comfort just walking distance away from all Edinburgh has to offer. Large suites and deluxe rooms even feature views of Edinburgh Castle. The onsite Bread Street Brasserie offers tasty options for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Then, head to the Monboddo Bar for a refreshing cocktail after a busy day exploring the city. You can get an early start each day at the 24-hour fitness centre, or relax in the serene guest rooms before setting out.
Are you ready to spend your next weekend getaway exploring beautiful Edinburgh?