Planning 4 days in Edinburgh and wondering how to plan your time? I am here to help! This is the best itinerary to see Edinburgh in 4 days with alternative suggestions to suit different interests, and travel tips to visit Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a charming European destination. It’s a mix between medieval buildings, a modern town, unique traditions, and a lot of culture and history topped with some spooky vibes.
In fact, the legendary Scottish capital is famous for being haunted. One of the main attractions in Edinburgh is a museum dedicated to literature, so book lovers certainly won’t be bored here.
In this article, you will find a complete 4-day itinerary for Scotland. At the end of the itinerary, there are additional travel tips to make this planning process as easy as possible. We will cover the best hotels, the best time to visit, how to move around, and even the best day trips from Edinburgh for those who have more time and want to see the rest of Scotland.
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How many days in Edinburgh?
There are a lot of fun things to do in Edinburgh. To enjoy most of these things I recommend you to spend 3 or 4 days in Edinburgh. This way, you will see the best of Edinburgh and have the time to take a day trip around Scotland, which is certainly worth seeing.
The main attractions in Edinburgh are located mostly within the old town and the new town but some of the best things to do in Edinburgh are located away from the center. Leith area, once well known to be one of the most dangerous areas in the city, now is renewed and offers some best restaurants in Edinburgh, or the Dean Village, one of my favorite secret spots in Edinburgh. We will cover all these places in this Edinburgh itinerary.
Getting around Edinburgh
The airport of Edinburgh is well linked to the center of the town. You can find busses, taxis, trains, and a tram. The tram is probably the best option since it’s cheap, modern, and quick. In 30 minutes you will be in the center of Edinburgh and a single ticket will cost you 6.50 pounds.
Edinburgh doesn’t have a metro system, nevertheless, the public transport is exceptional and will take you everywhere you need, in case you don’t feel like walking.
Tickets can be purchased directly on the bus and there is a daily ticket option for 4.50 pounds or 10 pounds if you are planning to use your daily ticket to get from the airport to the city center. Weekly tickets can also be purchased.
A taxi from the airport will cost you slightly above 20 pounds and could be a great option if you have a lot of luggage. It takes around 30 minutes with no traffic.
When to visit Edinburgh?
Edinburgh has 4 seasons, so it’s up to you to choose when it is the best time to visit.
The winter can be pretty cold and windy, but on the other hand, the Christmas markets and the Hogmanay are fantastic events. The city brights up with a magical sparkle and atmosphere that has no equal. If the weather is too cold to be outside you can always warm up in a pub or one of the several free museums in Edinburgh.
Spring is lovely as the city starts to bloom in the beautiful parks the city has. The days are fresh and it starts to be pleasant to be outside and make day trips around Scotland.
Autumn is perfect to admire the foliage in Edinburgh and around the country. The downside here can be the rain, as autumn tends to be wet. But nothing that suitable clothes can’t fix.
Finally, summer is my favorite season to visit Edinburgh. The weather is lovely, yet never too hot. In August, the famous festival of Edinburgh takes place in the city. As this is a quite popular event, the city flourishes with fun activities and artists. This also means higher prices, fully booked accommodations, and crowds. If you want to avoid it and don’t really care about the festivaò, visit Edinburgh between June and July.
Where to stay in Edinburgh for 4 days?
As I mentioned, the main attractions in Edinburgh are located within the old and the new town so these are the best areas where to stay in Edinburgh. It’s well connected with a means of public transport and these areas have some of the most beautiful hotels in Edinburgh. You can read about the best boutique hotels in Edinburgh or check these quick hotel recommendations for Edinburgh for 4 days!
LUXURY: The Balmoral Hotel
It is one of the most photographed buildings in the Scottish capital, so it says a lot already. Located in the vibrant Princess Street, The Balmoral Hotel offers a Michelin-starred restaurant and the famous Palm Court, where you can try one of the best afternoon teas in Edinburgh. The details of the rooms are incredible and some of the rooms offer a stunning view of the Castle.
UNIQUE: The Witchery by the Castle
The Witchery by the Castle is more than a simple accommodation, it’s an experience. Carefully and Lavishly furnished, this glamorous hotel will win the heart of the most demanding customers in fact, it is described as one of the seven wonders of the hotel world by Cosmopolitan magazine. Inside the hotel, you will find one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh.
MID-RANGE: Ten Hill Place
The mid-range choice is Ten Hill Place. Here you will feel like in a high-standard category hotel without spending an exaggerated amount of money. This 4-star hotel is less than 5 minutes from the Royal Mile. The rooms are well equipped and soundproof. You will find a fitness center, a bar, and a restaurant in the hotel.
AFFORDABLE: KM Hotel
KM Hotel is a perfect solution if you are on a budget while visiting Edinburgh as it is strategically located in the old town. The rooms are stylish, modern, and provide all the essential amenities. They also offer a fabulous Scottish breakfast-
Overview of Your 4 days in Edinburgh
In the following itinerary for 4 days in Edinburgh, we will visit the main attractions, explore hidden gems, see some iconic museums, discover unique experiences and eat some of the best food in Edinburgh. Sounds interesting? Well, keep on reading and discover a perfect itinerary for Edinburgh.
Don’t get discouraged when you see the overview of your daily itinerary as some of these attractions are optional and others won’t take a lot of time to visit. You will certainly have time to relax during this trip.
Day 1 of your 4 days in Edinburgh
Overview of your Edinburgh itinerary for day 1: Castle, Royal Mile including alleys, Tolbooth Kirk, St Giles’ Cathedral, the Tolbooth Tavern, Chocolatarium, Canongate Kirk, Holyrood Palace, Calton Hill, The Standing Order.
Your itinerary for Edinburgh starts with the main attraction in Edinburgh: the Castle. The most famous landmark and the oldest building in Edinburgh is located on top of the Royal Mile. It dominates the city of Edinburgh due to its position. You will find it on the top of volcanic rock and for this reason, the castle has never been conquered. You will need at least a couple of hours to visit the castle.
Here you can see the old and picturesque Margaret chapel and the Honours of Scotland which are the Crown Jewels of Scotland, and other important sights. At 1 pm you will be able to see One o’Clock Gun. The gun is still fired every day, except on Sundays, Good Friday, and Christmas Day. Crowds gather to enjoy the spectacle – and the sound often surprises people on Princes Street below.
The castle is open daily from 9.30 am to 6 pm from the 1st of April until 30 September, from the 1st of October until 30 march is open until 5 PM. I suggest you buy your tickets in advance and I can recommend this guided walking tour that will save you a lot of precious time. Book your tour here.
After the castle is time to explore the Royal Mile – the most famous street in Edinburgh. Here you will find a lot of relevant sightseeing, like the Tolbooth Kirk, or the St Giles’ Cathedral, which was founded in the 12th century. Don’t miss the fantastic interiors of the cathedral, the beautiful stained glass and the architecture of the church will astonish you!
On your way down the Royal Mile look for some picturesque alleys, like Advocate’s close or Mary King’s Close, and try to hunt some ghosts!
Lunchtime will be in one of the oldest taverns in the city and one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh – the Tolbooth Tavern. Here you will find all the classics of British and Scottish cuisine like the haggis and fish & chips. Occasionally it has some cool events and it’s dog friendly, they even offer a menu for your furry friend.
After lunch, just a few steps away from the Tolbooth Tavern, treat yourself to some chocolate at the Chocolatarium. The experience is approximately 1.30 hours and it is something that every chocolate lover should try. Here you will create your dream chocolate bar choosing from over 40 flavors in the Tasting Room and more. The Chocolatarium is open every day from 10 am to 5 pm and the admission fee is 19.50 pounds. Click here to book your experience.
After a sweet retreat, your afternoon finishes visiting the picturesque Canongate Kirk and Holyrood Palace at the end of the Royal mile. It is the official Scottish residence of the Queen. Here you will see the State Apartment, the Throne Room, the Holyrood Abbey and more, also you can take a relaxing walk in the gardens.
Before dinner, you should catch a sunset from Calton Hill. And it is one of the best experiences in Edinburgh, so no excuses. One simply can’t tired of this fantastic view, especially when the sun goes down and the city lightens up. This is one of the best photo spots in Edinburgh, so don’t forget your camera! Here don’t miss the Dugald Stewart Monument, and the National Monument of Scotland, which made Edinburgh “The Athens of the North”.
Once you are done, head to The Standing Order and reward yourself with a nice meal in one of the best pubs in Edinburgh. Since this is quite a popular spot in town, it’s maybe not the best place for an intimate date, but the interiors are lovely, the atmosphere is fun, and the food is great.
Day 2 of your 4 days in Edinburgh
Overview of your Edinburgh itinerary for day 2: Vennel, Grassmarket, Victoria street, Greyfriars Kirkyard, National Museum of Scotland, Greyfriars Bobby Statue, The Mussel and Steak Bar, Victoria Street, Museum Context: Retailer of Harry Potter Merchandise, The Scotch Whisky Experience or Camera Obscura, Mound, Assembly hall, Rose Street, Thistle Street, and The Hive Nightclub & Venue.
Your day starts at the Vennel, which is one of the best photo spots in Edinburgh. Here you will be able to capture an epic photo of Edinburgh Castle. Walking down the streets of the Vennel, you will get to Grassmarket, where the old historical market of Edinburgh took place.
In this square, you can find a lot of pubs and restaurants, high-quality gifts to bring home, and one of the main attractions in Edinburgh – Victoria Street. Just behind Grassmarket, you will find the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Make a quick stop at one of the most iconic places in Edinburgh and head to the National Museum of Scotland.
The National Museum of Scotland is one of the best free museums in Edinburgh. Here you will find everything that the Scottish culture has to offer. From designers to engineering and several forms of art and science.
Once you finish visiting the museum don’t forget to take a picture of Greyfriars Bobby Statue. Bobby was a famous terrier dog who spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner until he died on 14 January 1872. Making this the Scottish version of Hachiko.
After some learning, head back to Grassmarket for some lunch. The Mussel and Steak Bar is located right on Grassmarket square and it’s a must-try if you love seafood. A special mention is for the local salmon, which tastes delicious.
When lunch is over, walk Victoria Street, and don’t forget to take a picture of this iconic street. If you are a Harry Potter fan, check the Museum Context: Retailer of Harry Potter Merchandise.
When you find yourself at the top of Victoria street, head to the Royal Mile and there are two options waiting for you: the Scotch Whisky Experience or the Camera Obscura.
A guide on what to do in Edinburgh, couldn’t be complete without trying some of their famous whisky. The Scotch Whisky experience is one of the best ways to get in touch with the Scottish culture and learn about this extraordinary drink. You will have the chance to try some Whisky and you can book it here.
In case Scotch Whisky is not your thing, Camera Obscura is another option and it is one of those fun things to do in Edinburgh. Camera Obscura is built in a tower and it consists of 5 floors of optical illusion. It is an extravagant experience and it comes with a fantastic view of Edinburgh.
From the Royal Mile, walk down to the Mound through one of the alleys. I recommend Mylnes Court or Ramsay lane. On your way, you will find the Assembly hall. Step in to take an iconic picture of the inner yard.
Take a look at the sunset in Princess Street and the Walter Scott Monument and walk to Rose Street to enjoy the vibes of this pedestrian street full of life and lights. Rose Street is a street of pubs and my pick was the Robertson 37, but you seriously need a lifetime to visit them all.
For dinner, I want you to walk to Thistle Street, where Fishers in City is waiting for you for an unforgettable dinner. Fish here is divine, and the atmosphere is lovely. If you feel like partying, check the program at The Hive Nightclub & Venue. This club is open every day until 3 am.
Day 3 of your 4 days in Edinburgh
Overview of your Edinburgh itinerary for day 3: The Edinburgh Larder, Arthur’s Seat, Portobello, The Beach House, Leith, Royal Yacht Britannia, Fishers or The Kitchin.
Your morning of day 3 in Edinburgh starts with a hike on the famous Arthur’s Seat. You will need some energy to reach these views, so head to The Edinburgh Larder and thank me later. I am not an experienced hiker but climbing Arthur’s seat is doable for almost everyone and you shouldn’t miss out as it is one of the best experiences in Edinburgh. Climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat and back takes about two hours.
After the hike, head to one of my favorite spots in Edinburgh: Portobello. We can say that Portobello is one of the secret spots in Edinburgh, as the tourists tend to focus on visiting the old town. Here you will find a more relaxed and chill atmosphere. Portobello district will welcome you with a lovely promenade on the beach and cute residential buildings. Enjoy the sea breeze while walking the promenade and grab a drink or a snack at The Beach House to soak in the peace.
Next, I want to take you to Leith – one of the most famous districts in the city. This place used to have a bad reputation and if you are interested to know more, read the books of Irvine Welsh before your trip to Edinburgh. Nowadays, Leith is popular for hosting some of the best bars and restaurants in Edinburgh with a modern hip vibe. The requalification of the area increased safety, and we can say it is one of the main attractions in Edinburgh now. People come here to fancy dinners and take iconic pictures of the canal. If you ask me, it looks like a little Copenhagen.
Here you can also visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. I personally didn’t have enough time to visit it, but I know that for a lot of people it’s one of the top things to do in Edinburgh. Click here to purchase your tickets for Royal Yacht Britannia.
I suggest you stay in Leith and enjoy the sunset here. It has a lot to offer, so you won’t get bored. For dinner, I can recommend Fishers. If you are looking for a fancy restaurant in Edinburgh, you will love The Kitchin. In this Michelin star restaurant, you will try only fresh and seasonal products in a sophisticated and posh environment. They serve traditional Scottish dishes and offer vegetarian options. This is one of the hottest places where to eat in Edinburgh, so if you are a foodie like me, don’t miss it.
Day 4 of your 4 days in Edinburgh
Overview of your Edinburgh itinerary for day 4: Dean Village, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, or National Gallery of Scotland, Whiski Bar & Restaurant, Princess Street Gardens, shopping, Circus Lane, Johnnie Walker experience, or Edinburgh Gin Distillery, Forage & Chatter, Raging Bull.
I can’t write this 4-day itinerary for Edinburgh and miss my personal highlight of Edinburgh. The Dean Village is one of the best photo spots in Edinburgh, and one of the best places in the city to take a walk along the path of the Water of Leith. Also, I would say it’s a hidden gem of Edinburgh and that’s probably why I loved it so much.
A few steps away you’ll find the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which is one of the free museums in Edinburgh. Since we are talking about the best things to do in Edinburgh for free, I have to mention the National Gallery of Scotland. I highly suggest choosing one of these two unless you are willing to skip lunch.
Have you ever heard about haggis? It’s a national dish of Scotland, but it’s only for the brave ones. And yet, trying haggis is an experience that you shouldn’t miss in Edinburgh. And Whiski Bar & Restaurant on the Royal Mile is the place where you can do that. The place is stylish, and traditional and will warm your heart with its food and drinks.
In the afternoon indulge in the Princes Street Gardens. Here you can see flowers blooming in spring, the foliage colors in autumn, the Christmas Markets in winter, or enjoy some Scottish sun in summer. If you are a photography lover, you can take a fantastic photo of the Ross Fountain with the castle in the background and create some amazing pictures of Edinburgh.
You can use the chance and do some shopping on Princess Street, Hannover street, and George street. Here you will find some cool shops and local boutiques. Finish your afternoon visiting Circus Lane and discover another hidden gem of Edinburgh.
For your last evening in Edinburgh, I recommend you to try the Johnnie Walker experience on Princess street and experience more of the famous Sottish whiskey. You can book it here.
If you are tired of whisky and want to try something else, don’t worry. Just in front of the Johnnie Walker, you will find the Edinburgh Gin Distillery and you can book an experience here.
Your last dinner in Scotland should be unforgettable, so Forage & Chatter has to be your choice. It was recommended by a local and I loved every second there. The food, the service, and the plating were spectacular. Exactly what you need to wrap up this trip.
If you don’t feel like sleeping yet, visit the Raging Bull in Lothian Road for some signature cocktails and celebrate your last day in Edinburgh.
Best day trips from Edinburgh
The Scottish capital lies in a strategic position in Scotland, so there are several opportunities to take some day trip from Edinburgh. If you have more than 4 days in Edinburgh, keep on reading.
Glasgow is the most populated Scottish city, and it offers a lot of cultural attractions, beautiful parks, great shopping opportunities, nightlife with no rivals in Scotland, and unforgettable hospitality. In fact, Glasgow has been voted the world’s friendliest city.
You can easily reach Glasgow from Edinburgh by bus or by train. The drive takes approximately one hour.
Some notable places in Glasgow include are:
- Kelvingrove Park with its art gallery
- George Square and Buchanan St
- Royal Exchange Square with the Equestrian statue of the Duke of Wellington and the famous cone on its head
- Glasgow Cathedral and the famous murals on the high street
- The necropolis of Glasgow
- Glasgow Science Centre & Glasgow Tower
- Glasgow Green and the People’s Palace
- Glasgow central station
- Sauchiehall Street and its nightlife
- Ashton Lane and the west end
- The University of Glasgow and its Cloisters
Organized day trips from Edinburgh
Renting a car and putting together an itinerary can be complicated. And you are on holiday, so you need the opposite of complicated. If this sounds familiar, I highly advise you to book an organized day trip from Edinburgh.
Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour is probably the most popular choice among tourists because it will give you the chance to hunt for Nessie and enjoy the beauty of Scotland from your window. You can book it here.
If you are a Harry Potter lover, don’t miss Hogwarts Express and Scottish Highlands Tour, where you will have the chance to ride the legendary Jacobite Steam Train and visit the Scottish Highlands. You can book it here.
Another alternative could be St. Andrews and the Kingdom of Fife. Here you will have the chance to see the iconic Dunfermline Abbey. If you want to take it easy, this should be your choice. And you can book it here.
Exploring on your own
Renting a car will give you the chance to find some hidden places and organize your own itinerary. Here are a few itineraries that I can recommend:
- Dunnottar castle through Dunfermline and St Andrews
- Oban and the Isle of Mull through Stirling and Loch Lomond
- Or follow the footprint of the touristic lines like Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands
As always, I can recommend the best car rental platform and you can see available options here.
Recourses for your 4 days in Edinburgh:
- Luxury hotel in Edinburgh: The Balmoral Hotel
- Unique hotel in Edinburgh: The Witchery by the Castle
- Mid-range hotel in Edinburgh: Ten Hill Place
- Affordable hotel in Edinburgh: KM Hotel
- Car rental: check it here
- Tickets for Edinburgh Castle: buy here
- Chocolatarium Tour, Tasting & Chocolate Making: book here
- The Scotch Whisky experience: book here
- Royal Yacht Britannia: book here
- Johnnie Walker experience: book here
- Edinburgh Gin Distillery: book here
- Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Scottish Highlands Tour: book here
- Hogwarts Express and Scottish Highlands Tour: book here
- St. Andrews and the Kingdom of Fife Tour: book here
I believe this complete Edinburgh guide will help you make the most of your time and enjoy 4 days in Edinburgh. After reading this article, you have some last decisions to make and then it’s time to discover Edinburgh. And I’m sure you will, especially if you decide to follow these tips.
I would love to hear your thoughts, so if you have any feedback or additional tips, leave a comment below. Also, check out my Instagram for regular travel videos and travel inspiration. Or explore other destinations on this travel blog.