Twenty-four hours is hardly enough time to see any major city, but it is enough to see some major sights in Edinburgh. We’ve picked out five must-do bucket list items so you don’t have to waste your time deciding which activities are worthwhile and which aren’t. Our top five must-do bucket list items for Edinburgh are The Scotch Whisky Experience, Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat, BrewDog, and the Underground Ghost Tour. While we managed all five in one day, it was indeed a busy day and quite tiring. If you are used to fast paced travel or are the kind of person who likes to see as much as possible and has the energy to do so, this itinerary is perfect for you. Otherwise, I would recommend cutting out one of the activities highlighted below.
Getting to Edinburgh Old Town
The easiest and most cost effective way to get to Edinburgh Old Town from Edinburgh Airport is via the Airlink 100 bus. You can pick up the Airlink 100 at the airport right outside the Hilton Hotel. Buses arrive every 10 minutes and run 24/7, making it especially convenient for those arriving on early morning or late night flights. The ride from Edinburgh Airport to City Centre costs £4.50 one way or £7.50 roundtrip, and you can purchase your ticket at the airport or online in advance. You can expect to arrive in Edinburgh city centre within 30-40 minutes of departing from the airport.
5 Must-Do Bucket List Items
1. The Scotch Whisky Experience
If you only do one thing in Edinburgh, it should be a tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience. Scotch whisky is central to the spirit of Edinburgh, and there is no better place in the world than The Scotch Whisky Experience to learn about the history of Scotch whisky, how it is made, where it is made, and its different flavors. The Scotch Whisky Experience also houses the largest collection of Scotch whisky in the world. If you’re under the age of 18 or are not a whisky drinker, The Scotch Whisky Experience will provide you with a tasting of Irn Bru, Scotland’s non-alcoholic national drink. Bring your entire family and experience one of the most important things to the Scottish people: Scotch whisky.
2. Edinburgh Castle
With such limited time, we chose to forego a ticket to enter into the Edinburgh Castle and merely admired it from the outside. We asked the staff at the ticket counter whether it would be worthwhile for us to purchase a ticket with only about one hour to spare, and the staff informed us that most people spend 2-3 hours there. Thus, the steep price of a ticket to enter into the castle would likely not be worth our while. The view of the castle from the outside was already quite impressive, and we also were able to catch good views of the city from the plaza outside the castle. If you have 30 minutes to one hour to spare, you can also follow the path along the side of the castle down to the new part of Edinburgh, which contains modern day shops, chain restaurants, and contemporary architecture that you will not find in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
3. Arthur’s Seat
The start of your hike up to Arthur’s Seat is located approximately 15-20 minutes from Edinburgh Castle by foot. We found the route to be interesting, as it was filled with cafes, shops, and had a very lively atmosphere. We made a quick stop inside one of the cafes and ordered takeaway lunches that we brought with us up to Arthur’s Seat. Once we reached Arthur’s Seat, we found a spot to sit down, eat our lunches, and enjoy the view.
There are many different routes up to Arthur’s Seat, and no route takes more than one hour to reach the top. If you are in pretty good shape, it is possible to reach the top in only 30 minutes. Once at the top, you can see 360-degree views of Edinburgh, and your views will extend quite far out from the city on a clear day. Even on a rather cloudy day, we enjoyed the scenery and the hike. If you are up for an adventure, try taking a different path down than the one you took up. This way, you’ll have the opportunity to see a wider array of landscapes.
After hiking Arthur’s Seat, reward yourself with a cold beer at BrewDog, the mecca of craft beer in Edinburgh. We were very impressed by the selection of craft beers on draft. From lagers to IPAs to stouts, BrewDog has a beer for every taste. If you get hungry, there is a food menu as well that offers delicious pizzas, including a vegan option. We did not try their food but heard it is delicious.
5. Underground Ghost Tour
We had heard great things about both the underground tour and the ghost tour prior to our trip but knew we would not have enough time to do both. You can imagine our delight when we discovered the underground ghost tour, which combined elements of both the underground tour and the ghost tour. I was not too keen on the ghost bit, as I am not a fan of creepy things and don’t believe in ghosts anyway, but that element of our tour actually proved to be quite interesting, or at least entertaining. I found the Edinburgh underground system to be fascinating, and the tour was not in fact creepy at all, other than the dark room with a row of deformed dolls that took me by surprise.
Where to Stay
There is no place we’d rather end a long day of exploring than at Old Town Chambers in the heart of Old Town Edinburgh. These fully serviced apartments offer a comfort that rival only my own apartment in Chicago. We were so comfortable, in fact, that we almost didn’t even want to leave our apartment to explore the city at night. These apartments combine modern day design with historical elements of Old Town Edinburgh. Old Town Chambers’ attention to detail and commitment to comfort made us feel at home and have us longing to return. If you are looking for a home away from home on your visit to Edinburgh, I cannot recommend Old Town Chambers more highly.
Have more than 24 hours in Edinburgh? Check out some of our favorite tours below:
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