24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 Must-Do Bucket List Items

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 Must-Do Bucket List Items 24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 Must-Do Bucket List Items
24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 Must-Do Bucket List Items 24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 Must-Do Bucket List Items

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.

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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.

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2. Edinburgh Castle

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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.

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4. BrewDog

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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

24 Hours in Edinburgh: 5 must-do bucket list items

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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Hi, I'm Diana, the big sister in the sister duo. I left my job as an attorney in March 2017 to pursue the work-from-anywhere/travel-everywhere life aka The Dream. I blog about off the beaten trail travel destinations, adventure travel, immersing in local cultures, and publish plenty of travel guides for all you who are too lazy to plan your own trips. I've traveled to 61 countries to date, and some of my recent adventures include hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro, visiting a child I've sponsored for over 10 years in Rwanda, and exploring the Middle East.

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20 Responses
  1. I agree that 24 hours is hardly any time to really explore a city but I think you did well. These are definitely Edinburgh’s hot spots, particularly the castle and Arthur’s seat. And of course, you have to have whiskey!

  2. I absolutely loved my time in Edinburgh several years ago. I’m so sad to say, though, that they only thing I did on this list was visit the castle! I’d love to go back now that I’m older and more mature, especially to try some of that craft beer and check out that ghost tour!

    1. Ahh yes you’ll have to go back and check out everything else the city has to offer! We learned quite a bit of Edinburgh history on the ghost tour too, which is the part I really enjoyed, as somewhat of a history buff. And there is never a shortage of whisky and beer in Edinburgh!

    1. Our tour guide went through a lot about Edinburgh history on the underground ghost tour, which was probably my favorite part since I am somewhat of a history buff. Would definitely recommend it for next time you’re in Edinburgh!

  3. I prefer to take my time when I visit popular tourist destinations. I would probably choose to go to the Edinburgh castle first and eat pizza at BrewDog. The castle looks massive. I want to take pictures and walk around to admire the scenery.

  4. Gah! I really want to do that Underground Ghost tour!! I was there for roughly about 2 days so time was short too. Managed to do everything on this list except that one. Saving it for the next trip!

  5. It’s really too bad that you only had 24 hours here! I’m most looking forward to the whisky experience, and maybe the hike up to Arthur’s seat. Are you guys planning on returning to see it in a more leisurely manner?

    1. Yes, absolutely. Edinburgh is beautiful, and we’ve heard that the rest of Scotland is even more beautiful, so we would actually like to return to Scotland and drive all around and see everything. We would love to plan our route based on the Scotch whisky distilleries – we are hooked after taking the tour at The Scotch Whisky Experience!

  6. I wish when I do end up visiting Edinburg, I will have more than 24 hours. I would love to explore the inside of the castle. Scotch whiskey experience sounds interesting. I am also not a fan of creepy things. So a little hesitant about the Underground ghost tour.

    1. I would definitely recommend staying for more than 24 hours if you can. The underground ghost tour wasn’t nearly as creepy as I’d imagined. Our tour guide actually went through a lot of Edinburgh history as it relates to the underground system on the tour, so if you’re interested in history at all, you’ll love that aspect of the tour. If you’re really worried, maybe bring a friend, but there’s nothing to worry about. 🙂

  7. 24 hours wouldn’t be enough but I am glad you were able to make the most of it. The underground ghost tour seems interesting, fun and scary at the same time. I don’t do too well with ghosts since I easily get creeped out and plus I’ve had my own experiences with ghosts. Arthur’s Seat looks like a fun hike to do. The fact that you were able to fit in hiking for exploring is awesome.

  8. I agree that 24 hours is too little for any place, but loved your picks! I would definitely want to try the Scotch, craft beer and the underground Ghost tour!

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