Edinburgh is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. There is so much to see in this vibrant city that it can be hard to know where to start. So, if you are passing through with your family and have limited time to explore the city, here are some things to see and do to in the Scottish capital make the most of it! Without further ado, Buddy and I are sharing our top 6 Interesting Things To Do if you only have 24 hours in Edinburgh.
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Only 24 Hours in Edinburgh
Buddy and I visited Edinburgh when Buddy was touring the United Kingdom with his choir. After spending a week in Ireland, Sal and I followed Buddy to Edinburgh to see him perform at St. Mary’s Cathedral. Because of our packed itineraries, with Buddy heading down to England for concerts and Sal and I heading north to the Isle of Skye, we only had one day to explore Edinburgh.
I know, I know, 24 hours is not enough time to explore Edinburgh. But if you are passing through and want to take in the sites, we are sharing the things we saw and loved, as well as the things that we missed. This is a very doable Edinburgh itinerary if you are visiting and have limited time.
6 Interesting Things To Do if You Only Have 24 Hours in Edinburgh
1. Visit Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Scotland. Every year, people from all over the world journey to see this imposing medieval fortress. If you’re planning a trip to Edinburgh, a visit to the castle should definitely be on your itinerary. Up on a hill with beautiful views, this castle has something for everyone!
Edinburgh Castle is located in the heart of the city at The Esplanade Edinburgh EH1 2NG. For the most up-to-date information regarding ticket prices, opening hours, visit the website.
While Buddy and I visited the castle separately, we both loved our visits. Together, we have a blog post dedicated to Edinburgh Castle sharing 4 Simple Tips for Visiting Edinburgh Castle. We loved seeing the Scottish Crown Jewels and Sal and I had fun sampling a drink of whisky.
Buddy says, “I visited Edinburgh Castle with my choir. I liked the experience it had to offer, and my friends liked it too. I do want to go back to visit the castle someday.”
Great for: Families, especially families with older elementary school children and teens. Anyone interested in history, especially Scottish Military history.
- Buy your tickets online in advance
- Plan your trip to be there at 1pm to see the firing of the One O’clock Gun
2. Visit the National Museum of Scotland
The National Museum of Scotland is one of the must-see sights in Edinburg. And for good reason! With free admission and a central location, it is a family friendly place to spend the day exploring Scottish culture and history. There is something for everyone at this world-class museum.
The National Museum of Scotland has 11 floors of exhibits. museum exhibits feature everything from natural history, anatomy, fashion, science and technology, and Scottish art to name a few. For the most up-to-date information, including hours of operation and information on current exhibits, check out the website.
I have a blog post dedicated to the National Museum of Scotland sharing 3 Easy Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland.
Unfortunately, Buddy did not get the chance to visit the nation’s museum during his one day in Edinburgh. But I did see some exhibits that I think he would have loved. It is a great place for families to spend the day.
Great for: Families of all ages. Anyone interested in Science, History, Engineering. A rainy day.
This museum is huge, and you will not see everything with such limited time. If you only have a few hours to explore the museum, pick one or two exhibits to focus on to make the most of your time.
3. Explore Calton Hill
Dubbed as Edinburgh’s Acropolis, Calton Hill is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Edinburgh, Scotland. Located just a short, though slightly steep, walk from the Royal Mile, Calton Hill offers breathtaking views. And, Calton Hill has a nice large area for younger travelers to run around and shake their sillies out after a long day of sitting or exploring museums.
For the most up-to-date information, including hours for museums and cafes, visit the website.
Buddy and I have a blog post dedicated to Calton Hill sharing 4 Tips for Visiting the Beautiful Calton Hill
When Buddy visited Calton Hill with his choir, they ate a picnic dinner on the hill.
Buddy says, “I liked Calton Hill. We explored the area and took group photos on the National Monument of Scotland. It looks like a Greek building. After that, we had a picnic dinner there. There were nice views on Calton Hill. It was nice to look out over Edinburgh while eating dinner. I recommend visiting Calton Hill and exploring. I also recommend bringing a meal and having a picnic on Calton Hill in the summer.”
Sal and I did not have a picnic, but we enjoyed the hike up the hill, the views, and the contemporary art museum.
Great for: Families of all ages, taking in the fresh air, a picnic, watching the sunset, and fans of contemporary art.
- Watching the sunset on Calton Hill is a great way to end the day.
- Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top.
4. Walk the Royal Mile
A series of streets that runs from the Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Royal Mile is most popular tourist attractions in Edinburgh, Scotland. There are many historic buildings and monuments to see as well as many historical landmarks. Along the Royal Mile, you will find many things to do such as the Scottish National Gallery, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Castle, or Princes Street Gardens.
There are also walking tours of the Royal Mile that offer an up-close look at the history of Edinburgh. And there are plenty of opportunities for photos!
Only once during his 2.5-week tour was Buddy allowed to leave his chaperones and visit with us (his parents). And that happened when we were in Edinburgh. After his performance at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Buddy had a few hours to share with us and we chose to walk the Royal Mile and grab a bite to eat.
About the Royal Mile, Buddy says, “I met with you once to explore the area. I liked it.”
Same. And I could have spent hours people watching and window shopping. We did visit during high season and the Royal Mile was a bit crowded, making the area overwhelming at times.
Also, when we visited Edinburgh, Giraffe Around Town was taking place. Giraffes were placed all over the city including Calton Hill and the Royal Mile. I had a fun time finding and photographing the giraffes!
Great for: People and families who like to walk.
- Bring comfortable walking shoes as you will be walking a lot.
5. Visit Victoria Street
Victoria Street in Edinburgh, Scotland is a fun must-see for any family traveling to the area. The street is home to several restaurants, cafes, and bars, making it the perfect place to grab a bite to eat after (or during!) a day of sightseeing. With charming shops, boutiques, and stunning architecture, and historic buildings, it is a great place to take spend some time getting to know Edinburgh.
In addition to the shopping and historical sites, there are kid-friendly attractions nearby, including the Edinburgh Zoo and the Royal Botanic Garden. Plus, rumor has it that Victoria Street might be the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley! So, bring the kiddos and you all can decide, does Victoria Street bear a resemblance to Diagon Alley?
Unfortunately, Buddy did not get a chance to visit Victoria Street during his 24 hours in Edinburgh, so I do not know if he thinks Victoria Street resembles Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley.
Sal and I did grab a bite on Victoria Street at Mariachi, a Mexican restaurant. We chose Mexican because we were a bit homesick. Surprisingly, the salsa was hot, and the avocado was delicious! Nice surprise Edinburgh!
Great for: People and families who like to walk. Anyone who likes to shop. Grabbing a bite to eat. Harry Potter fans.
- Same as the Royal Mile, bring comfortable walking shoes as you will be walking a lot.
6. Grab a bite to eat
One of the best things about travel is trying new cuisines and new local restaurants. After all, part of the fun of traveling is experiencing new and different things. If you are a foodie traveler, or even a non-foodie traveler, with only 24 hours in Edinburgh, grabbing a good bite to eat must be on your list of things to do!
Some of the best meals that we had (not counting Buddy’s KFC, which you can read about here) on our trip were in Edinburgh. And we splurged! Here are some of the places we ate in our 24 hours in Edinburgh.
- Breakfast: Stack & Still. A pancaked restaurant with many different options, including gluten free pancakes. The food was decadent and there was a lot of it!
- Lunch: Mariachi on Victoria Street. Mexican Cuisine. As I already mentioned, we were pleasantly surprised by the food at Mariachi.
- Dinner: The Doric. Gastropub with a Scottish menu. We brought Buddy here because he wanted to try some traditional Scottish food.
Buddy says, “I liked the haggis. This was my favorite meal out the entire tour. The Scottish Meal was my favorite.”
Great for: Foodies. Families and travelers of all ages.
What we missed
Because 24 hours in Edinburgh is not enough time to take in all the sites, here are some notable places that we missed on this trip. Hopefully, we get the chance to return soon and take in these sites.
- Palace of Holyroodhouse
- Princes Street Gardens
- Scottish National Gallery
- Arthur’s Seat
- The Whisky Museum
- St. Giles’s Cathedral
- Holyrood Park
Out of all of the sites that we missed on this short Edinburgh itinerary, I regret not popping in to St. Giles’ Cathedral for an hour or so. After seeing Buddy perform at St. Mary’s Cathedral, we figured that we had a cathedral checked off our list. But given its historical significance, I wish we would have had the time.
Also, we did not have time to film a Movement Postcard in Edinburgh. With only one day to see it all, we were too busy! Although there were some great sites for site specific dance films!
Where to stay in Edinburgh?
If you only have 24 hours in Edinburgh, you might want to stay near the Royal Mile to cut down on travel time between a hotel farther away.
During our 24 hours in Edinburgh, Buddy stayed with his choir at a hostel on Market Street in the heart of the Royal Mile. Sal and I stayed in a hotel on Rose Street a block from Princes Street walking distance from the sites. On our trip, we mostly walked, but also used public transportation to get to and from the airport as well as to get to Buddy’s performance.
And if you are curious about what to pack, Buddy and I created an entire Scotland packing list for you!!
If you only have 24 hours in Edinburgh, these are some of the top sites to visit and things to do to make the most of your limited time in the city.
Are you planning a trip to Edinburgh? If so, what are you planning on seeing? Let us know in the comments below.
Do you have questions about family travel or traveling with teens? Feel free to reach out! We are happy to chat and share our experiences! We look forward to connecting with you.
If you enjoyed reading this, check out these blog posts!
- 4 Simple Tips for Visiting Edinburgh Castle
- 3 Easy Tips for Visiting the National Museum of Scotland
- 4 Tips for Visiting the Beautiful Calton Hill
- Exploring the Isle of Skye in One Day: The Ultimate Guide
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20 thoughts on “6 Interesting Things To Do If You Have 24 Hours in Edinburgh”
You certainly got a lot done in just 24 hours. I think I spent most of my time at the castle and in the museum. Walking the Royal Mile was quite fun too.
We didn’t sleep much when we were in Edinburgh – too much to see and too little time. I do wish we would have had more time at the museum and walking the Royal Mile.
I love those giraffes! It reminds of the Cotswolds Hare Trail which sadly doesn’t happen anymore. I’ll need to visit Edinburgh next time I’m in the UK.
Edinburgh is definitely on my travel bucket list — especially visiting that incredible castle!
This article came just in time! I’m planning a trip to Scotland for a client, and the Victoria street giraffes are just too cute. I’ll have to add that to the itinerary, same as Calton hill. Thanks for sharing!
I am glad you found it helpful. And I did want to share that I think the Giraffe About Town exhibit closed in September.
It’s a great idea to share how your son sees the family trips, and what his input is. Kids can have really random preferences, and they see the world through different glasses than we adults do. I mean your son loved haggis :). My kids would have thrown a tantrum, I’m sure.
As a golfer, Scotland has always been on my list. I had no idea there’s something for Harry Potter fans too – you’re right, Victoria Secret does look a lot like Diagon Alley. I’ll definitely be saving this to inspire my next trip and wear my comfy walking shoes!
This is perfect! I visited Edinburgh about 10 years ago, and this makes me want to make the weekend trip again☺️
I live Edinburgh and there is so much to see! Good to know you can cover a lot when there’s not enough time to visit.
This was a really fun read! I’m impressed that you managed to fit so much into 24hrs!
I’d love to visit Edinburgh! Victoria Street looks just gorgeous!
Love the ideas you share here. I would definitely check out the Castle and also want to explore the Royal Mile. Saving this as I plan for a trip there hopefully this year or next.
I haven’t been to Scotland yet but it looks beautiful and green. I love the colorfully painted giraffes.
Giraffe around town is too cool. We had a similar program featuring panda bears in Washington DC. Great pics!
omg the giraffes are so cute. wish I saw them when I was in Edinburgh. this is a great list!
I’ve heard so many great things about Edinburgh, I really want to see it on my own! Especially Victoria Street looks so picturesque. Good to hear one can do a lot even in only 24 hours 🙂
Victoria street would be the most interesting for me as I love taking a stroll on these streets.