Scotland has long been on my list of places to visit in Europe. Rolling hills, ancient castles, whisky distilleries spotting the countryside, and cities made of medieval stone buildings and cobblestone streets. All of the heart eyes vibes.
My first trip to Scotland was a weekend trip to Edinburgh. At some point during my time in the U.K., I want to do a road trip throughout Scotland- visiting whisky distilleries and exploring the highlands.
During that road trip, I plan on stopping in Edinburgh again- if only for a day to revisit this gorgeous city, full of history and charm.
A Perfect Day in Edinburgh
When I visited Edinburgh, I stayed in an Airbnb near Stockbridge, an eclectic local neighborhood. I started my first morning in Edinburgh with an early morning walk around the neighborhood, it’s a stunning part of town. So many great shops, bars and restaurants that represent the culture of Scotland.
If the weather is nice during your visit and you can hold off on breakfast for a bit, take a walk up to Calton Hill for some seriously great views of the city skyline. It’s only a ~10 minute walk uphill (from the bottom) to the lookout point, and the views are incredible on a clear day.
Chances are after climbing the hill, you’ll be more than ready for brunch. Walk over to Old Town to eat at Hula Juice Bar & Grill. On the way, you’ll pass the Scot Monument, and maybe even a bagpiper on the bridge connecting New Town to Old Town.
Hula Juice Bar is a great spot for healthy breakfast options- awesome acai bowls, good porridge and fresh squeezed juices.
Leaving the Hula Juice Bar, walk around the streets surrounding it for a bit- you’re below the castle and in a pretty historic part of Old Town, so many beautiful buildings.
In need of a break from wandering, we hit up The Elephant House for early afternoon tea in a warm, cozy space. Fun fact: Elephant House is where JK Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter.
After warming up with tea, head to either the National Museum of Scotland or Edinburgh Castle. With free museum entry, it’s a great place to spend a few hours learning about Scotland’s history.
Alternatively, although Edinburgh Castle is touristy, it’s also a great way to ground yourself in Scottish history. Loved walking through the castle rooms, it was like going back in time. My only gripe was the cost- nearly £20 for a ticket and audio tour. Both the museum and castle are in Old Town, so you’ll be close to the next activity regardless of which you choose to do.
No trip to Scotland is complete without a whisky tasting. We loved the early evening whisky + chocolate tasting at Whiski Rooms. Our tasting guide was super knowledgable and very patient with our group’s questions. The tasting was only supposed to be 60 minutes, but ended up going almost an hour and a half. 10/10 would recommend the experience, our tasting guide even recommended a few additional whiskys for us to try at our next bar.
After the Whiski Rooms, we headed to nearby Bow Bar and talked with the bartender to choose a few whiskys off the menu to try. Bow Bar’s selection is phenom, and the vibe was so low key- can’t recommend it enough.
Post-Bow Bar, we walked along the Royal Mile for a bit before deciding it was time for dinner.
Ready for a Scottish feast, we headed back to New Town to The Scran and Scallie for fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding. Can’t recommend this place enough- if you only go to one Scottish restaurant in Edinburgh, make it this one. The food was so, so good and there were a few fiddlers playing in one of the rooms- perfection.
Since you’re already in New Town, it’ll be easy to either Uber or walk to a few of Edinburgh’s best cocktail bars to end your night. I love well mixed drinks and was pleasantly surprised by how great the drinks in Edinburgh were. A few of my favorite spots:
- The Bon Vivant is known for their whisky and champagne cocktails
- With a hidden entrance, cozy corner benches, old school hip hop tunes and expertly mixed cocktails, it’s easy to see why Bramble Bar has become known as one of the best cocktail bars in the U.K.
- I can’t recommend Panda and Sons enough- the drinks were the best I had in Edinburgh, the speakeasy space was cozy and chill, and the bartender, Leon, was a real gem. He wrote me a list of places to check out on my next trip to Edinburgh
- The Voyage of Buck is the literal definition of hygge. Big comfy couches with fur pillows, cushiony velvet arm chairs and beautiful fixtures at the bar- a perfect atmosphere for enjoying great cocktails
If you need a late night snack after a few drinks in New Town, hit up El Cartel for tacos. Y’all, bomb tacos in Scotland. You must come here- the fish tacos, sweet potato tacos and bombers (fried jalapeños with cream cheese) were outstanding.
And, just like that, your perfect day in Edinburgh is over. If you have a fantastic time like I did, I’m sure you’ll find one day only scratches the surface of what this wonderful city has to offer.
Have you ever been to Edinburgh? What would you tell first time visitors to make time for?