11 things to see in Edinburgh in 3 days: essentials (2021)

11 things to see in Edinburgh in 3 days: essentials (2021)

Edinburgh is a city that attracts a level of fascination that I have hardly seen anywhere else. The capital of Scotland, nicknamed the Athens of the North, manages to fool everyone who visits it, albeit with a trick: it is absolutely beautiful. Not only did I say so, but the following 11 things to see in Edinburgh in 3 days are the clearest proof.

To be honest, I will always remember Edinburgh for two reasons. The first is that while traveling through the Scottish city I stumbled on one of its cobbled streets and fell to the ground; the result was one toothless, which, fortunately, we were able to fix with a subsequent visit to the dentist. So be careful! The second was how different the city was from everything he had visited so far, which was already becoming quite a lot.

Over the years, I have been to Edinburgh three times and in all of them I have been wanting more. It is a perfect city for a three or four day break, or to take a more complete trip through Scotland . In addition, it is very well served by plane and the prices are not too high.

In this article, we have brought you 11 places to see in Edinburgh that are essential to get an idea of ​​everything it has to offer. It is designed for 3 days, although as always, you can adjust it to the time you have.

11 things to see in Edinburgh in 3 days

1. Edinburgh Castle, the most famous monument to see in Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Castle is the quintessential monument to visit in Edinburgh . An icon that is a perfect introduction to Scotland and its castles. The current fortress dates from the 12th century, although some research suggests that it has been occupied for more than 4,000 years.

At present, its function, in addition to tourism, is to guard the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Scone , formerly used for the coronation of Scottish monarchs and now for British kings.

1. Edinburgh Castle, the most famous monument to see in Edinburgh
Edinburgh castle

Edinburgh is a perfect city for a free tour due to the number of stories, nooks, and crannies that exist. Do not miss it! 💥

The castle is divided into several buildings, including the Chapel of St. Margaret (the oldest area), the Great Hall, the Scottish National War Memorial (created in memory of the Scots who fought during the First World War) or the famous Mons Meg, a cannon five centuries old.

It is true that inside it can be a bit disappointing, but as it is such a symbolic monument, we recommend that you visit it yes or yes. For this, we suggest that you book a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle, which is the best option for the price.

The schedules and prices Edinburgh Castle are:

  • Hours: April to October from 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (last entry is at 5:00 p.m.). From October to April from 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (last entry at 4:00 p.m.).
  • Prices: Adults are £ 19.50, children £ 11.50 and those over 65, a reduced rate of £ 16. Children under 5 years old are free.

2. St. Giles Cathedral

The Cathedral of St. Giles is the most important religious building in Scotland and the seat of the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian).

It was built in the 12th century although over the years additional elements were added, among them its bell tower in the shape of a crown (which was placed in the 15th century and later transformed). Along with this, you cannot miss its precious stained glass windows.

what to visit in edinburgh
Edinburgh cathedral

The Thistle Chapel (or the Chapel of the Thistle ) is located in a small building attached to the cathedral and it is the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, a Scottish chivalric order. It is in the neo-gothic style – very ornate – but it is impressive, so don’t miss it.

Admission is free and you can check the schedules on their website .

The National Gallery is the most important museum in Scotland. It is located on The Mound, a small hill on which the Royal Scottish Academy and a headquarters of the University of Edinburgh are also located.

what to visit in scotland
The National Gallery of Scotland

The outer building is one of the most outstanding examples of neoclassical architecture, quite different from the rest of the important monuments of the city. His collection is very remarkable and includes works by Gauguin, Van Dyck, Botticelli, Monet, and Titian.

It is open from 10:00 to 17:00 and admission is free ; additional reason to spend a couple of hours.

4. The Palace and Abbey of Holyrood

Possibly my favorite landmark in all of Edinburgh, Holyrood Palace is one of the residences of the British monarchy in Scotland – where they spend a week every summer (the rest of the time they go to Balmoral Castle ).

The palace complex is located at the end of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s most important avenue. It was built in the 11th century at the same time as Holyrood Abbey (although the current castle dates from the 17th century) and inside you can visit the different rooms.

edinburgh old town
The Palace of Holyrood

More interesting than the castle, I think the ruins of Holyrood Abbey are more interesting – the entrance includes a visit to both -, which remains so after being looted and destroyed during the Protestant Reformation in Scotland.

5. Victoria Street

Victoria is one of the most picturesque and charming streets in the entire city. That Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK is not arbitrary and Victoria Street has a lot to do with it.

Located in the old part of the city ( Old Town ), it is very striking due to its round shape and its colorful shops, all very well cared for.

what to see in edinburgh and surroundings
Victoria Street

If you look closely, it is very curious because the street is divided into two levels on the left side. This small top floor is known as Victoria Terrace and is lined with restaurants and cafes; It is great for coffee or, for example, breakfast.

6. The Walls of Edinburgh (Flodden Wall)

Although most of the remains of the city walls are not preserved, Edinburgh was made up of a series of walls to protect it from possible invasions. Of all these, one of the most outstanding remains is the Flodden Wall, erected next to the Greyfriars cemetery after the loss of the Scots at the Battle of Flodden and in anticipation of an imminent English invasion.

what to see in edinburgh
Flodden Wall, one of the few remnants of Edinburgh’s walls

7. Princess Street and the Scott Monument

Princess Street marks the separation between the Old Town and the New Town. It is the quintessential shopping street in Edinburgh, the place where you have all the shops, and one of the busiest arteries in the entire city. In it there are two stops that you cannot miss under any circumstances:

  • The Balmoral Hotel, possibly the most luxurious in the city. It is located in a beautiful historic building.
  • The Scott Monument: A rather strange Gothic-style construction reminiscent of a church bell tower, which was raised in memory of Walter Scott, a writer of Scottish origin.
what to see in edinburgh in 4 days
The Scott Monument

On the opposite side of the shops, there is a lawn area ( Princes Street Gardens ) where it is possible to sit quietly to rest and from where you can see the Old City. At Christmas, they usually put on a Christmas market, at least when we were there.

8. Calton Hill and the Nelson Monument

One of the best views in all of Edinburgh is from Calton Hill, a charming hill where you can see Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Holyrood Palace. The climb is done by stairs and is quite fast.

what to see in edinburgh in 3 days
The Nelson Monument on Calton Hill

Along with the views, it has other attractions such as the National Monument of Scotland, raised in memory of the Scots who fell in Napoleonic battles and that you will easily distinguish by its columns – this is why some have dubbed Edinburgh as the Athens from North.

The small round-shaped building that you see in the photo is the Monument to Dugald Stewart, a professor at the University of Edinburgh and one of the most illustrious Scottish thinkers.

There is also a huge column raised in honor of Nelson, the admiral who led the British troops during the Battle of Trafalgar and who faced Franco-Spanish and British troops.

9. Greyfriars Cemetery

From stories of exorcism to the puppy Bobby or the inspiration that JK Rowling provided in the creation of the Harry Potter saga, Greyfriars Cemetery is a must-see on any visit to Edinburgh.

what to see in edinburgh in 2 days
Greyfriars Cemetery

Perhaps the most prominent story is that of Bobby, a dog who remained (supposedly) for 14 years next to his master’s grave after he died of tuberculosis. The most typical photo is that of a small sculpture of the dog located on Candlemaker Row 27, a little further down from the cemetery.

10. The Hub and the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is the most popular avenue in the city and one of the most important places to see in Edinburgh. It connects Edinburgh Castle with the Palace and Abbey of Holyrood and along it are some of the most famous monuments of the city.

Starting with The Hub, a building that looks like a castle or church, it seems incredible that it is actually an event room where weddings and other parties are held and that houses a cafeteria.

what to see in edinburgh in two days
Strolling the Royal Mile, in the foreground The Hub

Along the Royal Mile, there are also other monuments such as St. Giles Cathedral, the Edinburgh Museum, the City Chambers, or Mary King’s Close, a set of underground alleys for which you will need to book an excursion.

11. Arthur’s Seat

It seems incredible that just two kilometers from the center of Edinburgh, one of the most touristic centers in the whole country, there is a place as pleasant, wild, and peaceful as Arthur’s Seat, the highest point of Holyrood Park and the rest of an ancient volcano. . A hill about 200 meters high from which you will get fantastic views of all of Edinburgh.

what to see in edinburgh in 1 days
Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park

To get to it you will need about 30 minutes (it is a fairly affordable but stony path) and you can make the climb both in the morning and in the afternoon. It’s a great way to get out of the bustle of the city, and the payoff is huge.