“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again,” Alexander McCall Smith once said of the Scottish capital. Spend 48 hours admiring Edinburgh’s beauty with this art and design-centric itinerary.
8:30 Start the day with a walk through Calton Hill and enjoy panoramic views of Leith, the Firth, and Arthur’s Seat. From here carry on south past St Andrew’s House, the rather austere Scottish Government building erected in 1939, and across the railway tracks to admire the new Scottish Parliament building. Designed by Spanish Catalan architect Enric Miralles in 2003, its elaborate abstract lines are said to represent the new Scottish identity.
9:30 Head along the Royal Mile to a recently revamped row of 19 Victorian Arches just below Jeffrey Street in Old Town. Here a selection of independent cafés and shops offer up various wares and cuisines—Baba Budan makes excellent coffee and doughnuts.
11:00 Continue along the Royal Mile past St Giles Cathedral to Princes Street Gardens for spectacular views of the Castle perched atop its volcanic plug above. Enjoy a few moments on the esplanade or head into nearby Camera Obscura to see the city’s skyline projected onto a concave dish.
12:30 Stop for a spot of lunch in one of Grassmarket’s many pubs and cafés. Avoid the crowds and head straight to the cosy basement bar Under the Stairs for good hearty food. For pudding, try the salted caramel brownies at Love Crumbs or one of the legendary gelato-filled hot chocolate floats at Mary’s Milk Bar (it’s well worth the queue).
14:00 Check-in to the Hotel Indigo Edinburgh – Princes Street. Located in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, this home away from home blends victorian heritage with contemporary style.
15:00 Spend the afternoon walking off your indulgence at the National Museum of Scotland, which opened 10 new galleries devoted to science, art, and design this past summer. You could easily spend a day in the museum, but if you move quickly, you’ll have time to stop at the nearby Scottish National Gallery to admire the works of the masters.
17:30 Take an early dinner at Spoon, but make sure to book as this small bohemian bistro can get busy.
19:00 Book a show at the Festival Theatre, which offers a diverse programme of ballet, opera, film, musicals, and contemporary dance.
22:00 If you fancy a post-theatre tipple, head to Juniper – hailed as Edinburgh’s most innovative cocktail bar with stunning views of the city skyline and creative cocktails that don’t disappoint.
8:30 Begin the day in Abbeyhill for a coffee and freshly baked pastry at Century General Store. This wedge-shaped café and shop serves up its locally-renowned coffee alongside simple but beautifully made household items. Leave time to eat and shop.
10:00 Awaken the rest of your senses at nearby Ingleby Gallery Edinburgh, which exhibits modern and contemporary art in a clean calming space.
12:00 Continue northwards to the Royal Botanic Garden, where you can get inspired by 72 acres of stunning greenery. Stop for a coffee on the terrace or take shelter from the cold in the glasshouses.
13:30 Head into Stockbridge for lunch at Smith & Gertrude, a wine and cheese café inspired by the owners’ travels across Australia, the US and Europe.
14:30 After lunch, swing by Dick’s Edinburgh, an independent clothing store that has carefully curated collection of menswear, womenswear, accessories, and home wares.
15:30 Walk along the river through Dean Gardens to Dean Village, a slice of rural idyll in the city. Historically the village was the city’s milling centre and remnants of the industry are all around. A short walk from the village is the Gallery of Modern Art as well as the studio of sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi.
17:30 Book a table at hidden gem The Gardeners Cottage, just 8 minutes walk from Hotel Indigo Edinburgh – Princes St. This small, cosy restaurant is housed in a building that dates back to 1836 and was once actually the gardener’s cottage. Tired from all that walking? Dine at Twenty Princes Street Grill & Smokehouse, a firm favourite with locals and guests alike.