Three days in Edinburgh

Posted on 26. Sep, 2012 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, United Kingdom

I fell in love with Edinburgh three years ago, on my first visit.

I think that when you fall in love with a place when it’s incredibly wet, when it blends in all the different shades of gray, when it’s at its most unwelcoming, it’s probably going to be a long lasting love story. If I loved Edinburgh in mid-December, you can imagine the bliss that filled my heart when I visited in sunny, warm, blossomy June.

Let’s see what I’ve been up to.

Day 1: Explore the sights of the Royal Mile

The Royal Mile, more officially known as Lawnmarket and Canongate, is the core center of the city. Not only does it pretty much splits it in two, but it’s also the main buzzing area with hundreds of pubs, restaurants, landmarks and such. Traveling up or down the Royal Mile will certainly make for a very touristy day, but an essential and interesting one nonetheless.

Edinburgh Castle

  • Edinburgh Castle: It may not been Europe’s finest castle, or the most affordable, but I think the visit is a great way to learn more about the Scottish history and how it’s so intricately mixed with England, more often than not against their best efforts. You can also see the Jewel Crownds, a moving war memorial, the oldest building in Edinburgh at St. Margaret’s Chapel and the famous one o’clock gun, a 150 year old tradition.

Tartan mill

  • The tartan weaving exhibition: Ever wondered what a tartan mill looked like? Enter this surprisingly large building to experience the busy factory feeling, admire the incredible techniques and machinery used, and learn more about the whole weaving process from shearing sheep to selling kilts.

The Scottish Whiskey Experience

  • The Scottish Whiskey Experience: Visit the replica of a traditional distillery, and learn how to taste the different aromas and ages of whiskey along the way. A great activity even if you’re not into whiskey. Also worth nothing that there is free wifi in the shop!

St Giles Cathedral

  • St.Giles Cathedral: Edinburgh’s most important religious spot for over 900 years, it’s often described at the Mother Church of Presbyterianism. The Cathedral was named after the saint patron of Edinburgh, who is also one of the fourteen Holy Helpers. The inside is just as beautiful and ornate as the outside, and won’t leave you disappointed.
Also worth a stop on the Royal Mile:
  • The many windpipe players
  • John Knox house
  • The Scottish Parliament
  • Holyrood Palace

Day 2: Connect with nature

Arthur’s Seat

Portobello Beach

One of the things I love the most about Edinburgh is the mix of city and nature, the dual identity of the gray buildings contrasting against the green parks and the blue sea.

I’ve experienced this in two ways: on top of Arthur’s Seat and at Portobello Beach. Both are easily accessible from the city center (although one will require a good cardio session!) and both prove just how easy it is to get out of the hustle in a small amount of time.

Although hiking is NOT my thing, I love being on top of Arthur’s Seat. It’s my favorite spot in Edinburgh, because in a single glance, you see the buildings of the city, the endless green fields and the North Sea. All at once. It definitely has something magical to it.

And Portobello Beach isn’t bad either - how can a beach be bad, anyway? Although you may want to leave your polka dot bikini and your sunscreen at the hotel because they ain’t gonna get too much use. It is the North Sea after all, and if the name isn’t a good enough clue, you should know that’s the water is freakin’ cold.

Day 3: Discover the quirks

Once you’ve seen the main street and connected with your Earth-loving self, what’s left to do, you ask? Grab a pint at one of the famous Scottish pubs? Well, yes. That’s always a good idea. But if your feet fancy a bit more walking, then there’s a lot of things left for you to see and do in the city.

Elephant House

  • The Elephant House: Fancy a bit of magic with your cappucino? The Elephant House is the birthplace of Harry Potter, where J.K. Rowling created this mythical world that changed literature 15 years ago. And while the facade is filled with tourists posing with imaginary brooms or wands, very few actually venture inside. Do go in the back room to take in the beautiful rustic decor, the rowdy Scottish accent and the views over the castle. Although I doubt you can accio your coffee to your table.


  • Grassmarket: One of Edinburgh’s most important cattle market for over 500 years, and where most executions took place. Despite its sinister history, Grassmarket became one of the greatest dining spots in the city, with everything from Scottish pubs to Greek to French eateries. There are also great quirky shops, and unique views of the castle.

Princes Street Gardens

  • Princes Street Gardens: Ideally located between the shopping centers, the train station and bustling Royal Mile, these gardens are the perfect place to give your legs a rest, eat an ice cream and give in to guilt-free people watching. I freely admit that it’s one of my favorite things to do in Edinburgh!

Calton Hill

  • Calton Hill: While Arthur’s Seat offers the best overall views of the region, Calton Hill, on the other hand, is an incredible vantage point over the city itself - far enough to get good perspective, but close enough that you can notice the details. An easy 10 minute walk from the center, it’s very much worth the small, and entirely free, detour.
Also worth seeing around the city:
  • The Edinburgh Zoo
  • Blackfriars Bobby
  • Scott Monument
  • National Gallery of Scotland
  • Royal Botanic Gardens

Have you been to the city before? What are your favorite things to do in Edinburgh? Any suggestions?


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14 Responses to “Three days in Edinburgh”

  1. Pascale

    26. Sep, 2012

    I’ve been to Edinburgh in 2003 and I was pregnant… So I’m very glad to see the view from Arthur’s Seat on your picture. I was a bit sick, so it was too hard for me to climb there. :(

    I agree with you about Calton Hill. It’s famous on postacard, for a good reason! What a beautiful view!

    But I didn’t know about the Portobello Beach! Good to know. Thanks!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      You really should go back when your body allows you to ;) The views from up there are quite amazing!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Jackie D

    26. Sep, 2012

    I love this city so much. And you’re right — when you fall in love with it at its wettest and grayest, you know that that really means something. Have you heard of/seen the animated movie The Illusionist, about an aging magician? It takes place in Edinburgh and is one of the most gorgeous movies I have ever seen — and the writer/artist wrote it as a love letter to the city, so even the backstory is awesome.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      Now that you mention it I do remember this movie being filmed in Edinburgh!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Vanessa

    27. Sep, 2012

    I fell in love with Edinburgh in January and can’t wait to go back! It’s one of my top favourite cities!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      Me too! You MUST go back in the summer. Quite amazing.

      Reply to this comment
  4. Andrea

    27. Sep, 2012

    It was so rainy when we were there for the comedy festival that we didn’t see too much - would love to go back!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      04. Oct, 2012

      You really should. It’s an amazing city in the sunlight!

      Reply to this comment
  5. Sandra

    27. Sep, 2012

    This is a great round up of ideas. I was in Edinburgh briefly many years ago and this makes me want to go back!

    Reply to this comment
  6. Jade -

    08. Oct, 2012

    I love Edinburgh so much! I used to live there back in 2007 and 2008. Don’t forget to also add a late night ghost walk tour to your itinerary - Edinburgh is famous for it’s grisley past

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      31. Oct, 2012

      I was a bit too chicken to visit the spooky places by myself!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Kimberley

    04. Mar, 2013

    I studied abroad in Edinburgh from January-May 2012. I’ve been to many of these places you listed multiple times. I instantly fell in love with this city the moment I landed. I often dream of the city and going back. I can’t wait until I can!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Mar, 2013

      I hope you do go back! Edinburgh is a wonderful city :)

      Reply to this comment

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