Things to do on a short city break to Edinburgh

This post is a collaboration to share some ideas for things to do in Edinburgh. Spending money was gifted by, but all views are my own:

We recently got home from a half-term mini break to Edinburgh where we had a blast! There’s a lot you can cram into a couple of days or so in this historic place, with plenty of interesting spots to visit and a choice of accommodation including hotels in Edinburgh city centre to stay at. As a city break destination, I would really recommend it.

city break to Edinburgh

Although my husband has visited Edinburgh a few times before, for our boys and me it was our first trip to Scotland. We debated whether to drive up from Manchester, but decided it would be nice to take the train and I’m glad we did. There was some snowy scenery to enjoy en route and thankfully the recent bad weather caused by Storm Ciara did not cause any travel delays or cancellations and everything went according to plan.

As soon as we stepped out of Edinburgh Waverley train station, we were greeted by the sound of bagpipes from a busker and the delicious smell of pastries coming from Mimi’s Bakehouse opposite. We walked a short way and I was so impressed by the architecture. There are some very historic and grand looking buildings in the centre. But it didn’t feel too vast and sprawling like many capital cities; it’s fairly compact and I felt that after a relatively short while I got my bearings and it seemed an easy place to navigate on foot. There are hilly bits, steps and cobbles, all of which add to the character of the place. It’s easy to see how JK Rowling was inspired by the place when she was writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

Harry Potter, Edinburgh

History lovers can’t fail to be impressed by the imposing sight of Edinburgh Castle on top of Castlehill, which looks particularly stunning at night. If you plan to book a tour, you need about two hours to have a good look around the hill top fortress.

Edinburgh castle tour

There are plenty of other places of interest nearby. The attraction our boys enjoyed the most was Camera Obscura & World of Illusions which features fun optical illusions over five floors. You can buy a day ticket, pop out for lunch and go back later, which is what we did. We returned in the evening for their great vantage point, looking down over the city from the rooftop where there are several large telescopes and binoculars to use.

Camera Obscura Edinburgh

Take a walk up Calton Hill for more excellent views, or the extinct volcano known as Arthur’s Seat.

The main thoroughfare of the old town is a bustling area known as the Royal Mile. Shops and cafes were plentiful in the city and especially around Princes Street. I enjoyed a browse in the department store, Jenners which has a lovely ornate roof.

Jenners Department Store Edinburgh

We also visited the Scottish National Gallery which was free to enter. If you are with kids who love food and are always hungry, we were given a friend recommendation for the all you can eat buffet restaurant, Cosmo, which offered a wide range of world cuisine, all self-service style and it was good value, too (we paid £9 per person at lunchtime). But there are also excellent gastronomic experiences to be had with food and drink tasting tours. Or if you have time, why not book on to a Harry Potter sightseeing walk, a whiskey tour or catch the ghost bus (if you dare!).

Edinburgh tours

I would love to visit Edinburgh again and since we didn’t manage to do everything in our 2.5 days, it gives us a good reason to go back again in the future.

Why not pin this post for later:

Visiting Edinburgh Tips


© Copyright 2020 Antonia, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tidylife
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