How to Spend One Day in Edinburgh—A Review of Four Walking Tours and a Live Performance
By Jenn Ingram
If you only have 24 hours to spend in Edinburgh, and you love to walk, use this itinerary to plan your day!
Edinburgh offers a variety of ways to explore its scenic streets, and one popular option is to embark on a group walking tour. It's also a perfect choice for the solo traveler hoping to gain a sense of community during a brief visit to this mesmerizing country. Another alternative is self-guided audio sightseeing.
9 a.m. I mean, you’re on vacation! You can sleep in a little…Then, hop to and find yourself a cappuccino and a snack with Vegan options. We chose something light, but there are plenty of options for a full breakfast nearby the tour.
9:30 a.m. There’s no wrong way to see Edinburgh’s scenic streets. If you have a certain viewpoint or park you'd like to see, this would be the time to do it.
11:00 a.m. First Tour - The Mountebank Comedy Walk of Edinburgh
After a little meet and greet, our tour guide who is not only a real Scotsman, but also a standup comedian leads us out to our walk. In front of each point of interest, this charismatic guide provides some historical context and a little humor to inform and entertain. The tour kicks off by heading over to the Royal Mile, then proceeds to Mercat Cross, an important historical landmark. The next stop is outside of St. Giles’ Cathedral, the most revered religious site in the old town. As you continue on the tour, the guide points out the location of the free Writers’ Museum, where later you can explore displays dedicated to the famous poet Robert Burns and the author Robert Louis Stevenson. You will also be treated to a view of Edinburgh Castle, a magnificent fortress that holds great historical and architectural significance. The tour moves to the lively Grassmarket area, known for its vibrant atmosphere. Finally, the tour concludes at the tombstones at Greyfriars Kirkyard, where you can encounter intriguing tombstones and immerse yourself in the lush green atmosphere of the historic cemetery.
With the combination of captivating history, amusing anecdotes, and breathtaking sights, this walking tour promises an enjoyable and enriching experience in the captivating city of Edinburgh.
Alternate option: If that’s not your thing, another optional tour is The Canongate Tour for free. The Canongate is one of the oldest streets in Edinburgh. You can find it at the eastern end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh’s Old Town. This tour usually includes Canongate Kirk, Moray House, People’s Story Museum and the Scottish Parliament building.
1:00 p.m. Hear the One O’Clock gun! And track down some lunch.
2:00 p.m. Edinburgh Castle is located at the top of a steep hill. There are three main options for seeing the castle. You can book a Skip-the-Line guided group tour averaging just over $100 USD for two people, or you can buy the audio tour at the castle for 3.5 GDB per person, which provides more than 5 hours of historical audio, or if you are short on time, you can grab a castle map and opt for a do-it-yourself tour.
If you’re in a time crunch, it’s best to start at the Crown Jewels at the top and work your way down the grounds until the exit. It’s an exciting time to see the jewels and the Stone of Destiny because they took a rare trip out of Scotland to be at Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King Charles in May 2023. While it’s possible to see the castle in just over an hour, it's true that having a little more time can really be an advantage.
Pro-tip. Book your entry to the castle in advance because the castle entry tickets sell out. However, if it does sell out and you still require a ticket, look for the information booths nearby because sometimes they have secret tickets, and you might be able to get same day entry that way for no more than the regular price.
This quick one-hour walking tour takes you into the allegedly haunted vaults beneath the South Bridge in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Learn about how the poor battled the darkness, and hear stories of their challenging lives in the 18th-century.
5:00 pm Take a break to charge your phone, have a pint, and regroup before your next and final walking tour of the day.
6:00 pm - Original Harry Potter Locations Tour
This two-hour walking tour is an interactive game oriented tour for Harry Potter fans. The guide may put you into J.K. Rowling inspired teams to collect points along the way. Fans of the series will delight in two shops pointed out along the route that carry a wide variety of merchandise, such as wands, candies, clothes and other creative items to honor the series. There’s also a stop at Greyfriars Kirkyard, which hosts the tombstones of some of the names J.K. Rowling chose for her familiar characters. This tour is surprisingly full of adult participants. Alternate Tour: There are more than one Harry Potter tour to choose from!
Alternate Tour: There’s an Edinburgh Scavenger Hunt: A Fairy Tale Capital. If you’d enjoy an interactive tour, but Harry Potter is not your thing, this tour might be just what you’re looking for. You’re able to use an app to explore the city by solving clues, and taking part in a challenge on your own schedule.
8:00 p.m. Dinner time! There are plenty of options for traditional or Vegan fare.
9:30 p.m. Catch a laugh with some Improv Comedy at Monkey Barrel Comedy or listen to some live music at the Jazz Bar or The Piper’s Rest. If you are ready earlier there’s a free show of comedy and musical performances at The Canon’s Gait pub that begins at 8 p.m.
11:15 p.m. Might be time to head back to your where you are staying to catch some rest!
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