Are you ready to discover Edinburgh’s most iconic landmarks and scenic views on foot? Lace up your most comfortable walking shoes because we have the perfect itinerary.
In 3 hours, you can explore some of Edinburgh’s most famous attractions, including the Scott Monument, Edinburgh’s Cathedral, the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat and more. We've carefully curated this itinerary to ensure you get the most out of your time in the city.
Duration: 3 to 5 hours
Highlights: Princes Street Gardens, Scott Monument, Calton Hill, Old Royal High School, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Royal Mile, The Real Mary King’s Close, St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, West Bow Street, The Elephant House, Greyfriars Bobby, Old University of Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat.
Our tour begins in Princes Street Garden, an urban park located in the heart of the capital, between Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town. Discover the beauty of this park, in particular the Ross Fountain, which is the park’s most important monument. If you look up, you’ll see Edinburgh Castle overlooking the gardens. If you come in winter, the garden is transformed into “Winter Wonderland” with a Christmas market.
Still in Princes Street Gardens, the Scott Monument stands proudly. This iconic monument is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott, a Scottish writer, historian and politician. The 64 figures depicted on the spire are all characters from the writer’s novels. If you wish, you can book a ticket and climb the 287 steps up to the top of the tower or stop at one of the four levels where you can enjoy the beautiful views. Be aware that the higher you go, the more difficult the climb becomes, as the walls become narrower and the stairs unstable.
If you want another great view of the city, continue down Princes Street, to Calton Hill. At the top of the hill is the National Monument - built in honour of the soldiers of the Napoleonic Wars, the city’s astronomical Observatory, and the Nelson Monument. On the night of 30 April, the Beltane Fire Festival, one of the city’s biggest festivals, takes place on Calton Hill attracting thousands of people.
At the bottom of the hill is the Old Royal High School. This neo-classical building was used as a school until 1968 and was then proposed as the site for the Scottish Parliament. After some public debates about the future of the site, it was finally decided in early January 2023, that this fine Greek revival building, as seen by architectural historians, would become St Mary’s Music School and the National Music Academy and host major musical events.
Our tour then takes us to the Palace of Holyroodhouse located at one end of the famous Royal Mile. The official residence of King Charles III during his visits to Edinburgh, this palace will take you back in time to discover the history of Scotland. Admire the magnificent palace, which was also the residence of the famous Mary, Queen of Scots and is the official residence of the British Monarch in Edinburgh to this day. If you want to explore the State Apartments, the ruins of the 12th-century Holyrood Abbey and the remarkable gardens, you will need to book a ticket.
Walk up the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s most famous street in the heart of the Old Town. Its name comes from its history when it was the procession route of the monarchs. The Royal Mile will take you from Holyrood House to Edinburgh Castle. Divided into six sections, stroll along the street to High Street, the most popular part of the Royal Mile and where you will encounter the next two stops of this itinerary.
Continue along the Royal Mile to one of Edinburgh’s secret spots, which is located beneath the Old Town buildings. In Real Mary King’s Close you will discover how and where people lived, worked, and died between the 18th and 19th centuries. During these periods, many people suffered mainly from poverty and the plague. You can book a ticket to visit the `underground city´ it will give you an understanding of the living conditions of the poorest inhabitants of the Old Town.
Next to the Real Mary King’s close lies the “Mother Kirk” of Scotland, St. Giles’ Cathedral. Built in the 9th century, Here you can explore over 1000 years of history by visiting the Church of Scotland’s main place of worship. Admire the Gothic-style temple redesigned many times to suit the Protestant style of worship.
Stroll along the Royal Mile to the other end and you will reach Edinburgh Castle, the city’s most recognizable symbol. Perched atop Castle Rock, the castle overlooks the city and offers spectacular views of Edinburgh. Visit this iconic World Heritage Site and be amazed about its 3000-year history.
Walk down Castle Hill which you’ve just taken to get to the castle and over to Upper Bow to reach Victoria Street, one of Edinburgh’s most photographed streets. Renowned for its gentle curve and colourful shopfronts, Victoria Street is also known as one of the inspirations for Diagon Alley, the wizards’ market in the Harry Potter books.
Another place linked to the fantasy world of Harry Potter is the Elephant House. On your itinerary, you can make a quick stop at the Elephant House café, the birthplace of Harry Potter as this is where J.K. Rowling wrote many of her books. Note: This place is closed until further notice.
Continuing along Candlemaker Row, you will pass a statue of a little Skye Terrier dog called Bobby. The story behind this statue is a wonderful one. Owned by Constable John Gray who worked for Edinburgh’s Police, little Bobby spent 14 years guarding the grave of his owner who had died of tuberculosis, until his own death in January 1872. His headstone is in Greyfriars Kirkyard just a few feet away from his owner’s. The statue is a tribute to Bobby and his loyalty. Rubbing his nose is said to bring good luck.
On the way to our final stop, you will pass the Old College of Edinburgh, still used by the University of Edinburgh today. Admire the architecture of this late 18-century building and visit the gallery within the university as it is open to the public.
If you still have the time and strength to climb an ancient volcano after this walking tour, we recommend walking to the top of Arthur’s seat. Located in Holyrood Park, Arthur’s Seat offers breathtaking views of the city as it is the highest peak of Edinburgh. The walk to the top of the hill takes around two hours.