How to Spend 48 Hours in Edinburgh

how to spend 48 hours in edinburgh

No matter what time of year you visit, there’s always something happening in Edinburgh. From the world famous Fringe during August to the festive Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations in winter – and hundreds of other festivals, events, exhibitions and pop-ups in between – there’s something to keep everyone entertained.

I might be biased, but I think Edinburgh is one of the best staycation cities in the UK, and it’s also great for foreign visitors looking for a city break in Europe. With fantastic food and drink, rich culture and history, world-class festivals and amazing independent shops, what’s not to love?! If you’re planning a weekend away soon, here’s how I’d spend 48 hours in Edinburgh.

48 hours in edinburgh

Getting to Edinburgh

With an airport, two central railway stations and a great bus network, Edinburgh is really easy to get to whether you’re travelling from abroad or within the UK. If you’re travelling by plane, local Edinburgh taxi company Capital Cars offers an airport transfers service* to take you straight to your hotel (and back again at the end of your trip). They’re even offering 20% off just now when you pre-book your taxi to or from the airport!

In terms of hotels, there are lots to choose from whether you’re looking for a budget hostel or a luxury boutique hotel. I’d recommend the Bruntsfield Hotel, No 11 Brunswick Street, Stay Central, The Bonham or Tune Hotels, plus there are lots of lovely self catering flats on Airbnb.

48 hours in edinburgh

Saturday Morning in Edinburgh

If you’re only going to spend 48 hours in Edinburgh, there’s a lot you’ll need to pack into that time. Ease yourself into the busy weekend with a stroll up Calton Hill. It’s just a few minutes from the city centre and is a quick, easy climb but it has stunning views of the city. There are also lots of interesting monuments on the hill itself, and you can even reward yourself with a coffee from Milk at the top. Alternatively, stop by the nearby Pep & Fodder for pastries and breakfast before you climb Calton Hill.

Next, head over North Bridge (stopping to take a few photos along the way, of course) towards the National Museum of Scotland. You could easily spend a whole day in here but, as time is limited, pick a few of your favourite galleries and take it all in. I love the Natural World galleries as well as the Scottish History and Archaeology ones. Make sure to admire the Grand Gallery too, it’s a beautiful room!

48 hours in edinburgh

Saturday Afternoon in Edinburgh

Once you’ve had your fill of the museum, head for lunch at Civerinos. Here you’ll find Italian street food and pizzas in a chilled out little restaurant. Depending on how hungry you are, you can order pizzas whole or by the slice, and there are also delicious antipasto sharing boards, homemade pasta dishes and an incredible Nutella calzone (which I still haven’t tried yet as I’m always too stuffed full of pizza by the time it gets to dessert!).

After lunch, wander up the Royal Mile towards the Camera Obscura. As well as a traditional camera obscura at the top of the building – with stunning views of Edinburgh – there are several floors full of fun optical illusions, tricks of the eye and magical technology. It’s the perfect opportunity to act like a big kid, but there’s also plenty of interesting information about the city and this history of photography/illusions too.

48 hours in edinburgh

Saturday Evening in Edinburgh

There are so many fantastic restaurants in the city that it can be quite difficult to narrow it down if you’re only going to spend 48 hours in Edinburgh. If you’re looking to blow the budget on an unforgettable experience, head down to the Shore to dine in Martin Wishart‘s Michelin star restaurant. Try the six-course tasting menu with matching wines to enjoy a properly luxurious evening with impeccable service and delicious food.

If you prefer things a little more casual, try Kanpai, a Japanese restaurant which serves up some of the best sushi in Edinburgh. The restaurant is stylish and minimal, and the food just speaks for itself – try the panko salmon maki and the Tokyo rolls. Edinburgh is well known for its pubs, so round the evening off with a few pints of craft beer or a bottle of wine in the nearby Red Squirrel.

48 hours in edinburgh

Sunday Morning in Edinburgh

Start off Sunday with a little bit of a lie in followed by brunch at Leo & Ted. Their eggs benedict is second to none, and they also have a delicious selection of pastries and cakes to enjoy with your morning coffee. Then walk up the hill towards Bruntsfield to spend the morning browsing all the independent shops in the neighbourhood. There are lots of lovely boutiques to have look in and treat yourself to some non-tacky souvenirs from your trip. I love Curiouser & Curiouser, Coco Chocolatier, Halibut & Herring and Clementine.

If you’re on the other side of town, Stockbridge is another area of Edinburgh which is full of independent shops and cafes. Look out for all the charity shops which stock plenty of gems, or visit shops like Golden Hare for beautiful books and Those Were The Days for vintage clothes. If you want to spend your 48 hours in Edinburgh like a local, neighbourhoods like Stockbridge and Bruntsfield are the places to go.

48 hours in edinburgh

Sunday Afternoon in Edinburgh

Tapas style dining is great for lunch time, so once you start to feel peckish head over to El Cartel for some food. Their menu features fresh, authentic Mexican street food with delicious tacos, antojitos and margaritas. I’d recommend the spiced chicken wings, steak tacos and the jalapeño bombers – with the special margarita of the day, of course!

Spend the rest of the afternoon having a wander round Edinburgh’s Old Town to soak up the history of the city. Try a historical or ghost tour from Mercat Tours to explore the underground vaults or go on the Edinburgh Book Lovers Tour if you like all things literary. Finish the afternoon by exploring the Grassmarket, another picturesque area of the city with lovely shops like Red Door Gallery, Godiva Boutique and Hannah Zakari.

48 hours in edinburgh

48 hours in edinburgh

Sunday Evening in Edinburgh

As your 48 hours in Edinburgh are drawing to a close, celebrate your last evening in the city with some cocktails and Thai food. It’s become a bit of a tradition that whenever my parents come to visit me, we go for cocktails at the Dragonfly followed by dinner at Passorn. It’s hard to choose just one favourite restaurant, but Passorn always seems to end up top of my list thanks to their fresh, spicy, flavoursome Thai food – try the signature Angel Curry and you won’t be disappointed.

Finish off your 48 hours in Edinburgh with some more cocktails and live music in The Blackbird, a lovely, chilled out pub in the Tollcross area. It also has a great beer garden which is nice for sitting out in if you happen to be visiting on a warm, dry, summer weekend!

How would you spend your perfect 48 hours in Edinburgh?

*This post contains a sponsored link on behalf of Capital Cars. All opinions are my own.


Freelance social media and digital marketing consultant with a penchant for writing blog posts, drinking sickly sweet cocktails and exploring the cobbled streets of Edinburgh.


  • Sandra says:

    Thank you for this! I really really want to visit Scotland and tbh your post has just convinced me to go simply because of the fact that I only need two days haha. Now time to convice the boyfriend. But thank you for a really informative post!

    • Gillian says:

      Aw you definitely should, Edinburgh is such a lovely city for a short break – good luck convincing your boyfriend haha!

  • Emilia says:

    What a stunning post, I really have to visit Edinburgh!

    • Gillian says:

      Thank you Emilia, and yes – you do!

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