3 Days in Edinburgh: Ultimate 3-Day Itinerary

3 days in Edinburgh: what to do and see?

Have you chosen to go to Edinburgh for 3 days ?

Good idea!

To help you organize your stay, I have prepared the ideal itinerary for you to visit Edinburgh for 3 days.

I start with some tips to avoid queuing in front of the main tourist sites and save as much time as possible.

I continue with my optimized program of visits to do every day, accompanied by a map, always useful for finding your way around!

I end with my selection of the best hotels to sleep in Edinburgh and several ideas for activities dedicated to a family trip.

So where to go and what to do in Edinburgh for 3 days? Where to stay?

Our advice to avoid queuing in Edinburgh

As you can imagine, the capital of Scotland attracts a lot of visitors every year.

And for good reason, with its historic buildings with impressive architecture, such as Edinburgh Castle or Holyrood Palace, the city is absolutely a must for any good road trip in Scotland !

If you don’t feel like starting your vacation with a 2-hour queue in front of the main must-see attractions (to compare: keep in mind the hundreds of people waiting outside the Colosseum in Rome or the Alcazar in Seville ) , I give you immediately the 2 solutions to save a lot of time during your 3-day trip to Edinburgh:

1. The Royal Edinburgh Ticket

The first solution that I advise you to save money while avoiding the queue is to buy the Royal Edinburgh Ticket.

It includes access to the 3 must-see tourist sites to see for 3 days in Edinburgh:

In addition to these 3 visits, the Royal Edinburgh Ticket allows you to take the 3 multiple-stop bus lines that run throughout the city, unlimited for 48 hours. 

It’s really super convenient to go from one place to another while benefiting from explanations of the places in front of which you pass.

After you have booked your Edinburgh Ticket (using the green button below), you will receive a confirmation voucher by email which you must exchange at the ticket office located at St Andrew Square (the exact address will be specified).

The Pass is then valid for 48 hours from the first use. 

As you will have understood, this Pass is an excellent solution for visiting Edinburgh for 3 days!

Book your Royal Edinburgh Ticket now by clicking the link below:
Buy my Royal Edinburgh Ticket now!

2. Skip-the-line tickets to Edinburgh tourist attractions

The second solution that I recommend to avoid queuing is to buy skip-the-line tickets for each attraction you want to visit.

This will allow you to adapt your purchases according to your program of visits to Edinburgh for 3 days. 

This will allow you to also book guided tours to discover Edinburgh or themed tours such as Harry Potter or ghost tours.

There are also several ideas for cool activities to do for a 3-day stay in Edinburgh.

To make it easier for you, I have already prepared the list of tickets with priority access, visits and activities corresponding to my itinerary and which I will detail for you.

You just have to  click on the links to reserve them  and I also give them to you as I go along in the article:

Tips

Do not hesitate to take a look at all the tickets available by clicking here: Book your tickets and guided tours in Edinburgh.

If you have planned to visit the castle, the palace and the Royal Yacht, I really advise you to take the Royal Edinburgh Ticket to save money and then complete with skip-the-line tickets and guided tours. It will be really more interesting financially.

Visit Edinburgh for 3 days: the best itinerary

It’s time to move on to my 72-hour Edinburgh itinerary. For each day, I present to you the circuit to follow to see a maximum of things. I even made you a map so you can easily find your way around.

To establish this program, I consider that you have chosen to leave for 3 full days in Edinburgh and that you have purchased the Royal Edinburgh Ticket or the skip-the-line tickets so as not to waste time in line.

If you still have questions after reading this article or if you need help organizing your vacation, do not hesitate to ask me your questions in the section dedicated to comments, at the very end of the article.

So  what to visit in Edinburgh for 3 days?

Day 1: The historic center

visit Edinburgh for 3 days: itinerary Day 1

The visits of day 1: 

A. Edinburgh Castle
B. The Royal Mile
C. Palace of Holyroodhouse
D. Arthur’s Seat
E. Grassmarket and Greyfriars Cemetery

A. Edinburgh Castle

We start this 3-day visit to Edinburgh with its emblematic monument: Edinburgh Castle.

You can reach it on foot from the Royal Mile Avenue or by taking the Hop-On Hop-Off bus (handy because it’s free if you’ve bought the Royal Edinburgh Ticket).

In both cases, you will still need to work your calves a little because it climbs quite a bit to get to the top of the hill.

Arrived within the walls of the castle, you can take the time to breathe a little while admiring the superb view of the city from the ramparts before starting the visit. In particular, you will be able to discover:

Tips

I absolutely advise you to book your tickets for the castle in advance if you don’t want to start your 3-day Edinburgh tour with a 2-hour queue. They are available in one click directly here! 

If you have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, the visit is included in:
Buy my Royal Edinburgh Ticket now!

Edinburgh Castle – 3 Day Edinburgh Itinerary

B. The Royal Mile

After the visit, go down slowly on foot to the Royal Mile which allows you to cross the whole of Edinburgh’s Old Town (Old Town) by connecting the castle to the Palace of Holyrood (next stop!).

It is one of the most touristy areas of the city, there are traditional souvenir shopspubs and restaurants as well as magnificent historic buildings including the Saint Gilles cathedral.

I’ll tell you about all the activities to do on the Royal Mile a little later in the day 3 program since that’s when you’ll have time to explore it in depth.

For now, head to the end of the avenue where you will pass Canongate Church and the Scottish Parliament building before arriving at your destination: Holyrood Palace.

Tips

From the castle you can also take the hop-on hop-off bus if you don’t want to walk the Royal Mile.

Rides are unlimited for 48h with the Royal Edinburgh Ticket or you can also take 24h tickets by clicking the link below:
Book my hop-on hop-off bus tour now!

Edinburgh Royal Mile Avenue

C. The Palace of Holyroodhouse

No 3-day Edinburgh itinerary would be complete without visiting the city’s second most famous castle : Holyrood Palace.

It was in the 16th century that the kings and queens of Scotland decided to leave Edinburgh Castle, a little too austere for their taste, to settle in what was to become Holyrood Palace, which is still nowadays the official residence of the Queen of England when she travels to Scotland.

It housed the most famous of the queens of Scotland, Queen Mary Stuart, whose fate has been the subject of numerous novels, films and TV series. Thanks to the audio guide in French provided, you will discover his whole life.

On the program of the visit to the palace:

Tips

As with the castle, buying a skip-the-line ticket in advance is essential to visit the palace. You can get it directly by clicking on the link:
Reserve my ticket for the palace now!

And don’t forget that if you have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket, entry to Holyrood is included.

Holyrood Palace, a must do for 3 days in Edinburgh

D. Arthur’s Seat

I then suggest you discover the park of Holyrood, which adjoins the castle.

First pass by the ruins of Saint Anthony’s Chapel before continuing up the climb to Arthur’s Seat. This ancient volcano, which culminates at 251 meters above sea level, is one of the most beautiful viewpoints over the city.

From up there, you can contemplate a splendid 360° panorama of Edinburgh.

From the Palace of Holyroodhouse, it takes between 45 min to 1 hour to reach it on foot.

Arthur’s seat and its view of Edinburgh

E. Grassmarket and Greyfriars Cemetery

To wrap up the first day of your 3-day Edinburgh trip, head to the Grassmarket area.

The place is ideal to spend the evening. Trendy and lively, you will find a large number of pubs and restaurants to have a drink and eat.

Grassmarket is also known for its graveyard, Greyfriars Cemetery, which is said to be the most haunted in the world!

To visit it, I strongly recommend that you book a guided tour. It takes place every evening and lasts approximately 1h30. Your guide, a true enthusiast, will tell you all the anecdotes and paranormal phenomena that occur there.

As a bonus, he will even take you to discover the haunted vaults of Edinburgh.

Reservation is mandatory and can be done directly with the button below. You have 2 time slots, one at 6 p.m. and one at 8 p.m.:
Book my Edinburgh Cemetery Guided Tour now!I would like to visit Greyfriars Cemetery

Tips

In Edinburgh, there is no shortage of ghost stories !

Over the centuries, many legends have been born in the capital. Several different tours offer you a little scare by exploring the most “creepy” places in the city while listening to ghost stories.

The one in Greyfriars Cemetery is really one of the best, but you also have other variants, all just as scary and led by great guides. Do not hesitate to click on the links to book and access the details:

Greyfriars Cemetery – A Haunted Evening in Edinburgh

Day 2: what to do and see?

visit Edinburgh for 3 days: itinerary Day 2

The visits of day 2: 

A. The Royal Yacht Britannia
B. Calton Hill
C. Princes Street

A. The Royal Yacht Britannia

For the second day of your 3-day stay in Edinburgh, head to the Leith district, located by the sea.

To get there, you can take public transport or the hop-on hop-off bus if you have the Royal Edinburgh Ticket since the journeys are free with it. It takes around 30 minutes for the journey.

This is where the Royal Yacht Britannia is moored , the luxurious boat that belonged to the British royal family for more than 40 years. This floating palace, which is one of the most famous ships in the world, is now open to visitors.

You will be able to walk through the royal apartments, including the Queen’s bedroom, the official salons where heads of state and great figures of this world were received, the engine room and the quarters for officers and staff.

With the help of the free audio guide in French, a whole section of the life of the royal family is revealed to you.

The ticket for the Royal Yacht Britannia is included in the Royal Edinburgh Ticket. Otherwise, to avoid the queue, it is better to book it in advance directly with the link below:
Book my ticket for the Royal Yacht Britannia now!

Tips

Access to the Royal Yacht Britannia is only through the Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre.

The Royal Yacht Britannia – Visit Edinburgh for 3 days

B. Calton Hill

Then take the bus in the opposite direction to return to the city center.

After discovering part of the old town yesterday, today I suggest you take a walk in New Town, the more modern part of Edinburgh.

Start by climbing the hill of Calton Hill, located at the entrance to the new town. There are several very photogenic monuments here and the top offers a superb panoramic view of Edinburgh, the North Sea and Arthur’s Seat.

The climb is not complicated and only takes about ten minutes.

Calton Hill

C. Princes Street

Spending 3 days in Edinburgh also gives you time to do some shopping.

At the foot of Calton Hill, I suggest you take Rue de Princes Street. It is the second busiest avenue in Edinburgh after the Royal Mile.

You will find many shops there: H&M, Marks and Spencer, Primark, Zara, Urban Outfitters… Plenty of something to please you and for all tastes.

Between 2 shops, I also recommend you not to miss:

If you like art, I also advise you to visit the National Art Gallery of Scotland which is located at the entrance to the gardens.

Here you can admire works by Scottish and international artists from the period from the Renaissance to the beginning of the 20th century. And good news, admission is free!

Tips

If you have chosen to go 3 days in Edinburgh in winter, you will find the Christmas market, an ice rink, a Ferris wheel and other funfair-type entertainment in Princes Street Gardens.

princes street

Day 3: places to visit

visit Edinburgh for 3 days: itinerary Day 3

The visits of day 3: 

A. National Museum of Scotland
B. Camera Obscura
C. The Scotch Whiskey Experience
D. St. Giles Cathedral
E. Other activity ideas

A. The National Museum of Scotland

For the last day of your 3-day Edinburgh itinerary, I suggest you start the morning with a visit to the National Museum of Scotland.

It is located in Old Town, not far from Greyfriars Cemetery and you will be happy to learn that in addition to being one of the most interesting museums in Scotland,  its entrance is free!

Super modern and interactive, it is the result of a merger between the Museum of Scotland dedicated to Scottish history and culture from the first inhabitants until today, and the Royal Museum which is interested in a good number in various fields: science, technology, geology or even natural history.

Many themes are covered and thanks to the free audio guide you will learn a lot of interesting things.

Among the most striking pieces on display at the National Museum of Scotland is the first cloned animal, the famous sheep Dolly. 

Tips

Do not miss the top floor where a terrace allows you to contemplate a great view of the city.

The National Museum of Scotland – 3 Day Trip to Edinburgh

B. Camera Obscura

After the museum, we stay in the top places to see in 72 hours in Edinburgh with the discovery of the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.

This very popular tourist attraction is at the foot of Castle Hill, just a 7-minute walk from the National Museum.

This museum brings together hundreds of optical illusions spread over 5 floors: holograms, distorting mirrors, 3D images.

But the highlight of the show remains the Camera Obscura or Dark Room, which allows images of the city to be projected live in real time. We are not talking at all about a vulgar webcam but about an ingenious system of mirrors invented in 1835.

It’s quite difficult to describe like that, that’s why I advise you to go and see for yourself!

On the top floor, you can also access the roof terrace and discover the panorama of Edinburgh.

Tips

To avoid queuing, I advise you to buy your ticket for the Camera Obscura in advance right here:
Reserve my ticket for the Camera Obscura now!

The Camera Obscura in Edinburgh

C. The Scotch Whiskey Experience

If optical illusions tempt you moderately or if you have already visited museums of this kind during your previous trips, I recommend that you give priority to visiting “The Scotch Whiskey Experience”.

The place is located right in front of the Camera Obscura.

As its name suggests, here you will discover the whole world of whisky, from its production to its tasting! You can even admire the largest collection of whiskey bottles in the world and taste one of the 400 whiskeys available at the bar.

I’m not necessarily a big whiskey lover but the guided tour is well done and interesting.

To book your visit, it’s as usual, by clicking on the link:
Reserve my ticket for The Scotch Whiskey Experience!

Tips

If you prefer a more personalized and less “all-ages” experience, I recommend booking an evening at a whiskey bar. Your guide, a connoisseur, will be happy to explain everything about Scotland’s national drink.

You will taste 4 whiskeys from 4 different regions of Scotland. A great way to end these three days in Edinburgh!

To book here:
Reserve my whiskey evening now!

The Scotch Whiskey Experience

D. Saint Gilles Cathedral

I advise you to continue the day in Old Town by going to admire the Saint Gilles cathedral.

You have already passed it on the first day of this 3-day Edinburgh tour but the program was too busy to have time to visit it. So I suggest you catch up today!

Dating from the 12th century (but rebuilt in the 15th following a fire), it is Edinburgh’s oldest religious building.

Inside, you will discover many small chapels, including the best known, the chapel of the Order of the Thistle, as well as magnificent stained glass windows. 

And guess what? Here too the entrance is free!

Edinburgh St. Giles Cathedral

E. Other activity ideas

Old Town being really the place where the majority of the activities concentrate, if you want to replace the Camera Obscura or the visit dedicated to Whiskey, you will be spoiled for choice.

There are really quite a few other fun things to do in the area.

I have selected 2 for you that I really liked and that you can easily integrate into the program for this third day:

Fans of the wizard with the scar probably know it, but it was in Edinburgh that JK Rowling wrote his fantastic saga. And inevitably she was inspired by the places that surrounded her to create her universe.

For 2 hours, follow in the footsteps of Harry, Hermione and Ron.

And you know what? These guided tours are so awesome, it’s money back! 

You just have to click on the button below to reserve it:
Book my Harry Potter themed Edinburgh walking tour now!

Good news for those who couldn’t have taken the first night’s ghost-themed tour, or for those who prefer to do it during the day because they think they will be less scared, you can catch up!

I suggest a 1-hour visit to the underground part of the city located towards the Royal Mile, which in the 17th century sheltered the very poor inhabitants of Edinburgh.

The tour is uniquely guided and skillfully mixes historical facts and ghost stories.

To book:
Book my guided tour of Mary King’s Close now!

Accommodation in Edinburgh

Now that you know what to do for 3 days in Edinburgh, you are missing an essential step to finish preparing your stay: find a hotel.

After busy days exploring the capital, it is important to be able to rest well.

To make it easier for you, I have prepared my selection of the best places to stay in Edinburgh according to your budget:

5 star hotel in Edinburgh – The Radisson Collection Hotel

Visit Edinburgh for 3 days with the family

Have you decided to go to Edinburgh for 3 days with children ?

Here is my selection of things to do absolutely with the family in 72 hours in Edinburgh:

Map of your 3-day Edinburgh itinerary

To help you visualize your  itineraries during these 3 days in Edinburgh,  I made you a map listing the  places to visit day by day. You can display the map legend by clicking on the top left button with a small arrow. You will then be able to view the routes for each day.

Need help planning your 3 day Edinburgh itinerary? Do not hesitate to ask me your questions in the comments.

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