4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: The majestic Palace of Holyroodhouse with a sculpted fountain in the foreground.

Edinburgh in 4 Days: A Full Itinerary to Explore the City on Foot

A perfect 4 days itinerary to help you explore Edinburgh, the scenic city of wizards and castles! Here are the 30 must-see attractions with photos and pins on Google Maps, so you don’t miss a thing.

Straight out of fairy tales and Harry Potter movies, Edinburgh will steal your heart.

With its castles, museums, palaces, gardens, and neighborhoods that you’d hardly believe are part of a modern city, it’s bound to become one of your favorite destinations.

If you are planning your trip, you’ve come to the right place: the following comprehensive 4 days itinerary of Edinburgh will make your life a bit easier.

How Many Days Are Enough in Edinburgh?

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: Chrysavgi smiling on a wet cobblestone street with sunlight behind.

We chose to stay for 4 days in Edinburgh before crafting this itinerary.

Three days are sufficient time to explore the entire historical center of the city as well as its most significant neighborhoods.

The fourth day is dedicated to a day trip to the beautiful Loch Ness and the Highlands.

Is Edinburgh Very Expensive?

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: the old stone ruin of Holyrood Abbey beside the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

I would say Edinburgh is more “expensive” than “cheap,” but definitely not very expensive.

For dinner in a mid-range restaurant, you’ll need about 20-30 pounds per person, while a night in a mid-range hotel goes for around 120-130 pounds.

However, at the same time, most museums and landmarks offer free entry.

If you plan your itinerary correctly and are flexible, you can save quite a bit of money – see below for how we saved a lot on our plane tickets.

How Do You Get to Edinburgh?

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: A bagpiper in traditional Scottish attire playing on a wet city street.

The city’s official airport is Edinburgh Airport, located nearly 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the center.

From there, you can use:

1) Tram or bus. Departing every 7 to 10 minutes, with the Airlink 100 bus operating around the clock and being the most popular option.

2) Pre-booked taxi. If you’re in a hurry or prefer traveling comfortably, this is the best solution. Welcome Pickups is the service I use in these cases.

Alternatively, if you can’t find economical flight tickets like us, you can use Newcastle Airport – in our case, they were a third of the cost compared to Edinburgh Airport.

From there, we took the train and were in the Edinburgh city center in 1.5 hours.

Where to Stay for 4 Days in Edinburgh?

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: rooftop view from the Ten Hill Place Hotel over the city showing detailed architecture and the glow of the setting sun.

For our stay, we chose Ten Hill Place, which was comfortable, clean, and allowed us to visit everything on foot.

The three best alternatives in the city center are:

4 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Day 1

The recommended route for your first day

1. Edinburgh Castle

Visitors approaching the Edinburgh Castle on a cloudy day, a highlight of the 4 days in Edinburgh itinerary.

Why: Your exploration of central Edinburgh starts with the most recognizable monument of the old town, Edinburgh Castle.

With a history spanning over 9 centuries, it initially served as an ancient fortress and later was used, among other things, as a royal residence and prison.

Plan to spend at least two hours here, and be sure to visit the Scottish National War Memorial, the Great Hall, and the Royal Palace, where the Scottish Crown Jewels are displayed.

Consider this guided tour with an entry ticket if you want to understand the whole context better and skip the lines.


2. Writer’s Museum

Interior view of the Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh.

Why: A few minutes’ walk from Edinburgh Castle is the Writer’s Museum, dedicated to three of Scotland’s greatest authors.

Specifically, the main exhibits are about Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Robert Louis Stevenson, and contain their personal items and rare books.

Admission is free, and it’s worth visiting for at least 15 minutes to enjoy the building that houses it.


3. Oink Victoria Street

A pulled pork sandwich from Oink Victoria Street served in aluminum foil.

Why: Your 4 days itinerary in Edinburgh continues on Lawnmarket Str and from there to Upper Bow until you reach Oink Victoria Street.

The shop prides itself on having “The Best Pulled Pork Sandwich in Edinburgh,” so you must try it.

However, keep in mind it’s quite heavy on the stomach, so choose the small or medium size to share between two people.


4. Museum Context: Retailer of Harry Potter Merchandise

A Harry Potter-themed mirror at the Museum Context, writing "The Chamber of Secrets has been opened, enemies of the heir... beware".

Why: If you’re a fan of the Harry Potter movies, you’ve already realized you’re on the street that inspired J.K. Rowling to create Diagon Alley.

As you’d expect, the surrounding shops live in the rhythm of the famous wizard.

The most distinctive among them is Museum Context, specializing in Harry Potter-themed collectibles, and worth spending some time in even if you’re not familiar with the books or movies.

PS. If you’re still waiting for your Hogwarts letter, like my wife Chrysaugi, check out this Harry Potter Magical tour.


5. The Elephant House, Victoria Street

Chrysavgi smiling in front of the red storefront of The Elephant House, known as the 'birthplace' of Harry Potter.

Why: Another must-visit for Potterheads is The Elephant House, the café where J.K. Rowling wrote her first books.

The original café was located at 21 George IV Bridge but ceased operations in 2021 after a devastating fire.

According to a BBC report, it’s set to reopen in 2024, but in the meantime, the owner has created a “sibling” on Victoria Street serving Butterscotchbeer.


6. Grassmarket

View of the tranquil Grassmarket, an area filled with historic charm, and must-stop in your 4 days in Edinburgh itinerary.

Why: Your next stop is Grassmarket, a neighborhood full of pubs, restaurants, cafés, and a wonderful view of Edinburgh Castle.

Its name comes from the market that was here in the past, selling grass-fed animals, while public hangings took place in its center.

If you want to go out for a drink in the evening, make sure to stroll through here.


7. National Museum of Scotland

Four airplanes of different eras hanging from the roof of the National Museum of Scotland.

Why: The National Museum of Scotland is a relatively small museum that you can explore in 1-2 hours, with free entry.

Housed in a beautiful building, it features exhibitions that will immediately catch your attention – personal favorites are the space and natural history sections.

Its café is equally splendid, with a view of the central hall, so don’t forget to stop for a coffee or snack after your visit.


8. Greyfriars Bobby’s Grave

Grave of Greyfriars Bobby adorned with flowers, a monument to visit on a 4-day Edinburgh tour.

Why: When was the last time you rubbed a statue’s nose for good luck?

If you can’t remember, now’s your chance at the statue of Bobby, the small dog who spent the rest of his life sleeping on his master’s grave after his death.

The touching story has been made into a movie twice, once in 1961 by Disney titled “Greyfriars Bobby: The True Story of a Dog,” and again in 2005 titled “The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby.”


9. Greyfriars Kirkyard

A peaceful dusk setting on a winter's day at Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Why: Behind Greyfriars Bobby’s grave is Greyfriars Kirkyard, one of the oldest cemeteries in Edinburgh.

The place is the final resting home of many notable Edinburgh residents, from whom J.K. Rowling drew inspiration, such as William McGonagall and Tom Riddell.

Be sure to visit the church and walk around its yard, as it’s exceptionally tranquil and atmospheric.


10. Makars Mash Bar

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: enjoying a traditional Scottish meal at Makars Mash Bar.

Why: The first day of your 4 days itinerary in Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without a good Scottish dinner.

Makars Mash Bar specializes in mashed potatoes, so you’ll choose your favorite and pair them with meat or vegetarian toppings of your choice – definitely try the excellent slow-cooked beef.

I strongly recommend making an online reservation in advance, as it’s almost always fully booked.


4 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Day 2

The recommended route for your second day

11. Royal Mile

The historic Royal Mile stretching out at dawn, an iconic part of any 4 days in Edinburgh itinerary.

Why: Your second day is also dedicated to the city center, starting with the Royal Mile, perhaps its most historic route.

It connects Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and along it, you’ll find dozens of shops selling, among other things, Scottish fabrics, whisky, souvenirs, and, of course, Harry Potter merchandise.

Walk it leisurely, and don’t miss out on trying products made from the exceptionally high-quality Scottish wool.


12. St Giles’ Cathedral

The gothic St Giles’ Cathedral under a clear blue sky early in the morning.

Why: A must-stop on the Royal Mile is St Giles’ Cathedral to visit its interior.

It’s a magnificent building, constructed in the 14th century in Gothic style, notable for its architecture and stained glass windows.

Among its must-sees is the Thistle Chapel, with its impressive ceiling and oak interior woodwork.


13. Canongate Kirk

Canongate Kirk under the sunlight and surrounded by blossoming trees.

Why: As you continue walking on the Royal Mile towards the Palace of Holyroodhouse, you’ll encounter Canongate Kirk on your left.

It’s one of Edinburgh’s oldest churches and the parish church of the Palace, though located outside it.

Besides its interior, be sure to visit the surrounding area, the atmospheric Canongate Kirkyard.


14. Scottish Parliament

The innovative facede of the Scottish Parliament building, a controversial touch to Edinburgh's cityscape.

Why: If there’s one building in the entire historical center of Edinburgh that stands out distinctly from the rest, it’s undoubtedly the Scottish Parliament.

Its construction began in 1999, with its first session held five years later in 2004.

Its facade is notable for the installed panels with abstract shapes.

As you’d expect, its construction sparked diverse reactions due to its architecture, both negative and positive.


15. Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse on a clear day, a royal highlight on a 4 days in Edinburgh itinerary.

Why: The Palace of Holyrood House, also known as Holyrood Palace, is the official royal residence of the British monarch in Scotland.

It’s one of the city’s most important attractions, and I suggest booking your tickets online beforehand as they are more expensive on the day.

Plan to spend about two hours exploring it at your leisure, as it has impressive rooms and interesting gardens.

The entrance ticket even includes a multimedia guide, which takes you step by step through all the palace’s spaces.


16. Calton Hill

The iconic Dugald Stewart Monument on Calton Hill, notable example of Neoclassical architecture, and panoramic view of Edinburgh in the background.

Why: After visiting the palace, it’s time to enjoy a unique view of the entire city.

To reach the top of Calton Hill, you’ll need to walk up a slightly inclined path, but it’s worth the effort: from the top, you can see as far as the sea and Edinburgh Castle.

Around, you’ll also find informative signs that will help you orient yourself and understand what you’re looking at.


17. The Dome

The Christmas-decorated facade of The Dome, with several people taking photos in front of it.

Why: Your next stop in this 4 days Edinburgh itinerary isn’t the most budget-friendly.

It’s The Dome, an impressive bar and restaurant I believe is worth spending a bit more to visit and enjoy your tea – provided you’ve made a reservation in advance, as otherwise, it’s hard to find a seat.

However, if upscale places aren’t your style, make sure at least to pass by and see it from the outside.


18. Rose St – George St – Princes St

A towering column with a statue atop in St. Andrew Square Garden, set against a clear blue sky.

Why: After the necessary rest, continue your stroll through the shops on George Street, Rose St, and Princes St.

If you can, it’s worth walking these three streets from start to finish, from St Andrews Square to Charlotte Square.

Enter any shops you like, but a stop at Ben’s Cookies (see below) is a must.

Map George St, Rose St, Princes St

19. Ben’s Cookies

The storefront of Ben’s Cookies, showcasing a selection of delicious cookies.

Why: I don’t know if others feel the same, but on my travels, I love to try a lot of sweets – I eat noticeably more than when I’m at home.

One of these tastings in Edinburgh led me to Ben’s Cookies, possibly the best cookies in town.

Definitely try the one with peanut butter, and if you love chocolate, the triple chocolate one.


20. Princes Street Gardens

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: The blue and gold Ross Fountain in the Princes Street Gardens with Edinburgh Castle in the background.

Why: Right across from Ben’s Cookies, you can find the Princes Street Gardens, stretching along Princes Street.

Created in 1726 on the site of The Nor Loch (North Lake), they are perfect for a relaxing walk.

Notable within them are the Ross Fountain and the Gardener’s cottage, while from here, you’ll also enjoy a unique view of Edinburgh Castle.


21. Scott Monument

The towering Scott Monument, with holiday stalls at its base and people strolling around.

Why: The Scott Monument is a landmark you can spot from almost all over central Edinburgh, as it stands 61 meters tall.

Built in Gothic Revival style, it is dedicated to the author Sir Walter Scott.

Since you climbed up Calton Hill earlier, it’s not necessary to go to the top here – unless you want to enjoy another panoramic view of this beautiful city.


22. Gautam’s

A plate of rich, creamy chicken curry at Gautam's, accompanied by a bowl of rice, is the perfect way to end a long day on your 4 days in Edinburgh itinerary.

Why: Gautam’s is one of the best Nepalese and Indian Restaurants I’ve visited, not just in Edinburgh but overall!

Make sure you have a reservation in advance and try the Momo (Chicken) appetizer and the Chicken Korma and Chicken Tikka Masala as main dishes.

Also, if you’re quite hungry, I’d advise you to get the Pilau Rice as a side, since the portions alone are not enough, and a Cheese Naan.

Lastly, if you’re in the mood for a drink, Gautam’s Mango Colada is particularly tasty and refreshing.


4 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Day 3

The recommended route for your third day

23. Dean Village

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: Beautiful stone-built traditional homes by the river at Dean Village.

Why: Today, you will venture a little outside the city center to the beautiful Dean Village: if you’re not too tired, it’s worth walking here to enjoy the route.

In the past, the surrounding area hosted grain milling watermills, taking advantage of the Water of Leith river.

Today, the former village has been incorporated into Edinburgh – the whole scene, however, feels like you’ve been transported to the countryside.


24. Water of Leith Walkway

The serene Water of Leith Walkway, flowing past historic buildings under a cloudy sky.

Why: Perhaps the nicest part of Dean Village is the walk along the Water of Leith, the city’s largest river.

Along this fairy-tale-like path, you’ll meet both tourists and locals taking their dogs for a walk or just strolling.

It’s worth dedicating at least half an hour to walk up to Belford Bridge and back.


25. Water of Leith Walkway Part 2

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: a small, round stone tower with a big arch bridge overhead.

Why: After heading towards The Dean Bridge, continue walking along the Water of Leith Walkway towards Stockbridge.

The route here is also beautiful, to the point where you forget you’re in a European capital city.

Don’t miss stopping at St. Bernard’s Well too.


26. Stockbridge

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: the narrow Circus Lane street with rows of old, stone houses.

Why: The third day of this 4 days itinerary continues with Stockbridge, one of Edinburgh’s most elegant districts.

The area is full of well-curated shops, stylish cafés and restaurants, and picturesque houses.

However, the real hidden gem here is Circus Lane, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful streets in the city – make sure not to overlook it.


27. Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

A winding path through tall green trees in the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh.

Why: Your next stop is the Royal Botanic Garden, one of the best botanical gardens worldwide, boasting a huge plant collection.

After touring its grounds, you can sit at its café and rest before continuing your day.

Oh, and the best part is that admission remains free!


28. The Royal Yacht Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia parked by the water with buildings nearby.

Why: If you’ve watched the Netflix series The Crown, then you’ll surely remember The Royal Yacht Britannia.

It’s the yacht the Royal Family used for 44 years and now serves as a floating museum.

And if you’re wondering how interesting a ship-museum can be, consider that it has been voted as the number 1 attraction in the entire United Kingdom on TripAdvisor!


29. Soul Vegan

A table at Soul Vegan with a bowl of chicken curry soup and a pineapple filled with fried rice.

Why: Even if you’re not a fan of vegan restaurants, it’s worth dining at Soul Vegan.

It’s not a fancy restaurant, but the staff is exceptionally friendly, and the food is simply delicious and filling.

I recommend making a reservation here too, and trying the wonton and spring rolls for appetizers, and the Pineapple fried rice and Laksa noodles for main dishes.


4 Days in Edinburgh Itinerary: Day 4

The recommended route for your fourth day

I highly recommend dedicating your fourth day in Edinburgh to a day trip to Loch Ness and the Highlands.

The scenery looks like it’s straight out of postcards and movies: in fact, you’ll visit places that have actually been filmed in scenes from James Bond and Harry Potter movies.

Since we visited the area in winter, the landscape was snow-covered and beautiful.

A snowy, wooden welcome sign for Loch Ness at Fort Augustus.

Even in summer, though, it remains equally beautiful, as the location is lush green.

For our excursion, we chose this highly-rated tour and were completely satisfied.

It was long – about 13 hours – but in the end, it left us feeling like we had a fulfilling day.

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: a snow-covered path leading to a white house with trees.

Alternatively, if you’re accustomed to driving on the left side of the road, you can rent a car and make the journey on your own.

In this case, you can use the price comparison engine Rentalcars.com to find the best rates.

Adjusting Your Edinburgh Guide

4 days in Edinburgh itinerary: The serene Water of Leith river flowing through traditional stone buildings on both sides.

The above ‘4 days in Edinburgh’ itinerary should be more than enough for you to have a great first taste of the city.

If you are looking for more travel ideas, make sure to check out my step-by-step Athens itineraries as well as the ‘Around The World’ section.

Finally, let me know in the comments if you need help modifying the itinerary or if you have any questions. I’ll be glad to help!

Make Your Trip Easier

I always book my accommodation with a reliable service like Booking.com. Besides their price guarantee, you can rest assured that you will have 24/7 support in the event of any problems with your hotel. Always make sure you read reviews from other guests before booking.

Airport Transfer
If you want to get to and from the airport with peace of mind, I recommend pre-booking your taxi with Welcome Pickups. Their flat rate is a few euros more expensive than random taxis, but they are totally worth it. They use local English-speaking drivers, wait for you at the arranged meeting point, even if your arrival is delayed, and introduce you to the city along the way.

Don’t forget to use Skyscanner before booking your flights, as it compares different airlines to provide the cheapest and fastest solutions. Moreover, you can save a lot of money if you are flexible with your dates.

Travel Insurance
Nobody wants to think about all the things that could go wrong on a trip. However, these things can happen, so do not miss taking out travel insurance: SafetyWing is the one I use as its plans are affordable and can save you a lot of trouble.

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