Kelly Duhigg is a former nanny from New York who quit her 9-to-5 to pursue her dream of travel. Since then, she created Girl with the Passport, a website that is designed to inspire other solo female travelers to travel more and worry less. You can also follow her on Instagram.   

Filled with picturesque cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways known as “closes,” Edinburgh is a true wonder to behold. It is easily one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and filled with delicious food, stunning photo ops, and ancient castles that housed some of the most famous Scottish dignitaries in history.

So, if you want to enjoy all that the capital of Scotland has to offer in 72 hours, here are some of my personal recommendations.   

DAY 1

Two women at the Edinburgh Camera Obscura and World of Illusions walking through the swirling light vortex
9:00 AM

Start your day off with a brisk hike up Edinburgh’s famous, Arthur’s Seat.  It’s a large, vibrantly green, now extinct volcano that sits along the outskirts of the city. Ideally, get here early on a nice, clear day so that you can avoid the crowds and marvel at the sweeping views of Edinburgh all around you. In total, the hike should take you approximately 3 hours, round trip, so be sure to bring plenty of water.

12:00 PM

Edinburgh is filled with stunningly beautiful, historic landmarks. And of the city’s most famous is the Palace of Holyroodhouse. So, grab your complimentary audio guide and navigate your way through the opulent, royal residence of the Queen when she is in Scotland.

Along the way, you can marvel at the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, take in the expansive State Apartments, see the regal Throne Room, and look at Mary Queen of Scots former bed chambers.

3:00 PM

Continue up the most famous street in all of Edinburgh, the Royal Mile. It’s the main road through the Old Town and will take you from the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the bottom to Edinburgh Castle at the top.

As you climb the hill, you’ll see the unique modern architecture of the Scottish Parliament, as well as the Museum of Edinburgh, and St. Giles Cathedral. Depending on your interests, you could sample some fine Scottish Whiskey at the Scotch Whiskey Experience or learn about Edinburgh’s dark history at Mary King’s Close.  It’s a fascinating, underground museum where tour guides take you through a labyrinth of narrow alleyways. They’ll also show you exactly what life in medieval Old Town was really like.

7:00 PM

During your time in Edinburgh, don’t forget to sample some of the city’s delicious cuisine. And while there are plenty of restaurants along the Royal Mile, one of my favorites is Aizle. It’s an eatery beloved by locals and tourists alike. That’s because freshly made sourdough bread and hand churned butter are perfectly complemented by an ever-changing, six course tasting menu filled vibrant, seasonal ingredients. You can also wash your meal down with one of their signature artisanal cocktails that is made with aged kombucha.

Finally, end your day with a trip to Edinburgh Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. It’s a fun and exciting house of illusions that features well over a hundred interactive exhibits. Before you leave though, don’t forget to head to the rooftop terrace for exceptional views of the city and nearby Edinburgh Castle. 

DAY 2

a couple enjoying a scottish whiskey experience in Edinburgh
9:00 AM

Today we’re going to explore an entirely different part of the city. So, hop on a local bus and take it to the Ocean Terminal in Leith. Here you will find the Royal Yacht Britannia moored near the second floor of the mall. Grab your tickets and explore the ship where the British royal family spent many of their holidays between 1953 and 1997. A fantastic free audio guide will also give you some added insight into what life for the Royals was really like.

12:00 PM

After touring the yacht for much of the morning, have lunch at one of the many fantastic restaurants in the area. Because whether you’re in the mood for Michelin star rated cuisine at the Kitchin or are looking for a traditional plate of fish and chips at Fishers, Leith really does have something for everyone.

3:00 PM

Explore all of the amazing historical attractions that Leith has to offer. After all, It was Scotland’s primary seaport for upwards of 900 years and is home to various historic attractions. One of my favorites is the Trinity House Maritime Museum. It’s a Georgian style house that is home to a collection of artifacts that relate to the mariners of Leith’s past.

Afterward, take a leisurely stroll along the Water of Leith Walkway. It’s a scenic, riverside walkway where you can enjoy some amazing natural beauty. Also be on the lookout for Antony Gormley’s ‘6 Times’ statues. They are six scantily statues of gentlemen that can be found in the river along the walkway.

Alternatively, you could take the bus back to Edinburgh’s Old Town and visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. It’s also located along the Water of Leith Walkway and is home to a wonderful sculpture park with works by Henry Moore.

Day 3

a group enjoying a tour of the underground castle vaults
9:00 AM

Spend the morning at Edinburgh Castle. It’s perched atop the Royal Mile and is a great place to learn about the significant role this military fortification played in Scottish History. Highlights include St. Margaret’s Chapel, the Castle Vaults, the firing of the one o’clock gun, and the Royal Palace where the Honours of Scotland are stored.

12:00 PM

Enjoy an early afternoon tea at the Balmoral Hotel. J.K. Rowling herself stayed here while writing the final Harry Potter book and you too can dine at one of the finest hotels in the city. It’s a bit pricey but worth it since you get top-notch service, a fine selection of coffees and teas, an amuse, an assortment of fresh finger sandwiches, fresh scones with clotted cream and raspberry jam, and a trio of decadent desserts.  

3:00 PM

Stroll down Princes Street and admire the stellar panoramic views from the famous Scott Monument. Afterward, stop by the Scottish National Gallery and admire some of the amazing art on display in the building’s three impressive galleries.

7:00 PM

Finally, conclude your day with an easy, 200 meter hike up famous Calton Hill. Watch the sun set and enjoy impressive views of Arthur’s Seat. You can also visit the Burns Monument and check out the half-finished, National Monument of Scotland while you’re here.

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