What is the best way to spend 2 hours in Edinburgh?

If you only have a few hours in Scotland’s capital city, then you certainly want to make the most of it! We’re a bit biased, but we have to say that the best way to spend 2 hours in Edinburgh is with a walking tour. Of course, your timeframe may not match up with a walking tour or you may prefer to strike out on your own. So we want to offer a few tips to make the most of your brief time in enchanting Edinburgh, whether you join us at Invisible Cities or not.

If you’re keen to dive deep into local history and culture, check out our walking tours of Edinburgh to see all the places we go and the stories we tell. Most of our tours are 1-1.5 hours, so you could easily join us and have time to spare for more sightseeing! Starting times range from 11am to 3pm so you can join morning or afternoon departures. Feel free to contact us if you’re tight on time and want to squeeze in a tour.

If you only have two hours, then you certainly don’t want to waste any time wandering around lost or not knowing where to go! There are different areas of Edinburgh that may interest you based on your preferences.

Are you keen on history? Prefer art? How about outdoor spaces and views? If architecture is your thing, then you can pretty much go anywhere in Edinburgh and fall in love with the buildings.

We’ll break it down for you based on interests so you can prioritise your brief time in the city.

Learn the History of Edinburgh

To get the quick overview of this historic capital city, you have a few options. First, join our tour of The Royal Mile – From Huts to High Rise. The Royal Mile is a must-see in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It highlights so many significant moments and landmarks in just a short stretch connecting Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace. Along the way, you can see iconic architecture, learn the stories of former residents, and admire the many layers of the city as it has changed over the centuries.

If you prefer to use your 2 hours in Edinburgh on your own, do walk at least part of the Mile. Look up for plaques and important monuments; look down for golden markers indicating the former outlines of significant buildings and the original city walls.

Fun fact: The Royal Mile is not, actually, the length of a mile as we know it today. It’s the length of a Scots mile, which is no longer used but measures 1.81km or 1.12mi.

Admire the Art in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is known as The Festival City for its celebrations and festivals throughout the year. From the world’s largest arts festival (the Festival Fringe in August) to the International Film Festival, the International Storytelling Festival, the Jazz Festival and more…Edinburgh certainly appreciates the arts!

If you only have a few hours, you could pop into the Scottish National Gallery and its neighbor the Royal Scottish Academy. Both are free to enter and conveniently located on Princes Street just a few minutes’ walk from Waverley Station if you’re heading out of Edinburgh by train. The galleries are also close to the stop for the Airlink bus to Edinburgh airport.

Alternatively, head to the West End to explore Modern One and Modern Two, the other Scottish National Galleries. These two galleries are in one of the most scenic places in Edinburgh, so you should visit pretty Dean Village and walk along the Water of Leith if you still have time.

Want to learn more about vibrant Leith? Join Paul for a tour of The Alternative Story of Leith and learn more about this area of Edinburgh.

Enjoy Edinburgh’s Views and Parks

1. Walk up Calton Hill

Just up the street from Waverley Train Station, Calton Hill is very easily walked and boasts beautiful views over the Firth of Forth and beyond. If you’re only in Edinburgh for a few hours, this is the most convenient green space with views that’s accessible in city centre. It’s ideal at sunset, too!

2. Hike up Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano boasting beautiful views over all of Edinburgh and beyond. If you head straight there when you arrive in Edinburgh, you should have time to walk up to the top, enjoy the vista, stroll back down, and maybe even grab a pint before leaving the city.

3. Take the stairs of the Scott Monument

Located on Princes Street in the heart of Edinburgh, the Scott Monument is iconic. Honouring Sir Walter Scott (the famous poet, writer, and statesman), the Scott Monument also boasts impressive views of Edinburgh. You need to earn them, though! You’ll have to climb the 287 steps to get to the top.

4. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

The National Museum of Scotland is not only a fantastic place to learn, it also offers a rooftop deck with a great view over the city. It’s located conveniently in Old Town so you could also explore The Royal Mile and the Grassmarket during your brief visit. The Grassmarket is where Sonny starts his tour to Uncover Stories of Crime and Punishment.

So, as you can see, there’s loads you can do in only 2 hours in Edinburgh! Of course, you can’t do everything we mentioned, but if you choose wisely then you’ll really maximise your short visit. And we’re certain you’ll want to come back for more! We would love to welcome you on one of our Edinburgh walking tours, so do reach out and we’ll see if we can accommodate your schedule.