20 Best Ideas For An Edinburgh 3 Day Itinerary With Kids
Nestled amidst rolling hills and steeped in history, Edinburgh, Scotland beckons families with its timeless charm. This city can take years to fully experience. But even if you’re limited to an Edinburgh 3 day itinerary, you’ll still be able to experience the best of what Edinburgh has to offer.
From medieval castles to vibrant streets teeming with street performers, Edinburgh provides an ideal setting for families seeking culture and excitement. Wander along the historic Royal Mile. Or take a moment to marvel at the grandeur of the iconic Edinburgh Castle that looms majestically over the city.
We visited Edinburgh over a period of several days to research all the fun things families can do in this city. Take a read through this post for travel tips of the best things to do during a 3 day Edinburgh itinerary. You’re sure to find something to love in this beautiful Scottish city.
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Easy Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
Don’t have time to read through the whole post? Here’s an easy itinerary that will give you a great overview of Edinburgh.
If you’ve never been to Edinburgh before, take a read through my first time in Edinburgh guide for basic information and travel tips.
Where to stay during an Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
If you only have three days in Edinburgh Scotland, the best place to stay is in the city centre, close to Old Town or New Town. This part of Edinburgh is where many of the city’s attractions are located. So staying in a hotel in this area means you won’t need to do a lot of walking or riding the tram.
Accommodations in Edinburgh tend to be between £230-350 per night (roughly $300-450 USD), and can be higher if you’re right in Old Town or New Town. Make sure you account for those costs in your travel budget.
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You can’t get any more central than Apex Grassmarket. This hotel is located right at Grassmarket Square, making it steps away from restaurants and just a few minutes walk from Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile.
Rooms at Apex Grassmarket can accommodate families of 4, and offer views of the city. WiFi, a TV with cable channels, a safe, and 24-hour room service are all included in the rooms. There’s also a pool, gym, and laundry facilities on the premises. Breakfast is available for a fee.
For more basic accommodations, book a stay at Cityroomz Edinburgh. Families can book suites, studios, or quadruple rooms, which can all accommodate families of 4. Cityroomz Edinburgh is located to the west of Edinburgh Castle, and is within a 1-2 minute walk from restaurants and cafes.
Rooms and suites at Cityroomz Edinburgh come with WiFi, TV, coffee/tea maker, and an in-room safe. There are laundry facilities on the premises. The suites have a kitchen and table, for those who want to cook their own meals during their three days in Edinburgh.
If you’re looking for a more homey hotel experience, with some British charm, book a stay at the Cairn Hotel. This hotel offers rooms that accommodate families of 3, apartments and lofts for families of 4, and houses for families of 6-12 people. Rooms at the Cairn Hotel come with WiFi and TV. Apartments, lofts, and houses come with a kitchen for families who want to self-cater.
Cairn Hotel is located northeast of New Town, however it’s still walkable to many of Edinburgh’s attractions. Breakfast is available for a fee. And there are plenty of restaurants within a 2-5 minute walk from the hotel.
Ideas for an Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
There are plenty of activities to fill your 3 days in Edinburgh itinerary. For this list, I’ve grouped the ideas into top attractions, museums, outdoor spaces, and tours. Take a look through this list and find the perfect things to do in Edinburgh with kids.
Top Edinburgh attractions
There are plenty of amazing attractions and points of interest to visit during a 3 day Edinburgh itinerary. Being such an old city (the area itself has been inhabited by humans as early as 8500 BC!) you’ll find many historic sites dating back hundreds of years.
Walk through royal homes and roads, historic streets, and hallowed grounds to get a glimpse of Edinburgh’s unique history.
1. Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle was the home of Scottish monarchs and played important roles in Scotland’s attempts at independence. You’ll find important Scottish relics there, like the Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny. These items were used for the coronation of Scottish kings.
A unique event at Edinburgh Castle is the firing of the one o’clock gun. Historically, the shooting of the gun was meant to help sailors set their clocks. The tradition continues today, and visitors gather at the castle to watch the gun fire at 1 pm.
Edinburgh Castle is open every day from 9:30 am - 6 pm (5 pm from October to March). You can book tickets online. If you’re interested in a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle, consider booking this tour from Little Fish Tours. They’re a locally formed tour company that’s also dedicated to sustainable tourism.
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2. Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is the name of the road that stretches between Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House. It was traditionally a processional route for monarchs. Today, it’s lined with restaurants and shops for the many tourists that walk along it.
The road is actually a little longer than a mile, and takes families about forty five minutes to walk from one end to the other. There are several museums you can stop at along the road, including the Museum of Edinburgh, the Writer’s Museum (honoring writers like Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson) and the People’s Museum.
You can also find attractions like The Scotch Whisky Experience, where you can sample whisky. The Real Mary King’s Close is also located along the Royal Mile, a guided tour experience to help you see how residents lived throughout history.
A Royal Mile walking tour is a great way to experience the area like a local. This guided tour of the Royal Mile, from Edinburgh Guided Tour, takes you through stops along the road to gain insight into the history of these places.
3. Palace of Holyrood House
At the opposite end of the Royal Mile from Edinburgh Castle, near the Scottish Parliament Building, is the Palace of Holyrood House. This is the British Royal Family’s official royal residence in Edinburgh. But Holyrood House was also the home of Scottish royalty, including Mary Queen of Scots.
Since it is an official royal residence, you can only visit certain parts of the palace. However, Holyrood House is open Thursdays to Mondays (from July to September it’s open everyday) from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (opening hours are 9:30 am to 6 pm from April to October). It’s worth a visit to learn about the history of the Scottish monarchy.
4. Greyfriars Kirkyard
South of the Royal Mile is Greyfriars Kirkyard, a graveyard adjacent to Greyfriars Kirk (kirk means church). This historic graveyard dates back to the 16th century and was also involved in the Covenanting movement, a religious and political movement in Scotland in the 1600’s. You can find monuments to the Covenanters within the kirkyard.
For fans of the Harry Potter books, a trip to Greyfriars Kirkyard is a must. This graveyard served as inspiration for the names of many characters in the beloved book series, including McGonagall, Riddle, and Moody (though the spelling differs).
5. Victoria Street
Another Harry Potter fan must-see is Victoria Street, also located south of the Royal Mile. This colorful street served as the inspiration for Diagon Alley in the book series.
But even if you’re not a fan of the Harry Potter series, Victoria Street is still worth a visit. Built in the 1800’s and designed to be intentionally picturesque, Victoria Street is lined with shops and cafes with brightly colored facades. Pop into La Barantine Victoria for a coffee and pastry and enjoy some people watching!
6. New Town and Prince’s Street
The historic part of Edinburgh is divided into the Old Town and the New Town, built in the 1800s. This part of Edinburgh, which is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built by the wealthy residents who wanted to separate themselves from the common residents of the city.
While most of Edinburgh’s points of interest are located in the Old Town, New Town is still worth a visit. Princes Street is now a shopping street with Marks and Spencer’s, Primark, and H&M. The Scottish National Gallery (the National Portrait Gallery) is also located in New Town, as well as the main train station, Edinburgh Waverley Station.
7. Scott Monument
Sir Walter Scott is one of Scotland’s most beloved writers. A prolific writer in his day, Sir Walter Scott is most known for his works of fiction, like Rob Roy and Waverley, and his epic poetry, like The Lady of The Lake.
Scott Monument, located at Princes Street Gardens, was built to honor Sir Walter Scott. Visitors can take guided tours of the monument to learn about Sir Walter Scott’s life and climb the tower to the top. You’ll get a great bird’s eye view of New Town and Old Town.
The monument is open daily from 10 am to 4:30 pm. It’s closed between 12:30-1:45 pm for lunch. Tickets are £8 for adults and £6 for kids. Family tickets are £20.
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Museums in Edinburgh
Scotland’s weather is unpredictable, even in the summer. So don’t be surprised if you get rainy or overcast days during your Edinburgh 3 day itinerary.
Fortunately, Edinburgh has no shortage of museums. They’re a great way to pass the time when the weather is not pleasant.
8. National Museum of Scotland
If you’re looking for a place that covers history, science, and culture all in one place, then head to the National Museum of Scotland. We love using museums as resources for worldschooling as it gives kids a chance to learn at their own pace.
The National Museum has exhibits about the natural world, art and design, science and technology, and archeology. You can spend a whole afternoon interacting with exhibits! And it’s a great indoor activity for when the unpredictable Scottish weather gets too wet for outdoor excursions.
Entry to the National Museum of Scotland is free. The museum is open from 10 am to 5 pm every day.
9. Museum of Edinburgh
If you’re looking for another indoor activity, head to the Museum of Edinburgh, located in the Royal Mile. This museum focuses specifically on the history of Edinburgh, covering religious movements and other historical moments of the city. You’ll also see collections of decorative art.
The Museum of Edinburgh is free to enter. And it’s open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. If you have young kids, be sure to check out the family learning space with activity sheets and learning quests to engage the kids.
The Museum of Edinburgh is part of the Museums and Galleries of Edinburgh collection. After your visit to the Museum of Edinburgh, be sure to check out the Writer’s Museum, the People’s Museum, and the Museum of Childhood. Entry into all these museums is free.
10. Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
To get a glimpse into medieval technology, head to the Camera Obscura and World of Illusion. A camera obscura is a darkened room with a hole and mirrors above it that projects an image of the outside onto a concave table in the center of the room. This technology existed since around the 10th century, and at the time, people thought it was witchcraft!
We visited a camera obscura at Torre Tavira when we were in Cadiz with kids, and loved it. Coincidentally, the guide at the Camera Obscura in Edinburgh told me that the Edinburgh one was the inspiration for the Cadiz one.
The Camera Obscura in Edinburgh is also a museum of illusion. On the floors leading up to the top floor, you’ll find various exhibits focusing on optical illusions.
Entry to the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is £21.95 for adults and £16.95 for kids. The Camera Obscura and World of Illusions is open every day from 8 am to 10 pm.
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Outdoor places and public spaces
Scotland is well known for its lush greenery and stunning landscape. And just because you’re in a city, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the outdoors too. Below are a few places where you can enjoy outside time in Edinburgh.
Keep in mind, Scotland’s weather is famously unpredictable, so if you’re planning for some outdoor time, be sure to pack layers and a waterproof jacket. And have an indoor backup plan!
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11. Arthur’s Seat
If you’re in the mood for a good hike, head over to Arthur’s Seat. Located at Holyrood Park and made from an ancient volcano, Arthur’s Seat reaches a height of 822 feet. You can get some great views of Edinburgh from the top of it!
There are multiple trails that lead up to the top of Arthur’s Seat. Some are steeper than others. Allow 1-2 hours to climb to the summit.
12. The Meadows and The Royal Botanic Garden
If you’re in the mood for outdoor running around, relaxing, or people watching, head to The Meadows. This expansive park has grassy fields for playing cricket, tree-lined paths for strolling, a playground, and a cafe. There’s also a community garden.
The Meadows is also a popular spot for dog walking and picnics. In the spring, this park is a great spot to see cherry blossoms. And it’s also a frequent venue for festivals and markets.
Alternatively, if you’re more interested in seeing flowers and plants, head to the Royal Botanic Garden, on the other side of the city. This garden is over 350 years old, and features Scottish native plants as well as plants from all over the world. The Royal Botanic Garden is open daily and is free to enter.
13. Grassmarket Square
Another public space worth visiting is Grassmarket. This open space at the south end of Victoria Street is surrounded by restaurants and pubs. It also offers a great view of Edinburgh Castle.
Grassmarket played an important role in Edinburgh history as it historically was a public market space. It also used to be the place for public executions. There’s a stone platform memorializing the Coventanters movement that’s located roughly where the gallows used to be.
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Unique tours for an Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
If you’re a worldschooling family like us, then you enjoy learning during your travels. One of the best ways to learn about the places you visit is by taking a guided tour.
The tours on this list are a mix of fun and learning. And best of all, they’re perfect for all ages!
14. Hop on hop off bus
We love doing hop on hop off buses when we get to a new city. It gives us a chance to get to know the lay of the land and pass by all the attractions in one go. We did a hop on hop off bus tour in Paris and it was so much fun!
If your time in Edinburgh is limited, a hop on hop off bus tour is a great way to cover a lot of ground. The City Sightseeing hop on hop off bus takes you to stops like St. Andrew’s Square, Grassmarket, John Knox House, and Canongate, which gives you access to many of the city’s main attractions.
The buses run from 9am to 6pm, leaving stops every 12 minutes. Your ticket is good for 24 hours.
15. Harry Potter walking tour
If you’re Harry Potter fans like we are, then you’ll want to take a Harry Potter walking tour of Edinburgh. The city of Edinburgh serves as the inspiration for much of J.K. Rowlings’ stories - from the names of characters to places like Diagon Alley and Hogwarts.
The Harry Potter walking tour that we recommend is the Immersive Harry Potter Walking Tour from See Your City. The 2 hour tour takes you to places that were important to the making of the Harry Potter books, including Greyfriar’s Kirkyard and Victoria Street.
One unique part of the tour was getting “sorted” into the four houses (I was sorted into Hufflepuff), and competing with the other houses to answer Harry Potter trivia questions. We almost won the cup, but Ravenclaw beat us by 5 points!
16. Food tour
Scotland is famous for its haggis, a delicacy made from sheep’s offal mixed with fat and oatmeal. But if you’re not familiar with haggis, eating the dish can be quite intimidating.
One of the best ways to get comfortable with this Scottish delicacy - and other Scottish food and drink - is to take a food tour. Eat Walk Tours, a Scottish-owned company, offers walking food tours of Edinburgh that’s perfect for adventurous eaters. Tours last around 2 hours and includes food and drink tastings at five locations throughout Edinburgh.
17. Ghost Bus Tour in Edinburgh
This bus tour takes visitors to many of Edinburgh’s haunted spots. The tour stops at St Cuthbert’s Church, where you can stop to take pictures of the graveyard and Edinburgh castle. Throughout the tour, the guide provides commentary about the ghosts who supposedly haunt these places, along with bad jokes and puns.
The Ghost Bus tour lasts around 1.5 hours. Tickets are £19 for adults and £14 for kids. There’s a family ticket available for £51 that covers 2 adults and 2 kids. Just a note, while the Ghost Bus tour is less horror and more comedy, there are some jump scares. So this tour might not be suitable for really young kids.
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Day trip from Edinburgh
If you’re planning an Edinburgh 3 day itinerary, items worth building in some time for excursions. Taking a day trip to places outside of Edinburgh is a great way to experience more of Scotland’s landscape, culture, and history.
We spent a lot of time exploring the outskirts of Edinburgh, especially spending time in the Scottish Borders. There’s just so much to see when you get outside of the city.
Here are a few suggestions for day trips to take during your Edinburgh 3 day itinerary.
18. Loch Lomond
No visit to Scotland would be complete without a trip to a loch (the Scottish word for lake). If you are in the mood for a day trip from Edinburgh, Loch Lomond, Scotland’s largest loch at Trossachs National Park, is just a 1.5-2 hour drive from the city. We unfortunately did not get a chance to visit Loch Lomond while we were in Edinburgh with kids, but heard wonderful things about the loch.
You can self-drive to Loch Lomond by renting a car. Alternatively, you can join a tour. These are a few tour options you can book to take a day trip out to Loch Lomond.
Expect to spend 4-6 hours on the day trip. Tours take you to Loch Lomond, the Kelpies Monument (the largest sculpture of horses in the world) and Stirling Castle.
Book one of these Loch Lomond tours:
19. Coastal villages
Another must-do in Scotland is a visit to one of the country’s coastal villages. If you’re a fan of Marvel movies, consider making a trek out to St. Abbs, located just over an hour away. This beautiful coastal village was the setting for New Asgard in the movie, End Game. The nearby nature reserve, St. Abbs Head, is a great place for hiking.
Alternatively, you can head to St. Andrews, about a 1.5 hour drive north of Edinburgh. The town is home to St. Andrews Castle and St. Andrew Cathedral, both ruins from Medieval Scotland.
You’ll also find the Old Course at St. Andrews, the oldest golf course in the world (golf was invented in Scotland!). If you’re not in the mood to drive, book a guided tour to St. Andrews. This one is led by Rabbie’s.
If you don’t want to venture too far out of Edinburgh, you can still get a coastal experience by heading to Leith, located in the north of the city. There, you’ll find the Royal Yacht Britannia (the late Queen Elizabeth’s former yacht) and the Water of Leith Walkway.
20. Scottish Highlands
One of the draws of Scotland are the Scottish Highlands. This area is located in the northern part of Scotland, and is where the famous Loch Ness is located. We unfortunately did not have time to visit the Scottish Highlands during our time in Scotland, but if your schedule allows it, consider booking a day trip to enjoy the beauty of Scotland’s landscape.
A trip to the Scottish Highlands takes a full day, so make sure to plan your visit accordingly. Here are some tours you can book to the Highlands:
Bonus: Visit the Scottish Borders
While most people tend to associate Scotland with Edinburgh and the Highlands, a visit to the Scottish Borders is also worth considering. This region borders England, and played an important role in Scottish history, especially during the period of English invasion and conquest.
Noteworthy spots in the Scottish Borders include Abbotsford, the home of Sir Walter Scott. Another place to visit is the Great Tapestry of Scotland, which consists of over 100 giant cross-stitch panels that showcase over 12,000 years of Scottish history. Melrose Abbey and Rosslyn Chapel are also beautiful churches to visit.
Take a look at this tour from Timberbush Tours that takes you through the Scottish Borders to Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose Abbey, and a local whisky distillery.
Read about other destinations to visit in the UK!
Sample itineraries for 3 days in Edinburgh
Hopefully, this list of things to do in Edinburgh will give you plenty of ideas to fill your 3 days in Edinburgh itinerary. But just in case you’re still feeling stumped about how to plan your Edinburgh visit, here are some sample itineraries to choose from.
Edinburgh 3 day itinerary for history lovers
If you’re a history lover, this 3 day Edinburgh itinerary is just for you. It covers all the historic spots of Edinburgh and lets you take a step back into time.
Start your three day itinerary with a tour through Old Town and the Royal Mile. The next day, head to New Town, and then spend an afternoon at the National Museum of Scotland. Finally, spend the last day of your itinerary with an excursion to a coastal village, ending the day at Grassmarket Square.
- Edinburgh Castle
- Royal Mile
- Holyrood Palace
- New Town
- Scott Monument
- National Museum of Scotland
- Coastal villages
- Grassmarket Square
Edinburgh 3 day itinerary Harry Potter fans
For lovers of the Harry Potter series, this tour features spots in Edinburgh that inspired the stories.
Start the first day of your itinerary with a Harry Potter walking tour, lunch on Victoria Street, and an evening Ghost Bus tour to get in the spooky spirit. On the next day, spend more time exploring the Harry Potter spots. And then end your 3 days in Edinburgh itinerary with a visit to the Scottish Highlands.
- Harry Potter tour
- Victoria Street
- Ghost Bus Tour
- Edinburgh Castle
- Grassmarket Square
- Greyfirar’s Kirkyard
- Scottish Highlands
Rainy weather Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
In the unpredictable Scottish weather, it’s helpful to have a rainy day plan for your 3 day trip to Edinburgh. This itinerary features indoor activities or things that don’t require spending a lot of time outside.
[Prisoners of War exhibit at Edinburgh Castle]
Begin your three days with a bus tour, with stops at Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. The next day, make it a museum day. And finally, end your 3 day Edinburgh itinerary on the Royal Mile, with a visit to the Camera Obscura and afternoon tea at Clarinda’s Tea Room.
- Hop on hop off bus
- Edinburgh Castle
- Palace of Holyrood
- National Museum of Scotland
- Museum of Edinburgh
- Camera Obscura
- Royal Mile
Walk lover's Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
If you’re blessed with pleasant weather during your time in Edinburgh, then you’ll want to spend as much time outside as possible. This itinerary features outdoor activities you can do during your 3 days in Edinburgh.
Start your itinerary with a food tour and a walk along the Royal Mile, then finish your day with a walk to Leith. The next day, incorporate an outdoor hike at Arthur’s Seat, lunch near The Meadows, and an afternoon stroll through the Royal Botanic Gardens. End your 3 day itinerary of Edinburgh with a day trip to Loch Lomond for more hiking.
- Food tour
- Royal Mile
- Leith Walk
- Arthur’s Seat hike
- The Meadows
- Royal Botanic Gardens
- Loch Lomond
A memorable Edinburgh 3 day itinerary
Edinburgh is truly a magical city. We absolutely loved walking through its historic streets, taking in its beauty. And we think you’ll enjoy it too!
If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Edinburgh, then now is the time. Take all my suggestions for a great Edinburgh 3 day itinerary, and plan a trip to remember for you and your family. I know you’ll fall in love with Edinburgh just as we did!
Have you visited Edinburgh with kids? Tell me about your experience in Edinburgh in the comments!
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