City break (noun): a short holiday spent in a city, such as when on business travel.
Before there was bleisure travel, there was the city break—the short space of leisure time that grants you access to the cultural and culinary amenities that big cities offer. In this series from TripIt, we explore some of the world’s best cities for planning a quick getaway or extending a work trip.
Here are our tips for making the most of your city break in Edinburgh.
Where to fly in
Edinburgh is served by Edinburgh Airport (EDI), located just eight miles from the city center.
Once on the ground, travelers can catch an Edinburgh Tram to head into the city. A one-way ticket from the airport to the city costs £6.00; round-trip tickets cost £8.50 and are open-ended.
Not heading to central Edinburgh? You can catch a variety of buses to reach your final destination. The Airlink, Skylink, and Night Bus deliver passengers to much of Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. Consult the transit map to determine which bus route suits you best.
Alternatively, black cabs and ride shares are also available from EDI.
Where to stay during your city break
If this is your first time visiting Edinburgh, stay in the city center. Doing so will enable you to explore the city on foot from its best angle: up close and personal. There are a number of luxury hotels, including The Balmoral Hotel, The Scotsman Hotel, Hotel Indigo, and Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, located right in central Edinburgh.
Nearby, the cozy Grassmarket Hotel is just a few minutes walk to Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Mile, and more.
If you’re attending an event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, you can’t beat the convenience of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. The hotel is located just 0.1 miles from the conference center, and offers business travel-friendly amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, a 24-hour business center, and express check-out.
Alternatively, the DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre is a quick walk to city attractions such as Usher Hall, the Grassmarket, and the shops of Princes Street.
How to get around
Part of Edinburgh’s charm is its easy walkability. Plan accordingly by packing comfortable shoes for walking from place to place.
When walking isn’t feasible or desirable, Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses can be your go-to for getting around. A single-ride fare costs £1.70 or a day-pass costs £4. Travelers can purchase tickets on the bus with exact change or ahead of time on the m-tickets app. You can also download the Transport for Edinburgh app to plan your journey, check real-time departure times, and more.
As mentioned above, Edinburgh Trams span 16 stops—from Edinburgh Airport to York Place—and offer eco-friendly transport to city attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Murrayfield Stadium, and Princes Street. Similar to bus tickets, tram tickets can be bought via the m-tickets app and displayed in the Transport for Edinburgh app upon boarding. Ticket vending machines are also available at every tram stop. Adult fares start at £1.70 for the city zone and £6.00 for getting to/from the airport.
Alternatively, if you’d rather get to your destination in a jiffy, hail a black cab—they’re everywhere in the city center. Plus, cab drivers are helpful guides to learn about the city.
Uber is also available in Edinburgh.
Pro tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. For example, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat, below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table. You can find Navigator within your plan details screens.
Where to eat
If you only have time for one meal during your trip to Edinburgh, try haggis—Scotland’s national dish—as it’s traditionally served: with neeps and tatties (that’s mashed turnips and potatoes, and topped with brown gravy). You’ll also see it served in a variety of ways. For instance, I’ve had it in spring rolls at The Whiski Rooms or as a burger topping at Holyrood 9A.
Haggis aside, there are lots of options for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike in Edinburgh. Check out Dishoom for the flavors of Bombay, or Holyrood 9A (as mentioned above) for great burgers and local beers.
For upscale dining, venture to Leith to visit the Michelin stars: Martin Wishart and The Kitchin. Looking for a high-end spot that’s more centrally located? Head to The Witchery or Angels with Bagpipes located right on the Royal Mile, or Twenty Princes Street located on, you guessed it, Princes Street.
In pursuit of wine and cheese? Whighams Wine Cellars is the ideal spot to enjoy a glass of wine and a cheese board. Or, pop into I.J. Mellis for expert advice on wine and cheese pairings to go.
What to do on your city break
If you’re visiting Edinburgh during soccer—nay, football—season, be sure to catch one of the local clubs in action. A fierce rivalry exists between the Hibernian FC and Hearts FC, so be sure to choose your allegiance carefully. More of a rugby fan? Head to Murrayfield Stadium, the largest stadium in Scotland and home of Scottish Rugby.
There are also plenty of kid-friendly things to do in Edinburgh. Start your day atop Castle Rock at Edinburgh Castle. You’ll not only enjoy the views, the castle itself is a series of buildings filled with the history of Scotland.
From the castle runs the Royal Mile, a stretch of shops, restaurants, and pubs; some are a bit touristy, but it’s otherwise a great place to check out street performers.
Speaking of performances, if you’re fortunate to visit Edinburgh during the month of August, you’ll be spoiled for choice with entertainment. Why? You’re visiting during the month of festivals. Each August, Edinburgh transforms into a city-wide festival venue for the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe (known locally as the Fringe), Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Art Festival, and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
No matter when you visit, make time to wander the city’s arced streets and tiny closes. If you’re looking for a structured way to explore, book a walking tour with Iconic Tours.
Or, if you prefer to explore on your own, Edinburgh World Heritage has created a self-guided list of 101 Objects so you can explore the city’s literary, military, culinary—and sometimes colorful—past. More than three-quarters of the 101 Objects are free to visit; check out these suggested itineraries to get started.
If you’re looking for something outdoorsy—and you catch a sunny day—hike up Arthur’s Seat. It’s located just past Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament building (both worth a visit) in Holyrood Park. The hike takes about an hour and, again, offers incredible views of the city.
Adults only? By day, visit the Scotch Whisky Experience or Johnnie Walker Princes Street to sample and learn about Scotch whisky. While Scotland is best known for its whisky, there’s another local liquor that’s worth sipping: gin. In fact, Edinburgh Gin is distilled right in the heart of the city, meaning you can visit the distillery, learn about the production process and sample some of the good stuff.
By night, head to Juniper Bar or Copper Blossom for great cocktails in a fun atmosphere.
Note: As destinations reopen around the world, be sure to consult and adhere to all local guidelines and travel restrictions, as they vary widely and will continue to change. One way to stay on top of changing guidelines is to consult the COVID-19 travel guidance feature in the TripIt app for destination-specific information, including testing and vaccination requirements, current infection rates, quarantine rules upon arrival, and other information you need to know before visiting the area.