Two days exploring Edinburgh with an Off-Peak Return ticket

Last updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2023

Edinburgh is one of those cities where one day just doesn’t give you enough time to explore.

Not only is there the city centre with its great attractions to enjoy, but lots of vibrant areas with their own character too.

We’ve now made it easier (and cheaper!) to take off to the capital for a couple of days with the introduction of an Off-Peak Return ticket between Edinburgh and Glasgow. This means that you’ve got 30 days to use the return portion of your ticket, and don’t have to buy two singles if you want to stay overnight like in the past. An Off-Peak Open Return costs £20 as opposed to two singles at £14.70 each way.

Here are some ideas for an epic two days exploring Scotland’s capital.

Day 1


Purchase your Off-Peak Return ticket online , from the ScotRail app , or from a ticket vending machine or booking office and hop on board an eXpress service from Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Waverley.

Arriving into Edinburgh Waverley around 50 minutes later puts you right in the heart of the city. Whether you fancy hitting up attractions first or seeking out the best viewpoints, a great day always starts with good coffee. And Edinburgh’s got plenty of caffeine hotspots. Wellington Coffee on George Street is one of our favourites. It’s a small basement café with a few seats but there’s plenty of seating outside.

Since you’re already in the New Town, take a wander along to the new St James Quarter . This vibrant retail area was completed in June 2021 and is home to 85 shops and 30 restaurants. So if you fancy a bit of retail therapy while you’re in the capital, this is the place to go! If you just fancy a nosey, have a wander through then head on out towards Leith Street.

Now it’s time to get a different perspective on the city with a walk up Calton Hill. The view from here is spectacular! You can see over the Firth of Forth to Fife, the three iconic bridges and of course, views over the whole of the city centre.

After stopping a while to enjoy the view, it’s time to grab some lunch before heading on to an attraction for the afternoon. If the sun is shining, why not get yourself a picnic and head for Princes Street Gardens.


Kids visit free at Camera Obscura

There’s no shortage of attractions in Edinburgh city centre. But one of our favourites is Camera Obscura . No matter what your age, time spent here is always a lot of fun! If you’ve got the kids in tow – remember you can take them along for just £1 each with a Kids for a Quid ticket - show your train ticket at Camera Obscura’s ticket desk to get one free child entry.

If Camera Obscura doesn’t take your fancy, perhaps the Scotch Whisky Experience , a little bit further up the Royal Mile, will entice you in. Kids can visit here for free too when you show a train ticket. And if it’s history you’re after, head to the top of the Royal Mile for a visit to Edinburgh Castle. Even if you don’t plan on going into the castle, it’s well worth visiting the castle’s esplanade for fantastic views.


If you’ve chosen to stay at the Apex Grassmarket you’re close by to freshen up before heading out for dinner. There are so many fantastic places to eat in the city so it’s well worth checking Tripadvisor to find out where’s best. For something laid back, you can’t go wrong with a cosy pub. If you fancy something a bit special, get yourself dressed up and head for the 1820 rooftop bar at Edinburgh’s newest attraction – the Johnnie Walker Experience . Located in the old Fraser’s building on the corner of Lothian Road and Princes Street, the attraction operates tours all day (which are well worth doing. Perhaps something to add to your itinerary for tomorrow?) and also has a spectacular rooftop bar overlooking the castle. You can dine here or simply indulge in their fantastic range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Booking in advance is recommended.

Another option for a fantastic evening out is a visit to The Playhouse . It’s brilliant to have live entertainment back and there’s something on most nights at this theatre. You can book tickets online in advance or visit the box office on the day to see what’s on.

Apex Grassmarket

Day 2


After a peaceful night’s sleep, it’s time to get fuelled up for another exciting day ahead. If you’re staying at either the Apex Waterloo Place or Apex Grassmarket , ScotRail passengers can get 20% off bed and breakfast rates. But if you choose not to include breakfast, Hula Juice Bar in the Grassmarket or The Edinburgh Larder on Blackfriars Street are both delicious places to fill up in the morning. Or if you can hold off a wee while, hop on board a bus or tram to Leith to indulge at one of the fantastic restaurants or cafes at The Shore.

We’ll be spending the morning in Leith anyway so if your tummy’s not rumbling too loudly it’s worth the wait!

After breakfast, it’s time to follow in the footsteps of royalty with a visit to The Royal Yacht Britannia. The brilliant self-guided audio tour over the five decks gives you a fascinating insight into life on board. After an hour or so exploring, The Royal Deck Tea Room is the perfect spot for lunch with views over the water.

Kids visit free at the Royal Yacht Britannia


If you didn’t opt for lunch on board, there are lots of fantastic places to eat in Leith to suit every budget. Some of the best fish and chips can be found a short walk away at The Fishmarket in Newhaven (featured on Fred Siriex’s Remarkable Places to Eat), or to splash out, take your pick from three Michelin rated restaurants – The Kitchin is probably the most well-known.

With a full belly, it’s time to hop back on board the bus towards the city centre.

With the last few hours in the city you could either enjoy a leisurely wander through Princes Street Gardens or take in one last attraction. You could head back to the Johnnie Walker Experience to experience one of their super sleek, interactive and entertaining tours. Tours run from 1pm until 6pm and booking via their website is advised.

After a jam-packed couple of days, it’s time to head back to the station to rest your legs and scroll through your photos on your train journey home.

From five-star luxury to more budget-friendly options, Edinburgh has accommodation to suit everyone. To make it even more affordable, we’ve teamed up with Apex Hotels to offer ScotRail ticket holders 20% off room only or bed and breakfast rates at their Grassmarket and Waterloo Place Hotels.

Download the Lothian Buses app to make getting around the city as easy as possible. The city centre is walkable although it is quite spread out so if you’d rather have a rest between stops, riding the bus is a great option. Plus, the views from the top deck are fab!

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s spookiest cities so if you fancy scaring yourself silly on a trip to the capital, have a read of our blog post here for ideas on how to have a spook-tacular Halloween.

Fancy an overnight or short break in Edinburgh?
Book your train ticket now!