Need help pulling together an epic solo trip to Edinburgh? Here’s a thorough Edinburgh solo travel guide that tells you all you need to know before tackling this charming city on your own.
Edinburgh is one of my go-to suggestions for solo female travellers embarking on their first solo trip, and for good reason. There’s plenty to see and do that will fill your solo itinerary, it’s safe and accessible, and there are loads of ways to meet other travellers and friendly locals alike.
But just like any other big city, there are some additional concerns for solo travellers, particularly in terms of budget and safety, that can make planning your trip a little trickier than if you were travelling with friends.
Having wandered its enchanting streets and hidden closes a few times, and I’ve totally nailed how to get the best bang for your buck as a solo traveller in Edinburgh while staying safe and enjoying the city’s rich culture.
In this Edinburgh solo travel guide I’ll run through some quick tips to help you book and plan your trip, explain why the city is so good for solo travellers, share some money-saving budget tips, answer some Edinburgh solo trip FAQs and provide some top suggestions of the best things to do in Edinburgh alone.
Let’s make your solo Edinburgh experience one for the books, shall we?
Edinburgh solo travel summary
Where to stay | If you’re looking for an affordable option without compromising on comfort and location, you can’t go past Roomzzz Aparthotels. I spent a couple of nights there and actually extended my stay rather than switching to a fancy hotel, because the location was unbeatable and it was a spacious, comfy room with a workspace and kitchenette. So ideal!
If you’re looking for somewhere easier on the wallet then I can personally recommend CoDE Pod for a cheap and cheerful pod-style hostel, or for a more upmarket stay check out Cheval Abbey Strand Apartments.
Best things to do | Explore the historic Royal Mile, visit Edinburgh Castle, watch sunset from Calton Hill and join a free walking tour to learn about the city’s past.
Safety tips | Stay vigilant at night (especially after indulging in local whisky) and keep your belongings secure, just like you would in any city.
When to visit | Edinburgh is a year-round destination as long as you’re prepared in terms of clothing. Summer gets busy with holidaymakers but it’s the best time to enjoy long days, mild weather and a pumping entertainment/festival scene, winter is full of Christmassy magic, and the shoulder seasons are perfect for sightseeing and hiking while offering slightly cheaper prices.
Budget tips | Stay at a hostel or apartment to save on food, walk, bike or use the well-connected public transport network rather than catching cabs or Ubers, and take advantage of free/cheap attractions or activities like museums, galleries and walking tours.
Is Edinburgh safe for solo female travellers?
Edinburgh is considered as one of the safest cities in the UK, with a significantly lower crime rate and higher perception of safety than London. I had no safety issues as a solo female traveller in Edinburgh, and I can’t recall any of my fellow solo travel friends having issues either.
How to stay safe as a solo female traveller in Edinburgh
As with any big city, you do need to take some precautions as a solo traveller.
Be vigilant at night. Edinburgh has a vibrant nightlife scene, from cosy pubs and whisky bars to camp cabarets and buzzing nightclubs, and solo female travellers might want to get amongst it. You basically just need to follow the rules we were told in our teenage years, always keep an eye on your drink, stick to well-lit streets on your way home and don’t walk down dark alleys or through parks even if it’s a shortcut, etc. If you’re keen to experience nightlife with others then the Edinburgh Pub Crawl has fantastic reviews.
Call 999 if you’re in danger. When I first started solo travelling I never really considered the fact that different countries would have different emergency numbers (in New Zealand ours is 111), but now I make it a habit to check before I go. If you’re travelling solo in Edinburgh (or anywhere in the UK) you’ll want to call 999 in case of emergency.
Keep your valuables secure. There is some petty crime in Edinburgh, more likely in busy tourist areas, so keep things like your phone, wallet and so on in a cross-body bag with a zip.
Trust your gut. As always, if something feels off, trust your gut and remove yourself from any situation that makes you feel uneasy. Don’t worry about being polite, your safety is more important than someone else’s feelings.
Be prepared for inclement weather. Scottish weather can change in an instant regardless of the forecast, so take warm layers in case the city gets hit by a cold spell.
Hike safely. If you’re planning on embarking on any hikes near Edinburgh, be sure to take plenty of food, water and warm clothes, let someone know where you’re going and when you plan on being back, and know your limits. A solo hike in a foreign country where you know no one isn’t a great time to challenge yourself too hard.
Why Edinburgh is perfect for a solo trip
Whether you’re a solo female travel expert or you’re new to travelling alone and want to head somewhere to dip your toes into solo travel, Edinburgh is pretty much the perfect northern hemisphere city for a solo trip!
Plenty to see and do
First of all, there is so much to do. It’s a city of contrasts, where historic architecture and modern entertainment coexist harmoniously, with some literary charm and epic culinary experiences thrown in for good measure.
History buffs can lose themselves in the enigma of Edinburgh Castle or the mysterious beauty of Holyrood Palace. Nature lovers can find solace in one of the city’s many green spaces, or go beyond the city limits to hike one of the many trails accessible nearby. Literature enthusiasts can follow in the famous footsteps of writers like Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Thriving festival scene
If you have festivals like Edinburgh Fringe on your bucket list but you’ve got flakey friends who can’t seem to commit, just go solo!
Heading to Fringe solo is great because you can see whoever and whatever you want to see without compromising with your travel buddies, and it’s super easy to meet fellow likeminded Fringe-goers if you want to make friends.
If you decide to go to a festival solo just try and book your accommodation in advance because hostels and cheap hotels get booked up early, and last minute prices will be through the roof.
It’s easy to get around
As well as the aforementioned low crime rates and high perception of safety, Edinburgh is also really easy to navigate which is ideal for a solo trip.
Loads of the main tourist spots are within easy walking distance, there’s a well-connected bus and tram network to venture further than the city centre, and if you’re fluent in English (which I assume you are if you’re reading this blog) you won’t have any communication issues.
Just listen closely if you’re asking for directions or help, because the Scottish accent can be thiccccck.
Inclusive and friendly locals
One of the joys of solo travel is the opportunity to meet new people, you’ll probably meet way more people travelling solo than you would if you were with a friend or partner.
Edinburgh excels in this area, thanks to warm and welcoming locals who might strike up a chat at a whisky bar, a farmers’ market or while hiking up Arthur’s Seat. The Scots are known for their friendliness and hospitality, making it easy for a solo traveller to feel at home.
Planning your solo trip to Edinburgh
How to get to Edinburgh
If you’re coming from London, my favourite way to get to Edinburgh is the Caledonian Sleeper night train. It’s not cheap, solo rooms start from £190, but when you take into account the cost of getting and and from airports, adding luggage to your flight and paying for an additional night of accommodation, a budget airline might not be much cheaper.
There are also day trains available from all transport hubs in the UK (get a Railcard if you’re entitled to one to save 1/3 on your fare), or you can fly direct from most major cities in Europe, as well as eastern Canada and the USA, Qatar and others. If there are no direct flights available (or if they’re too expensive) you could fly to London and catch a train or budget airline flight from there.
Best time to visit Edinburgh
The best time to visit Edinburgh largely depends on your preferences for weather, crowds, and events.
Summer (June to August) is peak tourist season, offering the warmest weather, longest days and loads of festivals, including the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. With the benefits of summer come larger crowds and higher prices though, book in advance to get the best deals on flights, trains and accomm.
Spring (April to May) and autumn (September to October) have fewer tourists, making them ideal for exploring the city at a leisurely pace and without breaking the bank. Bring layers just in case the temperature turns, the average temp in the shoulder months ranges from about 5° to 15°C.
If you can handle the chill, winter (November to March) is magical, especially around Christmas when the city is lit up with festive displays and markets.
Where to stay in Edinburgh as a solo female traveller
My top pick | On my most recent trip I stayed at Roomzzz Aparthotel, and I think it’s going to be my Edinburgh go-to for all future visits. Brilliantly located just a short walk from Waverley station, they have 70+ serviced apartments that are some of the best value accommodation in the city.
My room was huge with a kitchen and desk + a view of Calton Hill, there’s a cool shared lounge area and workspace downstairs, guests get daily free coffee and a croissant, and there’s an essentials shop to grab quick and easy food if you need. In a city where hotels are insanely expensive, Roomzzz is a fantastic find and incredibly affordable for what it offers.
Budget | If you’re on a tight budget and can’t quite spring for an apartment, there are some good hostels in Edinburgh. I love CoDE Pod (I’m a sucker for pod hostels), but some other top-rated ones are Haystack Hostel (slightly older crowd) or Kick Ass Grassmarket (social youth hostel).
How to get around Edinburgh
Edinburgh is wonderfully compact, making it easy to explore on foot, especially if you’re wanting to see the historic Royal Mile and New Town’s Georgian streets.
For longer distances, the city boasts an efficient and user-friendly public transport system of mainly buses and trams, and you can pay with a contactless Visa or Mastercard card. If you’re planning on using the buses or trams a lot then you should check the Ridacard to see if it’s likely to save you money, it’s £22 for one week so it’s probably only worth it if you’re venturing out of the city centre 4-5 times during your trip.
Uber is available in Edinburgh too if you need to get a quick ride somewhere.
How to meet other solo travellers in Edinburgh
If you want to connect with other solo travellers, Edinburgh is a great city for it.
Hostels are hot spots for social solo travellers to meet each other, strike up a convo in your dorm or hang out in the common areas to find new friends.
You could also join a group activity like a free walking tour, a food tour (the Edinburgh Secret Food Tour has excellent reviews) or a pub crawl to get the combination of a cultural experience along with meeting like-minded travellers.
What to budget for a solo trip to Edinburgh
Budgeting for Edinburgh can vary widely depending on your travel style, accommodation preferences and dining choices.
On average a budget traveller should expect to spend £50-£100 per day, this should cover hostel dorm accommodation (around £20-35 for a decent hostel), cheap meals at markets/supermarkets/street food stalls, and entry fees to affordable attractions or a tip on a free walking tour.
For a private hostel room or budget but okay-rated hotel (a rating of at least 7.5/10 is what I’d recommend to minimise the risk of a crappy stay) will set you back around £70-100 per night. A meal at a nice restaurant will cost around £20-25 with a beer or wine.
For a well-rated, 4* hotel or apartment, expect to spend upwards of £180 per night.
The best things to do in Edinburgh for solo travellers
A free walking tour is the perfect intro to the city’s nooks and crannies, with the added bonus of potentially meeting other travellers.
You can book a spot on a free tour online to ensure you don’t miss out, this one is a two-hour tour of Edinburgh’s most iconic spots, this one delves a bit deeper into the slightly lesser-visited New Town neighbourhood, and this one shows you Edinburgh’s dark history.
While free tours don’t cost anything up front, it’s expected that you tip the guide for their service – about £5-£10 shows your appreciation for their wisdom and wit.
The Royal Mile is the heart and soul of Edinburgh, stretching from the iconic Edinburgh Castle at its western end to the regal Palace of Holyroodhouse in the east. The bustling street is flanked by a labyrinth of narrow alleys and a backdrop of medieval architecture, encapsulating centuries of Scottish history, culture and tradition.
Key attractions along the Royal Mile include St. Giles’ Cathedral, with its stunning stained glass windows and peaceful Thistle Chapel, and the historic John Knox House, which offers a glimpse into the life of the famous Scottish reformer. The street is also home to the Scottish Parliament Building and The People’s Story Museum, which delves into the lives of Edinburgh’s ordinary citizens throughout history.
For those interested in the supernatural, the Royal Mile has a darker side too, with tales of ghosts and historic figures like Deacon Brodie, the real-life inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The numerous closes branching off the main street are famed for their ghost tours, promising a spine-tingling peek into Edinburgh’s eerie past.
Avoid walking down the dark alleys at night by yourself if you can help it, if you want to experience the dark side of Edinburgh then book a tour instead. This Dark History Royal Mile Walking Tour is cheap and rated 4.9/5.
For dreamy sunsets and a quick escape from the city hustle, Calton Hill is a must-visit on your Edinburgh solo travel itinerary.
A short climb rewards you with panoramic views that’ll have your heart singing and your camera clicking. It’s the perfect spot for some me-time amidst Edinburgh’s skyline (as long as you don’t mind sharing it with hundreds of other tourists haha).
Feeling adventurous? Conquer Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano that offers one of the best views of Edinburgh.
It’ll take 1.5-3 hours return depending on what route you choose and how long you stay at the top for photos, but the panoramic payoff is worth every step. Perfect for a solo adventure to clear your head.
Perched high above the city atop Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is the crown jewel of the skyline.
Visitors to the castle can explore various significant sites within its walls. The Crown Jewels of Scotland, housed in the Crown Room, are a highlight, featuring the crown, sceptre, and sword of state, along with the Stone of Destiny, an ancient symbol of Scotland’s monarchy. The Great Hall, with its impressive hammerbeam roof, offers a glimpse into the opulence of royal banquets and ceremonies.
The castle is also home to the National War Museum of Scotland, which delves into Scotland’s military history, and the Scottish National War Memorial, a poignant tribute to those who have fallen in conflict.
If you want a more royal experience, they serve afternoon tea in the castle’s Tea Rooms, and the cost includes entrance to the castle too.
National Museum of Scotland
I’m not really a museum person (very uncultured, I know) but this one absolutely sold me. The Grand Gallery atrium is sun-soaked and stunning, and there’s a huge range of exhibits covering everything from prehistoric artifacts to medieval fashion to collections dedicated to medical advancements and robotics.
And best of all, it’s totally free! Ideal for a solo trip to Edinburgh on a budget.
Top tip: Head up to the rooftop viewing deck for a fantastic view of the city’s skyline.
Visit locations that inspired Harry Potter
Edinburgh is a treasure trove for Harry Potter fans, with plenty of places that have strong connections to the books and their characters.
There are tours that take you past iconic locations like Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Elephant House cafe where JK Rowling spent many hours writing the early books, or you can do a self-guided walk around these spots:
- The Elephant House
- Greyfriars Kirkyard, you’ll recognise names like ‘Thomas Riddell’, ‘McGonagall’ and ‘Moodie’ on some gravestones
- Victoria Street (inspiration for Diagon Alley)
- The Balmoral Hotel (where Rowling finished writing the final book)
- George Heriot’s School (said to be inspiration for Hogwarts)
- Museum Context (a seriously impressive Harry Potter souvenir shop)
- You can also try your hand at potion-making at the Cauldron Bar, it’s not officially Harry Potter-related but clearly it’s been inspired by Snape’s classes!
No trip to Edinburgh is complete without warming your soul with some fine Scottish whisky. Sláinte!
Head over to the Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of the Royal Mile for a dram-atic whisky tasting session (get it?), or pop into The Whiski Rooms for a Whisky and Cheese or Whisky and Chocolate experience that’ll tickle your taste buds.
If you want a behind-the-scenes look at the whisky-distilling process, Holyrood Distillery and Port of Leith Distillery both run renowned tours through their factories and the newly-opened Johnnie Walker Experience offers an immersive and interactive whisky experience right in town.
As a solo female traveller in Edinburgh, just be sure to keep your wits about you while drinking and be conscious of your alcohol consumption.
P.S. You might think that I’ve just made loads of spelling mistakes here, but ‘whisky’ has no ‘e’ if it’s made in Scotland, Canada or Japan. If it’s made in Ireland or the USA, throw the ‘e’ back in and call it ‘whiskey’. The more you know!
Take a day trip
If you’re in Edinburgh long enough to see the highlights and want to venture beyond the city, there are some great day trips to consider adding to your Edinburgh solo travel itinerary:
- Loch Ness, Cruise, Glencoe & 2 Highland Walks: This full day tour promises stunning scenery, historical insights and perhaps a glimpse of the elusive Nessie 👀 (or not!). Ideal for nature lovers and history nerds alike.
- Outlander filming locations tour: Step into the world of Jamie and Claire with a day tour that takes you through key filming locations like Midhope Castle, Doune Castle and Falkland.
- Stirling Castle, Highland Lochs & Whisky tour: This tour showcases some of the most iconic Scotland experiences, with a visit to the royal Stirling Castle, an encounter with hairy Highland cows, a stop at the stunning Loch Lomond and a taste of malt whisky at Glengoyne Distillery.
- Hadrian’s Wall & Roman Britain day tour: Travel back in time and put your feet in Roman sandals with this tour, where you’ll learn about the final frontier of the Roman Empire from 2000 or so years ago.
- Rosslyn Chapel, Borders & Glenkinchie Distillery: Explore the mystical Rosslyn Chapel (made famous by the Da Vinci Code), marvel at the scenic beauty of the Scottish Borders, and enjoy a tipple at the Glenkinchie Distillery.
- St Andrews & Fife’s Fishing Villages tour: Wander through charming cobblestoned streets in traditional fishing villages, explore St Andrews (a must-visit for keen golfers) and spend some time at Falkland Palace.
I hope this detailed Edinburgh solo travel guide has given you all you need to know in order to plan the perfect solo trip to Edinburgh.
Whether you’re a first-time solo female traveller or Edinburgh is one of many places you’ve explored alone, I hope you have a magical and empowering time exploring at your own pace with no one else to worry about.
If you have any questions then please let me know in the comments and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. Safe travels!