24 Hours In: Edinburgh

Look across the rooftops, then burrow underground, before hitting the bars...


Luxury on a budget

07.30: Pull back your duvet at Edinburgh Central (0131-524 2090; edinburgh central.org), 9 Haddington Place, and put what you've saved on accommodation towards your cocktail fund. The swankiest youth hostel in town, as well as dorms it has smart, en-suite rooms from £25 per night for a single.

Soak up the atmosphere

08.00: Stumble through the New Town for a dip at Glenogle Baths on Glenogle Road (0131-343 6376), one of only a few tiled Victorian pools still operating in Edinburgh.

Get your oats and more

09.00: If it's Saturday, head to Castle Terrace farmer's market and tuck into porridge with whisky and honey at Stoats Porridge Bar. On other days, the poshest cooked breakfasts in town are at Centotre (0131-225 1550; centotre. com), 103 George Street, a lively café.

Time to hit the shops

09.45: Stroll past the First Minister's official residence, at 6 Charlotte Square, and carry on to nearby William Street to browse through the clutch of quirky, independent boutiques and gift shops that line the cobbles.

A cuppa with a difference

11.00: Stop off for a masala chai, or a tea-based cocktail if you're starting early, at Chai, 3a Merchant Street. Scotland's first licensed teahouse is hidden away below street level (0131-477 1838; chaiteahouse.co.uk).

Grave tales from the past

11.30: The grassy surrounds of Greyfriars Kirk, near the south end of George IV Bridge, house Edinburgh's oldest graveyard. The church was the first to be built in Edinburgh after the Reformation, and its minister organised the National Covenant in 1638, sparking violent conflict.

Look across the city's rooftops

12.00: Cross over George IV Bridge to the Museum of Scotland, on Chambers Street (0131-247 4422). Ignore the exhibitions and climb up to the roof for a jaw-dropping view over Edinburgh.

And then go underground

12.30: Backtrack along George IV Bridge and turn right down the Royal Mile and into Warriston's Close. This is the starting point for tours of Mary King's Close (08702 430160; realmarykingsclose. com), a series of eerie underground streets that were once open to the air but were sealed up in 1753.

A small portion of pasta

13.30: Cross over Princes Street and have lunch at newly opened Pesto (0131-558 1032) at 138 Dundas Street. This tiny but stylishly formed café does great pasta, pizza, salads and soups.

Welcome to the waterworks

14.30: Follow the road to Canonmills roundabout and carry on along Warriston Road until it turns left at a bridge. Here, join the Water of Leith Walkway to take a semi-cross-country route down to the old port district. Get some history with a pre-booked tour of Trinity House (0131-554 3289) at 99 Kirkgate.

Heaven-sent pastries

16.30: Stop off to refuel on coffee and the city's most exquisite cakes at the Manna House (13) (0131-652 2349), 22-24 Easter Road.

Walk in a winter wonderland

18.00: Until 7 January, Princes Street Gardens operates as one big funfair. Plot a route around its ice rink, market stalls and other attractions with a ride on the big wheel.

Chill out at dinner

20.00: Iglu, at 2b Jamaica street (0131-476 5333; theiglu.com) calls itself an "ethical eaterie", and its menu of organic, wild and local food is as delicious as it is principled.

A meeting with the monarch

22.00: Finish the night with a monarch of the glen - a heady mix of Glenfiddich 12-year-old, Campari, fresh mint, elderflower and sugar - at Dragonfly, 52 West Port, 0131 228 4543; dragonfly cocktailbar.com). It's the best-looking bar in Edinburgh.

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