I am 100% comfortable calling Edinburgh the most beautiful city I have EVER been to. It’s one of those places that needs to be on your bucket list when visiting Scotland as it’s not only stunning, but teaming with life, culture and must-sees.
To be honest, I have written this blog post in the form of text messages now at least 5 times.
I figured that it was finally time to put it in writing – a list of things/places/activities that you should definitely check out when visiting Edinburgh. (If you’re looking for a unique night out in Edinburgh check out this VLOG).
This is a list collaboration from my Scottish bible, word of mouth and random stumbles. Please tell me what I’ve missed in the comments below. Slainte!
If it’s Sunny…
The infamous ARTHUR’S SEAT
What other city has a massive, wild hill in the middle of it? In about 30-minutes you can scramble to the top and enjoy breathtaking 360 degree views over the city, mountains and ocean.
TOP TIP: Want a workout? Get up & jog to the top first thing in the morning. Your blood will get pumping, there will be less people & you’re rewarded with a stunning start to the morning.
Shorter walk & closer to the city centre than Arthur’s Seat with equally stunning views. Takes about 5-10 minutes to get to the top where there is also a tower you can climb (for a small price) and some very misplaced massive Roman pillars.
TOP TIP: Grab a take away lunch from a café & eat it on the hill overlooking the city.
POTTER TRAIL walking tour
Yes, I am 25 years-old and I made a point to join the Potter Trail when visiting Edinburgh AND I recommend everyone to do the same. Edinburgh is the city where J.K. Rowling began writing the series & because of this, there are tons of gravestones, buildings and views that directly influenced the books & movies. Now every time I visit the city with a HP fan I take them around to show them the really cool stuff. Free tour, be prepared to look like a nerd!
TOP TIP: Leave your pride behind & embrace the wands, music & your inner child.
A really beautiful, historic village nestled along the river in the West side of the city. Worth a look if you’re nearby, however I couldn’t find much to do in the village itself (except look around).
TOP TIP: Walk along the path called the Water of Leith. Beautiful, lazy river walk.
Splurge and GO! I haven’t been fortunate enough to be in the city when the tattoo was playing when tickets were available. It’s a Scottish Marching Band that plays at night in front of Edinburgh Castle complete with fireworks, dancers and more!
TOP TIP: If you happen to be in the city right before the season starts in August, you may be able to get Press Tickets (which are half price & the show is the day before opening day). Be warned, they sellout QUICK
Walk the ROYAL MILE
This is the road that connect Holyrood Palace to the Edinburgh Castle. Stunning architecture and always a few bagpipers on the street. Lots of Fringe acts here during August. Always overwhelming, but a must-do.
TOP TIP: Slip into the Devils Advocate for a delicious thirsty escape before continuing down the mile.
If it’s Rainy…
Did you know that there is a city underneath the streets of Edinburgh?
I am ashamed to say I still haven’t done this one! However, I am dying to go on it & have heard such great things, I’m confident to recommend it to all.
TOP TIP: There are also LOADS of ghost tours that leave at night & explore these hidden parts of the city. Definitely worth checking out one of those as well
Save this one for a rainy day as you head into the cozy, atmospheric Edinburgh gin distillery & learn the scandalous history of gin, get up close & personal with the stills and enjoy a wee tasting. Was my introduction to gin & it’s a good one.
I am the first to say, I am not a museum person. However, this museum literally has EVERYTHING & it’s free. From a sweet animal exhibit to technology to Egyptians, you could get lost in here for hours.
TOP TIP: Break it into sections. Spend an hour here, take a break & return for 30 minutes there… There is so much & it’s quite central. Don’t feel obligated to do it all at once.
A different take on Scottish whisky. These guys choose single barrels from distilleries & sell bottles without revealing anything about the whisky except the flavor profile. Really fun & different way to taste.
TOP TIP: Do this + a few tours at actual distilleries in Scotland and you’ll leave with a full whisky education.
ROYAL BOTANIC GARDEN
Haven’t been here yet, but have only heard great things. It’s high on my to do list!
If you’re Hungry …
I am sure that this is not the best restaurant in Edinburgh, however I find myself here every single time I visit. The prices are reasonable and the food is GOOD. From curry samplers, to hummus, to Iranian bread… I’ve always been incredibly happy with my food and the atmosphere. It’s also BYOB – thank you!
TOP TIP: The location is ace – located right off the Royal Mile. If it’s nice come for lunch & grab an outside seat. Bring a bottle of wine & enjoy the people watching.
More upscale than Laila’s & be sure to book! Delicious, local & seasonal food with a great atmosphere. Turned on to here by a foodie friend – really good recommendation!
These tacos are literally amazing. Like so so so good. Was randomly craving Mexican food (okay, maybe not so random), came here & over the course of a few hours ate every taco on the menu. With each new taco, I was positive that it wouldn’t come close to the deliciousness of the last, but I was proven wrong every time.
TOP TIP: Another BYOB spot & super tiny restaurant. Definitely recommend booking a spot prior.
Classic Scottish restaurant. For whatever reason these types of restaurants are harder to find than one might think. This place has great, Scottish inspired food & an interior to match. Great outdoor seating and close to Calton Hill.
TOP TIP: Try haggis if you’re in Scotland. Really do. Everyone builds up this terrible hype around it, but it’s honestly quite good and something you will regret not having tried.
MOTHER INDIA’S CAFÉ
Indian tapas restaurant that have opened a few joints – 2 others are in Glasgow. Really tasty food & fun atmosphere (green tiles!). Another spot I have been to a few times as I know it’s good.
If you’re Thirsty…
This place is a god send on the Royal Mile. After you’ve seen the castle, popped into a few shops & are completely overwhelmed by the city, you can sneak down this alleyway to find the hidden Devil’s Advocate. Really good craft beer selection and the cocktails and food look delicious.
TOP TIP: Head outside upstairs and grab a seat under a heater with a blanket. Really great atmosphere & one of my favorite spots to enjoy a drink hiding from the craze of the Royal Mile.
Great, classic Scottish feeling pub. Good atmosphere. Definitely stop by!
Anyone surprised this guy is in there? Great small, cozy spot on the Cowgate. Pizzas are excellent & staff are great.
TOP TIP: On January 26, 2018 Brewdog are opening a second site on Lothian Road! It is going to be an epic venue – much larger & a PBH Free Fringe venue!
Great craft beer bar & cozy venue. Used to make their own beer on site, not sure if they still are. Definitely recommend popping in here if you’re nearby.
Delicious beers and in a part of the city that I haven’t touched too much on (really close to Bodega). My sister & I came here before going to a few Free Fringe shows and far too much fun.
Disclaimer – I’ve not been here yet, but have only heard great things. They are owned by New Wave, which is one of the biggest craft beer distributors in the UK. This means that it’s pretty hard for others to compete for better, fresher, rare craft beer. If you go let me know how it is!
A green light is the only indication of this speak-easy style bar off of Princes Street. Head down the staircase & you’re confronted by a fortune-teller. The trick is figuring out how to get her to let you in (see for yourself!) Great cocktails.
Another great, hidden spot. Located in the basement underneath a laundromat you immediately are inside a dark, cozy & very hip spot in the city. You’ll definitely feel like you’re “in the know” if you visit.
TOP TIP: Get the Bramble
Upstairs is a cute, great atmospheric bar. Good craft beers & cocktails. However, you definitely want to head downstairs. Really medieval-feeling bar, which was unfortunately closed when we visited. They had a pop-up Game of Thrones theme set up though, which definitely added to the atmosphere.
PLACES RECOMMENDED TO ME
If it’s Nighttime…
Live jazz music in a very jazz-type atmosphere. Came here and danced far too late into the evening. Was a great night out.
TOP TIP: They only take cash at the door
A show that includes a few small acts and headliner – all stand up & some improv. Right off the Royal Mile & near BrewDog Cowgate. Thoroughly enjoyed our night here & would return. (Also our Potter Trail Guide was one of the performers!)
TOP TIP: Students can go for free!
If it’s August….
You can’t miss this if you’re in Edinburgh in August – it’s literally everywhere and there are so many people. Super fun festival, would say if you are able to find a way to visit during the festival, do it!
TOP TIP: Check out the Free Fringe – great shows & they’re FREE & all over the city!
Do you think Edinburgh is as iconic as I do?
Let me know your favourite spots in the comments below! Also, don’t forget to check out Edinburgh’s rival city – GLASGOW. Which do you prefer?
Siempre, Sydney X