70 things to do, see, eat in Edinburgh
21 December, 2016
Whether you are visiting Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh on a long weekend, as part of a multi-day trip, or on staycation, there is a plethora of things to do for every type of traveller. If you are coming to Edinburgh in 2017 you’ve picked an exciting year as Edinburgh Festivals are celebrating their 70th anniversary, which promises to be even bigger and brighter than years past. So grab your brolly and get your bellies ready, it’s time to discover things to do, see, and eat in Edinburgh through this mammoth list of 70 tips from fellow travellers, locals, bloggers, and businesses.
Dine under the twinkling lights of Rose Street
THINGS TO DO, SEE, AND EAT IN EDINBURGH
Calton Hill is a hill (funnily enough) reached by a very short hike (five minutes) starting close to Princes Street; the main shopping street. From the top of Calton Hill, you get access to panoramic views of Edinburgh, which include some of the main attractions such as Arthur’s Seat, Princes Street, Holyrood Park, and Edinburgh Castle. On top of the Hill sits a food van (typical Scots), the National Monument of Scotland, and Nelson Monument.
- Free access: Regent Road on the South side and Royal Terrace on the North side
- Tip by Greta Anderson from Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin USA – Girls LOVE Travel
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is, as you would expect, a mile (although an Old Scots Mile and not English) long path leading from Edinburgh Castle down to the Scottish Parliament. At the heart of the Old Town, the Royal Mile is always buzzing. Rows of tartan shops, pubs, and restaurants line the cobbled street and during all seasons Edinburgh tours meet here to go underground or around the city, day and night. The Royal Mile’s Museum of Childhood was always a firm favourite in our household; this is where I first terrified by the story of Sweeney Todd (before Johnny Depp sang about it).
- Bearings: Royal Mile is close to Princes Street (Waverley Station), Cockburn Street (where you’ll get your baked potato, see food), George IV Bridge (Greyfriars Bobby) + the colourful Victoria Street leading to Edinburgh’s Grassmarket
- Tip by Barbara Tenin – Two Scots Abroad reader
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral is the beautiful building, which stands in the middle on the Royal Mile between the Castle and the Parliament. The Cathedral is also known as High Kirk of Edinburgh and offers Sunday services, all welcome. In summer, the cobbled area outside of the Cathedral is awash with stalls and Fringe performers.
- High St, EH1 1RE
Heart of Midlothian
Outside of St Giles’ Cathedral is the bricked Heart of Midlothian. Don’t be disgusted if you see people walking past and spitting on the heart! Here used to stand the tollbooth where locals would pay their taxes. Like much of Brits today, I assume that our predecessors weren’t too happy about paying that toll hence the need to grog on that spot! Albeit, they did get a lot less for their buck than we do today (God bless, our nationalised public services).
- High St, EH1 1RE
- Recommendation + image by Daily Adventures of Me
If you are visiting Edinburgh Castle with kids, be sure to pick up an “Explorer Quiz” from the audio tour counter to help keep the kids engaged. This scavenger hunt activity sheet includes challenges and activities such as “How many stained – glass windows does St Margaret’s Chapel have?”
Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction, and with reason. It is amazing to explore the rugged ramparts of the castle and enjoy some of the best views over Edinburgh from the gun-holes.
- Castlehill, EH1 2NG | Adults £16.50 | Kids £9.90 | Website
- Info + image by Marianne Rogerson from Mum on the Move
The Grassmarket is a popular spot for food and drink for locals and tourists alike. The Castle overlooks the bottom half of the Grassmarket when the sky is blue this is a great photo spot. In the past, the area was a medieval market place and also the site where public executions took place. Craig and I had our first date in the pub the Last Drop, which always plays a decent soundtrack. Vintage clothes lovers and those looking to grab an old (cheapish) tartan kilt should check out Armstrongs.
- Here’s my guide of where to drink in Edinburgh
Here is an insider’s tip from someone who clearly knows every nook and cranny of the city – The Vennel, an alley off the Grassmarket. Take your camera to capture a cool angle of the Castle.
- Vennel leading to Brown’s Place, Grassmarket
- Tip by Caroline Hill, Boston, MA – Girls LOVE Travel
The Palace of Holyrood House is where the British monarch officially lives in Scotland. The Queen comes to stay during Holyrood week in June but not without a grand arrival of course! During this week, Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh entertain around 8000 guests. My invite must have got lost in the post.
- Canongate, EH8 8DX | Seasonal opening times | £12+ | Website
129 democratically elected representatives have worked in this funny shaped modern building (love it or hate it?) since its conception in 2004 (our MSPs met at the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland located on The Mound from 1999 – 2004). The Scottish Parliament offers tours and if you can book a ticket for a chamber debate on a Thursday you will see our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, in action at First Ministers’ Questions.
- EH99 1SP | Free | Website
Are the 287 steps of the Scot Monument worth it for the view? I’m yet to find out, come back and tell me! Built in memory of the author and poet Sir Walter Scott.
- E. Princes St Gardens, EH2 2EJ | Open all year but seasonal times | Website
- Tip by Abby Wise from Washington DC – Girls LOVE Travel
Royal Yacht Britannia
- Bearings: Royal Yacht Britannia is docked in Leith (bus 11, 22 or 35 + free parking)
- Ocean Terminal, Ocean Dr, EH6 6JJ | Seasonal opening time | £15 adults
- Tip by our friend Kelly from A Pair of Passports
All aboard! Photo credit to Royal Yacht Britannia
In the past, Edinburgh Zoo’s biggest attraction was pretty small, tiny penguins that used to march on parade, cute! But now we have two giant pandas called Tian Tian and Yang Guang who are on / off making babies as much as Taylor and Calvin are on / off making out.
- 134 b Corstorphine Rd, EH12 6TS | Prices start at £17 | Website
Yang Guang | Image by RZSS Edinburgh Zoo
The castle of Craigmillar plays an important role in Scottish history, as it is where Mary Queen of Scots hatched a plan to kill her husband. Incidentally, couples can tie the knot, inviting guests up to 60 guests to the Grand Hall. Our informers think a visit is worth it for the views of the city.
- Sun – Wed + Sat – 10 am – 4 pm (check Twitter @welovehistory for closures)
- Craigmillar Castle Rd, EH16 4SY
- Tip by Caroline Hill, Boston, MA – Girls LOVE Travel
Yes, Edinburgh does play host to the biggest arts festival in the world (our Festival Fringe; three manic weeks full of flyers, jokes, and 6 am closing times) but did you know the festivities do not stop with the Festival Fireworks? Here’s the lowdown on the Fringe plus other Edinburgh festivals throughout the year.
Jazz and Blues Festival
Fellow blogging Brit, Emily Luxton recommends Edinburgh’s Jazz and Blues Festival, which takes place in July. It’s such a fantastic and varied music festival and there’s absolutely loads going on – something for all music fans. She loves that there are so many unique venues involved, not just bars but really cool spaces like the atmospheric 17th century Tron Kirk.
- Various venues | July | Website
The Excitement | Image by Edinburgh’s Jazz and Blues Festival
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
The #1 thing to do in Edinburgh for Haley (+ the other half a million visitors) is the Festival Fringe…
Haley visited Scotland for just one thing, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Sadly she’s not managed to see anywhere else in Scotland but positively, she’s never witnessed anything like the Fringe – 50,459 performances of 3,314 shows in 313 venues!
Haley’s first tip is: be prepared not to sleep. Secondly, psyche yourself up to see everything from live music to theatre to comedy. Thirdly, get ready to be swamped by ambassadors handing out leaflets for their shows on the Royal Mile and beyond as well as street performances stealing your attention daily. Shows can take place anywhere! If a restaurant has a side room… the Fringe at some point is using it!
- Does the world’s biggest art festival appeal? Check out our quick Fringe guide
- 3 weeks in August | Show prices vary from free to… | Website
- Tip by Haley Woods – founder of Girls LOVE Travel
Action! Image by Janeanne Gilchrist | Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society
John Robertson: The Dark Room
Keren has a tip for the Festival Fringe too. She’s been to see John Robertson perform “The Dark Room” comedy act for three years running now! Each year has been even more hilarious than the last! She would definitely recommend getting in early for seats at the front so you don’t miss out on all the action – it’s the one comedy act where you really don’t mind being picked out in the crowd!
- Tip by Keren Arlow from Fife, cousin + forced Two Scots Abroad reader (she says she’s not forced…)
Monkey Barrel Comedy
This pop up stand up comedy Festival Fringe venue is now here to stay! A variety of acts take the stand every Thursday – Sunday.
- 9 – 11 Blair St, EH1 1QR
- Tip by Shelley O’Donnell (the Third Scot who isn’t Abroad aka the all round help)
What moved fellow female traveller to tears? The Royal Military Edinburgh Tattoo! She says the setting in Edinburgh castle is ‘too awesome’! This sell – out show has over 48 nations performing. Tickets sell out fast so get in quick.
- 4th – 26th August | £35 – £440 (!) | Website
- Tip by Aly Petchal Burriss, Ohio, US – Girls LOVE Travel
Royal Military Edinburgh Tattoo sell – out show | Credit: Edinburgh Tattoo
Scottish International Storytelling Festival
Do you struggle to find the time to read a book unless you are swinging from a hammock with a piña colada in your hand? Me to! Here’s the solution to reader’s block – listen to a storyteller. Not an activity I thought I’d buy into but after reviewing a Peruvian storyteller called Wayqui (Brother) César Villegas Astete at this year’s Scottish International Storytelling Festival I was transported back to our month with Pachamama and pisco.
- 43-45 High St, EH1 1SR | October | Website
- Disclaimer – Edinburgh Festivals covered my ticket, honest review as always
Edinburgh’s Christmas Market
Stephanie loved all the beautiful lights of Edinburgh’s Christmas market, the homemade food, and unique gifts. Nothing has ever put her more in the Christmas spirit than Edinburgh in December. The Christmas Market is bigger than ever and has settled for Princes Gardens, George Street, and St Andrew Square as its main locations.
- Ice skating, food, mulled wine, markets, and rides | Nov – Jan | Website
- Tip by Stephanie from Minnesota – Girls LOVE Travel
Mulled wine + cheer at Edinburgh’s Christmas Market
Hogmanay Street Party
Have you joined 150,000 from over 80 different countries at the best New Year’s Eve party in the world? Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party is renowned worldwide for being the best way to ‘bring in the bells’. Live acts such as Paolo Nutini and Biffy Clyro play live at Princes Street Gardens (there are also four other stages around the city). There is a ceilidh (traditional Scottish dance) in the Old Town and fireworks at 12 am. The party doesn’t actually start on the 31st! Thousands of people march through Edinburgh as part of a torchlight procession on the 30th. On the 1st you can join the Loony Dookers at South Queensferry by diving into the River Forth, fresh (pre-booking required)!
- 30th December – 1st January | Variety of venues | Prices vary | Website
- Tip by pretty much everyone who has been!
- Trams will be running after midnight, free of charge
Edinburgh loves fireworks! | Image by Chris Watt
Edinburgh’s Festivals – Past + Present
Since the creation of the first three (International, Festival Fringe and Film Festival) of its festivals in 1947, the Scottish capital has deservedly become known as the world’s leading festival city. Every year is of course a great time to visit anyone of Edinburgh’s year round festivals but in 2017 we are planning something very special!
In 2017, Edinburgh celebrates the 70th anniversary of its world-famous festivals, with a year filled with celebrations and special events. Scotland’s historic capital will be transformed as never before by music, science, film, art, theatre, dance, literature and storytelling as its festivals continue to dream, reflect, invent and celebrate – whilst looking forward to another 70 years of world leading culture, hospitality and festivity in Scotland’s capital city!
Everything is going to be alright. That’s the message in bright lights, which greets you as you enter The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. If modern and contemporary art is your thing, this is the museum in Edinburgh you want to visit.
- 75 Belford Road, EH4 3DR | 10am – 5pm | Free | Website
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, portraits old and new. Collections include famous Scottish faces such as Sir Walter Scott and Flora MacDonald.
- 1 Queen Street, EH2 1JD | 10am – 5pm Thursdays until 7pm | Free | Website
Scottish National Gallery
The Scottish National Gallery offers a surprisingly wide range of European art from Renaissance through Impressionism. The free admission will give you your money’s worth and after seeing the art, you can stroll the lovely gardens.
- The Mound | 10am – 5pm, Thursdays 7pm | Free | Website
- Info + Image by Carol Guttery from Wayfaring Views
National Museum of Scotland’s Rooftop
The National Museum of Scotland is a great day out for the kids (for free!) but the tip, which has been recommended, is to head to the top and check out the view of Edinburgh from the National Museum of Scotland’s roof deck!
- Chambers St, EH1 1JF | 10am – 5pm | Website
- Tip by various contributors
Every night is fright night in Edinburgh’s Old Town and there is no shortage of tour companies who want to share their knowledge of torture, hangings, and local legends.
- Check out the info points on the Royal Mile
Mary King’s Close Tour
Ring-a-ring o’ roses,
A pocket full of posies,
We all fall down.
Did you know that this song refers to the plague? I learnt that during a Mary King’s Close tour in Edinburgh when I was very young. Like the Vaults Tour, this one takes you underground the Old Town at Mary King’s Close while listening to stories of death and misery.
- 2 Warriston’s Cl, High St, EH1 1PG | 10 am – 9pm
- Tip by Lisa Roxburgh – Two Scots Abroad reader
South Bridge Vault Tours
Standing at street level, you would never know that Edinburgh’s Vaults exist but underneath your feet is a labyrinth of 120 caverns. Mercat Tours are the only company with access to the underground world which was once used by traders then infiltrated by brothels and slums dwellers. The South Bridge Vaults were only rediscovered in the ’90s so this is a relatively new tour in Edinburgh!
- Mercat Cross, High Street | Seasonal hours | £12 | 1 hr 15 mins | Website
- Tip by Stephanie Kay, Massachusetts – Girls LOVE Travel
Crafty tours run a ‘brew and still’ distillery, brewery and bar tour of Edinburgh’s finest whisky and gin serving establishments.
- West Parliament Square | Saturdays 11am – 4pm | £55 | Website
- Tip by Rachel Wagers, nomad – Girls LOVE Travel
MORE FREE THINGS TO DO IN EDINBURGH
Edinburgh Free Tour
2.5 hour free tour of Edinburgh must – see attractions including the Edinburgh Castle, Grassmarket, and Greyfriars Bobby.
Greyfriars Bobby + Greyfriars Kirkyard
The most famous buried member of Greyfriars Kirkyard is a small Skye Terrier dog called Greyfriars Bobby. They say a man’s best friend is his dog, and that certainly was true for Bobby’s master.
After he passed, Bobby sat at his grave pining for him to return. There is a bronze monument of Bobby close to the graveyard.
While in the graveyard check out the headstones for J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter character names!
- Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QQ | Website
- Tip by Emma Hayes, Leeds – Girls LOVE Travel
MORE HARRY POTTER IN EDINBURGH
George Heriot’s School
This impressive building was constructed in 1628 and is said to be the inspiration for Hogwarts! Did you see a likeness?
- Lauriston Pl, Edinburgh EH3 9EQ
- Tip by Caroline Hill, Boston, MA – Girls LOVE Travel – Girls LOVE Travel
The Loo at The Elephant House Café
Who knew that Edinburgh would be such a hotbed for Harry Potterness?! There is always a massive queue to get into The Elephant House Café because this is where J.K Rowling wrote the earlier Harry Potter books and diehard fans have made the café toilets into a shrine. The loos are covered in graffiti, my personal favourite “I’d get sleazy for Ron Weasley.” Have you penned the walls of the Elephant House Café?
- 21 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EN
- Tip by Elin Bergner, from Sweden – Girls LOVE Travel
Elephant House jam – packed as always | Image by Wayfaring Views
Nothing quite blows away the cobwebs (maybe the morning after a few too many nips or jägerbombs) like a hike up Arthur’s Seat. This extinct volcano is located in the 640 acres of Royal Park, across from Holyrood Palace (close to the Scottish Parliament and Dynamic Earth).
- Bearings: bottom of the Royal Mile | #6 bus from Old Town (not worth it!)
- Tip by Angel Banner + Rachel Whiskeyman, Iowa, USA – Girls LOVE Travel
Princes Street Gardens
Consumed by the Christmas Market festivities from the middle of November until the start of January, come spring this green space overlooked by the Castle and the Mound becomes a tranquil haven. It’s almost as if it has a split personality like Jekyll and Hyde, which is fitting considering Robert Louis Stevenson’s memorial is placed in the Gardens.
Water of Leith Walkway
Leith is like a village in the city. I lived there for over a year while teaching in an Edinburgh school and have fond memories of two things. Firstly, dancing on the bar at the Port o’ Leith (see food and drink section) and Sunday cycles and strolls along the water of Leith Walkway. This easy walk or cycle in Edinburgh can take as long as you like.
The Balerno to Slateford part of the Walkway is 5 miles and takes around two hours. Slateford to Leith is longer, 7.5 miles (3 hours). Roseburn to the upmarket Stockbridge (great charity shops) is 2 miles (45 mins) and Stockbridge to Leith around 3.5 miles (1 hour 20 mins). Timings obviously based on how fast you walk. The Walkway is signposted but you can also buy or download this map.
The walk also takes you through the World Heritage Dean Village, a step back into history to Edinburgh’s mills.
- Visitors Centre 24 Lanark Road, EH14 1TQ | 10am – 4pm daily
- Tip by Hannah West, North Carolina – Girls LOVE Travel
I’ve got to be honest, Circus Lane was a new one to me and after doing a search I am dumbfounded that I’ve not walked down this pretty New Town street yet! It’s close to Stockbridge so would make a nice wander after lunch at Hamilton’s Restaurant (see food section next).
- Tip by Caroline Hill, Boston, MA – Girls LOVE Travel – Girls LOVE Travel
On a sunny day, locals and visitors may enjoy walking along Portobello Beach, dipping into the many cute pubs along the way. The Espy (bar), which comes recommended, is rumoured to be based on The Espy in St Kilda (popular pub in Melbourne).
- EH15 2BP | Turn right at the bottom of Constitution Street (Leith)
- Info by Alexandra Haddon, Melbourne – Girls LOVE Travel
There are a variety of walking routes for The Pentland Hills Regional Park to suit all levels of walkers. There are short four circular routes (1.5 – 2.7 miles), which are great for families. Not only is hiking in Edinburgh excellent for your fitness levels (after all that haggis!) but also The Pentlands are very scenic. You can also camp at The Pentlands (like we did).
Love hiking? Check out the 96 mile walk through the west of Scotland – the West Highland Way. A spectacular way to experience Scotland’s beauty.
FOOD + DRINK IN EDINBURGH
Do (or don’t) Try Haggis!
Haggis is Scotland’s national food (alongside the drink Irn Bru, yes that luminous orange sugary juice!) It is definitely a ‘marmite’ type of food – some love it and others hate it. Haggis is not a small animal, which runs wild like some tour guides would lead you to believe. It is made up of the meats lamb and beef, which is cooked with oats, onions, and spices in an animal’s stomach. I prefer the veggie stuff but Craig loves the meat version. We eat it mostly in winter with tatties (potatoes) and neeps (turnip). Scots and visitors tend to eat it on St Andrew’s Day (November) and Burns Night (January) but you’ll find it all year round in Edinburgh restaurants.
Tip by Alexis Jordan Tchuise from World Travel Adventurers (image via Flickr)
Haggis Bon Bons
Haggis does not have to come with neeps and tatties. Scottish restaurants have become creative with the national dish and haggis bon bons from The Caley Sample Room has been highlighted as an exceptional variation of the main meal.
- 42-58 Angle Park Terrace EH11 2JR | 10am – 12am | ££ – £££ | Website
- Tip by my friend Amy from Two Drifters
Best Baked Potatoes
This food recommendation made me laugh because it came from two different Edinburgh fans! The Baked Potato Shop at the top of Cockburn Street (just before the Royal Mile) has been voted for twice as a quality cheap eat, close to the action, in Edinburgh . The veggie chilli and cheese baked potato gets a special shout out.
- 56 Cockburn St, EH1 1PB | 11am – 8pm | £ | Facebook
- Tip by Sarah Gunn – TSA reader + Hannah Edington – Girls LOVE Travel
Mary’s Milk Bar
Here you will discover homemade ice cream in unusual flavours, which can be consumed in the shadows of Edinburgh’s Castle.
- 19 Grassmarket, EH1 2HS | £ | Closed Mondays | Website
- Tip by Laura Blake, Perth Australia – Girls LOVE Travel
Mosque Kitchen – Curry
Seriously cheap eats in the studenty area of Edinburgh.
- 31 – 33 Nicolson Square, EH8 9BX | £ |11:30am –1pm, 1:45 –10pm | Website
- Tip by a local, Joe Evans – friend of Two Scots Abroad
Maison de Moggy
Move over Japan, Edinburgh has its own cat cafe! Fur lovers can sip on tea (thirteen varieties) and eat cake while stroking the purring cuties. If you really enjoyed your experience you can become a ‘casual cat nanny’ too.
- 17-19 West Port, EH1 2JA | 10:45am – 6:30pm | Website
- Tip by Kirsty Brown from Glasgow – Two Scots Abroad reader
The Witchery by the Castle
When you book your table at the Witchery, you can choose between the original oak panelled Baroque dining room, or the elegant and romantic candlelit Secret Garden.
Cocktails at Devil’s Advocate
The Devil’s Advocate serves food and drink from an old Victorian pub house in the Old Town. The menu also has lots of whisky, gin, rum, and vodka cocktails on the menu to choose from. There’s even a pisco cocktail (Peru fans?!)
- 9 Advocates Close, EH1 1ND | Website
- Tip by Alexandra Haddon, Melbourne – Girls LOVE Travel
Edinburgh’s busiest backpacker bar. Free live comedy acts every day of the Fringe Festival. Amazing discounts for students and backpackers.
- Niddry St, EH1 1LG | 12pm – 1am | Pint £2.80 + Spirits £2.25
- Info by Marc Walker from Scotland – manager + Two Scots Abroad reader
Locals will cringe at this club recommendation but I honesty love this place! Four floors of music and I swear if you play song roulette you’ll be there until closing time (6am during the Festival Fringe – eek!)
- 4 India Buildings, Victoria St, EH1 2EX
- Free | 7pm – 3am | Website
Scotch Whisky Experience
The Scotch Whisky experience is a great activity for someone who’s fascinated by whisky and is visiting Scotland for the first time. If they can’t make it to the beautiful distilleries this activity is a great fun way to get acquainted with the process, especially if it’s pouring outside. The whisky collection here is neat!
- Address: 354 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NE
Let the Games Be Gin
Not a fan of whisky? Edinburgh’s got something to put a gin on your face at Edinburgh Gin Distillery.
- 1a Rutland Square, EH1 2AS | Website
- Tip by Visit Scotland, Scotland’s tourist board
This is an old favourite of mine; many a strawberry beer has been consumed in this Edinburgh bar. Go check out the artwork, it’s really unusual! Food is decent fancy pub grub too.
- 49 George IV Bridge, EH1 1EJ | ££ – £££ | 11am – 1pm | Website
The Outsider Restaurant
- George IV Bridge, EH1 1EE | ££ – £££ | 12 – 11pm | Website
- Info by Marianne Rogerson from Mum on the Move
Miro’s Cantina Mexicana
I fully intend to eat my way through this travel guide to Edinburgh too so when my fellow blogging friend, Amy from Two Drifters, announced she was visiting the city we set our first date at Miro’s Cantina Mexicana on Rose Street for fajitas in a cute setting.
- 184 Rose St, EH2 4BA | ££ – £££ | Website
- Thanks to Shelley O’Donnell for this hot Edinburgh restaurant recommendation
Starbucks Views | Princes Street
Not normally one to advertise multi-billion companies who avoid paying taxes but one of our Two Scots Abroad Facebook followers suggested that the next time we grab a hot chocolate to do so at the Starbucks near the Premier Inn hotel for great views of the city!
- Tip by Eric Bo – Two Scots Abroad reader
Recommended by lots of fellow travellers including us, The Dome is extravagant! Fellow blogger, Anisa suggests checking out the lunch menu and I say visit in December. In winter, The Dome is as close to Hollywood’s portrayal of Christmas as it gets. Those towering pillars are snaked with lights and the annual festive scents are released. A Christmas dream come true, if you can get to the front of the queue!
Pudding at Bar Italia Ristorante
As soon as I saw photos of Bar Italia’s desserts, I had to go. I have a major sweet tooth and this family feel Italian restaurant did not disappoint the taste buds.
- 100 Lothian Rd, EH3 9BE |££ | Website
- Tip by Angel Banner, Tennessee – Girls LOVE Travel
Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen
The area of Stockbridge has so many nice cafes, pubs, and restaurants to dine in but Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen comes recommended by an Aussie who has spent time in the city. Hamilton’s Kitchen serves breakfast from 9am, lunch from 12pm, and dinner (or tea as us Scots call it) from 6pm. You could swing by while strolling along the Water of Leith Walkway
- 16-18 Hamilton Place, EH3 5AU | ££ – £££ | Website
- Tip by Alexandra Haddon, Melbourne – Girls LOVE Travel
Pet – Friendly Pub – Woodland Creatures
Woodland Creatures is a child and dog – friendly pub on Leith Walk (the long road from Princes Street to Leith). Not only puppy proud but also a place for live music. Scotland’s own Kyle Falconer (The View) being amongst the artists to take the (small) stage. Intimacy at its best.
- 260-262 Leith Walk, EH6 5EL | Facebook
- Tip by Mary Leong from Tiny Lady, Big World (who Courchsurfed in Edinburgh)
Pub Crawl Down Leith
Looking for Edinburgh things to do at night? Head down to Leith, the village in the city, and take a relaxed pub – crawl through the many bars in this condensed area! My favourite pubs in Leith are Roseleaf for cocktails, beer and live music at The Carriers Quarters, then finish a Friday or Saturday night dancing on the bar at Port o’ Leith, where the last song is always a Scottish classic by The Proclaimers.
EDINBURGH’S LIVE MUSIC SCENE
Edinburgh is no Glasgow when it comes to music yet it still gets its fair share of artists passing through its venues. Newer acts can be seen for cheap at the likes of Sneaky Pete’s (Young Fathers – at the time) and the Voodoo Rooms (Rituals). Slightly larger capacity is served by Cabaret Voltaire (Metronomy) and the Liquid Rooms (Bombay Bicycle Club). Bigger artists fill Queen’s Hall, Usher Hall (our second date to see the XX), Edinburgh Corn Exchange, Murrayfield Stadium, Princes Gardens (Paolo Nutini), and even Edinburgh Castle (dry gigs only / Elton John). However, Edinburgh is not just about named artists. The likes of Whistle Binkies, Bannermans, and World’s End in the bowels of the Old Town offer free live music most nights.
DAY TRIPS FROM EDINBURGH
After a couple of days in the city you may be itching to get out and see a bit more of Scotland and with these easy day tours from Edinburgh, getting out couldn’t be easier.
One of my favourite places in Scotland is South Queensferry. Come see our iconic bridges; Forth Bridge (the red one), Forth Road Bridge (the car bridge), and Queensferry Crossing (the new bridge) and take a boat tour on the Firth of the Forth.
- Frequent trains from Waverley Train Station to Dalmeny
- Tip by me, Gemma from Two Scots Abroad (that’s me with no voice in the video)
The Kingdom of Fife
Come across the Firth of Forth on one of its iconic bridges, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site rail bridge, to the Kingdom of Fife.
Voted Scotland’s number one outdoor destination, Fife is a Kingdom steeped in royal history, with some of the world’s finest golf courses including the most famous of all the Old Course (St Andrews), 117 miles of stunning coastal path, thriving arts and festivals, and a vibrant food and drink scene – the perfect destination!
- Info + tip by Fife Tourism
- Disclaimer: Craig and I are Fifers! Give us a wave from the train
- Frequent trains from Edinburgh Waverley + Haymarket
Aberdour, one of Fife’s many towns
Midlothian Snowsports Centre
Tucked underneath the Pentlands, Midlothian’s Snowsports Centre flirts with the border of Edinburgh. I’ve recently (successfully) taken a month block of ski lessons on the dry slopes in preparation for hitting the Scottish slopes (we have five resorts), Glenshee and the Cairngorms. Stunning views of Edinburgh and beyond from the top of the run on a clear day.
- Biggar Rd, EH10 7DU | Website
Take a day trip from Edinburgh to North Berwick on the east coast. A pretty coastal town with ample shops, cafes and restaurants to enjoy, and a beach to wander along or play golf next to. Towering behind the town is Berwick Law, a hill well worth the climb for the gorgeous 360 – degree views. You can even see Arthur’s Seat on a clear day!
- Hourly trains from Waverley Train Station
- Info + image by Sonja from Migrating Miss
Check out the pad where Mary Queen of Scots was born! Linlithgow Palace also has special events throughout the year such as jostling challenges.
- Frequent trains from Waverley Train Station to Linlithgow | Seasonal opening times | Website
- Visiting more than one Historic Scotland site? Check out their Explorer Pass to save cash
Visit the underground passages of Gilmerton Cove, an ex – mining town near Edinburgh.
- Monday – Sunday | 10am – 4pm | Tours on request | £7.50 | Website
- Tip by Caroline Hill, Boston, MA – Girls LOVE Travel
One of my favourite things about Scottish history is our stories of myths are legends. Have you met our shape shifting aquatic beasts with the power of 100 horses yet? Our Kelpies…
- The Helix, Grangemouth, Falkirk FK2 7ZT | Website
Free Scottish Highlands Tour
Did you just say free Scottish Highlands tour? Yes I did! I’ve not sampled the Hairy Coo’s day tour from Edinburgh yet but it comes in highly rated by lots of backpackers who have been to Edinburgh. Important note – this trip does not go to Loch Ness if you want to chase Nessie, check out our partners HAGGIS Adventures’ Day Tour.
- Does the Highlands + our Isles interest you? See our review of this Highland tour
- Tip by Stephanie Kay, Massachusetts + Abby Wise, Washington DC – GLT
EDINBURGH TOURIST INFORMATION
Edinburgh’s iCentres, on Princes Street and at the airport, can help you plan tours, book day trips, reserve accommodation and purchase transport passes for touring Scotland. Discover the latest information on events and festivals taking place in Edinburgh all year round.
EDINBURGH PUBLIC TRANSPORT
Edinburgh is well connected by bus, train, and now tram. Lothian Buses have a useful trip planner on their site. Buses run throughout the day and on a reduced timetable at night (£3). Stops are placed throughout the city with maps and electronic information signs. A single adult ticket costs £1.60 (kids 80p) and you must have the correct money, no change is given. Day tickets are £4 / £2. The Airlink bus connects the city and the airport for £9 per adult and £4.50 per child.
Edinburgh has three stations, Waverley is the most central (Princes Street 2 mins walk away / Royal Mile 10 mins walk away), Haymarket is in the west (closest to the zoo and Murrayfield Stadium), and the new Edinburgh Gateway connects users to the Gyle Shopping Centre and Edinburgh Airport. Edinburgh Waverley has toilets (30p), showers, food places, and a bar). Haymarket has a coffee shop. Trainline is a great app/website for train journeys in the UK.
Edinburgh trams run from York Place to Edinburgh Airport for £5.50 single / £8.50 return (kids £3 / £4.50). Purchase your ticket at the machine and validate at the machine before you board the tram. Users without a ticket will be charged £10. Day tickets available. The trams will be running for free after midnight on Hogmanay to get party-goers home safe.
We have Ûber in Edinburgh (order through the app) as well as private taxi firms (order by calling) and black taxis which you can hail down on the street or hire from a taxi rank.
Scottish money is legal tender but our southern counterparts down in London don’t always accept this. Our shops, restaurants, hotels accept both English and Scottish money but not Euros. We are currently still part of the European Union (although the UK voted to leave in 2016), however, we are not part of the Eurozone. Credit cards are widely accepted (American Express is sometimes not) and there are lots of ATMs throughout the city. There have been scams reported where ATMs have been tampered with, avoid machines which look targeted or have additional plastic casing where the card inserts. Plastic bags in shops cost 5p so bring your own!
Accommodation in Edinburgh is expensive. Edinburgh hotel rooms in the Old Town start at £70 – £520. Hostels in Edinburgh are much cheaper starting at £14 for a dorm bed. Airbnb is another option we like to use when staying in cities. Private rooms average at £50 and full houses £114 however do go for as low a £25 and £60. Not with Airbnb yet? You can sign up here for money off, we’ll also get some credit to use. Thank you for helping us continue to travel!
Warning – prices rocket for busy times such as Festival Fringe time in August and Hogmanay in December, beds also book up quick.
Going to Edinburgh?
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NEED TO KNOW
Scottish people are known to be friendly (I’d say they are friendlier through in the West though!) and the city is pretty safe. If you do run into any trouble call 112 for non – emergency police matters and 999 for any of the emergency services. There is a high police presence around they city, especially during big events. Tap water is safe to drink, free and delicious! Smoking is banned in public places and in cars with minors.
Our accents can be quite strong! Here’s a funny post on Scottish sayings by Buzzfeed which will prepare you. Only 1.1% of the country speaks Gaelic, you will see our signs with both languages as you head north. We love deep fat fried food and are partial to a pint or two! If someone asks you ‘are ye dancin’?’ The appropriate response is ‘are ye askin’?’
Our MSPs passed the equal marriage bill in 2014 and Edinburgh has quite a large LBGT+ community (and bars/clubs).
So that’s all folks – the most extensive things to do, see, and eat in Edinburgh guide on the internet. Written by me, you, locals, Scotland lovers, bloggers, and businesses. Big shout out to the Girls LOVE Travel community on Facebook for these tips, together we’re making travel happen!
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