Edinburgh has to be one of my favourite cities in the world, no doubt in part to the fact that it’s where my hubby hails from. Truth be told, however, I was a big fan of the city since I was a young kid. Having Scottish parents, I was lucky enough to visit Scotland almost yearly throughout my childhood. Edinburgh was always so magical with the castle on the hill, the Royal Mile and the crazy festival spirit.
Here is a collection of my and my hubby’s favourite things to do in Edinburgh. *Want ideas on where to stay? Stick around until the bottom of the post!*
1 Walk the Royal Mile
Any visit to Edinburgh should start with a walk down the Royal Mile. With the castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other, it’s a rich cobblestoned walk full of history. With neat shops and quirky cafes lining the mile, you can easily while away the hours.
2 Mary King’s Close
I think I’ve done the Mary King’s Close tour about six times at this point. Whenever I met family in Edinburgh, or friends visited, I’d always take them on this tour. Mary King’s Close is a network of underground streets and homes that were covered up, literally. What was once a busy street of merchants and residents was then walled in and built on top of after the plague some four hundred years ago, left intact for the visitor today. It’s a guided tour, can be a little scary at times, but always fascinating!
3 Scare Yourself With a Ghost Tour
Edinburgh can be a little creepy, what with its history of folks like Burke and Hare who committed a number of murdered to deliver corpses to Dr. Robert Knox. Others would dig up fresh graves to do the same. With a background like this, it’s no wonder there’s unfinished business in Edinburgh… I’ve been on a number of different ghost tours over the years. My personal favourite were Auld Reekie Tours, but you’ve got a number to choose from!
4 Royal Yacht Britannia
In the days before private planes were common transport for the royal family, they had their yacht. The Royal Yacht Britannia gives a glimpse at the life of royals (and their crew!) at sea.
5 Feel the Harry Potter Vibes
One of the various cafes that JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in was The Elephant House. You can completely understand why when you grab a seat at the back window. Overlooking George Heriot School, the castle and Greyfriar’s Kirk, these clearly inspired settings in the series. Check out the bathroom before you go – no, seriously – as they’ve become a haven for Harry Potter graffiti.
6 Cocktails at the Dome
A former bank, The Dome is now home to a bar and restaurant, welcoming diners with its epic architectural beauty. You could go the afternoon tea route, of course, but there’s something about The Dome in the evening, all lit up, that makes it incredibly special. I’m told their Christmas decor is also fabulous – will have to head back there during the holiday season!
7 Breakfast at Cafe Rouge
Okay, so this is a joint favourite of David and I’s. For a little French flair in the heart of Edinburgh, head on over to Cafe Rouge. While I’m sure they also make great lunch and dinners, it’s our tradition to come here for breakfast, sit ourselves down in the classic bistro chairs and order some eggs.
8 Climb Arthur’s Seat
I’ve only done this one, and I was recovering from Norovirus at the time, but it was such a good experience. It’s a pretty basic hike with a great view from the top.
9 Iconic Edinburgh Photo Tour
One of the coolest things I’ve ever done in Edinburgh was to take a private photo tour with Iconic Photo Tours. Day or night, you can take a 2-3 hour tour around Edinburgh, learning to use your camera as you go. Your guide will give you some lesser known facts about the city, while helping you improve your photography skills. I was a real beginner with my camera, but was lucky enough to learn some new skills (like in the photo below) in a short space of time.
10 Visit the Castle
The castle overlooks the New Town with it’s epic grandeur. You can take a guided tour or explore it at your own leisure.
11 Lunch at Oink
I adore a pulled pork sandwich, so Oink fits my bill perfectly. You can choose your bun, your sauce and your additional filling, or just buy some straight pulled pork. Either way, vegetarians look away now…
12 Stroll to Morningside via the Meadows
The Meadows is a stunning public park in Edinburgh that has criss-crossing paths, huge green spaces, and glorious blooming trees in the spring. On the southwest corner of the park you begin to reach Morningside, home to great coffee shops and restaurants.
13 Shopping on Princes’ Street
When I lived on the Isle of Arran, there was always something to be said for going shopping in Edinburgh. Princes’ Street
14 Explore Dean Village
Once upon a time Dean Village was its own village, separate to Edinburgh. As the city grew, it enveloped Dean Village within it. If you take a wander around, however, you can appreciate how it was once its own, quaint entity.
15 Get Your Gin On
If you look up “Edinburgh Gin Bar” you’ve got more than one choice. This city loves its juniper berry spirit! While I technically haven’t visited any of these places yet, The Jolly Botanist is top of my list for our next visit to Edinburgh.
16 Have a 5 Floor Party
This brings me back to my *cough* youth when I had the odd party night in Edinburgh. Espionage can be quite a lot of fun with it’s five different floors, various bar areas and dance floors.
17 Try a Dram of Whisky
New to the world of Scotch Whisky? Yeah… me too! The Scotch Whisky Experience at the top of the Royal Mile will teach you everything you need to know, and let you sample a tipple along the way. Look no further than their shop for souvenirs to take home.
18 Explore Victoria Street
This is one of my favourite streets in the entire world! With its colourful shop fronts, unique shopping finds and incredibly tasty food… I might never need another street again.
19 Enjoy the Festivities of Edinburgh Fringe
If you’re at all into the performing arts, Edinburgh Fringe is for you. From singers to comedians, plays to performance theatre, you’ve got it all. You can see amateurs trying to get their big break, or you can see big name acts. Most memorable performance I’ve seen – Puppetry of the Penis. No joke, I was sixteen and my aunt and uncle took me to see it (their choice not mine!). Memorable for sure.
20 Experience Hogmanay
There’s nothing quite like a Scottish New Years Eve, also known as Hogmanay. Edinburgh goes all out with a torchlight procession, concert and fireworks from the castle. Basically… it’s one huge party and everyone’s invited. I’ve personally enjoyed Edinburgh on NYE – just beware the bathroom line up on Princes’ Street. You’ll rethink the third or fourth beer while you’re crossing your legs.
Where To Stay?
I’ve enjoyed my stays at the St. Christopher Hostel, which is conveniently located close to Princes’ Street and across from Waverley Station.
You always know what you’re getting when you stay at a Premier Inn. Clean, reliable and convenient. This Premier Inn is centrally located for all tourist attractions. It’s a great option for families.
We’ve always loved staying at FountainCourt Apartments throughout Edinburgh. The rooms are stunning and it gives us the option to bring food in, which helps keep our costs down.
Ever been to Edinburgh? What would make it onto your list?
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