Today it is time to turn our heads to my favourite place in the entire world, namely the beautiful capital city of Scotland. I have lived in Edinburgh for a year when I was a student and during that year I fell utterly and hopelessly in love with the city. I don’t suppose I will ever outgrow that love and still try to visit the city as often as I can. I also still hope to settle my roots there again at some point in the future. As I have such fondness for this city and have gotten to know the place quite intimately during my time there, I thought it would be a good idea to share all of my tips for making a trip to Edinburgh unforgettable.
When to go
Edinburgh is beautiful year-round, as it is located on the east coast of Scotland. This means the city gets relatively much sunshine and little rain (because of the mountains in the middle of the country) and has notoriously beautiful sunsets in winter. In fact, winter is a great time to visit, as the cosy charm of the city really shines during this time. Summer is also a good option to visit, particularly if you want to see more of the outdoors of Scotland. Just keep in mind that is never truly warm in Edinburgh, so it might not live up to your expectations as a summer destination. Every August, Edinburgh celebrates the Fringe Festival. This is a month-long event that has the city buzzing full of shows and performances, many of which are free. It is incredible to witness this event and partake in the festivities, but if you have never been in Edinburgh before, I would say you are doing yourself a disservice if your first visit to the city is during the Fringe. I would suggest getting to know all the city has to offer on its own before you return to get consumed by the Fringe madness.
What to see
The entire city is one big charming bubble of history, so just strolling around is never a bad idea. It has a lot of famous and touristy sites, including the castle, the royal mile, Edinburgh old town, the Royal Botanical Gardens and the national museum of Scotland. All of these sites are without a doubt worthwhile a visit, but if you have limited time in the city, I would suggest making sure you make a stop at these sites:
- Arthur’s Seat is arguably the most famous site in Edinburgh and for good reason. The hill is found at the edge of the city and although Arthur’s Seat very much part of the urban environment, when you are climbing the hill, it feels like you have been transported to the highlands. The top of the hill also offers beautiful 360° views across the entire city. My absolute number one must-see!
- Princes Street is the big shopping street of Edinburgh, so not many tour guides will tell you this is worth the visit. But it is not so much about the shops (unless you enjoy shopping of course), as it is about the views this street offers of the old town, the Castle and the valley between. Particularly the view from North Bridge, overlooking Princes Street and the Old Town takes my breath away every time (see the picture above this section).
- Grassmarket is a square in Old Town that is well worth a visit. The place oozes charm and has loads of quirky little shops and bars. Leading out from the square is Victoria Street, a street so colourful and crooked that it looks like a street straight out of the world of Harry Potter (it is no wonder J.K. Rowling wrote her masterpiece just around the corner from this street).
What to buy
Edinburgh has loads of great places to shop, from the high street shops on Princes Street to vintage shops that are scattered all around the city. The reason I am including this section is because of Armstrongs Vintage, an amazingly weird and wonderful vintage shop in the corner of Grass Market. They sell some odd costumy items in there, but also some real gems and in my humble opinion any trip to Edinburg is not complete without a visit to this shop. Just a little walk away from this shop, is Armchair Books, an equally wonderful vintage book shop. Although books can be a bit expensive in here, particularly compared to goodwill shops, the charm of this shop cannot be beaten.
What to eat
A travel guide to any place would not be complete without some food recommendations and luckily Edinburgh does not disappoint. It was quite tricky to narrow these suggestions down to three, as exploring new places to eat is one of my favourite pastimes and Edinburgh has so much to offer. With that in mind, these options are truly exceptional.
- Hula Juice Bar is the only place in Edinburgh that does acai bowls. Since we don’t have acai bowl anywhere in Leeds, it always feels like a treat when I get to eat at Hula. The cafe has a big range of healthy treats, so it is perfect for a breakfast or lunch. Just bear in mind that this cafe is in one of the most touristy locations in Edinburgh, so the cafe can often be full.
- Loudons Café and Bakery is an informal, Scandinavian-style café that used to be just around the corner from where I lived. They also happened to serve the best pancakes I have ever eaten in my life. Somehow their pancakes are super airy and fluffy, something that I have yet to master in a vegan pancake. Be warned though, this place is super popular, so there is often a long queue on Sunday morning of people trying to get in. If you are set on trying these amazing vegan pancakes (which I promise will not disappoint), I suggest going on a weekday or getting up early and arriving there shortly after they open.
- The Forest Café will have you channel your inner hippie in this quirky place that serves a great filling lunch. The menu in the Forest Café changes daily but always has mostly vegan options. The food is simple, yet tasty and the portions are very generous. The café is completely volunteer-run and in fact, I have helped out behind the counter a couple of times myself. This is a great place to unwind and admire all the quirky items and people that assemble here.
- 10 to 10 in Dehli must be one of the coolest places I’ve ever eaten. The restaurant is absolutely tiny and you sit cross-legged on a raised platform in an over the top Indian décor. The food here is tasty, simple and filling, but the dining experience is really the selling point. Avoid usual dinner times, ie. 5-7 pm, as it can get very crowded. Instead, opt for a late lunch or grab a 9 pm dinner after a long day of sightseeing.
These are some of my favourite spots in Edinburgh, but the city has so much to offer that even a 10.000-word post would not have covered it all. Edinburgh has so much charm, beautiful views, and rich history that it truly makes the perfect place for a weekend getaway and I cannot recommend it enough. And if you happen to visit the city, please give it my warmest regards!