When I get away I love to explore new countries and in particular, new cities, mostly because they are a great way to see a collaboration of a countries architecture, food, art and people – basically a snapshot with everything all in one place!
I have only been to Edinburgh a few times, but I think it is my soul-city. Edinburgh is hands down one of my favourite places on the planet and there aren’t a huge number of places where I really feel at home and happy, and despite loving holidays and city breaks, I do tend to be excited to go home and be in my flat and see my friends; but I could quite easily give it all up for Edinburgh.
First of all Edinburgh is the city equivalent to Goldilocks – it’s not too big, it’s not too small – it’s just right! I used to live in Bristol and the main thing I love about this city is that there is loads going on, you can experience the city vibe, but it isn’t overwhelming and suffocating. You can navigate the streets, sight-see and explore, while actually enjoying the city and it’s atmosphere. Edinburgh is the same.
You can be in the city centre without feeling like you are about to be swallowed up by a crowd of humans, and the side streets tend to be pretty quiet, so you can take a break from the city vibe anytime you like. As with most smaller cities, there is a nice balance of green space, but with Edinburgh, the green space is quite literally surrounding you!
I wanted to put together a little guide of how to get to and from Edinburgh, what to do and where to go once you are there and give you some ideas of cool places to visit!
Train & Travel
I am not a fan of flying to say the LEAST. If I can avoid flying I will, so whenever I travel around the UK, I drive or jump on a train. The journey to Edinburgh is SO easy from London and if you catch the right train, you can be in Edinburgh city centre in around 4 hours or so – boom! By the time you have checked into the airport, gone through security and then added the flight time it all works out about the same so the time really doesn’t bother me, plus the train runs along the coast the further north you get, so it is a really lovely journey with amazing views.
Aside from the fact the train is firmly on the ground, I love how you are right in the centre of everything when you arrive – no faffing around with taxis, trains or lifts when you get to the other end, and even if you aren’t staying right in the centre, chances are if you don’t mind a bit of a walk, you can get to your destination pretty quickly just walking.
City Sightseeing Bus
There is a bit of a ‘naff’ stereotype surrounding city sightseeing tours, but I HIGHLY recommend them. I try and do them in every city because they are effectively an orientation class! There will always be places that you don’t have time, or inclination to visit, and rather than having FOMO, you can hop on the city bus and see everything really quickly. I also love to learn about the places I am staying in so by having a guide and some history is ideal for a crash course in your favourite city.
I have done this a couple of times in Edinburgh, both the pre-recorded version and one with a live guide and as much as I would recommend both, the live guide was hilarious! It is nice to have the little caveats and personal stories from a local which you just don’t get with the pre-recorded tours, and the guide we had recently was so funny and made it really enjoyable.
The bus does cost a bit, but your tickets are valid for 24 hours so if you are savvy, you can use the bus as your transport over 2 days of your stay, saving loads of money on travel, and enables you to stop off in places you might not have planned to.
There are three sight seeing bus routes in Edinburgh which take you to different locations (with some crossover), and you can purchase tickets which allows you access to all of them – brill!
I have made the mistake of doing a city sight seeing bus on the last day of my holiday before so make sure you do this at the start so you can be sure you don’t miss any hidden gems that you didn’t know existed, and also so you can really make the most of your ticket and use it for the full 24 hours.
By far one of my favourite places in Edinburgh. I am totally obsessed with plants, flowers, cacti and anything botanical so I really love the Botanical Gardens. There is a big gift shop, huge gardens, plenty of cafes and the conservatories so you can spend a whole day here, especially if the weather is nice. There is also an amazing view of the whole of Edinburgh, making it worth a visit for the view alone.
You only have to pay for access to the conservatories so if you are travelling on a budget but want to do some sight seeing, this is the perfect place.
I am not native to Edinburgh so I could be making this up (and you need to live in Bristol to know what I’m taking about), but I feel like Raeburn place is the ‘Gloucester Road’ of Edinburgh. I have stayed in Raeburn Place before and have been back to walk into the city from here, and it is an area I think is really worth visiting. It is really close to the Botanical Gardens, so if you are leaving the gardens back to the city, you can walk back via Raeburn place and it will take you around 40 mins to be back to town.
There are lots of cafes, bars, pubs and shops and plenty of friendly people and pooches! I recommend No33 for a coffee to fuel your stroll, and for people watching if you sit in the window. There is also a market around Christmas not far up from the cafe which is worth having a look it, with locally sourced products and handmade gifts from locals.
You can’t really go to Edinburgh without visiting the Castle. It is probably the most iconic symbol of the city, and is really worth the steep walk!
You can visit various museums and parts of the castle depending on what you want to see and how much time you have. I recommend the National War Museum which has been curated to show you what prisoners would have experienced at the time, and even doors with carvings and art from the prisoners who stayed there.
The cafe has great views of the city, and they fire the canon from here too which is a fun experience!
While we are comparing place for place, Princes Street is ‘The Oxford Street’ of Edinburgh. There are loads of shops like Primark, Zara, Debenhams and so many more. You can’t really avoid Princes Street as it is right in the heart of the city, and you will be sure to pass through wherever you are going, but it is a great place to treat yourself which I definitely did here!
I LOVE this street. It is one street back from Princes street so you can actually access some of the shops via back entrances here, but this street has all the restaurants, bars and pubs, with some cafes and shops too! I stayed on Rose Street and it was the ideal location. You are literally 5 mins from everything, and it made going out for dinner and drinks so easy – it didn’t even seem worth putting my jacket on to leave the apartment as everywhere is so close!
There are loads of places to visit here, including Jamie’s Italian, Rose Street Brewery, The Black Cat, Element and even co-working spaces if you are travelling for work.
If you are strolling around the centre, don’t miss this street, and even better – see if you can find an Airbnb along this street and you will not be disappointed!
I did’t actually realise the harbour was so close to Edinburgh centre, and hadn’t been until this trip, so was amazed at how easy it was to get to, and how amazing it was. There are shops and restaurants around, and a Loch Fyne which is really worth a visit for the food obviously, but for the views of the lighthouse and sea.
Going in February meant that it was freezing, but this would be a great place to visit in the summer months for fish and chips and an amazing view.
My favourite thing to do in the world. I love eating out but with a million and one food allergies I do get a bit of food fear when eating out in new places. What I love about Edinburgh is there are loads of independent places, but also tonnes of chains which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it means reliability for fussy eaters and also gives a good mix so you don’t have to have the same thing twice!
Loche Fyne up by the harbour is well worth a visit, especially if you can go in the evening when the light and views across the water are just stunning. Jamie’s Italian is really well situated just off Rose Street and is really big so you are sure to find a table. The Rosehip just further along is amazing, and has proper Scottish cuisine for those wanting to try something more native like haggis – they even have vegan haggis – who knew!?
My second favourite thing to do! I love finding prohibition bars and great cocktails in new cities, and I would say that I am able to give a good recommendation as we tried out quite a few places haha!
The Lucky Liquor is really intimate and the staff are really lovely and informative. The drinks are well priced given the service and experience and I would highly recommend coming here for one or two with a partner or friend.
Hoot The Redeemer was much more of a casual bar with a really cool gypsy-like theme with Zoltar machines and tarot artwork. I had a gin slushy and the drinks on the menu were much more fun and quirky – a great place to go with friends or in a group.
The Standing Order is more for if you are on a stag or hen being a Whetherspoons, or in a larger group where you want cheap drinks and a messy night. For a Whetherspoons it was quite cool and the location is really easy for access to the rest of the city so if you are planning a group trip or a night out on a budget – head this way!
Badger and Co is a part of a restaurant, but the vibe of this place was really relaxed. We had a few cocktails with super friendly staff and cool decor which is perfect for a chill evening or drinks before dinner.
If you live in the UK, it is so worth spending a weekend or even longer in Edinburgh, or any part of Scotland to be honest. We really don’t need to jump on a flight across the other side of the world to experience culture and beauty – it’s right on our doorstep!
If you aren’t a local but are lucky enough to be travelling to the UK, or have wanted to but can’t decide where to go, I really recommend you visit Edinburgh, especially if you are planning on travelling to London as the train is so easy and totally worth stealing a couple of days out of your holiday for a mini adventure.
Planning a trip to Brighton?