Edinburgh: A TravelSim Quick Guide
Edinburgh is such a beautiful city, with so much to do whatever the weather. As Scotland’s capital, there is so much to discover, from history and legends in the Old Town, shopping, music, art and food in Leith, and a large selection of festivals (hence the nickname, festival city)… so here are a few fun suggestions of things to do when you are exploring.
There are lots of great places to stay in Edinburgh from boutique hotels to B&Bs and hostels. For cheaper, central options try the Tune Hotel at Haymarket or Kick Ass Hostels. The further you go out of the city, the cheaper the accommodation can be. The Angels Share is a lovely boutique hotel with a Scottish twist, and 2 Cambridge Street is in the theatre district and has some castle views. Radisson Collection Royal Mile Hotel is right on the Royal Mile and has beautiful and chic interiors. There are also a variety of apartments for rent for longer stays, plus a good number of options on Airbnb.
Edinburgh is easy to get around on foot, and by doing so you really get to experience the beauty of the city and can find exciting places that you would otherwise miss — and there are many of them! Saying that though, Edinburgh also has a great bus network (Lothian Buses) with single journey tickets for £1.50 and an all-day ticket for £3.50 (as of Jan 2014), which is good if you are planning on more than three bus journeys in the one day. Lothian Buses also have a great app which can make planning your journey easier. It lets you know which buses are coming to each stop and when, and their new mobile ticketing feature for buying tickets on your phone is perfect if you don’t have the right change.
Things to do
Although Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city, it has a lot of beautiful green space for relaxing in the sunshine or getting a breath of fresh air. The dormant volcano, Arthur’s Seat (which you can see from most points in the city), is a fantastic space to get away from the hustle and bustle without going too far. A short walk or climb around the Seat and in Holyrood Park will swiftly blow away any cobwebs with incredible views from the top — all the way to the Firth of Forth and into Fife (a short train journey away). After your walk, have a well deserved break at The Sheep’s Heid, one of Scotland’s oldest pubs in Duddingston, and play in their traditional skittle bowling alley with a pint.
For some green space in the city centre take a walk along the Water of Leith — join at Roseburn and meander slowly enjoying this little green haven, stopping by the Dean Gallery, and ending up at Stockbridge. This area of Edinburgh has a small town feel with great cafes, restaurants and shops, as well as some of the best charity shops in the city (so be sure to leave enough time for a browse)!
A visit to Edinburgh is not complete without a wander down the Royal Mile in the Old Town, which is where you can really start to feel the history of the city. Start off with a trip to the castle — tickets are currently £16 for an adult, but if you are planning on seeing a few other historic buildings when you are in Scotland, a membership to Historic Scotland might be worthwhile. It is also worth noting that there is free entry to the castle and other historic properties around Scotland on St Andrews Day, the 30th of November. The Camera Obscura at the top of the Mile is a lot of fun. Then as you work your way down the Mile, pop along George IV Bridge to see the statue of Greyfriars Bobby and have a walk around Greyfriar’s Kirk Yard (Edinburgh’s oldest cemetery), the historic Grassmarket, and the National Museum of Scotland (which has great views from the rooftop terrace on the 6th floor). Further down the Mile you will see the entry to Mary King’s Close — an old street under the city which is well worth a visit — or if you are up for a scare, the City of the Dead ghost tours are always fun.
Although you can explore Edinburgh well on your own, there are also numerous tour buses (leaving from Waverley Bridge) and foot tours that run every day. If you are on a budget, there is a free walking tour run by Sandemans (wearing red t-shirts) and one led by Burke and Hare (infamous Edinburgh residents) which sets off from the Scotsman Lounge on Cockburn Street, but be sure to tip the tour guide afterwards if you enjoyed it.
Slightly outside of Edinburgh but easily accessible by both bus and car is Jupiter Artland, open from May–October. This is an impressive outdoor sculpture garden and is definitely a hidden gem in the city.
Places to eat and drink
Edinburgh is lucky to have an abundance of wonderful restaurants and bars, no matter what your taste in food or atmosphere. For Indian street food try Tuk Tuk for a delicious selection of small tapas-style plates and BYOB, or try the Mosque kitchen for wonderful authentic curry at great prices. The best burritos can be found at Illegal Jack’s on Lothian Road, and for burgers try The Cambridge Bar (an Edinburgh institution). Head to Under the Stairs for a quirky cozy atmosphere, The Outsider on George IV Bridge for their healthy style kebabs, and Time 4 Thai in the New Town for a delicious range of Thai specialities. But what is a trip to Edinburgh without haggis and whisky? Take a trip to Arcade just off the Royal Mile for a bite and a dram, and while you are there see if you can discover the secret vodka bar nearby, the Secret Arcade. For fresh local produce, the Farmers Market on a Saturday on Castle Terrace (open from 9am-2pm) is the place to go, and while there try a pork roll from Oink (they also have a shop on Victoria Street) for a tasty lunch. Heights restaurant at the Apex in the Grassmarket also has some of the best castle views in the city.
Edinburgh also has a wide array of watering holes, so try Bramble, the Roseleaf in Leith (they also have a great selection of boardgames to play), and Dragonfly for cocktails; The Hanging Bat and The Caley Sample Rooms for beer (including their own brews); and Joseph Pearce’s, Woodland Creatures, and Brass Monkey for drinks in a good atmosphere. For great views, head to the Sky Bar at the Point Hotel on the first Thursday of the month!
Like every major city, Edinburgh has all your usual high street shops on Princes and George Street, but some wonderful independent retailers can be found slightly off the beaten track. Thistle Street has some lovely little shops including designer accessories boutique Covet, and try Cockburn Street’s Pie in the Sky and Cookie for beautiful dresses, Totty Rocks on Victoria Street for cool clothing and accessories, Armstrongs Vintage Emporium in the Grassmarket for the widest collection of vintage clothing in the city, and Just G on the West Port. Head to Hannah Zakari for a wide range of beautiful and unusual jewellery designs and to Avalanche Records for their vast music collections – they also sometimes do live acoustic music nights, so ask when you pop in.
Enjoy your time in Edinburgh!