City Guide – Edinburgh

I’ve been a fan of Edinburgh for many years, so much so I almost moved there a few year ago.  I’d not been in a long time so I recently decided to pay a last minute visit to the city.

I’ve always found the city to have an energy and charm about it.  Perhaps it’s the various fun events throughout the year, or the friendly people you come across. Either way I’ve always come away having had a really lovely experience.

So here are some highlights and recommendations next time you consider visiting this amazing city.

Where to stay

There’s a hotel to suit every taste and budget in Edinburgh.  I’ve stayed in a variety of places across the city, but this time round I fancied something in the new town and a little quirky.  And boy did I find the right place! A boutique hotel just north of Princes Street called Twelve Picardy Place.  With only 10 rooms the hotel feels cosy, like you’re staying in someone’s house.  We stayed in the Loch Earn room, one of the executive rooms on the top floor.  As the building is protected, there’s no lift in this hotel so be ready to climb lots of stairs.  The hotel also has an on site restaurant which is worth looking at (though it does not serve breakfast).

Our room was spacious and very well appointed with lovely views out over Leith.  The crown jewel of the room was the shower (oddly).  Right in the middle of the room the shower is a glass encased feature, with UV lights and a sound system to boot.  It’s certainly a bit of a novelty, but the room overall was really good and a great location to see the city.

What to see

For me, Edinburgh is very much walking city.  Most things can be accessed within a short walk, although to be fair it is not a flat city and you may find yourself doing a fair amount of climbing up and down.  But I find it to be a great opportunity to see the beauty of the architecture, as well as many monuments around every corner.

Things to not miss include the Old Town, the oldest part of Edinburgh, which also includes the Castle, the Royal Mile, a number of museums and the Scottish Parliament.  The highlight for me this time round had to be the Real Mary King’s Close.

This historic close is located under the building of the Royal Mile (in Old Town).  It takes its name from Mary King, a merchant burgess who resided on the Close in the 17th century.  The close was partially demolished and buried due to the building of the Royal Exchange in the 18th century, and closed to the public for many years.  The area is shrouded in myths and urban legends, including hauntings and many murders.  The close reopened to the public in 2003 and is worth visiting during your stay.

A little further afield you’ll find other districts such as Leith, where you’ll find the famous Royal Yacht Britannia.

Food highlights

Edinburgh is well known for great food and on this trip it didn’t disappoint.  Here’s a few highlights:

Bubba Q

I’m never one to turn down BBQ, and we stumbled across this place found on the Royal Mile.  In Bubba Q you’ll find a whole host of American/Scottish fusion BBQ food, including classics such as burgers, pulled pork and brisket, made with their signature BBQ dry rub.

Belted Burgers

This was another great lunchtime find.  Situated to the western end of New Town, Belted Burgers is place that prides itself of local produce.  They use all prime cuts from Galloway raised beef to create their unique patty daily.  They are considered to be some of the best burgers in Scotland, and boy they don’t disappoint.

Topolabamba

Mexican is arguably my favourite food and I’m always searching out great restaurants wherever I visit. In Edinburgh we found a couple of great places.

Firstly Topolabamba which is found in the west of the city centre.  This is a lively bar and restauratnt serving a mix of classic Mexican dishes, as well as authentic street food.  Easily some of the best Mexican I’ve had.  It has a very social buzz about it, with all the street food made for sharing.

And then there’s the drink!  The fully stocked bar had a wide range of cocktails, beer and wine, as well as an extensive tequila/mezcal tasting menu.  For better or for worse we tried quite a few of these and overall it was a very fun experience.

Whilst I didn’t have the chance to go, El Cartel, again found in the New Town, also looks very good and has great reviews online.

Drink highlights

Something I’m always on the lookout for is a good speakeasy, and Edinburgh doesn’t disappoint.  We found a number of great bars in the city including the Voyage of Buck, Junipers, Bramble and Nightcap.

One that shone above the rest is Panda & Sons.  A true speakeasy which can be found in the basement of a barbers shop.  In walking downstairs you come to a dead end.  Only by being guided by music do you enter the bar via a bookcase, finding yourself in this decadent labyrinth of a bar.  Take a seat a enjoy unique and delicious cocktails, some of the best I’ve ever had.  This bar truly is a must!

Times of year to visit

Fringe festival

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the world’s largest arts festival which takes place across August.  In 2017 it spanned 25 days and featured 53,232 performances of 3,398 shows in 300 venues.

Christmas

Christmas is also a great time to visit Edinburgh.  Widely hailed as one of the best in the UK, its Christmas market is a great experience and it’s a must if you’re visiting in the winter.  With plenty of pop-up food and drinks stores, as well as intriguing stores,  you could easily get lost for hours people watching and mooching for Christmas gifts.

Hogmanay

What was once informal street party in Edinburgh has now become one of the biggest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world.  The celebrations take place over the course of four days across the city including processions, concerts and fireworks, with the street party beginning of Hogmanay.

How to visit

There’s no lack of options in getting to the city either.  Edinburgh has a very good airport with many national and international links. On this occasion I took a very quick flight from Southampton Airport, or it’s just as easy to take the train and take in the beautiful countryside.  Once there walking is the ideal option to see the town, or to go a little further afield there’s a comprehensive bus network or take the tram (which also serves the airport).