We booked a two night stay (Sunday - Tuesday December 2018) in Edinburgh to visit a good friend that we met whilst travelling. Edinburgh had never been on our bucket list but we are so glad that we had the excuse to go as this quickly became one of our favourite city breaks to date and we already cannot wait to go back!
From Bristol we took the short one hour flight which we booked around three months before departure. The flight price with Easyjet was very reasonable at just £50pp return. When we arrived the airport was very simply laid out with the tram waiting outside which took us straight into the heart of the city for just £6pp. The tram was clean with friendly staff and took just twenty minutes. They say a taxi cost around £25 and is a longer journey due to the traffic. We hoped off of the tram at Waverly Station on Princes Street leaving us with just a ten minute walk over to our hotel based on the South Bridge. We stayed at The Scotsman which we highly recommend and will write a separate blog post on. The positioning of a hotel around the South Bridge is right where you want to be; in-between the new and old town and within walking distance of everything.
Edinburgh is the perfect size for a city break as you can pretty much walk everywhere. It is a small city bursting with character and so much to see. Our favourite things about it were the architecture, the old town and the live music. The city is divided by the train tracks and on one side of the bridge you will find the new town and on the other the old.
Things to do:
Princes St - the main shopping street. You will find Jenners here which is the main department store. The building is worth checking out and the Christmas tree if you visit at this time
George St - this runs parallel to Princes St and is home to the higher end shops, even if you are not shopping it is worth strolling through just to take in the architecture. At the top of the road you will find Georges Square with nice bars and restaurants just bare in mind it is one of the most expensive places to eat in the city. During the Christmas period you will find the ice skating rink here
Botanical gardens - beautiful gardens in the heart of the city just off of Princes St
Arthurs Seat - if you fancy walking off all of the haggis and smoked salmon take a walk up to Arthurs Seat which takes around thirty to sixty minutes each way depending on your pace. Up here you can see incredible panoramic views of Edinburgh and clear those cobwebs in the brisk fresh air
Calton Hill - if you do not fancy such a strenuous walk you can take a stroll up to Calton Hill located next to Arthurs Seat, it is well worth it. It takes just ten minutes from Princes St and is home to some pretty stunning monuments. The city and sea views up here are also lovely
Holyrood - this is the queens castle in Scotland and where she and the family stay when they are in town. It is a beautiful building that you can look inside. As we only had two nights we didn't visit we just admired the view of it from Calton Hill
Scottish parliament - located next door to Holyrood are the parliamentary buildings where lots of important things happen. You can take a tour here which again we didn't do due to time restrictions and admired from the views at Calton Hill
The Royal Mile - the main st in the old town. It is gorgeous with its cobbled roads, gothic architecture, alleyways ands street performers. You can spend an hour just walking up here taking in all of the sights and enjoying the variety of street artists such as Harry Potter characters, live bands, bag pipe players and even snowy owls. Take some change to tip them. You will have to shake yourself to remember you are not in a scene from Harry Potter! Look out for the large church and take a look inside it is stunning. It cost £5 if you want to walk around inside
The Castle - the castle is a must see. You will recognise it straight away if you have watched any of the Harry Potter films. The best thing about it for us was the views. We paid to go in and do the tour which was £18pp. It was ok but we felt it wasn't necessary and pretty overpriced. Allow 1-2hrs for this. Go before it gets dark which is about 4pm in the winter
The pubs - the old town is full of quirky and cosy little pubs with roaring fires in the winter which just invite you in to escape the cold for a while
Victoria St - this was our favourite street in the city which can be found either off of the Royal Mile or off of the Grass Market. The colourful buildings and pretty windows were super picturesque. Pop into The Union French Cafe for a hot chocolate and macaroon
Grass Market - a cobbled square just off of the Royal Mile with lots of little pubs, a cool vintage store and sometimes a market
Ghost Tour - Edinburgh has a dark side as one of the most haunted cities in the world due to the many who were tortured and died there in the days of the plague in the underground vaults. We really wanted to do a ghost tour to get in on the action and see if there was anything behind it all. We took our tour with Auld Rekkie Tours costing £10pp for a group of four. The history and information our guide gave was really interesting and the tour itself which took us into the 'haunted' vaults was a little far fetched but it did scare us! The most evidence we witnessed was hearing footsteps. But we would love to hear if you witness more?
Every museum and gallery in the city is free to visit. We took a look around The National History Museum and it was fabulous! You could spend hours in there
Something that we didn't have time to do but will do in the future is to visit the waterfront area which is around a thirty minute drive from the centre. A taxi is the best option but if you are on more of a budget break it is worth looking into public transport. Down here we are told you can find a small beach, lots of lovely eateries serving deliciously fresh sea food and even the Queen Mary's ship which you can visit. It is said to be a pretty place to spend some time.
Places to eat and drink:
Whilst in Edinburgh you must try the haggis, salmon, gins and whisky's!
There are restaurants everywhere in the new town up and down Princes and George St. You will find mostly chain restaurants for all budgets. If you want a nice experience there is The Ivy on George Square and The Dome on George St which is a stunning building with a few high end eateries inside. You can stop here for brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. You would need to prebook. Even if you are not going to eat it is worth popping your head in to see the architecture and interior especially at Christmas as the decor was amazing. Down the back streets you will find lots of pubs to eat and drink in.
In the old town there is a mix of chain and independent restaurants mixed in with all of the cosy pubs. We didn't go in but The Witchery up by the castle looked lovely and we enjoyed some lunch and Edinburgh Gins in The White Hart down in the Grassmarket which is said to be one of the most haunted pubs in Edinburgh. We also returned here on the evening for whisky and live music. We discovered a great breakfast spot in the arcade next to The Scotsman called 'Scran'. Here we enjoyed a Scottish breakfast with vegetarian and gf options.
The nice hotels are always a safe bet too. We spent the first night in the restaurant at our hotel; The Scotsman and it was lovely. Situated in a gorgeous old building we enjoyed some delicious food and wine and moved on to the bar upstairs to enjoy a live singer on the evening. The Balmoral also looked to have a lovely restaurant.
As we visited in December we got to experience all of Edinbrugh's festivities which were super lovely. This city does not scrimp on the Christmas decorations and spirit. The 'Edinburgh Christmas' festival bought the markets and fair along the botanical gardens which we really great. We enjoyed mulled wine, a great atmosphere and live music in the outdoor bars.
We loved visiting this city during the colder winter months and felt that it lent itself to this kind of environment. We imagine in the warmer summer months it would be a very different experience.
With love from the globe,
Isabelle & George x
Currently in England.