I’ve left my heart in Edinburgh. I think it’s a fabulous city and I tried to squeeze as much as possible into my visit. In upcoming posts, I’ll cover certain attractions more in depth, but I wanted to share my guide for what to do on a city break in Edinburgh.
Getting to Edinburgh from London: Most people say that flying is faster than the train. I’d say that it depends on where you live. It takes me nearly two hours to get to the nearest airport, plus budgeting in early arrival time and it’s just as fast to take the train. When I booked, the train was actually cheaper as well. Plus it’s more comfortable (in my opinion) and you can pretend that you are on the Hogwarts Express as you pull out of Kings Cross and wind your way up to Scotland.
After arriving in the city late Friday afternoon, and dropping off your bags at your lodgings, I recommend immediately heading over to the Royal Mile and exploring that main historic drag. Whilst there, that’s a great time to pop into St Giles Cathedral and see the Thistle Chapel (I’ll blog about them in more depth later), as well as explore the historic Greyfriars Kirk church and cemetery and stop to say hi to Greyfriars Bobby.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite (which you quickly will with all the climbing of hills that you’ll be doing) I heartily recommend The Dogs. It’s a modern and eclectic restaurant featuring local ingredients. The cock a leekie and the barley salad are both incredible starters, whilst I can safely say that the flat iron steak that I had, was one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten in my entire life. It was more on the rare side of medium-rare, but it melts in your mouth. I can also recommend the banana and walnut cake which goes down a real treat!
Once you’ve been stuffed to the brim, head back over to the Royal Mile, and catch one of many ghost tours that leave from the centre of town, and go into the vaults below the city. We went on the City of the Dead graveyard and underground tour. (£10 pp) which lasted about an hour and a half.
Fuel up with an early morning coffee and a snack before heading over to the Edinburgh Zoo. The zoo is absolutely lovely, and of course, houses the only pandas in the UK (the sole reason I went to the zoo). Please be aware though, that parts of the zoo are on a very steep incline so you have to be prepared to do some true walking to look at the animals.
After finishing up at the zoo, head back towards the centre of town and stop in at Lovecrumbs to have an amazing slice of cake. (I spent so much time at Lovecrumbs that I’ll have a post detailing more about it soon.)
After fueling up on cakes and coffees indulge in some shopping (or at least window shopping) at Victoria Street. After walking up some very curly roads, make your way to Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Castle is a “must visit” on most tourist lists, and I can highly recommend it myself. I also suggest that you hop on one of the guided tours of the Castle, that leave every 15 minutes.
By the time you finish up at the Castle, it will be time for a fantastic feed. We went to the Witchery, famously in the shadow of the castle, serving up atmospheric food in a very gothic setting.
After dinner, unwind with a drink at any of the local pubs and stroll through the Meadows as the sun is setting. If you’re feeling very lively after all that walking, I recommend attending a ceilidh, even if you’re the worst dancer in the world. (I’ve also been to some pretty awesome ceilidhs in London if you need a recommendation).
Wake up early and pep yourself up with some caffeine before preparing to climb Arthur’s Seat (again I’ll have a more detailed post to follow). The climb will take a bit over an hour heading up if you approach from Holyrood Park, but if you approach from the east, it can be whittled down to about 15 minutes. Sam and I did the full hour + incline, but the views were so worth it. Leave about the same amount of time to get back down, as the descent can be a bit tricky.
By then you’ll have worked up a full appetite, so head over to Hemma. Hemma (meaning “at home” in Swedish, or so I am told) is a modern European / Swedish cafe that does incredible tasting full hot breakfasts in a fairly hip environment. Sam and I both tried haggis for the first time there. Sam is now a convert, I however, remain unconvinced. Hemma’s other fare is glorious, especially their thick sliced Manna house bread.
Have you had the chance to fall in love with Edinburgh yet?