Edinburgh is fun, real fun. It’s a city to enjoy on foot up and down those beautiful hills that instantly put you in a good mood in spite of the usually terrible weather. The charming at day but enveloped in mystery at night cobblestone streets are full of history, there is a fantastic place to grab a drink or a bite in almost every corner and the city has a terrific cultural life. Squeezing all that Edinburgh has to offer in a couple of days could be difficult (and stressful), so take it easy, try to focus on having a good time and follow these tips to enjoy a wonderful slow-paced weekend in Edinburgh.
HOW TO GET THERE
The Edinburgh airport is perfectly connected to the city by bus and tram. The tram takes a little bit longer and cost a tad more but the ride is smoother. Whatever you choose you won’t need more than half an hour to be in Princess Street with the Old Town standing majestically to your right and the attractive New Town to your left.
There are plenty of options because Edinburgh is a tourist magnet, so whatever your budget is, you’ll find a nice place to stay. During our beautiful autumnal getaway last year we stayed at The Howard, in the New Town, and we can’t recommend it enough. This beautiful Georgian townhouse is perfect if you are looking for a hotel that gives you a sense of place. You can read our review here.
You will find delicious pub dinners and pints all over town. Rose Street is a good option to find a last minute, no reservation Friday dinner. There are lots of restaurants and pubs and the atmosphere is lively. The night we arrived we ate a really nice upgraded version of the classic fish and chips at The Rosehip: the food was delicious and the décor really homey. Just what we needed to warm up after a bumpy low cost flight.
For whatever reason (the weather? the long walks in those steep streets?) Edinburgh calls for comfort food and there’s no better place than The Dogs to enjoy a perfect meal. With just one visit, this restaurant became one of our top five places to eat in the world. This is the kind of restaurant that you would visit twice in a weekend, recommend your friends and dream about months afterwards every time you are hungry. Try their pulled pork bun with pickled red onion and baby leaves and the lemon and lime posset with ginger biscuit. For us, the best meal in Edinburgh hands down. Read our review here.
In Leith’s waterfront you will find The Kitchin, a Michelin star awarded restaurant with a strong “from nature to plate” philosophy that resonates perfectly with our slow-paced approach to food and life in general. Book in advance.
Of course, a relaxing weekend can’t be completed without a delicate, comforting Afternoon tea. Again, we have to recommend the beautiful and delicious tea at The Howard, which is served in their gorgeous (and full of tartan) drawing room. The Afternoon tea at The Balmoral is a classic and a lovely experience to indulge as well.
The Scottish challenging weather will probably force you to stop for a mandatory warm coffee break. There are plenty of lovely coffee spots: try Burr & Co. on George Street, The Milkman on Cockburn Street or Twelve Triangles on Brunswick Street in Leith.
Finally, think about going for a stroll in one of Edinburgh’s street markets: Stockbridge market, Leith market or Grass Market. While the first two are a little bit away from the city center, the latter is located in the heart of the Old Town so it’s perfect for a second breakfast on the go. The Woods Brownie CO. chocolate brownie with salted caramel will make your legs walk faster up Victoria Street and will fill your heart with joy.
OUT & ABOUT
As we’ve mentioned before, Edinburgh is best enjoyed on foot. Wear comfy shoes or boots, wrap yourself, grab your camera and explore. You can start with an invigorating walk from the New Town to Dean Village. The impressive Georgian townhouses and the meticulously planned streets will become cute cottages and sinuous alleys. The landscape will change in front of your eyes turning the city into an adorable cute countryside village. The views from the Dean Bridge are amazing and the little houses are worth the walk.
From here you can follow the Water of Leith, a beautiful, scenic route that connects the city and the port of Leith. Whether you dare to complete the route or just walk along the river for a small detour in your otherwise urban getaway, you will be mesmerized by the scape.
If you happen to follow the Water of Leith to the port of Leith or if you take one of the buses on Princess Street that take you to the port (numbers 11 and 22), make sure to save a couple of hours to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. It’s a surprisingly enjoyable experience if you happen to love history and have a soft spot for marine engineering like we do. Enjoy a bit of fresh, salty air and maybe a cup of tea on its deck.
Back to the city center! The Royal Castle could be the start of your tour. Follow the Royal Mile down until the Palace of Holyroodhouse, making a stop to visit St. Gile’s Cathedral. It’s a long walk downhill… so imagine uphill! But it’s really worth it. All in all this is the heart of Edinburgh!
Of course, you need to get lost in the Old Town and wander through (or should we say up and down?) the many closes on the Royal Mile. We highly recommend a visit to the Mary King’s Close to get a glimpse of real life in the 17th century and discover how Edinburgh was built. Plan your visit for a late afternoon, when it’s dark and cold outside.
Don’t forget to make a detour and walk down the colorful Victoria Street, one of the most photographed corners of Edinburgh. There are lots of nice shops and you can always end your tour with a brownie at the Grassmarket and continue your day museum hopping. The choice is overwhelming and most of the times, free of cost (Museum of Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art or Scottish National Portrait Gallery).
All the history, architecture and art might leave you with a desire of something more mundane. What about a little bit of late afternoon shopping? Head to the New Town for the best shopping: Epitome is our favorite shop because it has the most gorgeous pieces for our Winter Uniform, that is, boots, jeans, knits and coats. And we never miss the opportunity to have a look at Oliver Bonas! Both are located in Hannover Street.
And last, but not least: think about participating in one of the many literary or ghost tours. A fantastic and different way to discover the city with a little bit of sense of humour.