Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited. With its cobblestoned streets and perfectly intact medieval architecture, it’s worth a visit based on looks alone. On my recent trip, I spent a lot of time looking up, mesmerized by the buildings and the views from every angle. A trip to Edinburgh offers the best of both worlds, it’s also brimming with culture, art and superb restaurants, It’s a place that will stay with you for awhile.
Where to stay
While there are plenty of hotels in the city centre, I opted for an Airbnb in Stockbridge. Reasonably priced and beautifully decorated, the bathroom and shower were both teeny tiny. The bedroom was cosy, but the lounge was my favourite part. Stockbridge itself has a village feel to it, it’s much quieter and more local than central Edinburgh. It’s also home to many delightful food and drink options. That said, it’s only a short walk (about 10-15 minutes) to the city centre.
If you’re looking for something closer to the action, G&V Royal Mile Hotel (formerly the Hotel Missoni) or The Witchery are both located on the Royal Mile (the main tourist drag of Edinburgh).
Where to eat
Edinburgh is known for its world-class culinary scene and regardless of whether you’re after a quintessential Scottish feed or something international, it will not disappoint. My absolute favourites are below:
Smith & Gertrude is a lovely Stockbridge institution for wine, cheese and small bites. I was dining alone and the service was impeccable. They even sent me on my way with a loooong list of must-visits.
For the love of cake, make sure you go to Lovecrumbs. They have two locations, one in the city centre and the second in Stockbridge. I ordered the vanilla and rosewater cake with a long black and it was divine!
Everyone told me to try Cowan & Sons, but unfortunately they had a kitchen malfunction when I visited. The menu looks delicious and the space is gorgeous, so make sure you check it out and let me know how it is if you’re in Edinburgh!
I popped into Hyde & Son on my first morning in Edinburgh when the city was still asleep. It gets top points for being open at 7am, for its flakey croissants and delicious cortados.
For one of the best coffees in Edinburgh, you can’t miss Artisan Roast. Again, they have more than one location, but all are perfect places to settle in with a cuppa.
If you love ice cream and cute interiors, be sure to check out Mary’s Milk Bar. It overlooks the Edinburgh Castle, which is an added bonus!
Timberyard has incredible cocktails (like fermented rhubarb and mead), artistic dishes and industrial interior make this a local favourite.
If you’re after a Michelin-starred meal, you’ll want to visit The Kitchin, one of Edinburgh’s most talked about restaurants by Tom Kitchin. Cuisine here is served on earthy tableware and the menu focuses on seasonal Scottish produce.
There’s so much to see and do in Edinburgh, and I’d highly recommend wearing comfortable shoes. I averaged about 15km per day and the cobbled streets are best tackled wearing sneakers.
Edinburgh Castle – While some say it’s slightly overrated and expensive, you can’t miss out on the castle if it’s your first time in Edinburgh. The city views are unbeatable and I was mesmerized by the collection of family jewels on display.
Calton Hill – with its grassy slopes and panoramic views, Calton Hill is one of the most peaceful spots in Edinburgh (despite the steep hike up…) Next to the Nelson Monument, you’ll see the acropolis-style structure designed., which was modelled on the Parthenon in Athens and dedicated to those who lost their lives in the Napoleonic Wars.
Fruitmarket Gallery – right across from Waverley Station (where you may be catching your next train) is a contemporary art space, which occupies a former fruit and vegetable market. It began its life as a gallery in 1974 and has a ‘floating’ roof, allowing natural light to fill the first floor.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery – Refurbished in 2011, the SNPG consists of three floors of portrait and photography collections and a painting of famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Be sure to visit the top floor, which features a suite of exhibition rooms.
Life Story – for a curated selection of furniture, homewares, stationery, prints and jewelry, Life Story is a must! Sourced from around the world, there’s a distinct emphasis on Scandinavian designers.
Epitome – for understated pieces from a variety of Scottish and international designers, Epitome is the place to go. I was eyeing up a pair of Common Projects on my recent visit.
Dick’s – This local shop is full of practical and stylish items, including Shetland jumpers and gorgeous homewares. Had I a bit more space in my luggage, I would’ve surely returned home with one of their copper baskets.
Edinburgh surprised me and surpassed my expectations in every way possible. While I expected to experience a stunning city steeped in history, I was blown away by its sharp, witty personality and appreciation for the arts. Have you been before? I’d love to hear about your favourite spots.