I will continuously update this guide as I stumble across more places to see, eat and stay at so do feel free to leave recommendations in the comments! Or if you have any questions then ask away!
I would recommend anyone to visit Edinburgh as it truly is one of my all time favourite cities. I never stop being amazed by this beautiful city and all its charm.
Good to know
If you are arriving via the airport I’d recommend the bus which currently is £7.50 for a return ticket, it’s comfortable, affordable and quick. However if there’s traffic then the tram is a good option. An Uber is usually approximately £20-30 from the airport to the city centre.
If you are arriving by train then you are already in the middle of the city. The Waverley train station is located toward the east end of Princes Street so if your accommodation is towards the West End then Haymarket station might be a better option.
Currency – British Pounds (GBP £)
Electrical plugs – Plug G
What To See & Do
Admire the view from Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat
If you are limited on time head up Calton Hill which is a short uphill walk from the east end of Princes Street where you’ll get a stunning view of Edinburgh. This is always a must-do when I recommend things to Edinburgh visitors!
I wouldn’t always say it’s worth buying a ticket to see the castle, unless your super keen on history, but it’s definitely worth walking up to the esplanade for the photo opportunity and to admire the view. If you are visiting around August however, do keep in mind that the esplanade is covered with audience stands for The Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Try Haggis, Neeps & Tatties
If you have not visited Scotland before, then I’d highly recommend trying the national dish. It’s not as bad as you think, pretty much just mine and oats with some good spices along with the sweet influence of needs, silky potato mash and then usually a whisky sauce. It’s seriously tasty! If you’re not feeling like a haggis lunch then you can also try haggis bonbons as a snack or starter, which tends to be a big favourite with many! Other eatables worth trying are cranachan, caramel wafers, Cullen skink and tablet.
Go for a walk
I’d recommend starting at Dean Village (or the botanics and do it in reverse), stroll along the water of Leith in to Stockbridge and to the Royal Botanic Gardens. Plenty of photo opportunities along the way. It’s a bit hidden away from the more touristy Old Town and as a Stockbridge local I’d recommend everyone to see this area. The Botanics also have a lovely view of the Edinburgh skyline from up on the little hill in the centre, so don’t miss this!
Photos from April 2023.
Thing to do on a rainy day…
Don’t be surprised if you hear the phrase “Scotland can have all the four seasons in one hour” when asking about the weather. One minute there might be blue skies and sun, just to have chilly rain and cold winds the next. If you ask me I’d say Edinburgh is its prettiest when it’s misty and rainy but I know not everyone is as keen to walk around outside in the rain, as I am. So I’ve listed a couple of activities that might be extra suitable for those days when the weather isn’t as inviting.
Cinema at The Picture House
This cosy old-fashioned cinema underneath The Scotsman hotel takes you back in time and let’s you enjoy old classics like Breakfast at Tiffanys, whilst also bringing your favourite cocktail into the cinema. Perfect for a date night, a cosy activity with your friends or to hide away from the cold and rain outside.
Shopping in St James Quarter
Edinburgh recently got its big city centre shopping centre, now called the St James Quarter. Here you’ll find plenty of shops as well as restaurants, a cinema and an arcade. If you don’t know what to eat I can recommend the food court called Bonnie & Wild where you’ll find a variety of food which you order at each individual stall and then bring to your table so everyone can choose whatever they wish to have. You can also order drinks and such to your table.
There’s plenty of good escape rooms in Edinburgh that are great fun to do with friends or family. Escape Hunt even have an outdoors “City Hunt” if you’d rather see more of the city whilst solving riddles and various puzzles. I haven’t tried Locked In Edinburgh at Summerhall yet, but their games are supposed to be really good.
Do a tour at a local distillery or explore Edinburgh’s hidden historic underground streets
There’s plenty of options for tours in Edinburgh and if you want to learn more about the history of the city and how it used to look whilst walking through the now underground streets below the Old Town – check out Mary Kings Close. For whisky (and gin) there’s Holyrood Distillery and for gin there’s Edinburgh Gin who offering things like gin & chocolate tastings or Pickerings who also have distillery tours. I’ve written more about some of these further down as well.
Where To Stay
A Boutique hotel on central George Street who also do cocktails, afternoon tea and food. A bit more of a modern approach, rather than traditional Scottish.
House of Gods
Maybe more of a one-night experience of indulgence. Check out my reviews here.
Hotel Du Vin
Good food, good wine and nice rooms with a more modern vibe, where you can opt for a room with a free-standing bath.
In an older building in a more quiet part of Edinburghs New Town you’ll find The Bonham, who also offer afternoon tea, drinks or food.
A charming little AirBNB on Queen Street, close to everything and with a fantastic antique furnishing. Definitely giving old Edinburgh vibes.
Where To Eat
One of the more recent additions to the Edinburgh food and drink scene. Set in a gorgeous old building by St Andrews Square. Although lunch and dinner might be fairly expensive, breakfast prices aren’t too bad and the atmosphere is lush. Even the bathrooms are a feast for the eyes. Also feel free to drop in for a glass of wine or a cocktail – I’d highly recommend the white Rioja which is really nice (if you liked oaked whites).
If you have a higher budget it’s also a lovely place to stay as the rooms are gorgeous and you also get access to their exclusive rooftop bar.
Fortuna Coffe Bar
Fortuna is a lovely spot to hide away from the world for a minute. They have a nice selection of cakes and pastries and a good menu for anything from granola and banana nests to bagels and toasties. The cream cheese + salmon bagel is the best one I’ve had in Scotland! I need to come back for the blackberries + brie toastie as well…
I obviously can’t resist recommending Edinburgh’s No 1 Swedish café. Although I know people might not visit Edinburgh for the Swedish pastries, I’d still say that if you want a takeaway coffee, pastry on the go or a wee breakfast – then you won’t be disappointed here. The cardamom buns are amazing, the breakfast tray is such a cosy morning meal and I’d also recommend the almond tea if you are a tea drinker without a nut allergy.
LUNCH / DINNER
Chaopraya offers some tasty Thai food where I usually go for the pork belly pad thai. They also have some lovely cocktails and it’s particularly nice to visit when the weather is a bit warmer and nice as they have a rooftop terrace so you can sit outside and admire the view. Certain tables also have a view of the castle.
West End Brasserie
This has recently been turned into West End Brasserie, from the previous Ryan’s Bar, and now has lovely elegant French brasserie vibes and some delicious food. I had the steak frites with béarnaise and it was such great. The meat which I ordered rare was really tasty, the fries were skinny and crispy and the sauce had great flavour. I’ll need to come back and try their Afternoon Tea as well.
One of my favourite lunch places as fairly affordable as well. I usually go for the steak frites because I’m obsessed with this dish… If you sit on the left hand side of the room you have a lovely view of the castle as well.
This is the place to go if you like Spanish tapas. I’d recommend the asparagus with lemon béchamel, the meatballs, the prawn paella and the sangria in particular. In the summer they have an outdoor terrace on George Street which is perfect for people watching and feeling the summer buzz in the city.
Rollo is a perfect spot for lunch and I’d highly recommend the peach and spinach burrata salad which is *chef’s kiss*!
Looking for some French vibes with steak frites, surf’n’turf and wine in little water glasses? Then Chez Jules is the place for you.
One of my new favourites in Edinburgh. Here you’ll find some gorgeous asian cuisine alongside fun cocktails and a friendly team. I’d recommend sharing a couple of dishes with friends like the dirty rice, house made lamb gyoza, roasted & grilled aubergine and korean bbq short rib yakitori – and pair with a cocktail or two.
Little White Pig
A friendly gastro pub, with cosy interiors and they often have jazz playing for added ambience. You’ll find them just off Queen Street in central Edinburgh. A lovely spot for cocktails, a glass of wine or a casual lunch. The menu has items like burgers, fish’n’chips and Sunday roast but also cocktails and small bites.
Civerinos offer some good Italian food. You know the food is good when their sugo (tomato sauce) is soo good you’d like to eat it with a spoon! I’d recommend the gnocchi with gorgonzola and walnuts.
The Kitchin *
For a special occasion when you are willing to spend a little bit more money, why not consider Michelin star awarded The Kitchin down in Leith? We went for a lovely lunch with paired wines and had such a lovely time. The service was great and food was even better!
If you like meat, then Fazenda is a D R E A M. This Rodizio style restaurant (Brasilian all-you-can-eat) offers a variety of meats where a little card with a green or red side decides when the servers will come around and cut meat straight onto your plate. Placing your green side up means “more please” and red means “I need a break”. Included in the price is your choice of sides, the buffet with salad, meats, cheese, sauces and more as well as unlimited meats. The lunch menu is slightly reduced to the evening menu and hence is slightly more affordable but you definitely don’t feel as if you are missing out with the lunch menu either. Make sure you are hungry and don’t enjoy the side buffet table too much as you’ll want to try the meats. I usually just pick up some salad for freshness and sauces like the lemon aioli which is lovely. And maybe don’t plan anything too energetic afterwards as you tend to leave in a food coma…
Booking in advance is usually necessary.
Some of the best Indian food in town with little dishes perfect for sharing. You can’t pre-book a table at Dishoom so it’s first come first serve, so mind the time you’re planning on visiting. They also have a fab breakfast with bacon naan breads.
Fishers in the city
For your seafood cravings go to Fishers in the city and enjoy fresh lobster, osters, langoustines or surf’n’turf. Scottish seafood is outstanding so it would be a real shame to miss out on trying it if seafood is your thing.
Where To Drink
I decided to include cafés in the above category, so here below you’ll find places for alcoholic or non-alcoholic alternatives, rather than your tea and coffee selections.
Panda & Sons
This speakeasy style bar is hiding behind the appearance of a barber shop. It has such cosy interior design and a lovely bar menu so it’s the perfect spot for hiding away a couple of hours. They also have some lovely spicy popcorn and if you like a themed bar then also check out their sister bar Hoot and the Redeemer with its Fifty Shades of Gray bathroom wallpaper and claw-machine that decides your cocktail flavours!
Hey Palu is a great spot for good cocktails or a glass of wine. They also have a charming menu for snacks and foods like focaccia, burrata and other nibbles. Why not try their negroni flight?
Read more under the Whisky section, but the rooftop bar at JWPS is fab and I’d recommend going during daylight hours to really appreciate the view!
Smith & Gertrude
Smith & Gertrude is one of my favourite places (if not the top favourite) to meet up with friends. Their wine flight with paired cheeses (£15 for the wine or £20 with cheese) changes every couple of weeks and the atmosphere is always lovely and not too loud so you can actually chat to your company.
Definitely my go-to when it comes to cocktails as the space is so lovely and there’s a lot of creativity going into their menu, which also makes the creations Instagrammable. So close to the West End of Princes Street and a great place to go with friends.
Nor’ Loft at Market Street Hotel
Nor’ Loft has a stunning view towards Waverley Station and the East end of Princes Street. They specialise in champagne and each Tuesday there’s an oyster Happy Hour. Good thing my birthday this year was on a Tuesday!
The Last Word has a good whisky selection and also some great cocktails. This little Stockbridge bar tends to be mostly locals and it has a lot of cosy atmosphere with its dark wooden interiors and candlelight.
One of the more well-known whisky bars in town which often have events and special brand takeovers. The staff is great and super helpful if you are in need of recommendations.
Where to Afternoon Tea
Since I’m quite the afternoon tea enthusiast I’ve done a few different afternoon teas around Edinburgh and you can find them all here. However some that I would definitely recommend are:
I was really impressed by this afternoon tea and would happily to come back. The menu changes each season and it’s all set inside the ground floor of the Library which is quite the lovely setting in itself.
I can’t believe I’m getting married here this year!
Probably the classic afternoon tea in Edinburgh as it’s set in an old bank as has such impressive interiors, as well as exteriors. It’s also one of the more affordable options on this list and a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
For a special occasion you can’t go wrong with the Waldorf Astoria. The atmosphere is calm and elegant with live music from a pianist or harpist. The food is like little artworks and the staff are brilliant. This one is in a higher price category just like The Signet Library, but the is probably my favourite afternoon tea in Edinburgh so far.
This afternoon tea exceeded my expectations and it’s hidden away on St Andrews Square inside the Edinburgh Grand. This is a good one for those who don’t like the classic finger sandwiches as you instead get items like a sausage roll, haggis bonbon or salmon eclairs. The Register Club also has a lovely cocktail bar!
For witchy and gothic vibes The Witchery certainly delivers. I have not yet tried this one, but seems like quite an experience just because the interiors are so thematic.
Looking for Tours & Tastings?
If you are slightly claustrophobic this might be a challenge, as this Edinburgh tour takes you down through the old paths underneath the Royal Mile. It’s a lovely look into Edinburgh history and it was one of the first things I did with my school as part of our freshers week, which I really enjoyed. Sometimes they even offer events like their whisky tastings.
– see more below under Whisky –
The Scotch Whisky Experience
– see more below under Whisky –
One of the newer additions to the distillery scene. Holyrood Distillery is currently offering gins and new makes and is a real fun distillery to tour as you can learn about a variety of their projects at once.
Diggers (Athletic Arms)
A quite traditional pub with great whisky selection and some good prices as well.
If you’re looking for a whisky tour with a tartan and more traditional approach then The Scotch Whisky Experience (see more below) might be more your style, but if you prefer a more modern approach (and interior design) to whisky then Johnnie Walker is probably the better pick. On the standard your you learn about Johnnie Walker and its history, whisky production and get to try three drinks where you can choose if it’s cocktails, highballs or neat drams. There’s something to suit everybody and they also cater to those who choose not to drink. They also have a lovely rooftop bar where I’d recommend trying the Blueberry + Green Peppercorn Highball and also the delicious beef tartare which I’ll be going back for very soon! It’s worth visiting the bar just to enjoy the lovely view of the castle and Princes Street.
We now have some distilleries in the city, but for a long time Glenkinchie was the “Edinburgh Malt” and it’s still a nice place to visit for a distillery tour. Set in a location known as the “Garden Distillery”, which is lovely to visit in summer when everything blooms. Usually there’s shuttle buses running to/from the distillery, as it sits a bit outside of town.
The Society frequently offer tastings, and although they are a member club, the Queen Street venue also has a bar open to the public. It’s a great place to try cask strength, single cask whiskies, so if you are a whisky fan then this is a good place to stop and rest your legs.
The Scotch Whisky Experience
This is my old work, where I started my journey into the whisky world. The restaurants Amber has a lovely whisky bar if you are looking for scotch whisky and some of the best prices in town as well. They also offer a whisky tour where you can learn more about Scotch whisky, production, history and the different regions.
Ring toss at Teuchter’s Landing
Just for a bit of fun you can go to Teuchter’s Landing in either the West End or Leith and try their ring toss, where you pay a set price and then you get whatever dram you manage to toss your ring onto. If you miss then it’s the sheep’s dip for you (it’s a whisky, not some weird punishment, I promise).
Tipsy Midgie is a whisky bar run by Colin and is located right next-door to Holyrood Distillery. He has an incredible collection of whiskies ranging from expensive high end expressions to blends from the 70’s . There’s a dram for everyone here. They also frequently offer tastings so keep an eye out on their website and social media.
Walking Tour with Justine
Justine is very knowledgable about whisky and also whisky history. She can take you around Edinburgh whilst telling you about the whisky history of the city and at the end you also get to try some historic drams. You’ll find her here.
Half an hour away by train you’ll find the lovely coastal town of North Berwick. Don’t miss an afternoon tea, lunch or cocktail at Marine & Lawn, seafood from The Lobster Shack or some gelato from Alandas!
Around Christmas the city is decorated with festive lights and we of course also have the Christmas Market. The Market usually takes place from mid-November until after the holidays and have a variety of food stalls and shops all over town.
Around the start of October is when the Edinburgh Cocktail Week takes place. If you purchase a wrist band you get discounted cocktails in a lot of venues around town so it’s the perfect way to explore a lot of different places.
August and The Fringe
August can be a great time to visit since there’s so many things going on with The Fringe Festival and The Edinburgh Military Tattoo taking place in the city centre. However if you are looking to explore and enjoy Edinburgh and not pay triple-as-much-prices for accommodation, then you perhaps should avoid this month. My no 1 recommendation during the fringe is to see the Edinburgh Military Tattoo as it’s an incredible show!
If you are visiting around the 25th January then a lot of places are offering Burn’s Night celebrations where you’ll get to try the traditional Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, usually a dram or two and the classic dessert Cranachan whilst listening to Burn’s poems, Ode to a haggis and bagpipes. Sometimes there’s also a ceilidh so bring your dancing legs – don’t worry if you don’t know the steps, you’ll quickly pick it up. Definitely a charming Scottish celebration that you don’t want to miss.
✦ Want to read more of my travels?