Top Seven Things to Do in Edinburgh
In this post, I would like to share with you my second favourite city in the UK after London: Edinburgh. It was stop number one of my (mini) Grand Tour of Scotland in September. Albeit its relatively small size and the predominance of many shades of grey, the Scottish capital is undeniably picturesque, providing an exceptionally romantic getaway destination! Unfortunately, this post is not going to be particularly photo-heavy due to rather gloomy weather throughout my stay in Edinburgh (bad lighting equals bad photos): overcast skies with more or less incessant drizzle with an occasional brief appearance from the sun. I suppose that’s expected.
Top Seven Things to Do in Edinburgh
As well as being very romantic city break destination, Edinburgh is also brimming with history: it has been the capital of Scotland since the 15th century and has seen many turbulent times. This hilly city is best explored on foot, wondering along its many cobbled and winding streets, turning round every inviting corner leading your to discover new, charming places. For this post, I have picked out a few things that I particularly enjoyed throughout my three-day stay. 1. Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat
I believe that if possible every city visit should start with an overview in order to give you a a glimpse of what is yet to come! Therefore, my first pick for Edinburgh would be to climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, which commands expansive, gorgeous, albeit a little sober views, of the city…
Did you know that Edinburgh is the only city in the world that sits on top of an extinct volcano? Arthur’s Seat, the highest hill within the environs of the Scottish capital, is, in fact, the remain of a volcano from the Carboniferous period (i.e. from many millions of years ago). 2. The Scottish National Gallery
Being somewhat of an art buff, I absolutely love the Scottish National Gallery. The gallery has got a very impressive, albeit relatively small collection of art, ranging from the early Renaissance up to the start of the twentieth century. The collection of Renaissance pictures is particularly good: it includes masterpieces from the likes of Titian, Botticelli, Lucas Cranach; there are also beautiful Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works from Edgar Degas, Claude Monet,Paul Cézanne and many other easily-recognisable names. There is also a separate building featuring contemporary art. Entry is free of charge.
3. Wander around Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle is the most famous attraction in Edinburgh; you can see this imposing, stony edifice from almost anywhere in the city. The dramatic fortress has dominated Edinburgh’s skyline for several hundreds of years and has been involved in many a conflict from the Wars of Scottish Independence; it has served as a royal residence and military barracks. Within its walls you will also find the oldest building in Edinburgh, St Margaret’s Chapel, dating back to the 12th century. Unfortunately, as you might suspect, the castle gets a little overcrowded with tourists, therefore it is advisable to head there first thing in the morning! In addition, to beat the queues book your tickets in advance. 4. Afternoon Tea At Prestonfield
Afternoon Tea at Prestonfield, Edinburgh’s most beautiful and unique hotel, is a truly luxurious experience: a wide range of loose leaf teas brewed to perfection, a good selection of freshly-made sandwiches, and, of course, scrumptious home baked cakes (I am particularly fond of their scones). To make your your experience just that little bit more decadent, go for Champagne Afternoon Tea!
Being the national drink of Scotland whisky is everywhere in Scotland, therefore whisky tasting ought to be an essential component of your trip to Edinburgh or to anywhere in Scotland! Whisky here is not your usual, undrinkable Jack Daniels type (well, in my opinion, anyways): instead whiskies in Scotland are delicious, flavourful,and varied. In fact, whisky is my favourite “strong” drink; I particularly like the more smokey, woody ones! If you are a whisky novice (or perhaps not!), the Scotch Whisky Experience should be quite high up in your Edinburgh “to-do” list: here you will find an extensive selection of blended and single malt whiskies both from easily-recognisable and obscure names. At first sight, this establishment might be somewhat overwhelming, but the one hour tour offered here, for adults only, is both fun and educative. True, this establishment, located a stone throw’s away form the entrance to Edinburgh Castle is primarily tourist oriented; regardless, it is definitely worth a bit of your time!
6. Have A Great Cup of Coffee
Okay, this is not exactly a “very” Edinburgh or Scottish thing to do, but Edinburgh has some excellent coffee shops! Great coffee is an essential component in any of my trips – yes, I am a real coffee addict- and if I cannot find decent coffee, I get rather moody! I have discovered three wonderful coffee shops in Edinburgh:
Zebra Coffee Co. – a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop just by the Bank of Scotland. They have a sign inside the shop that says “Coffee keeps me busy until it’s acceptable to drink gin”: I love their life philosophy; and they do serve top-notch coffee!
Lovecrumbs – great coffee, and VERY scrumptious cakes. If you love your coffee with cakes, please pay this lovely cafe a visit!
Filament coffee – a lot of care is put into making each cup of coffee; great for coffee connoisseurs.
7. Go Shopping for Vintage Clothes and Antique Books
Armstrongs Vintage – amazing selection of awesome and fun vintage clothes! My sister absolutely loves shopping here.
Ebinbrugh Books – Edinburgh’s largest second-hand book reseller. Books are so much better than Kindles, and I love the distinct smell of old books! I could spend hours just browsing here.
A few more personal recommendation…
Best for Lunch: Gardener’s Cottage
This tiny village cottage standing alone amidst greenery right in the heart of the city serves a seasonal menu that changes daily based on the freshest and local ingredients; they even grow their vegetables and fruit themselves! There are two long communal tables, which means that eating here is a very social experience. Lunch is a la carte, whereas dinner is a set six-course menu.
Best for Seafood: Ondine
Fantastic fresh Scottish seafood in Edinburgh historic centre. Enough said.
Best for Dinnner: Timberyard
Currently favourite restaurant in the Scottish Capital; I cannot stop daydreaming about going back there… Timberyard is a slow-food restaurant that sources its produce from small, independent suppliers. The decor of the restaurant was righ up my alley: tables made from old slabs of mahogany, white cast iron pillars, exposed wooden floorboards; the ambience was further bettered by dim, atmospheric lighting: very retro, hip and chic, all the same time. Food was light, fresh and delicious; excellent, reasonably priced wine list; and great, friendly service.
Where to Drink: Dragonfly.
A trendy cocktail bar in the heart of the old town with an extensive menu and some interesting options.
Where to Stay: Prestonfield. A truly wonderful and unique hotel. See my full post here!