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Best Things to Do & See in Edinburgh, Scotland

Let's go to: Edinburgh, Scotland

This city is a historical gem. Bridges layer streets and buildings stretch on through. You will find yourself walking along a road only to look over, notice you’re on a bridge and see a bustling street running underneath. Meanwhile, the Edinburgh castle watches over on its extinct volcano seat from the center of the city, dividing Edinburgh in two - Old City and New City. Gardens and meadows run through the city and you find yourself wondering where in the world you’ve wandered off to. This city is truly a melange of history, art, culture and the occasional maze.

Interesting Facts

  • Edinburgh is pronounced by the Scots like “Eh-din-brah”
  • Edinburgh has 112 parks and more trees per head of population than any other city in the UK
  • J.K. Rowling penned the first novel in her Harry Potter series at the Elephant House cafe on George IV Bridge.  
  • The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is the world’s largest arts festival and apparently doubles the city’s population each August when it takes place.
  • Scones are often pronounced like “scons” in Scotland

Useful Information

  • Weather: It rains a lot here. A good pair of wellies (rainboots) and a small umbrella can take you far because the rain comes and goes.
  • Best Time to Visit: August and September are a great time to visit. Catch the Fringe Festival and the peak amount of sunlight. Edinburgh is a stunning city when the sun is out.
  • Worst Time to Visit: The winter months, realistically anywhere from November - May. The sun will go down anywhere from 3-4PM and rise after 9AM in December. However, the Christmas Market is stunning in December. Most days, the rain clouds are so thick that there isn’t much daylight.
  • Getting Around: Edinburgh is a very walkable and small city. You can get to most places in under 20 minutes. Otherwise, you can catch a bus! Just make sure you check a transit map ahead of time, the bus routes can be pretty confusing.
  • Lost? Ask anyone for help. Scots are some of the most hospitable people and you can soak up the accent.

What to do:

  • The Royal Mile: This street is a huge tourist attraction. Filled with shops and buskers, you’ll find all sorts of Scottish souvenirs and “closes,” alleyways that lead you to restaurants or historical sites where poets, writers, and economists once resided. You can follow the cobblestone path straight up to Edinburgh Castle as well.
  • George IV Bridge: Intersecting with the Royal Mile, this street is filled with great restaurants and more historical sites. You can also visit Greyfriar’s grave and Greyfriar Bobby’s Statue. The Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, is also on this street. Don’t be put off by all the tourists outside! It’s actually a great cafe with a gorgeous view of the castle in the back.
  • Stockbridge Market & Dean’s Village: This farmer’s market takes place every Sunday in Stockbridge. Go for the cheeses, coffee, pastries, paella and Scottish delicacies like Haggis and Scotch Eggs. Afterward, walk along the Waters of Leith until you hit Dean’s Village. A completely submerged part of town, this is the most magical 18th century village and you’ll be happy you found it.
  • Go For A Run: Go for a run on the Meadows or through Hollyrood Park, or even climb up to Arthur’s Seat for an undeniably gorgeous view of the city. There is so much greenery in Edinburgh and you really must take advantage of it all.
  • Check Out The Book Shops: Edinburgh has an incredible amount of book stores. Looking Glass Books is one of my favourites and definitely on the more modern end. Despite its petite size, there’s seating for you to work, read or chat with friends. The owners have also put a ton of effort into curating their book selection and leaving notes on all the books they have.

Where to Eat and Drink:

  • Hidden Bars: Edinburgh has great cocktail bars tucked away  at the bottom of staircases or behind a bookshelf in a barber shop. Check out Heads & Tales and Panda & Sons for starters. I’d recommend just walking the city on a weekend evening and following the sounds for hidden bars.
  • Lovecrumbs: This is my favourite bakery. Go for the creative cakes (think Lime Elderflower Gooseberry cakes and Rosemary Cardamom Plum cakes) and the great tea. Stay for the mismatched sofas, makeshift tables (they’ve got an old piano you can enjoy your cake on) and overall scent of rain and coffee.
  • Mary’s Milk Bar: This place has incredible gelato and a perfect view of the castle. Climb up to the seats on Castle Rock and enjoy your Hot Cross Buns gelato overlooking the city.
  • Press Coffee: Edinburgh has a fantastic amount of independent coffee shops all serving up great espresso-based drinks. Press Coffee was my favourite for on-the-go coffee. The espresso is great and I always got a latte (often pronounced lat-tee in Scotland). This place is very small though and not the best for sitting down. I’d recommend Kiliminjaro Coffee, Brew Lab, or Peter’s Yard for places to sit and chat with your mates.

Enjoy the city and reach out if you want more tips! :)


List by: Jane Guan

Jane has found herself with three homes in the last year - Edinburgh, Toronto and San Francisco. Originally from Toronto, she studied abroad in Edinburgh for a year and travelled solo through Europe endlessly. She now lives and works in San Francisco, a colourful home away from home. 

Instagram handle: @thejaneator                                         Pinterest account: www.pinterest.com/thejaneator/

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