Arriving in Edinburgh was a nice little surprise. Sure, I had heard good things, but now a day does anyone ever speak poorly of a destination? While I was excited to explore the eastern side of Scotland and see what Edinburgh had to offer, I was leaving the quite impressive coastal town of Oban. Would Edinburgh stand up to its much smaller counterpart on the west coast of the country?
It turns out, Edinburgh WAS a nice little surprise. When I arrived in the city it was a dark, overcast day. A thick blanket of fog covered the city from the ground up, and the wind howled and whipped at those who dared to step outside. The grey skies could have left me wanting to curl up inside with a good book and a big blanket. But instead, I immediately felt moved to explore this old city. The contrast between drab and chic enchanted me. The old buildings contrasted nicely against the grey skies. So I put on layers, braved the cold, and headed out to see all that Edinburgh had to offer.
Complete Guide to Edinburgh – Everything to Know if You Want to Visit
Transportation in Edinburgh
If you’re arriving in Edinburgh from the airport, there are many transportation options to get you into the city. You can hail a taxi cab for approximately €20+, which will take you to the center of the city in about 30 minutes. Taxies are available at the airport 24/7. You can also choose to take the Airlink 100 Express Bus for €5+ one-way, getting you to town in 30-minutes. This option is also available 24/7, tickets can be purchased ahead of time or from a ticket machine in the airport, and you’ll catch the bus at stop D in the bus terminal station. Lastly, you can choose to take the tram to town. The tram is €6+ one-way, a 35-minute drive, and only available from 6:18 am-10:48 pm. The main tram stop is at Haymarket Train Station. For more information on airport transfers, check out this website.
If you’re interested in rideshare, Uber also operates around Edinburgh. Make sure to download the app ahead of time so you don’t have to deal with it upon arrival!
For the cheapest way to get around the city download the “Lothian Buses plc” app for information on taking the bus around Edinburgh.
Restaurants in Edinburgh
With some of the most unique food in the world – fried mars bars and haggis anyone? Edinburgh is a feast for those who choose to take the adventurous eating route. There are tons of great restaurants around the city and it’s truly a place to come hungry! Here are some of the best restaurants Edinburgh offers…
Makars – The Gourmet Mash Bar
Makars is the place to go if you’re willing to go out on a limb and try something new. They are known for offering the best haggis in town and if you’re aiming to try haggis, I would definitely recommend getting it here.
El Cartel Mexicana
A fun and lively atmosphere, El Cartel serves strong margaritas and tasty Mexican small plates. It’s an ideal stop if you’re looking to snack before a big night out on the town.
A cheap eatery with locations throughout Edinburgh, Oink is a great place to stop for some quick animal protein. I recommend heading here for lunch if you’re not looking to spend a long time at a restaurant and just need a quick and easy meal before continuing on with your day.
Whiski Rooms is an award-winning restaurant serving traditional Scottish food with daily whiskey tastings. Especially known for their intimate atmosphere and haggis spring rolls.
Bars in Edinburgh
The fun thing about Edinburgh is the many different bars scattered across the city. Just as there are fancy cocktail lounges and champagne bars, there are also laid-back beer halls and dive bars with live music. On almost any street you walk on, there is a bar (or two) to stumble across.
An elegant restaurant/cocktail lounge to enjoy a few drinks before a night out on the town. I wouldn’t particularly recommend The Dome for food, strictly for drinking. And if you visit Edinburgh around Christmas time, definitely don’t miss this elegant bar that transforms during the holidays.
The Bon Vivant
A European-inspired champagne and cocktail bar in a dark and intimate atmosphere.
The Elephant House
Famously the coffee house where J.K. Rowling wrote the book for Harry Potter The Elephant House is an Edinburgh staple. Because of its past with J.K. Rowling, the coffee house gets crowded and can be quite touristy.
Activities in Edinburgh
Walk the Royal Mile
The Scottish mile is longer than the typical mile, spanning 109 yards more than your typical mile. Enjoy your time walking the entirety of the Royal Mile by starting at the Edinburgh Castle and ending at the Holyrood Palace.
Go On a Free Walking Tour
If you’re looking for a free way to see the city and wanting to learn more about the history of Edinburgh, the free walking tour is the way to go. While I chose SANDEMANs, I wouldn’t recommend it. Instead opt for another free tour by Googling, “free walking tour in Edinburgh”.
Interested in other free walking tours around Europe? Don’t miss Free Walking Tours in Europe Ranked
Visit the Edinburgh Castle
Perched up high on Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle can be seen from almost anywhere in the city and overlooks the entirety of Edinburgh. The castle is open every day from 9:30 am-5 pm. You can purchase tickets online or in-person for €17.
Enjoy Live Music At a Scottish Pub
For a truly Scottish experience, seek out live music in one of the many pubs in the city. The locals tend to hang out at Sandy Bell’s and Captains Bar (among others), and I always say – go where the locals go! But don’t expect bagpipes and kilts, that is what you can expect to randomly find on the streets of the city.
Hike Up to Arthur’s Seat
Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano on the eastern edge of Edinburgh. An easy climb to the top, once you’re there you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Edinburgh.
Leisurely Stroll Water of Leith Walkway
The Water of Leith runs through New Town Edinburgh. The path runs for 12-miles and can be accessed on foot or bicycle.
Edinburgh covers approximately 102 square miles (264 km) of Scottish land. Where the North Sea meets the rugged landscape of the Scottish countryside is where you’ll find this gem of a city. And trust me, this is one capital you don’t want to miss.
For more Edinburgh ideas don’t miss my highlight reel on my Instagram, “Edinburgh”