How To Spend A Weekend In: Edinburgh
For years and years before I’d moved to Edinburgh, it was always a city I’d longed to visit, and I was always excited for our daytrips here. Now, after six months here, I can by no means say I’m an expert, but I’ve done more than my fair share of exploring so that when friends and family visit, we can show them a great time in our new home town. Here’s a little guide for spending a weekend in Edinburgh, in case you’re itching to book a trip sometime soon…
Edinburgh is seriously easy to get to from most major cities in the UK, by train or plane. If you take the train, you’ll arrive right in the centre of town, so you can hop off the platform and start your weekend immediately. If you fly, you can jump onto the tram right outside the airport and head direct for the centre, which takes around half an hour.
Dump your bags and head to The Holyrood 9A for dinner and drinks to remember; it’s a seriously cool spot just off the Royal Mile that will delight foodies and alcohol aficionados alike. There’s dozens of craft beers to choose from, a wide list of delicious cocktails and a broad food menu that covers nibbles, burgers, salads and some seriously indulgent desserts.
Spring out of bed and head to bustling Broughton Street for a delicious, leisurely brunch at Smoke Stack. Their waffles are famous all over the city; savoury lovers will adore the Huevos Rancheros option, but if you’re sweet-toothed like me, the Sweet Berry waffles, piled high with whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries, will hit the spot for sure.
Post-breakfast, nip next door to Artisan Roast to pick up a hot drink to go (I daydream about their rose hot chocolate), and then take a wander along the street – stopping off at luxurious chocolate boutique Coco Chocolatier if you’re so inclined – and down to Life Story on London Street. This Scandi boutique stocks everything your minimalist heart could desire – from beautiful stationery to prints, homewares and rare magazines. It’s peaceful and oh-so pretty; just make sure you’ve left enough space in your hand luggage to take home a goodie or two from here.
This is the morning to explore the New Town – the side of Edinburgh that really came to prominence in the 1800s. Take in the exquisite Georgian architecture, and shop to your heart’s content in the gorgeous boutiques and high-end stores on George Street.
If your tummy is rumbling after all that shopping, stick to the New Town and head to Thistle Street, for a taste of Mexico in the heart of Edinburgh. El Cartel has been getting rave reviews since it opened, and is a great spot for a light lunch and a tasty cocktail. Be warned, you may have to queue for a table, since the restaurant is the size of most people’s living rooms, but it’s a cosy spot that looks great on Instagram too. Order one of the frozen daiquiris, some guacamole to share and the cod tacos for sure.
Work off those cocktails with a stroll up to the National Museum of Scotland, over in the Old Town. On the way, you’ll see the stunning architecture of the castle and stroll the cobbled streets of the world-famous Royal Mile – just try to dodge the coachloads of tourists and those gawping at street performers if you can.
The National has just been named as the city’s most popular attraction, and it’s easy to see why. It’s packed with interesting exhibits from nature and science to fashion, culture and Scottish history, and it’s also one of the most picturesque museums you’re likely to visit – be sure to take a snap from one of the balconies of the impressive, sunlit gallery. It’s worth the wait for the single lift on the fifth floor to take you up to the rooftop, where you’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous view over the city and a prime opportunity to inundate your Instagram followers with what they’re missing out on.
After your exploration, take the stroll back the way you came, but take a detour to the new Waverley Arches development, behind the train station. Here, a number of boutiques and small businesses have set up shop – so you can pick up some beautiful homewares or gifts in Elk & Wolf, a cold-pressed juice in Juice Warrior, or, if you’re feeling particularly naughty, a decadent doughnut and a hot coffee in Baba Budan (seriously, how good do they look?!).
If you don’t mind the wait, Dishoom is the perfect spot for a twist on the traditional Saturday-night curry. Newly-opened on St Andrew’s Square, this three-floor restaurant offers a tapas-style Indian dining experience that’s perfect for couples who don’t mind sharing. Staff are incredibly friendly and the food is first-rate and well-priced. Don’t miss out on the Chicken Ruby, the grilled Chicken Tikka and the luxurious Garlic Naan – and if you like a little fizz with your dinner, the Bollybellini is sublime.
For something a little more intimate, you might like Cafe St Honore; a Parisian-style bistro tucked away in one of Thistle Street’s side lanes. Indulge in authentic French fare in a snug and very romantic atmosphere.
When your tummies are full, head down to Queen Street and ensconce yourself in a cosy corner at Bramble, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar which has frequently been voted among the best in the world. The bar has a very extensive menu, so to save time – be sure to try the Butter-Scotch and The Bright Side – both are beautiful. This is a very easy bar to while away your Saturday night in, away from the chill!
It’s time to shake off that headache! Clear your head with a bracing walk up one of Edinburgh’s stunning hills – but be sure to bring some goodies with you. I love Soderberg on Broughton Street, where you can fill your bag with Swedish-style breakfast pastries and tasty treats ready to take on your walk. If you’re really looking to reach the top in style, take a mini bottle of champagne too!
For inexperienced hillwalkers, Calton Hill is the obvious choice. Just at the end of Princes Street is one of the city’s most famous viewpoints – this is the spot where almost all of those beautiful images of Edinburgh are taken. Dash up the steps and take in a glorious view of the city with your breakfast picnic to share.
If you’re slightly hardier than the average townie (I am not one of these people), then Arthur’s Seat is the Sunday morning walk for you. Most Edinburgh citizens will tell you this is no big deal and that it’s an easy walk – but as a Londoner whose highest hilltop experience was Primrose Hill, I am here to tell you to ignore them. Bring proper shoes and prepare for a hike. It doesn’t take too long to do and weather-permitting, it isn’t particularly treacherous – but the views from the top are worth any exertion getting there, I promise.
If you can face any more walking after your hill-hike experience, it’s worth taking a slow stroll through town and up to the ancient Dean Village, which is absolutely beautiful. Wander along the Water of Leith and into Stockbridge, where you can enjoy the Farmer’s Market. Fill up on any number of delicious snacks and treats – from fresh pizza to lobster rolls, pies, coffee and patisseries, plus a huge number of local artisans selling their wares too.
Post-market, take a taxi back over to the Old Town, where you can really get exploring. This area of Edinburgh is a UNESCO World Heritage site thanks to its 16th-century architecture, and there is so much to look at and find. From the twisty, hidden little lanes branching off of the Mile, to the incredible, awe-inspiring St Giles Cathedral. Literature lovers should take the tour of important spots for Edinburgh’s authors in the Old Town, while Harry Potter fans might like to go on the hunt for important spots that inspired the series – from the cafe where it was written, to the school that inspired Hogwarts and the graveyard where the original Tom Riddle is buried…
After your explorations, rest your feet and relax at one of the city’s most beloved cake spots: Lovecrumbs. Just up from the Grassmarket, this cosy coffee shop offers some of the most delicious cakes I’ve eaten anywhere. Expect unusual flavour combinations and exotic ingredients, along with fresh local coffee, for a gorgeous way to unwind after an activity-packed morning and afternoon.
Before you head off to catch your train or flight home, there’s always time for pizza. Civerino’s on the Royal Mile is often noted as the city’s best pizza place, and it’s easy to see why. Fresh dough and fresh ingredients, served by fabulously friendly staff. It’s the ideal way to finish off your trip and stave off hunger for the journey home.
So there you have it – the ideal way to spend a weekend in Edinburgh! The best bit is, even after you’ve spent your weekend here, you still won’t have seen even half of the city in total, let alone all of the stunning places surrounding it – so you’ll always have an excuse to make a return visit in the not-too-distant future…