The Ultimate Travel Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland
Table of Contents
Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland since the 15th century, is a city full of art and history, located on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. It’s a rarity in that both, Old Town and New Town are World Heritage Sites, the former because if it’s well preserved medieval outlay and the latter as an example of Georgian town planning.
The city is dominated by the massive Edinburgh castle on Castle Hill, watching over a lively city best known for her world-famous summer festivals and the many writers, painters, and scientists who have lived here. Apart from the waterfront, a green belt surrounds Edinburgh, strongly protected by environmentalists. On a sunny day, you can even enjoy a beach in the lovely Portobello neighborhood.
In this Edinburgh Travel Guide Blog, we listed some tips on how you can do your own DIY Day trip to Edinburgh, Scotland. We also included Edinburgh Itinerary, Things to do and see, how to get there and more.
Best time to visit
Edinburgh has a temperate maritime climate which means cool summers and colder winters, although rarely below zero. The location between mountains and sea accounts for a lot of wind and also plenty of rainfall throughout the year. The best months to visit are from June to September although always be prepared for rain showers.
How to get there
Edinburgh’s international airport is the biggest and busiest in Scotland, serving many airlines. Transport from the airport to the city center is via bus, tram or taxi.
If you arrive by train from other parts of the UK, you’ll end up in the central rail station Edinburgh Waverley.
Edinburgh is a city best explored on foot, often starting at the top of Castle Hill and then making your way down the Royal Mile and spread out from there.
Otherwise, there are plenty of buses and, since 2014 a tram. Both are operated by Lothian Buses.
Places to stay
There is no shortage of accommodation for all budgets in Edinburgh. From 5star to B&B there is something for every taste and bank balance.
InterContinental Edinburgh The George Hotel
For 5star luxury there is the InterContinental Edinburgh The George Hotel in 19-21 George Street New Town. The grade II listed building dates from 1775 and whilst preserving the ambiance of grandeur, it has been modernized and refurbished to comply with every amenity and luxury one can expect from a hotel of that category. Located in the center of New Town and within easy walking distance to all major sights, it’s an ideal place to stay in comfort. The hotel offers a gym, full room service, a chic bar, and restaurant.
Laura + Paul’s House
On the other end, you may want to consider Laura + Paul’s House in 10 Downie Grove. The accommodation in a townhouse offers simple but clean rooms with shared bathroom. At a distance of 5km from the Royal Mile, you haven’t far to go to see all the important sights at a very reasonable price.
Northfield House Hotel
For the middle budget, you might want to look at the 3 star Northfield House Hotel at 115 Lasswade Road. The hotel is located 5km south of the central train station Waverley and 15min by bus from Princes Street. Simple but with private bathroom and a terrace the hotel is good for exploring Edinburgh if you are not in a hurry (because of the necessary bus rides) and don’t want to spend a lot of money.
Best places to eat
It might have to do with the generally miserable weather but probably more with the great natural resources, that Scotts like to eat heartily and plenty. Lamb, beef, fish, and seafood abound. Who hasn’t heard of Scottish salmon, Angus steaks and, yes, haggis!
Here is where best to enjoy it.
To sample excellent steaks, make a reservation at Kyloe Restaurant in 1-3 Rutland Street. Starters with fish and salmon, excellent presentation of various cuts of meat with different sauces.
If you want a choice of best steak and seafood in one place, head for the Hawksmoor Edinburgh in 23 West Register Street. To sample both you might want to share plates with your fellow diners.
Here is where to try haggis in the atmosphere of one of the best pubs in Edinburgh: The Last Drop in 74-78 Grassmarket. You’ll love the surrounding area too.
If you are looking for a one of a kind cocktail bar make the effort to find Panda & Sons 79 Queen Street. In the style of a speakeasy, you can sample a variety of excellent cocktails, but you must look at bit to find the bar.
Things to do and see
As Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline, it makes sense to climb up, walk around, enjoy the view. Inside the castle, you will find many artifacts and even the Scottish Crown jewels. Try to be there at 1pm to listen to the one-o’clock-gun being fired every day.
Make your way down along the Royal Mile which is the main street of the medieval town and crosses a lot of side street. The Royal Mile ends at Holyrood Palace, the Scottish official residence of the Queen. Along the way, you’ll find a lot of interesting and fun attractions, so take your time.
Close to the top is Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, Scotland’s oldest ‘amusement hall, and public attraction. Right opposite is another fun experience which is also educational: The Scottish Whisky Experience.
It starts with a ride on a whisky barrel and then proceeds with a tour to learn everything about Scottish whisky which is always spelled without an ‘e’.
If you only visit one church in Edinburgh, it should be St. Giles Cathedral with the vaulted and richly adorned ceiling of the 17th century Thistle Chapel. By now you’ll have reached the bottom end of the Royal Mile and Holyrood Palace. If you are a fan of the unlucky Mary Queen of Scots, visit as she resided in this palace.
Edinburgh is a city which adores writers and artists and therefore it’s here where you will find the world’s largest monument ever erected for a writer: that for Sir Walter Scott on Princess Street. Being Edinburgh’s main street, together with George Street, just stroll down and make a detour through the Princes Street Gardens which form the divide between Old and New Town. Another writer closely associated with Edinburgh is J.K. Rowling and her Harry Potter books. If you are a fan you can even go on a Harry Potter tour or follow the places where she wrote parts of her books like the Balmoral Hotel and the Elephant House Bar.
An insider tip: you can go underground and marvel at what medieval life was like in Edinburgh by exploring Mary King’s Close which lies just below the surface of the Royal Mile.
If you happen to visit in August, you are in for a treat. The entire month is dedicated to festivals, the most spectacular one being the world’s largest art festival: The Fringe Festival.
Edinburgh offers plenty of museums and galleries, my favorite being the Scottish Portrait Gallery. If it’s a sunny day head for the beach in the Portobella suburb, or even visit the Royal Yacht Britannia. As you can see there is so much to do and see for every taste, that you should reserve two days for your visit and you still won’t have seen everything.
Best place to shop
Just stroll along Princes Street or George Street and you’ll find everything from designer boutiques to department stores. If you want a covered American style shopping mall, head for the Gyle center, the largest shopping cum entertainment center in Edinburgh.
Language, currency, etc
Luckily, the official language is English because you won’t understand a word of the Scottish language.
The currency is Pound Sterling, although Scotland uses its own banknotes and coins which, by the way, cannot be used in the UK. Just get a small amount of cash for small purchases, otherwise, you are fine with all major credit cards. WiFi in hotels and all over the city is excellent.
If you are a history fan, have an artistic nature and love colorful scenes like seeing guys in kilts playing the bagpipe alongside businessmen in suits walking along Princess Street, Edinburgh is the place for you to visit. You’ll enjoy it.
Edinburgh Travel and Tour Packages
Check out our complete list of recommended Hotels in Edinburgh, Scotland via Agoda or you may also see available Airbnb properties in the city.
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