I finished off my little trip to the UK with two days in Edinburgh. And I am so glad I did, as it is easily in my top three European cities (please don’t make me choose). I absolutely fell in love with it, and not just because of my handsome tour guide. Edinburgh is absolutely stunning, with an air of warmth and enjoyment. Yes, it is full of tourist, but with good reason. This Medieval city offers a compact city center with a rich history and magical aura. And the Scottish are kind and rightfully proud, so they will be happy to tell you all about it.
Two days is not enough to truly take in the beauty of Edinburgh, let alone Scotland. So although I tried, I did not manage to see all the highlights. But, I went back to Scotland for three weeks in December, and of course, stopped in my favorite city to collect some more tips.
Get your bearings on a Free Walking Tour
There are several companies that offer walking tours in Edinburgh, my favorite was Sandeman’s New Europe. Their free walking tour was so much fun, comprehensive and informative that I happily paid to go on the Castle tour and New Town tour as well.
I even made friends with two Swedish brothers, who were kind enough to take this lovely picture of me (you can see them reflected in my sunglasses).
Edinburgh is not very large, so a walking tour is a perfect way to see the city with some more historical context.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
The main road of Edinburgh, the Royal Mile, goes from Hollyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Castle is actually a fortress and is still used a military base. It has a fascinating history, in my opinion, best enjoyed on a tour.
Dive into the magical world of Harry Potter
Edinburgh is where J.K. Rowling lived when she wrote Harry Potter, and she heavily drew inspiration from the city. It is easy to see why as Edinburgh, with its winding little roads and Medieval architecture, invokes a feeling of mystery and magic.
There are plenty of references to the franchise throughout the city, such as ‘Diagon Alley’ (pictured above), Greyfriars churchyard and Heriot’s School.
Get the creeps at Greyfriars Kirk
The old Greyfriars church sits in the old Edinburgh graveyard. It has an unpleasant history as a mass grave during the plague. Legend has it that some bones are occasionally unearthed when soil gets washed away.
The graveyard is beautiful though, with old headstones and tombs. Take a look at the names, you might recognize a few from the Harry Potter books!
Don’t forget to leave a stick on the grave of Greyfriars Bobby, the dog of one of the monks.
Go museum hopping
Edinburgh houses several great museums. The National Museum of Scotland (pictured above) has some breathtaking architecture. Although the expositions are especially suited for children, their information on Scotland is very interesting and the rooftop offers a spectacular view.
I would also recommend the National Gallery for lovers of art.
Bonus: most museums in Scotland are free!
Check out a library
The Central Library and the National Library of Scotland are both worth a visit. They lie opposite each other and offer not only books but also exhibitions on interesting literature topics and writers. Free entertainment for bibliophiles!
Climb Arthur’s seat
Hike up to this summit at the end of the Royal Mile for a spectacular view of Edinburgh.
It’s not too difficult, but it can be quite slippery. So I recommend you wear some comfortable shoes!
Venture out into New Town and Southside
While the Old Town of Edinburgh is incredibly beautiful and magical, there is more to the city than The Royal Mile.
New Town offers shopping, sightseeing and the beautiful Botanical Gardens. New is a relative term though, as it was built during the Georgian era.
Next, venture into the upcoming Southside for affordable food, hip bars, and a taste of the vibrant Edinburgh student life.
Try some Scottish food and drinks
When in Scotland, you have to try haggis. It’s ground offal mixed with spices and oats, cooked in a sheep stomach. I know that it sounds gross, but trust me, it is actually delicious. My favourite is from Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar where you can get a taster menu to ease you into it.
Are you tired of greasy food? Head over to Hula café, where you can satisfy your hipster health food craving with a smoothie or fruit bowl.
And don’t forget to go to a pub to try some local beer and whiskey!
One post really isn’t enough to do this city justice. So check out More things to do in Edinburgh as well!