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top five guide: edinburgh, scotland

Updated: Oct 5, 2023

Cockburn Street Architecture Edinburgh Scotland

Edinburgh (pronounced like Edin-"bruh," not "berg!"), is Scotland's cheery, picturesque, and walkable capital. With a uniquely moody and magical type of ambiance, it’s no wonder that J.K. Rowling was inspired to write the Harry Potter books here. This relatively compact capital feels perfectly designed for visitors with charming streets, beautiful historic architecture, a rich cultural heritage, and friendly local Scots. Here’s a wee look at what to do in this bonnie city:

here are my top five tips for a trip to EDINBURGH:

Hilton Edinburgh Hotel Room View

1: where to stay

Edinburgh is split into Old Town and New Town, and both sides are worth exploring during your stay. My suggestion is to stay in Old Town, where most of the primary sights and attractions are located, in order to make your visit most efficient. I am not sure you can find a better location than the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton, a comfortable stay which is just off of the Royal Mile and near the bridge that connects both sides of town. The views are a plus!

Adam Smith Statue Royal Mile Edinburgh Scotland

2: the royal mile

The heart of Old Town is the Royal Mile, a semi-pedestrian street bookended by the imposing Edinburgh Castle at the top and Holyrood Palace at the bottom. There is a lot to see, and you could easily spend an entire day on this street alone. To guide you through the many sights, bring your headphones and download the free audio walking tour from the Rick Steves Audio Europe app. Be sure to peek into the many "closes" (alleyways)! For the whisky-curious, check out The Scotch Whisky Experience for a kitschy but entertaining tour, and true whisky aficionados should stop in Cadenhead's down the road.

Traditional Scottish food at Makars Mash Bar in Edinburgh Scotland - Haggis, Scotch Egg

3: traditional eats

I grew up with a strange and irrational fear of haggis, despite never once seeing nor coming into contact with it (what TV show is responsible for this?). When I finally tried this famous Scottish classic at Makar's Mash Bar (pictured), I was shocked to learn that this hearty dish of sheep innards is really not that bad. Honestly, it was good! Try some there, along with a Scotch egg and their signature lamb and mash. In the mornings, Scots will load you up with full breakfasts similar to their English neighbors. You can find a great breakfast (along with other brunch options) at Edinburgh Larder.

Stand-Up Stage at The Stand Comedy Club Edinburgh Scotland

4: live comedy

Did you know that Edinburgh is the comedy capital of the United Kingdom? Each summer, this city hosts globally famous Fringe Festival, which showcases some of the country's (and the world's) best comedic talents. If you miss the festival, not to worry: you can catch great comedy any night of the week at The Stand Comedy Club. Buy tickets in advance for this small venue if you can, and try to show up a bit early as well. With no assigned seats, later arrivals should be prepared to sit front row…and deal with the related consequences.

Colorful Victoria Street Edinburgh Scotland

5: where to wander

Edinburgh is a lovely place for one of my favorite travel pastimes: aimless strolls. Here are my favorite places for a wee walk or self-guided pub crawl: Cockburn Street (get your mind out of the gutter, it's pronounced like CO-BURN), Victoria Street (pictured; Harry Potter fans shouldn't miss this colorful avenue, as it allegedly inspired Diagon Alley and also includes the HP-obsessive Museum Context), and Grassmarket. Over in New Town, a stroll in Prince Street Gardens provides a spectacular view of the imposing Edinburgh Castle, and adjacent St. Cuthbert's Graveyard is beautifully spooky.

You can't always do it all, so one thing we didn’t do but wish we had:

Hike Arthur's Seat. A bit of inclement weather prevented us from taking the short but strenuous hike up the remains of an extinct volcano. This popular hike is easy to access from town and provides magnificent views of the city and castle.

Pinterest Cover Photo Top 5 Guide Travel Guide Edinburgh Scotland TrippingMillennial


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