You feel the magical vibes of Edinburgh as soon as you step out of Waverley railway station. From its old grey buildings, cobbled streets, the free museums, outgoing locals, great food scene to buzzing nightlife – it’s a perfect city to spend an indulging weekend. I’m not even going to mention the insane whiskey!
When my friend found return tickets to Edinburgh for £80 each via the Trainline – we were sold. A weekend getaway, not too far from London, where I could spend my birthday, do a bit of hiking and exploring, have good food and chill – Edinburgh just ticked all the boxes.
There’s an ease that comes with train travel that I value more and more as I get older. No traveling to the airport, no check-in, no need to arrive 3 hours before departure, not spending £££ at airport Pret, no rush to the gate.
And it’s more sustainable than taking a flight. By comparison, trains can use 50% less fuel per passenger than planes for the same trips.
Where to stay
Pretty much all of the main sites in Edinburgh are walkable, and you’ll likely either be staying in the Old Town or New Town, which are connected by a short bridge.
If you’re looking for accommodation with a central location, have a look at Booking.com – there are lots of great deals, plus free cancellation and price match feature is a great bonus.
For a cheaper but more homely alternative, go with Airbnb.
Getting Around Edinburgh
Edinburgh is incredibly walkable—and the streets are very easy to navigate. If you allow enough time, don’t mind a hill or flight of stairs every now and then, and have a decent pair of walking shoes, and there’s really no reason to take the bus around the city center.
We felt like a local after a few hours in the city – I think that’s what I loved the most.
Uber is the most cost-effective way to get around if you’re on for longer-distance.
For breakfast head to Noir. At first, it seems like they only serve coffee and croissants, but that’s deceiving. They do offer some breakfast and lunch staples – Salmon, avocado, poached eggs on sourdough – was super delicious.
After fuelling up, it’s time to wander around and explore the city. Start with Royal Mile – it’s Edinburgh’s most famous street. Its name comes from its tradition as a processional route for kings and queens for the last 500 years. Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle (to the west) with the Palace of Holyroodhouse (to the east).
Discover Victoria Street, as you continue up the Royal Mile where you’ll happen upon some of Edinburgh’s prettiest streets.
Drop by Hula Juice Bar for a great coffee or reviving smoothie, then do some window shopping in those little antique shops full of Harry Potter themed stuff.
Explore the Old Town – The historic side of Edinburgh has much to discover. You could spend an hour or two working your way from the castle, in and out of the layered streets.
Edinburgh Castle – You can visit inside the castle or take in views of it from the courtyard. I didn’t have time to go inside but it came highly recommended to visit. Be sure to purchase your tickets here in advance to avoid lines.
For lunch, we headed to Festival Village – it’s a cute food and live music pop-up venue near Waverley train station. We stopped there for a quick drink and ended up staying for hours as the Sun came out despite the forecast looking rain for all weekend.
Catch the sunset at Calton Hill – One of the best views over the city, sunset from here is worth the short climb.
Have a drink at Brewhemia – it’s a prosecco bar just across the Waverley station. It’s a bit of a difficult building to describe – as it has a few very different rooms, a big beer-hall like area and cosy nooks.
You can’t spend a weekend in Edinburgh and miss out on whiskey! We stumbled on Whiski Rooms which is a nice restaurant offering local Scottish food whiskey and other beverages. Think dim lights, stone walls, illuminated deer image on the walls, and lots and lots of different types of whiskey on the menu. They also host daily whiskey tastings
For party animals, the Cowgate area is an absolute must-do – this is where bars and clubs open until the wee hours.
If you’re a morning person, walk to Arthur’s Seat to watch the sunrise. The walk is about 45 mins from the city centre and has one of the best panoramic views in Edinburgh, including the castle, Pentland Hills and East Lothian.
On the way back, take a different route and do a circle around Holyrood Park. I promise you that the walk is absolutely gorgeous.
Within the park, you can also see the 15th-century St. Anthony’s Chapel, a well-preserved fort, Salisbury Crags (a series of 150-foot cliff faces), and Duddingston Loch.
Time for breakfast – here are some of the recommended spots by locals:
Edinburgh has some pretty interesting museums and galleries to keep you busy on a rainy Sunday afternoon. We visited The National Portrait Gallery – which is one of Edinburgh’s most remarkable buildings, and it’s the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. It’s free entry, which is definitely a bonus.
Head over to Princess Gardens and spend the rest of your afternoon here, admiring the castles and green surroundings.
For dinner, head to Chop House – the food is good, the ambiance is better. If you find yourself lost in all the possible food choices on the menu, you’re not the only one – just go for tapas – why not get a bit of everything?
Oh and don’t forget to check out salted caramel espresso martini there. It’s worth every single penny!