A weekend in a city with historic monuments, afternoon tea, tourists and tartan.
Edinburgh is glorious, gory, glamorous and great at kicking off its shoes and dancing on the bar. Just think of the city like an oh-so-respectable auntie – leading light of the WI and runs a bordello out of her back room. You’ll love it.
At a glance:
- From the glowering bulk of its infamous castle to the skinny Scott Monument, few cities have as many historic sights to see
- Cosy bars, ‘private’ clubs, haunted pubs, cocktail hour, real ale, drams and dives – Edinburgh’s love of a ‘wee swallae’ is legendary
- Scotland’s capital is shameless about its shameful past and happy to creep you out for as long as you can stand it
George Street – smart shops and serious clubs
This is where you’ll find Edinburgh’s smartest bars and clubs and crowds of sleek locals looking lovely.
The Royal Mile – land of the untamed tourist
Its tartan by the acre and you can’t move for tourists, but Edinburgh without a walk up The Royal Mile is almost illegal. Shameless souvenirs, lone piper (not even sure if he’s human), haunted tours, the whisky museum (http://www.scotchwhiskyexperience.co.uk/
), closes, wynds and miles of cobbles, it’s all a bit stunning. But just go for it. Get into the spirit.
Tollcross – a down and dirty mix of a good time
If you like your pubs cheap, your takeaways plentiful and your entertainment eclectic, Tollcross is happy to help. If you’re up for a gig or a great club night, the mighty Picture House plays Tollcross hard and fast Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Bruntsfield – café society and a village vibe
Independent coffee are Bruntsfield specialities. Dodge the baby buggies and well-heeled Edinburgh mamas and grab yourself a large cup of caffeine and a window seat. This is where to take your raging hangover and soothe yourself back to life, ready to do it all over again.
Best bars in Edinburgh:
Bar Kohl, George IV Bridge
Burgers and shakes by day, relentless and reasonable cocktails all night. www.barkohl.co.uk
Voodoo Rooms, W Register St
Decadent, eye-wateringly ornate, glamorous and an Edinburgh great. Go for classic cocktails, intriguing new concoctions and the interior.
Whiski, High St
Ease yourself into Scotland’s national drink with a vast selection of whisky-based cocktails – Whiski took the name and owns it.
Bramble, Queen St
Traditional design and plenty of gin, nowhere gets into the louche spirit of cocktail-hour better than Brambles.
The Bow Bar, W Bow
The Bow Bar is on the Grassmarket’s iconic Victoria Street and its reputation for real ale means it doesn’t even need a website.
If you’re into craft-beer, local ales and lagers with a subtle hipster-tone, BrewDog can’t wait to meet you.
Holyrood 9A, Holyrood Rd
Great gastro-pub with good guest ales and an outstanding regular selection. Can’t make up your mind? Have a taste first, it’s what they do here.
The Pear Tree, Nicolson St
Beer and a beer garden, what else do you need? One of the city’s biggest and best and it’s a sun-trap.
The Hanging Bat, Lothian Rd
The city’s love affair with The Hanging Bat doesn’t let up. Great for beer, friendly faces and local life.
Edinburgh’s Best Nightclubs:
Cabaret Voltaire, Blair St
It’s spruced up and got good over the past few years. Now Cabaret Voltaire is upstairs speakeasy, underground club and easy to find between the Royal Mile and Cowgate. www.thecabaretvoltaire.com
Bongo Club, Cowgate
Another smartened-up club and haunt for hipsters and those who like the mix-up of sounds over several floors. Look out for regular theme-nights.
El Barrio, Hanover St
Best club in Edinburgh for lads on tour. The bar is big on tequila, music can be heavy on cheese, it’s great for dancing and nothing’s posh.
The Electric Circus, Market St
Wild mix of sounds and a favourite if you’re looking to ‘socialise’ with groups of girls out on the town. Think part gig venue, part hip hop club and part karaoke bar and you know why no one has a bad night here.
Food: eat like a local:
Edinburgh clubs are open till 3am and most takeaways close round that time too. So if you want ‘chips and sauce’ on your way home, hang your dancing shoes up a bit early.
Spoons, Nicolson St
Hangover cure and Sunday hang-out, Spoons has the best fry-ups in the city, excellent coffee and seriously good cakes. Popular with buggy-pushers at the weekend so think about booking.
Nonna’s Kitchen, Morningside Rd
Every great Scottish city has a favourite Italian Restaurant and this is Edinburgh’s. Fantastic seafood, incredible pasta, everything’s fresh and the only downside is trying to get a table. Book ahead, problem solved.
Maison Bleue, Victoria St
On the Grassmarket’s beautiful Victoria Street this Scottish take on the traditional French Bistro is wonderful, wonderfully romantic and not even expensive. www.maisonbleuerestaurant.com
Montpeliers, Bruntsfield Place
Value for money doesn’t get better than this. The food is superb, there’s great lunch menu and a two-course dinner deal is just £10. Plenty of places to sit outside too. www.montpeliersedinburgh.co.uk
The Mosque Kitchen, Potterrow
If you didn’t think Edinburgh’s was famous for curries, here’s the place to change your mind. Those in the know (students and stag parties) love The Mosque Kitchen because it’s delicious and cheap.
Things not to miss:
Blow away your hangover with a walk up Arthur’s Seat, it’s a Sunday tradition. This extinct volcano feels more like a ‘climb’ in parts, but get to the top and you can see for miles.
More in the mood for a gentle, refined meander? Stroll up Calton Hill. Famous for its monuments, terraces and more than a few follies, this is also where you’ll end up if you take part in the city’s huge Hogmanay Torchlight Procession.
Give a nod to the statue of the famous dog Greyfriars’ Bobby, then forget the cuteness, it’s time for the grim. Greyfriars might not have as many celebrity graves as some but it’s pretty matchless when it comes to piling on the gloom and doom.
The White Hart Inn
Edinburgh’s not short on historic hostelries but The White Hart Inn (http://www.whitehart-edinburgh.co.uk/
) in the Grassmarket is the city’s oldest and most infamous. Have a dram or two and be grateful you weren’t here when Burke and Hare were converting customers into corpses for the anatomist’s coin.
Once upon a time if you needed a cow or wanted to catch a public hanging, you’d head for the Grassmarket. Today this twisty, tale-filled and ancient part of Edinburgh is the place for specialist shops, rising-star restaurants and some very quaint pubs.
For the entire month of August every year arguably the most famous arts festival in the world takes over Edinburgh and doesn’t give up until you do. A lot of it is brilliant and a lot of it is, ‘what were you thinking?’, but for the insane energy alone it’s worth seeing at least once.
Edinburgh might be big on hills but walking’s still the best way to get to know the place. Buses are a good alternative and the city’s taxis are surprisingly reasonable.