Edinburgh: Where the past meets the present

Perhaps no city in the UK possesses a sense of history as much as Edinburgh does. Scotland’s capital is alive with a distinct feel of the past, all mixed with the urgency of the contemporary.

Here are the best things to see and do in Edinburgh, the great places to grab some grub, the perfect places to pitch up for a pint and where to head for some retail therapy. Plus the secret spots you might never have heard of.

From its world-famous castle, the hustle-bustle of Princes Street and the backstreet bonhomie of its pubs, Edinburgh is a must-visit. We’ve had a dig around town to cherry-pick the best highlights.

Things to see and do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle is a must. Dominating the city’s skyline, it inspires feelings of awe and wonder. The size of the castle means you can easily organise your own itinerary, but highlights include the Stone of Destiny, the Great Hall and St Margaret’s Chapel.  The castle’s popularity means it is busy, but do make some time to visit.

Scotland’s capital is also one of the greenest cities in the UK, its streets scattered with parks and gardens. If you fancy a break from shopping on Princes Street, escape for half an hour to one of the many outdoor spaces. Holyrood Park, at the foot of the Royal Mile, and Inverleith Park are our picks.

For some culture, the Scottish National Gallery, set in the heart of the city, houses masterpieces by Monet, Gauguin and Van Gogh. And it’s free.

Shopping in Edinburgh

A stroll down Princes Street is a must. Bustling and busy, here you’ll find major retailers such as Next, Russell and Bromley and H&M and Edinburgh’s very own department store Jenners. Princes Street Gardens is only a short walk away too.

For something a little more off-the-beaten-track, give the Royal Mile a whirl. The name given to the streets that make up the main thoroughfare of Edinburgh’s resplendent Old Town, the Mile is choc-full of souvenir shops and quirky retailers. Don’t let that put you off: you’ll discover kitsch gifts and Scottish staples such as cashmere, whisky and fudge.

A hop away from the Royal Mile is the vibrant Grassmarket area. Here you’ll find delis offering speciality food and drink, cool clothes shops, music stores and art galleries.

Food and drink in Edinburgh

Pubs full of character, super little cafes, fine dining and farmers’ markets. Edinburgh hosts a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, of which Castle Terrace is worth a mention. Headed by Edinburgh-born head chef Dominic Jack, the Terrace fuses French cooking techniques with contemporary British cuisine.

The Cellar Door offers Scottish fare at reasonable prices – think home-made burgers, Highland chicken and haggis bon-bons.  As for pubs and bars, the world’s your oyster. No trip to the Royal Mile is complete without a swift one in Deacon Brodie’s – OK, so it’s touristy, but it’s full of character and charm.  
Hidden Edinburgh

Here are three spots in Edinburgh you might not have heard of…

Old Calton Cemetery, up on Calton Hill, has graves from a number of notable Edinburgh figures, including the philosopher David Hume, and affords stunning views of the city.

The Museum of Childhood is smack bang on the Royal Mile but you’d be forgiven for missing it. A celebration of early childhood, the museum is an emporium of toys, games, activities and puppet theatres. And it’s not just for children – adults will enjoy it too.

Edinburgh’s hidden jewels are arguably the ‘secret gardens’ of the Royal Mile. Nestled behind the street’s tenements these green spaces are a little-known part of Edinburgh, perfect for whiling away an hour in pleasant surroundings.

Upcoming events in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 1-20 August 2014
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city. Come and join us in the celebration of arts and entertainment! 

Homecoming Scotland 2014 (right the way through spring and summer) A celebration of all things Scotland: people, landscapes, culture, sport and food and drink.

John Byrne – (14 June-19 October) Works by Paisley-born Byrne, one of Scotland’s most prominent artists, will be on display at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from mid-June. Around 60 paintings, drawings and multimedia works will be on show.

Enjoy your trip to Edinburgh.