Edinburgh: A city of history and elegance

Edinburgh is a city full of history and elegance, and because it’s so compact it’s easy to explore.

In fact, it’s the perfect place for an autumn or winter city break as there is a host of indoor venues, stores and cafes to dive into should you need to escape a rain shower. 

Here’s our guide to some of the best things to see and do in the city, from shops and eateries to top attractions and hidden gems.

Things to see and do in Edinburgh

A visit to the National Museum of Scotland will take you on a fascinating journey through the history of the Celtic nation. It’s home to more than 20,000 artefacts, so you can have fun uncovering things such as meteorites and monsters of the deep. If you venture to the top of the building there are stunning panoramic views of the city.

The latest attraction causing a buzz in the city centre is Escape. It’s a game of mental strength that involves solving puzzles and cryptic clues to get out of a locked room. You’ll soon see why it’s ranked among the best attractions in Edinburgh on TripAdvisor.

Of course, you can’t visit the Scottish capital without taking in its most popular attraction –  Edinburgh Castle – which dominates the city skyline. Learn about the Stone of Destiny and find out how the royals were entertained at a special Music Through the Ages event in October.

Shopping in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a great place to do your Christmas shopping. You’ll find all the big stores on Princes Street, including Debenhams and Next, as well as Jenners department store, which has been a city landmark since it opened in 1838.

The only Harvey Nichols store in Scotland can be found in St Andrew Square just behind Princes Street.

For souvenirs and traditional Scottish gifts such as whisky, handmade fudge and the finest cashmere, head to the Royal Mile, which runs down from the castle. Cranachan and Crowdie – is a particular favourite among tourists.

A great alternative to the more obvious shopping venues is Rose Street, which you’ll find behind George Street. It’s easy to miss but is well worth a visit as it’s packed with charming boutiques and cafes.

Food and drink in Edinburgh

Whatever your budget you won’t be disappointed by the wide variety of pubs, cafes and restaurants that Edinburgh has to offer.
If you’ve shopped ‘til you’ve dropped you’ll need to take a well-earned break. The Black Medicine coffee shop is just what the doctor ordered – have a shot of espresso to perk you up.

If you’re looking for a cosy pub, you’ve come to the right place as Edinburgh boasts some fine establishments. Tucked away on Broughton Street, Pickles is one of the best. This charming basement pub is full of character. The meat and cheese platters are great for sharing, and can be washed down with a bottle of house wine.

Angels with Bagpipes which you can find on the Royal Mile, offers some of the finest Scottish food around – and it’s not as small as it looks from the outside. We recommend the haggis, neeps and tatties, Ross-shire lamb and passion fruit cheesecake. 

How’s this for a unique dining experience? The newly opened Aizle restaurant on the city’s south side doesn’t have a traditional menu. Instead, you’re presented with a list of ingredients and your dish is made from a selection of those, so it’s a complete surprise when it arrives.

Hidden Edinburgh

Here are three spots in Edinburgh you might not be aware of…

Museum of Childhood: This hidden gem on the Royal Mile can be enjoyed by young and old alike. With more than 2,000 toys, games and puppets on show, you can’t fail to recognise some of the things you had as a child. It’ll make you feel all nostalgic.

The Real Mary King’s Close: Now a tourist attraction, this is a network of streets dating back to the 17th century hidden beneath the Royal Mile, where people lived and worked. Be warned – it’s not for the faint-hearted.

Old Town Bookshop: This bookshop on Victoria Street is an Aladdin’s cave of second-hand books, art, prints and antique maps. You’ll lose track of time as you browse the treasures in this hidden gem.

Enjoy your trip to Edinburgh.