Edinburgh: Iconic buildings and warm hospitality

With its iconic castle, gorgeous Georgian architecture, bustling shops and thriving arts scene, there’s no wonder Edinburgh has been named one of the world’s top cities to visit by readers of Wanderlust travel magazine.

Here’s our guide to some of the best places for sightseeing, eating, drinking and shopping in Edinburgh…

Things to see and do in Edinburgh

The modern Scottish Parliament building is a sight to behold in Edinburgh’s Old Town. If you’ve got some spare time, why not take advantage of a free tour to learn about its innovative design and architecture? You can also visit a debating chamber and view proceedings from the public gallery if parliament is in session.

Opposite the parliament building stands the majestic Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.
Must-see at Holyroodhouse:

  • Mary, Queen of Scots’ chambers: Mary was Queen of Scotland from 1542 to 1567, however her reign and personal life was turbulent and she was executed by Elizabeth I. Her bedchamber here is known as one of Scotland’s most famous rooms   

A visit to the Scottish capital wouldn’t be complete without taking in its most popular attraction, Edinburgh Castle, which dominates the city skyline. Admire it from afar, or get a closer view of history on a tour of the site – see the Stone of Destiny, crown jewels and world’s oldest cannon. 

3 events at the castle this winter 

  1. Crime and punishment in medieval Scotland (7-13 February): Relive some of the grisly punishments dished out to criminals in bygone years.
  2. Zeppelins over the castle (14-15 February): Learn what happened when the castle was hit by a German Zeppelin airship during the First World War. 
  3. Dark of the night (14-15 March): Hear the story of how Sir Thomas Randolph launched an early-morning attack to capture the castle for Robert the Bruce.

Shopping in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a shopper’s dream – from high fashion to high street, foodie to jewellery. Here are a few of the top areas:

Princes Street:Edinburgh’s main shopping thoroughfare, this is where you’ll find all your favourite high-street stores including Debenhams and Primark. It’s also home to Jenners department store, which has been a city landmark since it opened in 1838.

Multrees Walk: For the finest luxury brands, head to the upmarket Multrees Walk. At Scotland’s only Harvey Nichols store, you’ll find the likes of Gucci, Victoria Beckham and Marc Jacobs all under one roof.  Other notable shops in the area include Louis Vuitton, Reiss, Burberry and Swarovski.

West End: This quaint cobbled area, just a minute’s walk from Princes Street, offers a vibrant mix of fashion boutiques, gift shops and organic food retailers. Discerning ladies looking for a pair of stylish winter boots should make a beeline for Helen Bateman. At Arkangel and Felon you’ll find classic style from Paul Smith and more.

Grassmarket: This historic area beneath the castle is the place to go for something eclectic. Check out Swish for hip street-wear. Think classic hoodies from American Apparel and retro Star Wars T-shirts.

At Hijinks you’ll find cool gifts for those friends with an edge. It’s the perfect place for a Saturday afternoon wander. 

Food and drink in Edinburgh

Whatever your budget you won’t be disappointed by the wide variety of cafes, pubs, markets and restaurants that Edinburgh has to offer.

Good sandwiches and coffee. The Caffeine Drip is just the tonic if you need to recharge your batteries during a marathon shopping session. Pull up a pew and enjoy a flat white coffee while tucking into Panini – we love the grilled chicken, pesto and sun-blushed tomato, and pulled beef with gorgonzola and peppers. 

A special cuppa. Tea connoisseurs will love Eteaket, which pours cold water on what it calls the ‘joyless’ experience of generic teabags, instead using ethically sourced loose-leaf teas. If you want to push the boat out, treat yourself to a decadent afternoon tea treat or tea cocktail.

Good pub grub. Looking for a cosy pub with warm hospitality? Try the Cumberland Bar, in Edinburgh’s New Town. Get warm by the crackling open fire as you tuck into beer battered haddock and sticky toffee pudding.

An intimate dinner. The George Street Bar and Grill serves up good food in a fashionable location, taking its inspiration from the traditional grand European cafes and brasseries. Its winter menu is rich in locally sourced ingredients and includes homemade venison pie, pumpkin tortellini and braised beef cheeks. 

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, this museum of playthings through the ages is sure to send you on a nostalgic trip down memory lane.

Devil’s Advocate: This atmospheric bar and restaurant is just off the Royal Mile. Try the haggis bon-bons and beef and pork belly burger – great hearty grub to warm you up on a cold day. Wash it down with a single malt whisky or refreshing cocktail.

Museum on the Mound: The Mound isn’t just the HQ of Lloyds Banking Group. There’s a free museum there too, which takes a fascinating look at money. See what a million pounds looks like, view Scotland’s oldest banknote and try your hand at cracking open a safe.

Enjoy your trip to Edinburgh.