Why you should seriously consider paying Edinburgh a visit

Say the name ‘Scotland’ to someone and they’ll reply with the usual things: the Loch Ness monster, bagpipes, the Highlands, kilts…Edinburgh.

Say the name ‘Scotland’ to someone and they’ll reply with the usual things: the Loch Ness monster, bagpipes, the Highlands, kilts…Edinburgh.

There’s one small problem with that. Edinburgh isn’t your ‘usual’ city. There’s no shortage of things to do—you say it, Edinburgh’s got it. It’s actually quite difficult to shorten it to a top ten, but here goes.

Tourist Attractions

Visit the castle
Yes, “visit the castle” is an Edinburgh to-do list cliché, but you really do have to see it. Despite being the second most popular tourist attraction in the UK, Edinburgh Castle isn’t too expensive to get in (£16 per adult, sadly no student discounts).

Highlights include the opulent banqueting hall, the Scottish Crown Jewels, Edinburgh’s famous ‘One o’ clock gun,’ and the Scottish War Museum.

More info:


Take in the Fringe
Edinburgh’s world-famous Fringe festival takes place during July and August each year, and nearly everywhere is a potential venue for a play, stand-up gig, or interpretive dance. Previous venues have ranged from check-in at Edinburgh Airport to the university’s Anatomy Museum.

The Royal Mile, in Edinburgh’s Old Town is at the heart of the action, with street performers doing free shows in the street all day every day. They usually draw in a crowd of 100+, so you’ll hear them some way off. Most shows cost less than £10, but the most popular gigs can be a fair bit more and sell-out in advance. It’s best to check the Fringe ( website in advance if you have a show in mind.


When in Rome
Many guides to Edinburgh will tell you to hit a pricey club like The Caves. Let’s face it, if you’re travelling to somewhere and want to experience the nightlife, there’s no point going where most of the locals don’t.

Hence why it’s highly recommended that you hit The Hive. Hive is one of Edinburgh’s busiest nightclubs, one of the few that’s open every night, and a local synonym for cheap drinks and no-frills fun. It is, if you like, the Ryanair of Edinburgh nightclubs, and boy do the locals love it!


Take your pick! Edinburgh is a shopper’s paradise. Princes Street is the main shopping street, and is located in the New Town, next to Waverley Railway Station. All the usual names are there. George Street caters to the more expensive tastes—Hollister, Jack Wills, et al can all be found here.

More expensive tastes?
Set your sights on Multrees Walk, a short walk from Waverley Station, next to St Andrews Bus Station, where you can find Harvey Nichols, and brands like Diesel and Calvin Klein nestled between exclusive boutiques.


Room for more? If asked to sum up Scottish cuisine in four words, many would opt for those four words to be “deep fried mars bar.” Those people, quite frankly, are blinkered – there’s so much more to food in Scotland (battered haggis suppers for a start…try Samsun’s on Fountainbridge in the West End). Try Café Andaluz, a cracking Tapas restaurant on George Street, or Maison Bleue, a petite French eatery on Victoria Street.


Slainte! (That’s Gaelic for ‘cheers’, by the way)
Try Milne’s of Rose Street. It appears to be a small pub, but the basement has another two bars, all with a decent selection of lagers and real ales. The food ain’t bad either. Speaking of Rose Street, those with strong stomachs may wish to try The Rose Street Challenge where participants have to visit, and purchase a drink from, every single one of Rose Street’s 30+ pubs (but don’t worry, there’s nothing in the rules about every drink being alcoholic!).

The Grassmarket is also famed for its pubs, one of which is The Black Bull, a quaint and reasonably priced pub in the shadow of the Castle. Bar Salsa is also in the Grassmarket and makes up for its lack of quaint-ness with its plethora of cheap drink.


Sleep Smart
Smart City Hostels
is in The Grassmarket and a cheap alternative to hotel for a few reasons. For a start, part of travelling is meeting new people, and you’ll certainly manage that when staying in a dormitory. It’s just off the Royal Mile, meaning you can get to practically all the major tourist attractions foot.

Not only that, but there’s a lively bar (Bar 50) with free wi-fi attached to the hostel.

Something different

Take to the water
The tiny island of Inchcolm is situated in the Forth estuary, on which Edinburgh sits. Inchcolm is a small island, with an ancient abbey, some old gun emplacements from World War II and little else. However, to get there you have to take a boat from South Queensferry, 25 minutes out of town. The boat takes you under the world famous Forth Rail Bridge. The trip is worth it just to get to see it up close, and the resulting photos.

More info: or

Hit the…Parliament?!
Possibly underrated as far as Edinburgh’s attractions go, but most definitely unique. Open Monday to Saturday, you can wander in (after passing through security, which isn’t as bad as airport security) and explore an exhibition about the history of the parliament, which was reconvened in 1999 after being adjourned for almost 300 years.

If you head in when parliament is in session, you can get into the public gallery to watch the debates (most are fairly calm), but First Minister’s Questions, at 12 noon on Thursdays, known for MSPs (especially First Minister Alex Salmond) using it as an opportunity to grandstand, is an honourable exception.

More info:

So, Edinburgh…not your average city, but all the better for it. If this does tempt you to head north, then just remember this simple rule: the less tartan it involves, the better it probably is!

What do you think? Have you been to Edinburgh? What other tips would you have? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.