Updated: Jan 24
1. Arthur’s Seat
If you plan on visiting Edinburgh then you must take your hiking gear with you because Arthur’s Seat is one of the main feature of the city. It’s an extinct volcano which is the main peak of the group of hills in Edinburgh, forming most of Holyrood Park.
The hike up to the peak, depending on your fitness level, can take up to an hour, but if you’re quick on your feet you can get up there in about 30 minutes.
There are multiple options for reaching the summit, but if you’re looking for a slow and steady climb, I recommend you take the Green Route, which is known to be the best and most popular way to reach Arthur’s Seat. If you are in an adventure and awesome views, the Red Route offers the best of both of these.
Make sure you have a light jacket with you, even during the summer months, because it can get real windy up at the summit.
Before or after your hike to Arthur’s Seat, you should definitely visit The Palace of Holyroodhouse. This is Her Majesty The Queen's official residence in Scotland. Standing at the end of Edinburgh's historic Royal Mile, this fine palace is the home of Scottish royal history.
The entry fee for Adults is £15.00, which includes access to the State Apartments, Mary, Queen of Scots' historic chambers and the ruins of the 12th-century Abbey Church. Also, your tickets are valid for a whole year, so make sure you hold onto them or maybe give it to friends who are planning on visiting Edinburgh.
My favourite part of the palace tour were the romantic ruins of the 12th-century Holyrood Abbey and remarkable royal gardens. Even though it was the middle of November, the garden still looked fabulous and the views from it to Arthur’s Seat were incredible.
The historic fortress dominating the skyline of Edinburgh, sitting on the top of the Castle Rock (pretty creative name) was recently voted top UK Heritage Attraction in the British Travel Awards and is Scotland’s number one paid-for tourist attraction. If you plan on visiting then I suggest you buy your tickets online, which won’t only save you time from spending in endless lines, but it is also cheaper than if you’d get them on site.
The Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland, the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg can all be found in Edinburgh Castle.
Plan on spending at least 2-3 hours here, it’s a big castle and you want to take your time to soak in the beautiful history of Scotland.
4. Princes Street and Gardens
Is this 5th Ave? No, it’s not, but not gonna lie, comes pretty close to it in terms of the number shops located on one street. This is probably one of the busiest streets in Edinburgh with more than 100 shops on it, from designer stores, to tech and health and beauty stores, you will find everything you need on Princes Street.
Shopaholics, get your wallets ready because they’re about to get real thin!
Running parallel to Princes Street is its stylish sibling George Street, home to many upmarket retail stores and several hotels.
George Street is chic fashion hub, with stylish and on trend brands including AllSaints, Hollister, Jack Wills, Karen Millen, Kooples, Jigsaw, Rox Jewellers and LK Bennett rubbing shoulders with fashionable bars and restaurants including All Bar One, TigerLily, Le Monde, Jamie's Italian and The Dome.
Definitely recommend popping in to TigerLily to try one of their delicious cocktails, like the Greatest Adventure, made with Whitley Neil Rhubarb & Ginger, Cointreau, Coconut, Cherry, Sicilian Lemon. With a little luck, you might even be able to enjoy your drinks sitting by the fireplace.
Shopping can be very tiring so why not take a nice stroll with a hot drink in the Princes Street Gardens, one of the most important urban parks situated in the heart of Edinburgh, separating the Old Town from New Town.
Christmas is a magical time to be visiting the Gardens, because every year it’s transformed into a Winter Wonderland, one of the most remarkable Christmas Markets I have ever visited.
One of the best Christmas Markets I have ever visited, The Edinburgh Christmas Market opens on Saturday 16 November 2019 and runs until Saturday 4 January 2020.
The market itself is located at East Princes Street Gardens. beside the Waverley Station and the National Gallery Complex.
The Edinburgh Christmas Market is home to Bavarian style stalls, offering a wide range of food and drinks, festive crafts, but most importantly, there’s mulled wine, lots of it!
I really enjoyed the diversity of food offerings at the market and it made me incredibly happy when I found a Hungarian stall selling Chimney Cakes and Lángos. I did get both of those without thinking twince and they were absolutely delicious.
The Market is a free entry event, but rides and special events require a reservation and event tickets.
While you’re touring through the Christmas Market, why not visit the Scott Monument, the largest monument in the world dedicated to a writer anywhere in the world.
The monument was built in remembrance of Sir Walter Scott and the gothic masterpiece we see today was chosen from a long list of entries by some of the leading architects working in Britain.
Admission is £8.00 for Adults and £6.00 for Children, which includes the guided tours of the monument that run every half an hour from 10AM until 3.30PM.
7. Calton Hill
Calton Hill is one of Edinburgh's main hills, set right in the city centre. It is distinctive with its Athenian acropolis sticking above the skyline.
The top of Calton Hill is a usually quiet place to come on any day, with its grassy slopes and panoramic sights of the city, including down the length of Princes street and Edinburgh Castle. There is a good view North of the ruddy-coloured cliffs of Salisbury Crags, Arthur's Seat, and the rolling slopes of Holyrood Park.
Calton Hill can be easily accessed, it only takes about five minutes to get to the top of the hill from the staircase at Regent Road or you can drive up and park there.
There is a path right round the edge of the hill and a couple of historic buildings and structures on top including, for star gazers, an observatory. In fact, there are two observatories on Calton Hill: the Old Observatory House, designed by New Town architect James Craig in 1792; and the City Observatory.
If you’re in Edinburgh in August, definitely visit Calton Hill, which serves as a hub for the Edinburgh Festival shows and it also offers excellent views of the fireworks.
Thistle Street is jam-packed with wonderful restaurants, one of them being Fishers in the City. We visited this place because we have been craving a good seafood chowder ever since we had one in Ireland. What I loved about this restaurant was that it had a homey and cosy vibe, maybe reminded me a little bit of the country clubs I used to work in. Laid back, but sophisticated in the same time. It’s a wonderfully comprehensive seafood restaurant with an eclectic wine list.
A must visit if you’re in Edinburgh and of course if you love seafood.
9. Porridge at Brochans
Porridge or oatmeal can be a tricky dish to serve, but these guys got it just right.
Brochan unashamedly serves extravagant bowls of porridge from morning until mid-afternoon. Porridge made thoroughly exciting!
I can easily say that this must have been the best bowl of porridge I have ever had.
Their seasonal menu was absolutely fabulous, I had the black forest bowl, which was served with chocolate almond brownie, oat creme fraiche, cherry almond compote, cacao nibs and toasted flaked almonds. I mean, who comes up with such incredible flavour combos?
If you like a hearty but not your usual porridge than hands down Brochan is the place to visit!
One last thing that you wouldn’t want to miss out doing while in Edinburgh is visit to Café Royale, lofty and lavish tile-adorned Victorian bar offering real ales, whiskies and the best oysters in town. I unfortunately, didn’t go for the oysters but had a delicious Irish coffee here.
After only a couple days spent in Edinburgh, I can say with confidence that it is one of my favourite cities in the UK, not only because it’s so lively, but it also has amazing food and coffee shops with so much to do and see in the city.
I will definitely be back, Edinburgh!