It’s no secret that I am ready to get out of Scotland for a while, I need to go and travel and see some new places. But until I can afford to, I make the most of where I am. Luckily for me, that’s Edinburgh – a beautiful world heritage city that’s full of eager travelers, energetic students and proud locals. It’s never stagnant, the people always change and the city takes on a new character every time another festival starts.
I was invited to write a travel guide for Edinburgh by a review site and I jumped on the opportunity. It was actually my Mum who suggested covering the city in 24 hours, and I thought the idea was perfect; particularly as I have met a lot of backpackers recently who only get to spend a day or two here. So I called up a friend who owed me a favour. I stayed up til midnight helping him cut out pictures and text for a project a couple of weeks ago, and so he seemed like the perfect person to bring along. Plus he’s my best friend so who else would I ask…what’s 24 hours in the grand scheme of things?
I don’t care how difficult it is. I don’t care how cold it is. Get up, put on some decent walking shoes and head straight for Arthur’s Seat. Do not do what Josh did and wear skinny jeans if you can avoid it.
Arthur’s Seat is the impressive peak rising out of Holyrood Park that gives hilltop dwellers a phenomenal panorama of the city. We don’t need giant ferris-wheels, we’ve got an ancient volcano.
The grass was so dewy this morning. Arthur’s Seat here we come.
Looking over my shoulder on the way up, straight out to the Firth of Forth.
It took 26 minutes to climb to the top, and here is Josh taking in the spectacular view.
After arguing with Josh for ten minutes about which way to get back down, we finally made it to Newington (the busy student area of town) to grab some breakfast at Kilimanjaro Coffee. This place was recommended by my flatmate and it was really pretty good!
The Kili Breakfast, minus eggs and mushrooms for me!
I recommend the freshly pressed juices if you go here, they taste brilliant. I tried the apple, orange and ginger juice – perfect after a climb.
A short walk towards towards the Grassmarket part of Edinburgh will bring you past Greyfriars Kirk. Have a look around the gothic graveyard and leave a stick by Greyfriars Bobby’s grave. Just be careful where you step though because the local community have planted a few wild flower gardens throughout the cemetery.
Edinburgh life; on the way to the Grassmarket and Cowgate
Sticks by Greyfriars Bobby.
The Creepy Wee Shop in the Graveyard.
Skull and Crossbones everywhere!
Leaving the cemetery.
Juice break at Hula! Edinburgh involves a lot of walking, so we stopped for another quick break at Hula just at the bottom of Victoria Street.
A Ginger Jack and a Whirling Dervish.
Scenes from Victoria Street.
It was time to climb to the top of the Royal Mile and visit the castle. There are quite a few attractions at the top of the Mile, including Camera Obscura and the Scottish Whisky Experience. If you are going to the castle, I’d suggest buying your tickets in advance; it is a very popular tourist attraction.
Look out for closes on your way up the Royal Mile.
It was nice to feel skinny for a change! Camera Obscura have some street mirrors outside their building.
Just inside the entrance to the castle; it has much more of a village-like feel than you would think!
St. Margaret’s Chapel, the oldest building in the castle. Just beautiful.
We left the castle and headed towards our lunch spot. But first, we stopped by Riddles Court on the Royal Mile. The little court has information plaques that tell the story of this strange piece of hidden history. I love this random staircase halfway up the building!
Lunch! We went to one of my favourite cheap eats in the city, The Original Mosque Kitchen. There are two mosque kitchens within a very short and confusing distance of each other; both are excellent, but my favourite would have to be the one that feels more original.
You have to cut through the mosque grounds and there it is, tucked behind the tall buildings.
The curries are very reasonably priced, and the portions are huge!
Dahl Curry – my favourite.
After lunch we went for a wander via the Meadows. The Meadows is a large green space beside the central university campus. If the sun happens to be out, the Meadows will be packed.
In case you didn’t fancy curry, there’s always a few street food huts nearby!
A quick whirlwind tour of the National Museum of Scotland was next for us! It’s easy to spend a lot of time in here, but when you’ve only got 24 hours to spend, you’ll probably want to keep it short. Especially as this museum is free.
Just make sure you see this bit…
So if you happen to follow this blog, you won’t be surprised that I made room for cake in the schedule. Especially since Edinburgh has so many good independent cake shops! We went to Mimi’s on this occasion (good choice); but if you’re in other parts of the city keep a look out for Cuckoo’s Bakery and Casa Angelina for other cake treats.
Mimi’s Picnic Parlour
Via Cowgate – the student club area of Edinburgh
Can’t go anywhere without checking out the shops? Well, in Scotland, Glasgow holds the reputation for best shopping city. But don’t write Edinburgh off completely, because we have some good shopping haunts as well. One thing I would say though, if you’re just looking for souvenirs, stick to the Royal Mile.
Princes Street, with my favourite Topshop in Scotland. If you just want to walk up the street, cross over to Princes Street Gardens to avoid the crowds.
Jenners; one of the oldest department stores in the world. None of the elevators make sense in this building; prepare to get well and truly lost.
If you’re looking for labels and spending a bit more money, head over to George Street. There is an Anthropologie there and it is my favourite shop in Edinburgh.
For boutique shops, walk down to Thistle Street. It’s a quiet little street with a few little shops dotted around. It also happens to have one of my favourite Mexican places, El Cartel.
All of these streets run parallel to one another, but if you want to really spend your money, cross over St. Andrews Square to Harvey Nichols and Multrees Walk for luxury shopping. Rather than actually shopping, Josh and I took this opportunity to have a well earned break and eat ice-cream back at my flat…
It’s the happiest he looked all day…
But if you feel like a little break mid-shop, there are no shortages of coffee shops in Edinburgh. I recommend Artisan Roast on Broughton Street.
This of course is making light of the fact that The Elephant House has been made incredibly popular due to the fact that J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter there. I also happen to like it because it is full of elephant ornaments.
The best latte art I’ve come across in Edinburgh…yet.
Hopefully you will have had enough time by this point to spend it on whatever you enjoyed the most. But I’d recommend getting back to the food scene! Dinner at Nobles was next for us.
Nobles is in Leith tucked behind some buildings along with a few other eateries.
I’m a big fan of this pub, I was here with my Dad just a few days earlier. Alternatives that I would suggest include Roseleaf, Miro’s Cantina, The Basement, or Ox 184 (where their amazing food is served until 2.30am!).
Okay so the next few hours turns into pub crawl mode. Or cocktail bar mode. Well, a bit of both. So here’s a round-up of what Josh and I managed, but I’ll give a couple of alternatives as well!
So this doesn’t look much, but that’s because the bar is underneath City Alterations. And this is one of my favourite bars in Edinburgh. In my opinion, it is the real speakeasy of Edinburgh; the sign is smaller than an envelope. It’s a really intimate bar, perfect to go to with your SO. It’s also fun to go with friends, but the music is loud (they take their music seriously) so don’t expect fantastic conversation. And one more thing, you won’t find more polite staff anywhere else. It’s Bramble.
Next up is Jekyll and Hyde. This place is just weird and wonderful! Have fun picking where to sit, have even more fun if you’ve got a student discount card with you, and have the most fun trying to find the bathrooms (I definitely went behind the wrong bookcase).
Next on our list was Panda and Sons. This is such a great cocktail bar, and although a speakeasy, it probably won’t be for long as it is getting so popular (probably because of people like me raving about it). Head into the barbershop, down the stairs and behind the bookcase (this time it’s obvious which book to pull).
It’s all table service at Panda and Sons, so expect to be served unusual tasting popcorn as soon as you sit down. Then take your time scrolling the menu; a personal favourite of mine is the Vida Villa.
This time for me though, I had the Missionary’s Downfall – not on the menu.
The Ghillie Dhu was next; an impressive looking bar and live music was playing when we arrived. By this stage, we were really happy that there was a taxi rank right outside…
Drinks in the Grassmarket – expensive but worth it for the great atmosphere. If you’re still in the mood for cocktails, head into Dragonfly – they do my favourite Long Island Iced Tea. Once you’ve soaked up the atmosphere in this part of town, head up the hill a little and drop into Oz Bar. This place is fun, lively and relaxed. I usually don’t remember leaving this place.
Cue arriving at Frankenstein.
I still have Josh. And I’m still taking pictures. Frankenstein is a great pub! If you’re into themed anything, then definitely come here. Frankenstein’s monster sometimes makes an appearance as well…
Okay so that is all the pubs and bars we actually managed before heading to a club. But some other one’s to consider: Malones, Paradise Palms, The Boozy Cow (formerly Amicus Apple), Safari Lounge, Monteiths, Slighouse. There really are so many more.
So clubs. There is a general rule, and that is ‘Old Town = cheaper and more casual, New Town = expensive and more dressy’. The first thing I have to get out of the way is Hive. If you go to Edinburgh you will hear about Hive. Hive has a reputation, and at first you’ll think it is a terrible reputation, and then you’ll start to doubt whether or not the people telling you how bad it is are actually being genuine. Hive is like a curse, no matter how hard you tell yourself you won’t be going to Hive, quite often the inevitable always happens. So if you do find yourself in Hive; embrace it, try to love it, and see it for what it is. Hive will give you some of the best nights out, and some of the absolute worst. Do not wear good shoes to Hive, they will be ruined forever.
Anyway, I’m glad that’s out the way. Where did Josh and I end up? Garibaldi’s. It’s the grimier and seedier version of El Barrio (also just lots of fun) just up the road. And that’s why we love it. There is a pole in the middle of the dancefloor, and you’ll happily give it a go because it’s for customer use. The seats have a lovely plastic cover on them, the toilets are questionable and the whole place is just brilliant. Josh disagrees. It’s definitely for the tequila lovers in town.
But I will definitely provide alternatives! Old Town firstly, well let’s be honest you’re going to be in Hive. You could go to Cab Vol, or Bongo (which I’ll be honest I avoid even if a small number of my friends love it, likewise for Sneaky Pete’s), but you probably won’t if you’ve only got 24 hours to enjoy. You’ll be experiencing Hive. Or you might be wearing nice shoes and decide to stick to New Town. Opal is a good shout but you’ll be spending money. Get on the guestlist for free entry before a certain time. You could always try tropical Lola Lo but again, expensive. Or Lulu (all the L’s get a bit confusing on this side of town). Why Not also exists…and yes it’s great for students on a Monday night…but that’s about all I’ll say. El Barrio? This is what happens on every night out. We consider the alternatives then go back to the usuals. I think for clubs in Edinburgh you just have to be brave and see what happens. Or just go to Hive.
Okay so you’ve lasted till 3am (or 5am if you’re here during the Festival – yes clubs are open till 5am!), so what do you do till 7am? Well, you can go to Storries Bakery on Leith Walk. It’s a 24 hour bakery selling some of the best pies in Edinburgh. And once you’ve succeeded at that I suggest you take said pie(s) and find a comfy spot to sit and wait for sunrise. If you’re lucky, it could be one of the most beautiful sunrises you’ve ever seen. Edinburgh is good at that.