With a medieval fortress sitting atop an extinct volcano in its city center as if it's NBD, countless spires, winding cobblestone streets, and an antique wash on every facade, it's no surprise that Edinburgh's whimsy is largely responsible for inspiring JK Rowling's Harry Potter. Full of unpretentious and welcoming natives who will join you for a sentimental singalong right after they insult your choice in whiskey, Edinburgh makes for an equal parts charming and raucous visit.
It's not all expecto patronum and butter beer in Edinburgh, though. The city certainly has a dark side and serves as the backdrop for other important pieces of cinema and lit, including (but not limited to) Trainspotting and one of my favorite books of all-time, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie – both of which are worth checking out before you go.
I think the most remarkable thing about Edinburgh is how seamlessly its urban landscape and natural surroundings complement one another. While walking around, it's hard to fathom that a green space as epic as Holyrood Park is situated smack dab in the middle of a sprawling, international city. Make sure to check it out along with these other must-see spots:
- The National Galleries of Scotland: there are three total, all of which are free.99, so take your pick.
- Arthur's Seat: in Holyrood Park. Climbing to the top may seem ambitious, and it definitely is. But also totally worth it.
- Shopping on and right off of the Royal Mile: Edinburgh's main thoroughfare has some touristy traps, but also one-of-a-kind shops like Unknown Pleasures, Mr Wood's Fossils, and IJ Mellis Cheesemonger.
It can be challenging to find places in the UK that aren't heavy on the fish and chips, which, at this point in my life, is not a sustainable diet for an entire week. Here's my list of recommendations that stay true to Scottish cuisine, but still have plenty of non-deep-fried options:
- The Red Squirrel: Their beer and burger lists are truly awesome.
- The Dogs: Traditional British food made with local Scottish produce.
- The Devil's Advocate: for dinner and killer cocktails.
- The Blonde Restaurant: Scottish food with a modern twist.
- Reverie: for more modern Scottish fare with a side of live music.
Socializing with Scotsman was certainly at the top of the to-do list. And they were quick to inform us that the Cowgate area is the place to go out while in Edinburgh. So, a night bopping around there is sure to be a solid time. Here are some other gems that we stumbled upon:
- The Hanging Bat: Edinburgh's answer to d.b.a... a must-see for beer snobs.
- The Black Cat: For a laid-back mix of locals and live music.
- Whistlebinkies: By far the most fun we had in Cowgate. A live band plays covers to any random ass hit song your heart desires, every night of the week, until 2AM.
Have a reliable recommendation or sweet spot to share? Go crazy in the comments section.