Edinburgh is one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I was once more reminded of this when I recently visited the Scottish capital, having not been there for more than 12 years. A mix of Scottish, British and Nordic, the city has its own unique feel and identity. Though there is enough stuff to see and do for a long weekend, Edinburgh’s city centre is compact and its main highlights can be experienced in a day. So, off we go…
Time for a cuppa
Start your day with the best coffee in downtown Edinburgh at The Milkman, a small independent coffeeshop that not only does great coffee but also happens to serve some of the most delicious, fluffy cinnamon doughnuts I’ve had in a long time. A great way to kick off your Edinburgh exploration spree.
Walk along the Royal Mile
Walking through its cobblestone streets, it may come as no surprise that Edinburgh is the second most visited city in the UK. The Scottish capital is a real stunner. The Royal Mile – which is, in fact, a collection of streets – is the most important street in Edinburgh’s old town and is lined with historic buildings, monuments and statues. A true sightseeing feast.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
Follow the Royal Mile westwards and you’ll eventually get to one of the city’s most iconic structures: Edinburgh Castle. This beautiful medieval fortress was built on top of a former volcanic rock and looks out over much of the city. A visit to the castle makes for a great experience but if you’re short on time or the queues are too long then make sure to at least get a snapshot of the entrance.
Have haggis and mash
Say Scottish cuisine and probably the first thing that comes to mind is haggis. A mix of sheep organs, onion, oatmeal and spices – traditionally cooked encased in the animal’s stomach – this Scottish dish has a dodgy reputation… However, I think it’s super tasty! Haggis is often served with neeps and tatties: mashed potatoes and swede. Many restaurants in Edinburgh have haggis on their menu, including Arcade Bar, which claims to make the best haggis in town. I had a great version at Makars Gourmet Mash Bar. Don’t worry if you think haggis is not your thing: this low-key restaurant offers a wide range of dishes (and they even have a veggie version of haggis), all of which are accompanied by incredibly tasty mashed potatoes. And while we’re talking Scottish food: you may also want to try Cullen skink, a creamy fish soup (originally from the Scottish town of Cullen) made of haddock, potatoes, onions and veggies. I tried it for the first time in Scotland and loved it!
Head to Holyrood
After lunch, it’s time for a digestive walk. So, head east towards the other end of the Royal Mile, to Holyrood. This is where you’ll find the beautiful Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the home of Queen Elizabeth II and houses the Queen’s Gallery. Just opposite lies the Scottish Parliament, which has been based here since 2004. Whereas Holyrood Palace takes you back to the 16thcentury, The Scottish Parliament building is a celebration of modern architecture.
Climb Arthur’s Seat
Right behind the Scottish Parliament lies Holyrood Park, which is made up of several hills. The largest of these is a small extinct volcano also known as Arthur’s Seat. It’s a nice (though often windy) climb to the peak of the 251 meters high rock. From the summit you’ll have beautiful views of Edinburgh and its surroundings.
Have a drink at the Balmoral Hotel
Time to sit down with a drink. And what better place to do so than at the iconic Balmoral Hotel. This Victorian-style luxury hotel has been an institution in Edinburgh since 1902. It’s one of the grandest buildings on the elegant Princess Street and is hence difficult to miss. The hotel has two bars: a cocktail bar (Bar Prince) and a whiskey bar (Scotch). The latter has more than 500 different varieties of Scottish whiskey on offer – the choice is yours!
If you fancy a fancy dinner without it being too fancy, then make sure to book a table at Timberyard Restaurant. Ever since joining the Edinburgh food scene in 2012, this venture has received rave reviews. Based in (you guessed it) a former timber yard, the space is industrial yet warm and inviting. There’s a set 4-, 6- or 8-course menu that combines local ingredients with modern, Nordic-style cooking. A real treat and the perfect way to end your day in Edinburgh.