Sunday, August 25, 2019

Edinburgh City Guide

At last!  My guide to the wonderful city of Edinburgh!  The city is split up into Old Town and New Town.  If you can't tell from the name, Old Town obviously contains the oldest part of the city, with buildings dating back to the 12th century.  The New Town isn't quite so new, as it was built in the 18th century when the Old Town started over crowding.  I'm sure you'll go through this and wonder, "What about Edinburgh Castle??"  "What about Arthur's Seat??"  All great things, but I decided I would just focus on things that I did and experienced, so I could give you a true first hand account.  Sure, I wish I could have done those things and more, but I was only there for a few days and didn't have time for everything.  I suppose it's just another excuse to go again!

Where to Stay
Hotel Motel One Edinburgh-Royal
My mom did the booking for our stay in Edinburgh, and as she put it, she booked something basic but with a good location.  Well, not only did the location end up being perfect for us - it was only a five minute walk from the train station - it was actually pretty cool!  Though I think it is technically a budget hotel, it's been recently updated with sleek and modern furniture and aesthetic.  We were able to walk to everything that we wanted to do (its location was right in between Old Town and New Town), and at the end of each day we came back to friendly staff, a warm shower, and a super comfortable bed.  The only issue we had was that the room wasn't stocked with shampoo and conditioner (the shower did have this 3-in-1 shampoo/conditioner/shower gel that was very watered down, and I didn't want to put it in my hair), which wouldn't have been a huge issue, except we forgot to pack conditioner.  Like I said though, it is a budget hotel so it wasn't hugely surprising.  

18 Market Street

What to Do
The Royal Mile
Perhaps the most tourist-y thing on this list, The Royal Mile is a street in Old Town Edinburgh filled to the brim with stores selling Scottish Cashmere, Highland Cow toys, and anything they can print tartan on.  My mom and I agreed that we're not sure if we heard a single Scottish accent within 100 yards around the street.  We suspect the locals try to flee from all of the tourists, especially during high season.  
If crowded, tourist filled streets don't exactly appeal to you (which I honestly don't blame you), you'll probably walk through The Royal Mile once or twice while exploring Old Town or on your way to Edinburgh Castle.  At least it has gorgeous old architecture to admire while passing by.

Georgian House
Set in the heart of New Town, this house remarkably shows what it would have looked like to live in the Georgian Era.  Filled with furniture from the era, the house has multiple levels with an attendant in each room to tell you that room's function.  You're able to see how both the upstairs and downstairs would have lived - it's a bit like Downton Abbey from the 1700s.  My favourite part of the house, though, is on the top level where they have dress up costumes for both children and adults.  It's a great way to live out your 18th century dreams.

7 Charlotte Square
Open Daily: 10am-4:15pm

National Museum of Scotland
I love museums with permanent fashion collections, so when I heard that this museum had one, I knew I had to go.  Though the museum is huge and has things for everyone to see, I didn't have tons of time the day we came here so I pretty much stuck to the fashion area.  Their collection of clothes was much larger than I anticipated, and - dare I say it - possibly better than the Victoria & Albert Museum's collection.  
If I could do it again, I would dedicate the whole day to this museum.  They had so much to offer; even their cafe looked delicious!

Chambers Street
Open Daily: 10am-5pm

Museum Context (Diagon House)
Scotland is the home of Harry Potter.  J.K. Rowling was living in Edinburgh when she wrote The Philosopher's Stone, and now it's practically impossible to wander up any street without there being at least one HP merchandise store.  If you're a fan, like myself, you'll probably want to peek into one or two.  But skip the generic Boy Wizard shop and instead find Museum Context.  I'm not sure if it's an officially licensed store or not, but these guys commit.  When walking into one, it really feels like you're entering a store in Diagon Alley.
There are two locations of this shop in Edinburgh, and I recommend the one on Victoria Street.  This location is three levels high and has a fun photo opportunity at the top where you can take your picture sitting in a Hogwarts desk next to Fawkes.  Additionally, Victoria Street is one of the real life streets that inspired Diagon Alley.

40 Victoria Street
Open Daily: 10am-7pm

42-44 Cockburn Street
Open Daily: 10am-6pm

Armstrongs Vintage
I'm always on the hunt for great vintage shops.  The ones that appeal to me are shops that have clothes through the decades - beyond just the 1980s/'90s.  This store pleasantly surprised me in its vast collection of clothes back through the 1940s/50s.  The best part?  They had pretty good availability (at the time) of sizes.  One of the trickiest parts of vintage shopping is how small everything can be, since people were so much tinier back in the day.  I had my eye on a few dresses from the '60s which I'm now wishing I had purchased.  Oh well, just another excuse to visit Edinburgh again!

81-83 Grassmarket
Mon - Thurs: 10am-5:30pm  Fri - Sat: 10am-6pm  Sun: 12pm-6pm

Tour of the Highlands
If you don't mind a day trip from the city, there are lots of companies that offer tours of the highlands from Edinburgh.  My mom and I really wanted to see Loch Ness, and luckily for us there were plenty of offerings.  We opted for a tour by Go Travel Scotland, where we had a 12 hour tour of the highlands and Loch Ness.  It was a long day, but our tour guide was lovely and we saw some great sights - we even got to meet some Highland Cows!  I recommend bringing a sweater, as even though you may take the tour in the summer, it can get very windy and chilly in some of the highland areas.
Let me know if you'd like a more detailed post focusing of my Highland Tour experience.  I have plenty more photos that I could share, and describe in more detail the places we stopped!

Go Travel Scotland
The Loch Ness Tour - £45 per adult

Where to Eat
The Elephant House
Remember how I said that Edinburgh is home to Harry Potter?  Thank this place.  It was this cafe where J.K. Rowling scribbled down the first chapters of the first Harry Potter novel, and the rest was history.  Now more of a tourist attraction than just a simple cafe, the food holds up pretty well.  They offer full meals in addition to just tea and cake.  However, cake and tea was all we had whilst there, so I can't speak for the rest of the food, but the chocolate and hazelnut cake that I had was delicious.  Be warned though, you will have to queue to get into this tiny cafe.

21 George IV Bridge
Mon - Fri: 8am-10pm  Sat - Sun: 9am-10pm

Mimi's Little Bakehouse
Oh, this place was delicious.  When my mom and I first walked in, we thought they only offered pastries, which would have been fine as I love myself a pain au chocolat.  But upon closer inspection, they also offer a breakfast and lunch menu.  I opted for the Nutella French Toast, and it was genuinely one of the tastiest things I've tasted!  My mom went savory for her brunch choice, and had the unsweetened French Toast with bacon - American/Streaky bacon I might add!
We enjoyed it so much, we went back there a second time where I couldn't help but get the Nutella French Toast again, whilst my mom had a giant scone with cream and jam.
There are two locations of this tasty bakehouse, however both times we ate by Waverly train station.

1 Market Street
Mon - Fri: 8am-6pm  Sat-Sun: 9am-6pm

250 Canongate
Mon - Fri: 8am-6pm  Sat-Sun: 9am-6pm

Ecco Vino
After a long day of wandering around the city and possibly spending an hour on trying to find a place to eat, we stumbled upon this small, Italian eatery just steps from our hotel.  The restaurant was filled with cozy booths, and we were seated at one right by the window so we could watch as the world passed by.  We started our meal with some olives, before we each decided on one of their many pasta offerings.  I hadn't been feeling the best earlier that day, but some warm pasta with home-made noodles was just the thing I needed.  We ended the meal with a brownie and freshly whipped cream which was beyond delicious.  10/10 would recommend.

19 Cockburn Street
Open Daily: 11am-10pm

Yo! Sushi
Okay, I know this is a popular chain across the UK, but I adored the Edinburgh location.  Why?  It was actually because of its location!  I already like this restaurant chain, and when we arrived in Edinburgh I had a craving for it.  Not too far from the train station, it's in the heart of Edinburgh's shopping district.  Because of this, the restaurant is on the smaller side.  However, if you can score a table by the window (like we did) it offers breathtaking views of the city, like the Scottish National Gallery, the Princess Street Gardens, and even a bit of Edinburgh Castle.

78 Princess Street
Open Daily: 11:30am-9:30pm

I hope you enjoyed my list of everything I did during my time in Edinburgh!  What did I miss?  Do you have a favorite place to see or eat there?  Let me know in the comments!

Elizabeth xx



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