This is a collaborative post.
Having lived in Glasgow and St Andrews my whole life, the longest I’ve ever spent in Edinburgh has been just under two days. For the most part, I leave home early in the morning to spend the day in the capital and return that same evening. If you don’t have that luxury, there are tons of hotels in Edinburgh that suit all price ranges, locations and proximity to the many sights the city possesses.
This past Monday marked the first day of my Spring Break at university and so I spent the day in Edinburgh. The spending money was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own. While Edinburgh is only a few hours away from those living in Northern England and elsewhere in Scotland, if you’re visiting from afar I’d definitely recommend two to three days to take in the city in its entirety.
I started my morning by taking the train to Edinburgh Waverley and walking along Princes Street to the National Gallery of Scotland, a partner museum to the National Gallery in London. Despite being a fraction of the size of its English counterpart, the National Gallery of Scotland houses some works by some of the most renowned Renaissance artists such as Titian (pictured above), Da Vinci, Botticelli and Raphael (pictured below). The public galleries in Edinburgh all have free access to the public, aside from exhibition spaces within those galleries. Not only are they friendly for visitors of all ages, they’re the perfect place to hide from bad weather and are a great way of learning not only about Sottish artists but the history of Scotland in terms of international relations, society and patronage of art.
From there I walked back along Princes Street and headed for Jenners, the city’s oldest department store, as well as John Lewis and Harvey Nichols to start dress shopping for my graduation this summer. The best part about clothes shopping in Edinburgh – if you’re looking for high street or high end shops that is, and not vintage – is that the shops are all within a ten minute radius from one another. Lining the streets parallel and adjacent to those shops are a ton of restaurants, pubs and cocktail bars. If you’re visiting around the festive period, a walk along George Street to see The Dome should be on your bucket list. Hidden gems like Cadiz and El Cartel are worth trawling Google’s recommended pages, because their food is unbelievably good. Although the Old Town is home to landmarks like Edinburgh Castle, the New Town is by far my favourite as it shows a much more cosmopolitan and realistic side to the city whilst retaining the charm of cobbled streets and Georgian architecture.
After lunch at the Balmoral, I climbed Calton Hill to photograph the views of the city, the River Forth and Arthur’s Seat. Atop Calton Hill are some examples of Neoclassical architecture and sculpture and the panoramic views of Edinburgh city and the surrounding landscape is more than worth the short hike.
From there, I descended back down the hill and along Princes Street and crossed over to the Old Town via the North Bridge, which leads straight onto the Royal Mile. From this direction, you can head downhill towards Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish Parliament or uphill towards Edinburgh Castle. The Royal Mile is a tourist’s haven and is lined with whiskey, fudge, tartan and souvenir shops for its entirety. I walked up to the front of the castle, where you can photograph it and the city for free or you can pay admission to enter and explore the fortress itself. As I’ve already visited many times in the last 20 years I opted to head down to Cowgate, which offers ground-level views of the castle and is home to my favourite vintage shop in the city – or probably in the whole of Scotland – Armstrong’s.
One of the most picturesque streets in Edinburgh is Victoria Street, pictured in the cover image of this article, which is a winding hilly road lined with colourful storefronts. From there, I headed back across the bridge to take the train home to St Andrews. I managed to visit all of these locations and landmarks on Monday in under five hours, so spending a few hours more or even an extra day or two is more than enough time to fit everything in that the city has to offer.
If I was to recommend any location in particular to stay in Edinburgh, I would firstly say it depends on who you’re travelling with and what you’re travelling for. For families or people visiting Scotland for the very first time, it would definitely be around Victoria Street or on the adjoining George IV Bridge. Close to plenty of restaurants, the Edinburgh Dungeons, the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Mile and the landmarks atop and afoot it, and just a ten minute walk from the New Town. If you’re travelling solo or a person looking to visit the city to go out, then staying in the New Town closer to the more affordable and more local bars and pubs would definitely be the better option for you.