Since I started living in the UK in 2013 I was longing to go and visit Edinburgh. In fact, I was meant to go with a few friends when I was at university but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it because I had interviews in London. However, I did not give up and visited this beautiful city for my anniversary with my boyfriend, and it did not disappoint! Despite going here in February (mid-winter) we had amazing weather and the weekend was really magical. Based on my experiences, here are some of my favourite spots to see and eat at!
What to see:
- Edinburgh Castle: the castle is a key part of Edinburgh’s skyline and one of the places you must visit whilst you are visiting the city. The castle contains so much of the history of Edinburgh and taking one of the free tours to take you around the castle is one of the best ways to learn all about it. Learn about some of the most important figures of Scottish history, such as Mary Queen of Scots who lived here, and take the chance to see the crown jewels of Scotland, as well as the Stone of Destiny, a key item used in the crowning of new British monarchs for centuries.
- Princess Street: this is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. But do not be deceived by all of the retail located here, it is also one of the main historic spots of the city and it will take you past many key historic landmarks. On this street, you will find the most prominent art galleries in Edinburgh, the Scott Monument and some beautiful views of the castle.
- Arthur’s seat: for outdoor lovers (like me) this is a must-visit. You can hike to the top of this hill for some amazing views of the city’s skyline. I would recommend only doing this if the weather allows for it, as it is one of the highest points in Scotland it might not be the best on windy and rainy days! If you walk here from the city I would recommend going past Calton Hill and Holyrood Palace.
- Calton Hill: here you will find some of the most beautiful monuments of the city, and some great views of the city, also a great place to visit on a sunny day! If you are not up to the hike all the way up Arthur’s seat, this is also a great alternative.
- Mary King’s Close: the old part of Edinburgh has a lot of little streets called “closes”. They are iconic narrow and steep streets where most of the urban life would take place in the early days. I don’t often go on tours in cities because I find that they tend to be very touristy, however, I would definitely recommend visiting the close and taking a tour of this historic (now underground) part of town. It is a great way to learn about Edinburgh, its history and the civilians who lived here.
- St. Giles Cathedral: this cathedral is the main church in Edinburgh. It is stunning both outside and in and showcases the gothic-style architecture that is used a lot throughout Edinburgh.
- The Scottish National Gallery & The Scottish Portrait Gallery: if you fancy seeing some art, these are the two key galleries in Edinburgh, located in the middle of the city, on princess street. Fancy something a little more modern? Then go visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (there are two!). They are a little outside of the city centre but we walked here, seeing some of the less popular parts of the town, and took an Uber back.
- The Grassmarket: this used to be the most prominent market where most of the trade happened in Edinburgh back in the day. It is now a very cute little part of town to visit with nice little cafés and pubs.
- Take a tour when you get to the city! There are some great free tours (donate as much as you like) you can take. We went on a Spanish one with Edinburgh Free Tour (they also have English ones!) which was supposed to last two hours, but we were all enjoying it so much and the guide was so knowledgeable that it ended up being almost three hours! He took us to see some of the best parts of the city, also those less known to tourist. Some of the places we visited were: Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, Greyfriars Graveyard & Greyfriars Bobby, both the old and new parts of Edinburgh, St Giles Cathedral and the Heart of Midlothian Mosaic.
- Most of the sights in Edinburgh are located close to the city centre, so you don’t actually need to use any public transport, as most of the sights are walking distance! If you want to see some of the landmarks further outside the city we found it very easy to take an Uber.
Where to eat:
Edinburgh might not be as vegan/vegetarian friendly as London, but it does have some great places! We really enjoyed the restaurants here.
- David Bann Restaurant: it has a creative cuisine with some beautiful dishes and a really nice food presentation. I would class it as one of the more fancy vegetarian restaurants in town, great for a nice dinner! The vegan options weren’t that varied, but it has a really nice atmosphere and friendly staff, so definitely worth going to.
- Beetroot Sauvage: a vegan restaurant located on the south side of the city. It is quite the walk from the city centre, but we combined it with Arthur’s seat and had lunch here. They really have some really tasty (and cheap!) vegan dishes. From acai bowls, soups and salads to hearty warm and filling meals. They also have some great sweet treats.
- Hula Juice Bar: a cute place right in the middle of town, close to the Grassmarket in a lovely colourful street. It is perfect for lunch as they have smoothies, juices, wraps, salads and other bowls. The decoration is lovely and the staff super friendly. Would especially recommend going here on a sunny day and sit on the terrace.
- Hendersons: this restaurant was one of my favourites! You have to option to choose from a range of hot dishes and salads and compose your own meal. The best thing is that they serve vegan haggis! So I at least got to try a version of the traditional Scottish dish. It seems to be permanently closed now but hopefully, it will open again after COVID.
- La Favorita Pizzeria: an authentic pizzeria that serves wood-fired pizzas and pasta with gluten-free and vegetarian/vegan options! I chose this place because it was recommended online for its amazing pizza and they are very flexible with what they put on the pizza, so just order your favourite pizza without cheese or with their vegan cheese. They also have vegan options for their pasta dishes such as a vegan spaghetti bolognese.
- Albanach: now this is not a restaurant, but it was one of our favourite places in Edinburgh. Of course, Scotland is the home of Whisky and what better place to try as many as you like than this amazing bar?! They have dozens of different types of whisky to choose from. On of my favourite drinks is the hot toddy, a hot drink made with whisky, honey and lemon, and perfect for a cold winter day.
Hope this gives you plenty of inspiration for your trip!