If you're going to go there, consider yourself lucky. Not only will you be going to a place that is rich with history, but it's also super affordable. And what the winter days lack in sunshine, the locals more than make up for in cheery attitudes and witty banter.
It’s hard to resist this city. Just wait and see.
THE ELEPHANT HOUSE: J.K. Rowling penned the first books of the Harry Potter series here once upon a time. Today, this unassuming cafe is just as charming. The food is good and affordable, but the real winner is dessert. Read my full post about it here.
21 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EN | +44 0131 220 5355
CIVERINOS: This casual-but-cool Italian street food joint is located just off the Royal Mile in Hunter Square. Go for huge slices of pizza (like 1/3 of the pizza!), steaming bowls of pasta and a mountainous bowl full of homemade donuts complete with generous bowls of Nutella and homemade whipped cream for dipping.
5 Hunter Square, Edinburgh EH1 1QW | +44 131 220 0851
UNDER THE STAIRS: If you're looking for a restaurant where locals would actually eat near the Royal Mile, head to this pub. The food is delicious, the staff is great, and if you're lucky- you'll show up on Pub Quiz night and get to join in on the fun.
3A Merchant St, Edinburgh EH1 2QD | +44 131 466 8550
THE SCRAN & SCALLIE: Getting to this gastro pub will require a short taxi ride away from the main tourist heart of Edinburgh, but it's totally worth it to find yourself dining at this delicious local favourite in the Stockbridge neighbourhood of Edinburgh. This is a great date spot that will let you feel like you're really in Scotland. And with a tiny play room for kids off the dining room, it's also great spot for lunch with little ones.
1 Comely Bank Rd, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1DT | +44 131 332 6281
CHOPHOUSE: If you're looking for a cool (and filling) meal out, head to the recently redone Waverly Arches (just across from the train station on the Old Town side) to Chophouse. This is the restaurant's second location- the first is a local favourite nestled in Leith- and it makes for a great night out in Scotland eating some of the country's finest beef. If you go on a Sunday, the Sunday Roast is a great value. I was persuaded (ableit, easily) to try the warm brownie with salted caramel ice cream for dessert. Huge and filling. Bring your sexiest stretchy pants.
Arch 15 E Market St, Edinburgh EH8 8FS | +44 131 629 1551
STAC POLLY: This Dublin Street eatery was recommended to my family by the concierge of the Balmoral when we were staying there, and my parents really loved it. It serves classic Scottish fare- North Atlantic salmon, haggis in various forms, Aberdeen beef, local vegetables and all the Scotch you may want to try. The ambiance is cosy and the dress is s step-up from standard tourist wear. Dinner is served 7 nights a week, and reservations are recommended.
29-33 Dublin St, Edinburgh EH3 6NL | +44 131 556 2231
LE MONDE: Head over towards George Street in the "New Town" for this swanky eatery. The mood is hip, it's definite date material... and the prices are good. (Goodness, I love Scotland.) Read my post about it here.
16 George St, Edinburgh EH2 2PF | +44 131 270 3900
PREZZO: I'm writing this "chain restaurant" suggestion knowing that people will scoff, but hear me out. The location on North Bridge is great, the views by the window are fantastic, the food is always so good and yummy after a cold day in Edinburgh, the kids meals are 3 courses + a drink for £3.95, and there is ALWAYS a voucher that makes eating there amazingly cheap.
7-9 North Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1SB | +44 131 557 5346
THE WITCHERY: Located just below entrance to Edinburgh Castle, you’ll find another one of the landmarks of Edinburgh, The Witchery. This stunning restaurant is a dream scene for any special meal in Edinburgh- with dark panelling, drippy candles on brass candlesticks and an ambiance that feels luxuriously medieval. It somehow feels not cheesy and just exquisite... and the food is fabulous, too. While the prices can be high, you can always go with the set menu- or the Table d’Hote - for £40 offering three courses. Their set lunch menu is another affordable option at around £27 for three courses. The restaurant is split into two parts, The Witchery and The Secret Garden. There isn’t a “lesser than” option of the two- both are pristine in their own way. Reservations are a must, and should be made weeks in advance- but they really are worth it.
352 Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NF | +44 131 225 5613
Coffee and Other Treats
CLARINDA'S TEA ROOM: If you're near the Royal Mile and headed towards Holyrood Palace, stop in here for an afternoon. The table of cakes and sweets is too hard to resist. I love the gingerbread cake. Mmm... Be ready to share your table with others if/when it gets crowded. Enjoy the cheap treats at this cozy gem. Read my post about it here.
69 Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8BS | +44 131 557 1888
TEA AT THE BALMORAL'S PALM COURT: If you're in the mood for an afternoon tea with a little sparkle, head to the Balmoral's Palm Court. The mood is swanky and the decor is fabulous. It's the perfect place to waste a rainy afternoon and catch up with someone you really like.
The Balmoral, 1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ | +44 131 556 2414
FORTITUDE COFFEE: This is the coffee shop you can head to if coffee is really your thing. Or you just like to feel like it is. Located in new town, it's a small shop making good coffee with a tiny bit of pretense. (Which in most places in normal, but in friendly Scotland seems a bit more noticeable.) Food offerings are minimal, but good. Not a great place for children, and steep stairs make it very buggy unfriendly. This place feels best on your own or with another adult to cosy up to with at one of their small tables.
3C York Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3EB | +44 131 557 3063
BABA BUDAN: For those who want good coffee in Edinburgh AND a great donut- head to Market Street (just by the train station). This is especially a handy place to know about when you are headed to the station for an early morning train for a day trip. Wink wink.
Arch 12, 17 East Market Street, Edinburgh EH8 8FS | +44 7753 742550
EDINBURGH CASTLE: Sitting perched on the top of the Royal Mile, the Edinburgh Castle overlooks all of the town below. You'll see it wherever you are in the city. Plan your visit around 1pm, when the "one o'clock cannon" sounds. Also, don't miss getting a cup of coffee in the cafe by the windows overlook the firth (read: water) below.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG | +44 131 225 9846
ROYAL MILE: This street stretch from the Edinburgh Castle (the old Royal residence) to Holyrood Palace (the current residence of the Queen). In between each of the two, the Royal Mile sits. It's a fun street to stroll. Souvenir shops, St. Giles Cathedral, bagpipers... they're all there. Read my post about it here.
HOLYROOD PALACE: This is Queen Elizabeth's residence in Edinburgh. It's a fun visit (takes about 1.5 hours) and shoots you out the back garden towards your mandatory trek up Arthur's Seat. No need to book in advance.
Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX | +44 303 123 7306
CALTON HILL: Take the 5 minute walk up the hill to get a great view of the city. I hadn't made the (easy) trek up until recently and now I realize what a silly thing that was. Read my post about it here.
ARTHUR'S SEAT: The giant hill that overlooks the city is a favorite to climb. It's a windy, exhausting trail up- but you have to do it and the views of the city and the Firth of Forth (read: the water along the city) are stunning. Plan to give yourself 40 minutes up and another 40 to get back down. I'd watch "ONE DAY" before going just to get yourself mentally ready for it.
ST. GILES' CATHEDRAL: The famous church just off the Royal Mile is not ply stunning, but free entry makes it the ideal spot to warm up on a chilly day. Ask one of the friendly guides for a peek inside the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle for a special peek at where the Queen knights a small selection of Scotland's finest each July.
High St, Edinburgh EH1 1RE | +44 131 225 9442
PRINCES STREET SUITES: A recent find and one that I look forward to revisiting. Perfect for a family as these spacious apartments give multiple rooms for groups, and the views out to Calton Hill and the coast are stunning.
16 Waterloo Pl, Edinburgh EH1 3EG | +44 131 558 1600
THE EDINBURGH GRAND: This lush apart-hotel are definitely the hottest place to stay in Edinburgh. Recently opened in summer 2018, the design of the hotel apartments are top notch, the location in St. Andrews Square makes arriving from the station and exploring the city ideal, and the swanky Madmen-esque bar on the 4th Floor, The Register Club, is the coolest place to meet a friend in all of Scotland. All apartments have full kitchens. If you can splurge, opt for the Director’s Suite, which is one of the coolest rooms to stay in that I’ve seen in any city around the world.
42 St Andrew Square, Edinburgh EH2 2AD | +44 131 230 0570
FRASER SUITES: This is the first place I check for every time we go to Edinburgh. The prime location on the Royal Mile, the prices and the great rooms can't be beat. Start here.
12 – 26 St Giles Street, Edinburgh EH1 1PT | +44 131 221 7200
BALMORAL HOTEL: Okay, if you have the money- give this place a go. It's fancy. J.K. Rowling stayed here to finish the last chapter of the final Harry Potter book. It's great, the location is sublime... and the bathrooms are heavenly.
1 Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ | +44 131 556 2414
IBIS HOTEL: The rooms are okay, but the rates and location make it all better. If the Fraser Suite isn't an option, this is my next bet. I've stayed here tons of times. You'll be right in the middle of all the action. The breakfast is worth getting, if you can easily include it in your rate. It's got something (and plenty of it) for all types of eaters.
6 Hunter Square, Edinburgh EH1 1QW | +44 131 619 2800
RADISSON COLLECTION HOTEL: This hotel, once known as the Hotel Missoni, and later as the G&V Hotel, has once again been sold/rebranded. The interiors looks very much the same, the staff is great and the breakfast was really nice. The toiletries are sumptuous and the beds are not only comfy- but offer stunning views of Arthur's Seat. The location off the Royal Mile makes in an exceptional base for exploring the old town. Probably best for couples/singles rather than families.
1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD | +44 131 220 6666