A weekend in Edinburgh
We recently visited Edinburgh in May for a long weekend. Having not visited Scotland since I was a little kid (and all I can remember is the zoo!), I was excited to properly explore the city, and oh boy, it did not disappoint. Great food, friendly people and plenty to see and do 🙌🏻
Take a look at my recommendations below if you’re thinking of visiting Edinburgh.
When to go
We decided on visiting in May, as it was a fairly cheap time of year and we were hoping for decent weather. My parents visited in November and battled with temperatures in the minuses, so we wanted to avoid any freezing temperatures! We were very lucky with three glorious sunny days around 17-18 degrees Celsius and one rainy day (which tbh is pretty good going for the UK, right?!)
We decided on visiting from Thursday – Sunday as the flights were so much cheaper. Both flights were pretty quiet, as were the airports, and four days gave us plenty of time to explore the city. We could have definitely done a bit longer to cram in some more sightseeing and maybe have a trip to the highlands (which I’ve been wanting to do forever!) but four days will give you a decent amount of time to explore.
Things to know
It’s a very quick flight from London Stansted, at around 50 minutes to an hour at the most. No sooner are you up in the air, you’re starting to descend again (it was like watching a supermarket trolley dash the way the air stewards ran up and down with the food cart!)
Edinburgh airport is situated outside of the city, around a 20 minute taxi ride. We took a taxi from the airport for £25 and coming back we opted for an Uber, which was slightly cheaper at £16. Edinburgh has Ubers, taxis and a tram system, so there’s plenty of public transport if you need it. If you’re able to, I would definitely recommend walking as much as you can as you see so much more.
Just a note to say that Edinburgh airport didn’t cater very well for gluten free lunches (*sad face*) with just a few salads or porridge options. I opted for a Burger King without the bun (as luckily, I’m not coeliac) but just something to be aware of if you have any intolerances.
Edinburgh is made up of lots of pretty cobbled streets, so ditch the heels, people! I pretty much lived in trainers and Timberlands the whole time, as sandals and heels would’ve made me even more of a liability than I already am. Most restaurants were fairly smart-casual and seemed fine with us being in boots/trainers.
Be prepared for all types of weather! It ended up being much warmer than we expected, but the rain on the last day was heavier than originally forecasted. Basically, pack for every weather type and you’ll be grand 👍🏻
Where to stay
We stayed in the Grassmarket, which was not only stunning and quaint, but also very central for sightseeing and exploring the city. There were lots of restaurants and bars right on our doorstep, as as well as Edinburgh castle, the Royal Mile and Princes Street, with Arthur’s Seat around a 25 minute walk. It’s probably the best location I’ve ever had on a city break, tres impressed with my husband’s research!
Here’s the Airbnb we stayed in. The only downside we had was that it overlooked a courtyard, which got a bit noisy on the Friday night (we think a pub backed onto it) so there was a bit of merriment late in the evening, but other than that, it was such a good base.
(Not sponsored, just happy to share places I’ve enjoyed staying).
Food and drink
I’m very pleased to report that we had a lot of good food in Edinburgh. And you know, good food = good mood. There’s so much choice, you won’t be stuck for places to eat. Here are my top recommendations:
- Howie’s Restaurant (Victoria Street) – seriously good Scottish food. This place had beautiful decor inside and out, as well as plenty of choice on their menu. I had the Scottish smoked salmon to start and the hake main, Nathan had the haggis to start and the chicken main. Possibly my favourite meal of the trip. Great gluten free options 👏🏻
- Cold Town House (Grassmarket) – loved this place. We visited for a lunch and it was fab from start to finish. Gorgeous decor, great service, a good range of food and drink and some gluten free options too. I would recommend the halloumi skewers! The outdoor terrace looked stunning if you visit on a warm, sunny day.
- Oink (Victoria Street) – Nathan stopped here for a hog roast snack and thoroughly enjoyed it. Quick service and ideal for a lunch on the go.
- Palace of Holyroodhouse cafe – beautiful tearooms! We sat outside in the sunshine with tea and cake (dairy free milk available and gluten free cake that was melt in the mouth).
- Mamma’s Pizza (Grassmarket) – great for a quick, casual meal. We visited after a long day of walking and enjoyed our pizzas (gluten free bases available, and it didn’t taste like cardboard 🙌🏻)
What to do/see
There’s so much to see in Edinburgh and we definitely didn’t tick everything off our list in just a few short days. My advice would be to choose what to explore based on the weather, if you can, as some of these recommendations will be amazing in the sunshine but not so fun in the rain.
Recommended by my mama and papa, we visited on a beautifully sunny morning. It was one of the best castles I’ve visited; I particularly enjoyed the views across the city, the Crown Jewels and the Great Hall. There’s definitely something for everyone, as I love learning about the monarchy (I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to kings and queens) and Nathan is interested in war history, so the war museum was right up his street. Give yourself 1-3 hours depending on how much reading/perusing you like to do.
Top tip: book in advance or visit at 10am before the crowds hit.
Recommended by my old uni pal, Hope, this was one of the highlights of our trip. We love a good view and a good hike, plus the sun was shining and Edinburgh looked bloody stunning from the top. I wore Timberlands but I reckon you could easily walk it in trainers if you take the main route up. It took us about 1.5-2 hours in total, as we stopped at the top for a little while to admire the view.
Top tip: choose a clear, sunny day for this and take layers for the top as it gets windy.
Palace of Holyroodhouse and Abbey
This is located close to Arthur’s Seat, so it’s worth doing these on the same day. The palace and abbey are beautiful and I was desperate to explore them, but alas, they had an important visitor so we were only allowed to view them from the outside. So typical!
I’ll be honest, we did Princes Street in about half an hour as we’re not big shoppers when we’re on holiday. But if you love a bit of retail therapy, this is the place for you! So many brands, department stores and independent boutiques, you’ll be in shopping heaven.
You’ll also get some great view from Princes Street across the city – you can see the Scottish National Gallery just off to the right in this picture. The gardens were being renovated when we visited, but once they’re finished, this would be a lovely place for a stroll or to sit and enjoy a coffee.
If you’re not staying in the Grassmarket area, I would recommend a trip there. It’s a lovely, lively part of the city with quaint views of the Castle and plenty of independent bars, pubs and restaurants for you to fill your boots.
We couldn’t go to Edinburgh and not do the Royal Mile! It was quite busy at the top and there are many touristy shops, but it’s an impressive road steeped in history with lots to see. It did feel a bit busy to me, but probably because the Grassmarket was made up of much smaller cobbled streets than the Royal Mile.
Other recommendations that I would have loved to have time to explore include the several art galleries, Camera Obscura and Dean Village, as well as Edinburgh Zoo, which is located just outside of the main city.
I loved our trip to Edinburgh and I’m definitely planning on visiting again, maybe for a bit longer next time so we can explore some more of Scotland. The people were so warm and friendly, the food was right up my street and the whole city felt very quaint and welcoming.
Have you visited Edinburgh before? Let me know if you have any more recommendations or if you’re planning on visiting!
See more of my photos on Instagram by searching the hashtag #seekingsundaytravels or have a read of my previous travel guides for inspiration!