I travel to Scotland a lot,
and mainly to Edinburgh.
Whether it's been for work
or taking guests around,
I become quite smitten with the place.
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.
When we go,
these are our favorite stops.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
THE ADVOCATE APARTMENTS: I love staying in apartments when we travel. I can't say that I've stayed in these, but people I trust to have good taste have.... and the pictures and price do the trick for me. Plus, the middle-of-the-action location is a big win.
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.
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.
THE KING JAMES THISTLE HOTEL: This hotel is next to the train station and has decent rooms. I'll stay there in a pinch, but it's not the most glorious accommodation. Staying here won't make or break your trip... it'll just serve as a good landing pad for getting out and seeing the city.