A Guide to Edinburgh
Edinburgh is one of Scotland's most exciting, vibrant cities, offering many things to see and do. From its tiny, winding streets to its dramatic, formerly volcanic scenery, Edinburgh really encompasses the best of what a city has to offer. Throughout the year, Edinburgh is a hive of activity; however the city's busiest times are undoubtedly August, when people flood in for the Festivals, and the New Year period, when both residents and visitors alike hit the streets for the Hogmanay celebrations. The Scottish capital has come a long way from the days of "Auld Reekie", as it was affectionately known, to be one of the world's most influential cities. Split between Old Town, New Town and the port of Leith, Edinburgh is well worth a visit.
Getting There and Away
Edinburgh Airport is located 8 miles (13km) west of the city centre.
To and from Edinburgh Airport:
Express bus service (no. 100)
- Departs from UK arrival doors to Waverley Bridge, near the main train station.
- Operates every 10 minutes during peak times, early service every 20 minutes.
- Cost: Adult single £3.50, Adult return £6.00.
- Journey time: 25 minutes.
- Cost:from £18.00 to the city centre.
- Journey time: 15 minutes off peak.
2 main train stations:
- Waverley: Lies in the centre of Edinburgh, between the Old and New Town.
- Haymarket: Located approximately 1 mile west of the centre, and ideal for travelling to places in the west of the city e.g. Murrayfield or Edinburgh Zoo.
The main coach station is Saint Andrew's, located on Saint Andrew's Square, and is within walking distance of Princes Street and Waverley train station.
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- Edinburgh's centre is fairly compact, making it very easy to move between tourist attractions on foot.
- There are numerous walking tours available to explore the different sides of Edinburgh's heritage e.g. Mercat Tours.
- Walking is a great way to appreciate the best of Edinburgh.
Main provider is Lothian Buses.
There are a wide range of tickets available:
- A single ticket never costs more than £1.20.
- 1 day ticket cost: £3.00.
- 1 week Ridacard: £15.00 (bought from one of the Lothian travel shops or their web-site).
There are also numerous bus tours available:
- Majority of tours depart from Waverley Bridge.
- Cost: around £10.00.
- Many of the operators provide discounts for certain tourist attractions, so this can be cost effective.
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Edinburgh is full of many exciting and interesting sights that are not to be missed.
Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NG
- Edinburgh's most famous landmark, dominating the skyline.
- Perfect starting point for your discovery of Edinburgh.
- Briefly home to Mary Queen of Scots, and now home to the Stone of Destiny.
21st March to 30th September 09:30-18:00
1st October to 31st March 09:30-17:00
The Royal Yacht Britannia
Ocean Terminal, Edinburgh, EH6 6JJ
- Located in the port of Leith (3 miles from Princes Street).
- Accessible by bus (Lothian buses to Ocean Terminal approx. 15 minutes ride) and taxi (approx. 5 minutes).
- The former Royal Yacht has been docked here since 2001.
- Once aboard, you can gain an insight into what royal life was like on the Yacht, and discover more about its interesting history.
April to October 09:30-16:30
November to March 10:00-15:30
(Last admission 90 minutes before closure)
Under 5s free
(In August, tickets must be purchased at least 24 hrs in advance)
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
75 Belford Road, Edinburgh, EH4 3DR
- Has housed Scotland's collection of modern art since 1960.
- Contains over 5000 exhibits, including art by Matisse and Picasso.
10:00-17:00 all year
(During Festival times opening hours are extended)
(Charges may apply for special exhibitions)
The Palace of Holyrood House
Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX
- The official residence of the Queen when in Scotland.
- Well known for being the home of Mary Queen of Scots, and was used briefly by Bonnie Prince Charlie as his headquarters.
- Visitors can view both the State Apartments and the Queen's Gallery.
April to October 09:30-18:00
(The State Apartments are also closed on certain days of the year due to royal visits)
Palace Only: Adult £10.00, Child £6.00, Under 5's free
Palace and Gallery: Adult £13.00, Child £7.50, Under 5's free
(Tickets all include audio tours)
The Real Mary King's Close
2 Warriston's Close, Edinburgh, EH1 1PG
- Provides an insight into daily life as it would have been in the 17th and 18th century, complete with some spooky tales.
- Located beneath the Royal Mile.
April to October 10:00-21:00
November to March 10:00-16:00 (Saturdays until 21:00)
(Under 5s not permitted)
Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre
354 Castlehill, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE
- Located beside Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile.
- Provides a comprehensive look at the history of the famous drink.
- Find out how it is made, and discover the difference between the regional variations through a tour guide.
- Enjoy a sample of the many malt whiskies available in the restaurant and bar.
May to September 09:30-18:30
October to April 10:00-18:00
Holyrood - The Scottish Parliament
Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH99 1SP
- This is the new home to the Scottish Parliament and has provoked many reactions, due to its unique architectural style.
- Experience the Parliament in action and learn more about its history.
Business Days (normally Tuesday to Thursday) 09:00-18:30
Non-business days (normally Monday and Friday, and weekends when in recess): April to October 10:00-17:30 November to March 10:00-16:00
All visits must be arranged prior to arrival by contacting Visitor Services on +44 (0)131 348 5200
National Museum of Scotland
Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF
- A fabulous place to discover more about Scotland's rich heritage and its historical development.
- The museum exhibits rare artefacts and collections that help to bring Scotland's past to life.
Monday to Saturday 10:00-17:00
Murrayfield, Edinburgh, EH12 6TS
- The largest wildlife attraction in Scotland.
- Houses over 100 species.
- A perfect day out for all the family.
Open all year from 09:00
April to September until 18:00
October to March until 17:00
November to February until 16:30
Under 3s FREE
Royal Botanic Garden
20A Inverleith Row, Edinburgh, EH3 5LR
- Located 1 mile outside the centre.
- Occupies over 70 acres.
- Contains many rare species and themed features, e.g. the Chinese Hillside.
- Offers a tranquil retreat from the busy city centre.
Daily from 10:00
November to February until 16:00
March and October until 18:00
April to September until 19:00
Visits to the Glasshouses cost: Adult £3.50, Child £1
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Where to Stay
LateRooms.com can offer a great variety of accommodation in Edinburgh to suit any budget.
In the centre you will find many large hotels and budget hostels, while in the suburbs there are lots of B&Bs, guest houses and apartments.
- During the month of August and over New Year, Edinburgh is very busy as people flock to the city for the world famous Edinburgh Festival and the traditional Scottish celebration of Hogmanay respectively. We strongly advise you to arrange your accommodation well in advance. Unfortunately, rates will also be significantly higher at these times.
- During these times and at weekends, most accommodation (especially B&Bs and smaller properties) operate a minimum 2 night stay policy. Most of the bigger hotels will take 1 night stays, but tend to offer special rates for 2 night stays or more.
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Where to Eat
Castle Hill, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 2NE, +44 (0)131 473 2067
- Located in the Edinburgh Festival Centre, this stylish café/restaurant boasts an artistic, contemporary feel.
- A range of options are available, from coffee and cake (£3.50) to a 3 course meal (£13.95/£17.95).
- The menu is unusual and diverse.
- Open from 09:30 and most evenings.
38 Saint Mary's Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1SX, +44 (0)131 557 5754
- This is an Italian restaurant which serves authentic Italian food.
- An average main course will cost around £14.00.
- The restaurant opens for lunch and dinner.
Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF, +44 (0)131 225 3003
- The Tower restaurant is located on the 5th floor of the National Museum of Scotland.
- For dinner you will be escorted through the corridors of the museum to your seat, which provides dramatic views over Edinburgh.
- The menu has a very Scottish feel, and there are good selections of set menus available for lunch and early evening diners.
- An average main course will cost around £20.00.
- Open for lunch through to dinner.
Henderson's Salad Table and Wine Bar
94 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1DR, +44 (0)131 225 2131
- A vegetarian restaurant.
- Offers many options, including a quick snack from their shop, or a full meal in the bistro.
- A set 2-course dinner will cost around £10.00 (excl. drinks).
- The bistro is open for lunch and dinner.
The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ, +44 (0)131 556 2414
- A brasserie style establishment which offers a good menu based around traditional Scottish food.
- An average main course is around £15.00 (expect to pay slightly more for the grill).
- The brasserie is open every day for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
33 Castle Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3DN, +44 (0)131 226 7614
- Made up of a lounge bar, restaurant, and private dining room. It also boasts a roof terrace, offering fabulous views across Edinburgh.
- The menu has a modern European feel.
- A 3 course meal from the à la carte menu is priced around £35.00 while the extensive grill menu is more expensive.
- Open for lunch and dinner.
77 The Shore, Edinburgh, EH6 6RG, +44 (0)131 554 5502
- This is a Turkish style café which offers well-priced food.
- An Average lunchtime meal costs around £11.00 for two courses.
- The café opens daily from 09:00 until 18:30.
88 Commercial Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6LX, +44 (0)131 553 5933
- A French style bistro that offers a mixture of flavours from both France and Scotland.
- An average main course will cost around £13.00.
- Open daily from 12:00.
Restaurant Martin Wishart
52 The Shore, Edinburgh, EH6 6RA, +44 (0)131 553 3557
- Michelin starred restaurant serving French cuisine in modest, personal surroundings.
- An average meal from the à la carte will cost around £50.00 (excl. wine)for three courses.
- Open for lunch and dinner (closed on Sunday and Monday).
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Edinburgh has a lively pub, club and bar scene. This stretches right across the city centre. The range of venues is wide and varied - from underground vaults and old Victorian buildings, to purpose-built bars and clubs.
The area around Rose Street is a popular nightspot, known for its many pubs.
35 Hanover Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PJ
- Famously frequented by poets such as Hugh MacDiarmid.
- Basement entrance on Hanover Street also.
The Gordon Arms
133 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4BB
- Small traditional bar, popular with the locals.
Robertson's 37 Bar
37 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2NH
- Famous for its whisky collection: over 100 single malts.
- Many original fixtures dating back to 1901.
152-154 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3JD
- Built in 1789 and originally used as a house.
- Converted to a pub in 1904, and retains many original features.
- Children welcome until 21:00.
Grassmarket is a good location if you are looking for a cheaper student-style night out:
11-13 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2HY
- Traditional local pub with pool tables and old fiddles on the wall.
- Regular folk nights (usually Monday).
The Last Drop
74-78 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JR
- Named due to its location, near the former site of the old gallows.
- Retains original features.
18 Grassmarket, Edinburgh, EH1 2JU
- The only beer garden on the Grassmarket.
- Disco music nights on Friday and Saturday.
If you are attracted to the bar culture then George Street is the place to head for.
113-115 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4JN
- Trendy pre-club bar.
- Extensive food and cocktail menu.
51A George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2HT
- 2-for-1 promotions available on food and drink at certain times.
- Boast their own 'mixologist' for their cocktail menu.
- Trendy pre-club bar.
Brown's Restaurant & Bar
131-133 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4JS
- Dates back to 1767, originally designed for the Scottish gentry.
- Relaxing bar experience with an extensive food menu.
14 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PF
- Set in the old headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland.
- Cocktail bar as well as a separate restaurant and garden area.
Can be located pretty much all over Edinburgh's main hot spots. Here are a select few:
The Liquid Room
9C Victoria Street, Edinburgh, EH1 2HE
- Home to live music nights and club nights (from breaks to trance and techno).
- Have hosted the likes of Coldplay in the past.
15-17 Niddry Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LG
- Home to famous club nights such as Manga and Motherfunk.
- Located in the underground vaults of Niddry Street.
The Bongo Club
37 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8BA
- Hosts a range of live music, and club nights specialising in underground music.
If you are looking for a certain type of music style or a specific "night" you may want to invest in The List which is available from local newsagents.
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Theatre & Entertainment
When it comes to thought provoking theatre or cutting edge comedy, Edinburgh is the place to be and be seen.
Much of Edinburgh's theatre, music and comedy events are concentrated around the Edinburgh Festival, which dominates the city throughout August.
The name "Edinburgh Festival" is an encompassing term for a collection of different festivals which take place from the end of July to the beginning of September.
- Jazz and Blues Festival
- International Festival
- Fringe Festival
- Edinburgh Book Festival
- Edinburgh Film Festival
- Military Tattoo
- Edinburgh Mela
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For the Kids
Edinburgh is an exciting city to visit with children, as there is much for them to see and do. Most of the museums and attractions do incorporate a kids' section, but here is a selection of things to do:
32 Market St, Edinburgh, EH1 1QB
- Take a walk around the anatomy theatre or go on the hunt for cannibal Sawney Bean.
- Sample the terrors of the haunted labyrinth.
Open 7 days a week.
November 2nd - March 14th 11:00-16:00
March 15th - November 1st 10:00-17:00
Museum of Childhood
Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh, EH1 1TQ
- A delight for both children and adults.
- Provides a look at toys through the ages.
Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AS
- Provides a look at the development of the Earth, with plenty of hands-on and interactive features.
- Children are given the opportunity to touch a real iceberg, and experience the realities of a rain forest.
Wednesday to Sunday 10:00- 17:00
(Last entry is 15:50)
Under 5s free
Children's International Theatre Festival
- The Children's International Theatre Festival takes place at the end of May.
Edinburgh is a shopper's paradise, with many high street stores, huge department stores, and little boutiques to be found.
- Home to most of the major high street stores, e.g. H&M, Marks & Spencer, HMV, Waterstones, The Disney Store, and many more.
- Jenners: the famous Edinburgh department store, which is one of Britain's oldest, and is located on Princes Street
- Harvey Nichols: the first of the chain's Scottish stores, located in Saint Andrew's Square, and contains many designer brands.
- House of Fraser: part of the major chain, containing many designer products and household names. Located at 145 Princes Street.
It is also worth perusing streets around Princes Street e.g.
- George Street
- Thistle Street
- Hanover Street
- Frederick Street
These streets tend to contain more boutique style shops e.g.
- Jane Davidson, Thistle Street (women's clothes)
- Joseph H Bonnar, Thistle Street (jewellery)
- Futon Co., Hanover Street (bedroom furniture and accessories)
If you have time to spend, it is also worth meandering round the streets of the Old Town as there are many hidden gems to be discovered. It is worth mentioning that the Royal Mile is home to many of the tourist orientated shops.
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Gay & Lesbian
Edinburgh has a thriving gay and lesbian scene, which is predominantly concentrated around the Broughton Street area and commonly referred to as the "Pink Triangle".
There is a wide range of nightlife in and around the Broughton Street area such as the Blue Moon Café (1 Barony Street) and CC Blooms (23 Greenside Place).
Edinburgh also hosts the Scotia Pride Festival bi-annually, usually in the month of June. It alternates its host status with Glasgow.
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