Edinburgh native Susie Henderson gives the low-down on foodie hotspots, hidden museums, lifestyle stores and Scottish brews.
0700-0900. Grab your caffeine fix at Brew Lab Artisan Coffee Bar (6-8 South College Street, 0131 662 8963); regulars rave about the quality of the house blend espresso and yummy pastries from local bakery Le Petit Français. If you’re a tea drinker, there’s a tip-top selection of brews from Edinburgh-based Pekoe Tea too. Now you’re alert, jolt yourself into action with a fast walk through Holyrood Park, an extraordinary piece of wilderness in the heart of the city. For spectacular views, follow the trail along the rugged Salisbury crags and up Arthur’s Seat.
0900-1100. All that exhilarating exercise means you can justify a brunch stop at Spoon (6A Nicolson Street, 0131 623 1752) and munch on bacon and egg rolls, or go the whole hog with a tasty mixed grill, complete with black pudding and haggis. Just round the corner is an Edinburgh must-do, the excellent National Museum of Scotland (Chambers Street, 0300 123 6789), revitalised after a makeover in 2011. Its eclectic treasure trove of artefacts ranges from the Pembridge helm (one of just four surviving 13th-century knight’s helmets) to the Darien chest (symbolising Scotland’s failed attempt to establish a trading colony in 1698 in what is now Panama) to Sir Jackie Stewart’s 1971 Formula One racing car.
1100-1300. A few minutes’ walk away on the Royal Mile, you have the choice of a couple of small museums. Turn left on the High Street, and tucked away in a courtyard off a narrow close is The Writers’ Museum (Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket, 0131 529 4901). Housed in early-17th-century Lady Stair’s House, the museum celebrates three of Scotland’s literary greats: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Among the star attractions are Burns’ writing desk, a first edition of Scott’s novel Waverley, and a silver and tortoiseshell ring given to Stevenson by a Samoan chief. Alternatively, turn right on the High Street for a nostalgic wander round the Museum of Childhood (42 High Street, 0131 529 4142). Spot familiar dinky cars, dolls’ houses, books and board games, as well as favourite remedies and babywear from days gone by. If you’re after a quick bite, look no further than Oink Hog Roast (82 Canongate, 07584 637 416), towards the foot of the Royal Mile. Edinburgh’s second Oink shop opened in 2013 and specialises in deliciously warming, freshly carved hog roast rolls, topped with a choice of sage and onion, apple sauce, chilli relish or haggis. Bag a takeaway home-baked brownie for later.
1300-1500. Leave the bustle of the Old Town and mingle with locals in pretty Stockbridge, a village neighbourhood popular with professionals and young families and crammed with cosy pubs, independent shops and funky cafés. To reach Stockbridge, take a pleasant downhill stroll through the New Town’s streets of elegant Georgian townhouses, with plenty of opportunities to peak into unique galleries, boutiques and coffee shops along the way. If you’re peckish, The Pantry (1-2 North West Circus Place, 0131 629 0206) opened in late 2012 and serves terrific soups and stews, plus heavenly cakes and scones for afters. Bring shopping bags to stuff with house chutneys, Scottish meat and fish, and fresh fruit and veg. Next door, Dick’s Edinburgh (3 North West Circus Place, 0131 226 6220) is another Stockbridge newbie, selling quality gents’ attire, classy accessories and hip homeware. Another new eatery in the area is gastropub The Scran & Scallie (1 Comely Bank Road, 0131 332 6281), the latest venture from Michelin-starred Edinburgh chefs Tom Kitchin and Dominic Jack. Dig into calf’s liver with spinach and shallot marmalade, braised hogget shoulder with peas and lettuce, or classic fish and chips. Walk it off in the fabulous Royal Botanic Garden (entrances on Inverleith Row and Arboretum Place, 0131 248 2909). Highlights include the Scottish Heath Garden, intricate Rock Garden and wonderful glasshouses covering 10 climatic zones.
1500-1700. It involves a bit of a hike, but it’s worth returning to town via Broughton Street for a flavour of Edinburgh’s trendy East End and a clutch of cool indie businesses. At the junction with London Street is concept store Life Story (53 London Street, 0131 629 9699), whose displays of design-led clothing, stationery and must-haves for the home may prove too hard to resist. Curiouser and Curiouser (93 Broughton Street, 0131 556 1866) is a great spot to pick up limited edition art prints, unusual birthday cards or Scandinavian kitchenware.
1700-1900. Shopped out? Hit Bramble Bar (16A Queen Street, 0131 226 6343) for meticulously crafted cocktails. If it’s still light, take a stroll up Calton Hill. Follow Princes Street to its eastern end and along Regent Road, then turn left up the steep path. At the top are more great views of the city and a cluster of monuments, including the Parthenon-style National Monument.
1900-2100. Edinburgh offers a huge range of dining options. Timberyard (10 Lady Lawson Street, 0131 221 1222) opened in a former timber store in 2012; nibble on ‘bites’ such as pickled duck with horseradish and hazelnut, or tuck into hunks of venison haunch. In a brand new location for 2013, Restaurant Mark Greenaway (69 North Castle Street, 0131 226 1155) serves sensational Scottish dishes from hand-dived Orkney sea scallops to Borders lamb. Also new for 2013 is Twenty Princes Street Grill & Smokehouse (20 Princes Street, 0131 652 7370); tuck into the rump of lamb with twice-baked pea and parmesan soufflé or a 10oz sirloin cooked to perfection in the state-of-the-art Josper grill. Be sure to ask for a table with a view of the Old Town.
After 2100. Real ale aficionados can sip from 10 pumps at the Guildford Arms (1 West Register Street, 0131 556 4312), an elaborately decorated late-Victorian pub. BrewDog (143 Cowgate, 0131 220 6517) serves its own creatively named craft beers (Dead Pony Club anyone?). If style’s your thing, sip on draught Prosecco (yes, on tap!) in see-and-be-seen Bar Missoni (1 George IV Bridge, 0131 220 6666).
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Written by World Travel Guide.