Edinburgh City Guide: Christmas special

For a pre Christmas getaway we decided to head to Edinburgh. Living in the UK you’d have thought I would have visited this place more often, but nope, this was my first time (as an adult). In this post I’ve summarised my trip and highlighted the best of Edinburgh from food and drinks to things to do…

Not got time to read the whole thing?

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How to get to Edinburgh
Where to stay in Edinburgh
How to get around Edinburgh
Edinburgh nightlife
Best places to eat in Edinburgh
Things to do in Edinburgh

How to get to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is extremely easy to get to wherever you’re coming from in the UK, with an airport near to the city centre and a train station in the middle of the city.

We were coming from London and so probably should have got the train from London King’s Cross as this would have only taken around four hours… but it’s extortionately priced – even with a railcard! Because of this, we decided to look at flights from London Stansted instead. We paid £75 each for our return flights with EasyJet, which isn’t bad at all! As far as budget airlines go, I love flying with EasyJet. Mainly because they include your baggage in your airfare, unlike Ryanair!!

Getting to the city centre from the airport is made easy with the Airlink bus which runs every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day, to and from the airport and city centre. What’s more, it costs just £7.50 for an open return and takes about half an hour to get into the city.

Where to stay in Edinburgh

If you want to stay within the city centre (which I would highly recommend) then you can choose to stay in the Old Town or the New Town.

New Town: the New Town is located on the Princes Street side of Princes Street Gardens, and is ideal for cocktail bars, swanky restaurants, and the shopping district.

Old Town: the Old Town is located on the other side of Princes Street Gardens, and is a perfect place for you to stay if you’re looking to see the more historic side of Edinburgh including the Castle, Royal Mile, and not to mention the cute cafes and old fashioned pubs.

When staying in Edinburgh, you also have a range of accommodation options with hotels, Airbnb’s and hostels all being available. When we originally started our holiday search we were going to stay in an Airbnb, but then we came across the brand new Malmaison Edinburgh City Centre hotel, which was due to open a week before we were staying there.

Malmaison Edinburgh City Centre

I felt like this hotel needed a little section of it’s own, because I really couldn’t fault it and would urge anyone to stay here if they get the chance! If you’ve ever been to a Malmaison, you’ll know that the decor and service is just spectacular.

We checked in earlier than expected which was a bonus, and they assured us we were staying in a lovely room. However, when we got to the room we were surprised to see they had put us in a an accessible room… not usually a problem but the bathroom layout was obviously very different and there was also no mirror in the bathroom which would be no good for me when getting ready for an evening out!

Crisis averted, the reception staff were fully understanding and let us move to a different room which was actually much bigger and had a lovely bathroom with a huge light up mirror… I was very happy to say the least!

We had read the (limited) reviews of the hotel on Trip Advisor before we arrived, and the guests who had stayed there in the six days it had been open had mentioned that the hotel bar was amazing, in particular, they mentioned that the Pornstar Martinis were the best they’d tried in their lives – I can also account for this!

Our trip to the Malmaison cost £280 between us for two nights.

Getting around Edinburgh

WALK! Edinburgh is quite a small city and you don’t really need to get a taxi anywhere. The best way to see Edinburgh is to walk around and explore. You could do this by joining a walking tour starting from the Royal Mile, or you could just wander around yourself! We chose to do the latter and really enjoyed seeing different parts of the city.

Edinburgh nightlife

Depending on what type of a night out you’re looking for, Edinburgh really has got it all. If you want to read more about my favourite bars in Edinburgh, head over to my other post, The Best Bars in Edinburgh. Otherwise, I’ve highlighted below the different areas you could go to for great nightlife across the city.

George Street – head here for late night swanky cocktail bars and nice restaurants. The bars we went to; Tigerlily and Copper Blossom. Ones I would try if I went back include Contini and Tonic.

Cowgate – we walked down this street during the day and this looked like a late night party street, and a bit underground ravey! Some of the places you could try include the Three Sisters and BrewDog.

Grassmarket – this street is full of old fashioned pubs, great for a pint and some amazing pub grub. What’s more, they’re all open late and feature live music and student nights. When we were here we visited the Cold Townhouse, The Last Drop, and Biddy Mulligan’s.

Best places to eat in Edinburgh

In addition to having a wide range of places to enjoy drinks on a night out, Edinburgh is well placed with lots of restaurants and eateries.

Breakfast/brunch – On the first day we ate at Dishoom, as I’ve been to one before and loved their breakfast. With bottomless chai lattes and yummy brunch dishes, it was a no brainer. On the second day we came across Urban Angel by fluke, and it is THE place to be for brunch! It was so busy, so I would recommend booking a table in advance.

Lunch – We mainly grabbed lunch on the go but if you get a chance I would highly recommend stopping at The Last Drop on Grassmarket for some good old pub food. This place had such a great menu with classic dishes such as burgers and mac and cheese, as well as some Scottish favourites including haggis and stew.

Dinner – On the first night we grabbed some food on the go at the Christmas markets, which consisted of a vegan mac n cheese and a vegan hot dog. On the second night we dined in style at the famous Dome restaurant. As I had seen this place as a tourist hotspot, I hadn’t anticipated the food being so nice – but it was amazing!

Cafes – On the Royal Mile you’ll find a whole host of cute cafes and eateries to enjoy a cake or two. Our personal favourite – Mimi’s Bakery.

Places we didn’t get to try – It’s always so hard to pick where exactly to eat in such a short amount of time, so there was always going to be places that we wanted to go that we couldn’t. Firstly, the seaside town of Leith has some fancy fish restaurants that would have been incredible to try. There was also some Mexican restaurants that we would have loved to eat at, as that’s one of our favourite cuisines. Finally, we didn’t get a chance to eat at the Cold Town House, which is a shame as they’ve got a pizza and prosecco bar!

Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a city so naturally, there is a whole host of things to do in this wonderful place. In fact, too many things to do that we couldn’t fit it all into our trip.

Things we did

On the first day of our trip I had booked us a Spa Day at the Bannatyne Spa in the city centre (part of Ben’s Christmas present). This was the perfect way to start our trip as we could relax by the pool after an early start, and get a facial as well as a back massage!

If you visit when its Christmas, then of course you need to allow some time for the markets. Spend some time wandering the stalls, eating food and drinking mulled wine, and head to the Johnnie Walker Bothy bar for the best views over the markets.

You can’t really go to Edinburgh without visiting the Castle. It takes around two hours to walk around the Castle, but we were kind of wandering around aimlessly… we could have done with a tour guide or an audio guide – which they do offer! Entry to the Castle costs £17.50 and I’d recommend booking in advance if you’re visiting on a weekend as the queues can be pretty big. My main tip for the Castle would be to visit in the afternoon / evening just before the sun sets, as you’ll get a great view over the city with the sunset just as it’s time for you to leave.

On the approach to the Castle you’ll see the Royal Mile which is a great mile to walk. The street is lined with cafes and shops, perfect for a stroll and a gander.

For the most amazing views over the city I would recommend walking to the top of Arthur’s Seat. This lookout is particularly special, but only suitable if you’ve got good weather. Whilst it was cold when we went, the ground was pretty dry so this was safe enough. But, it was still a lot of hard work to get to the top, and quite scary on the way down! It takes around an hour to get to the top from the City Centre, so make sure you allow enough time and you’re up for the workout!

Things we didn’t do:

We were never going to be able to fit in everything we wanted to do, but we did research lots of things, which I can share with you!

I was recommended to visit the Botanical Gardens which is just outside the City Centre, and they also have a special installation for Christmas – which I would imagine is similar to Kew Gardens in London.

Edinburgh Zoo is also highly recommended, but we didn’t think there would be much point in visiting around Christmas as it would be too cold for the animals to make an appearance.

Leith was one of the places we would have visited had we had more time. This seaside town would have been great to walk to and enjoy a fancy dinner, but I guess it’s something we can do when we visit again!

Camera Obscura looks like a lot of fun, and this is something we probably should have done on our last day to kill a bit of time before our flight.

Walking tours of the City are readily available from the Royal Mile, and we didn’t end up doing one as we like to just wander around on our own. But, if you’re looking for a tour guide this would be the best place to start.

Whiskey / gin tours and tastings are popular in Edinburgh, with the spirits being made by local companies. We looked into doing the Gin Tasting with Edinburgh Gin, but we just couldn’t find time to fit it into our trip. Definitely something we would do if we went back!

Overall, I loved Edinburgh! It was a fantastic place to visit for a city break, with loads of fun things to do whether it be day or night. Have you been to Edinburgh? Let me know in the comments if you agree with my recommendations!

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