Edinburgh was the first city we ever visited in Europe, so maybe that’s the reason why I love it so much. But I also think it’s more than that. Edinburgh has a magic about it and whether you’re strolling the Royal Mile, shopping and dining in New Town, venturing out to the seaside area of Leith, exploring the charming neighbourhood of Stockbridge, or hiking to the top of Arthur’s Seat, you know there’s something special about where you are.
Our second visit to Edinburgh brought us there just before Christmas. We simply wanted to go back and spend more time. Sure it was crisp, but every time we got too chilled we just popped into a pub to warm up. Having been once before, we had a better idea of where to stay and a longer list of what we wanted to see and do. Three days still didn’t feel like enough, but we were at least able to experience a lot more of Edinburgh than we did the first time. And we plan to go back again and again; It’s just that wonderful.
Our flight arrived into Edinburgh around six in the morning, so our first thought was to drop our bags at our hotel and find breakfast. We stayed in the Grassmarket area of Edinburgh (highly recommend!!) so we were centrally-located in the heart of Old Town. Scott and I both wanted a Scottish breakfast more than anything, so I did a little research before we left and found a lovely, local spot on Blackfriars Street in Old Town called the Edinburgh Larder. It was a quick walk from our hotel. We had to wait a bit for a table as the place was tiny and it was Saturday morning, but it was worth it when we were tucked into a table all cosy-like, sipping coffee and devouring a piping hot full Scottish breakfast each.
(Side note: Sure it’s blood sausage, but even if you’re not usually, be brave when the time comes and try black pudding! It’s delicious – especially with gooey eggs!!!)
After breakfast and a quick hotel refresh, we went back out to walk through the Old Town area of Edinburgh and rediscover the area we found so magical during our first visit. It was just as special the second time. I know it may be considered a “touristy” activity, but if you’re visiting the city, walk the Royal Mile from end to end and explore the side streets and the closes (alleyways) that wind off from it. Appreciate the old stone architecture and soak in all the history. Everything has a story!
During our first visit we bought tickets and toured Edinburgh Castle and its grounds, museums and sights. We found it fascinating, but we also covered everything very well, so we didn’t feel like we needed to visit again this time around (but if you haven’t visited the castle then you must!) Instead, on our first afternoon in Edinburgh, we visited the Scotch Whiskey Experience. It’s an attraction and shrine to all things Scotch Whiskey, and although I’m not a Scotch drinker, Scott is, so we went all in. They did have a beautiful tasting room/bar full to the brim with Scotch at the end though that even I could appreciate! And we both learned about how Scotch Whiskey is actually made. Scott was in heaven. After that experience, which took a few hours, to the surprise of no one, we finished our first night in a pub called The Last Drop in the Grassmarket.
Other attractions and key things to do in the centre of Edinburgh you might want to consider would be a walking tour (they’re a great way to get an overview of any destination.) If your interests are a little more niche, you could opt for a Ghost Walking Tour (the walking tours’ spooky alternative) or a Harry Potter-themed walking tour (the Harry Potter walking tour equivalent!) You could also experience The Real Mary Kings Close, explore Calton Hill and the wonderful views of the city, or trek up the Scott Monument if you’re not too claustrophobic!
On our second day, we got up REALLY early because we had many neighbourhoods to explore! We walked from the Grassmarket up to the castle to watch the sunrise (it was beautiful) and then walked onward into New Town (which isn’t actually new at all, its just newer than Old Town!)
…And now I’m going on a tangent to share Edinburgh’s best kept breakfast secret! … During our last visit and this one, we searched high and low for the best bacon roll. Heaps of delicious bacon on a fresh buttered and grease-soaked bun – could it get any better than that?! But in all our bacon roll sampling, we never found one quite as good as the bacon roll in the Rabbie’s Small Group Tours Office Cafe in New Town. I’m being serious. If you’re visiting Edinburgh, you should book a Rabbie’s Tour (they’re the best), but even if you don’t, just stop into their office to buy a bacon roll. We swear they are the best.
After the bacon rolls (droooooling…), we wandered through New Town admiring the Georgian architecture and slowly made our way to the Dean’s Village, which is the beautiful, picturesque riverside area you see in so many photos of Edinburgh. It was even more stunning in real life though and we spent a while taking photos and simply enjoying the scenery. From the Dean’s Village, we wandered through the streets and into the neighbourhood of Stockbridge, which was quaint and wonderful and full of stone buildings and someday I wish to live there because it’s perfect. By this time we were starved, so we stopped for lunch at a place I had read a lot about; The Scran and Scalllie. I’d heard it was fantastic which turned out to be 100% correct! Scott and I shared Scottish oysters and a steak pie that we both still think and talk about. I would strongly recommend this restaurant to anyone for lunch and/or dinner.
The rest of the afternoon had us wandering through Stockbridge until finally heading back to the hotel to warm up before venturing back out to explore the Edinburgh Christmas Market.
Edinburgh Christmas Market:
Every city should have a Christmas Market like the Edinburgh Christmas Market. Two words… Cheese Fondue (you NEED to find it and try it!) Two more words… mulled wine. Two more words… beer garden. In all seriousness though, the Edinburgh Christmas Market is a major perk of visiting the city in December. After you eat, drink and explore your way through the stalls and midway attractions, finish the night off by stumbling into a warm pub and staying a while. That’s what we did!
Edinburgh Christmas Market Tip: Avoid visiting the market on weekends if you can. It’s very busy on Friday and Saturday nights, so if you have the choice, you might enjoy your experience that much more during the week.
On the morning of day three of our Edinburgh visit, we took an Uber out to seaside area of Leith to walk around and explore, but also for breakfast. I’d read that a family-run pub called the Roseleaf in Leith served one of the best Scottish breakfasts in Edinburgh so it was very important to determine if that was actually the case. And it was in every way. You want to make the trip here – it’s everything you want in a Scottish pub.
After a walk around Leith, we headed back to Old Town to tour the Palace of Holyroodhouse (at Christmastime it’s BEAUTIFUL) and the ruins of the Abbey outside. Afterwards, we walked through the old graveyards peppered around the Royal Mile, along winding streets and closes, through the Christmas Market and down into the Princes Street Gardens for a view of the Edinburgh Castle from below.. We desperately wanted to hike up to Arthur’s Seat again (it’s an Edinburgh must-do and the views are incredible from the top) but it was just a wee bit too cold. We settled for neighbourhood walks with pub stops and warm drinks along the way instead. For our last dinner, we enjoyed a late night at The Devil’s Advocate. Scott had his fill of Scotch Whiskey and I made a solid dent in their wine stock. It was a wonderful way to end our second, magical visit to Edinburgh.
Have you ever been in Edinburgh? If so, what are your favourite places to visit in the city? Or what are your favourite places to eat and drink?
Happy travelling! xo Shay