Hannah Drake

A Weekend Guide to Edinburgh

TravelHannah DrakeComment

Over the long Easter weekend, we decided to go to Edinburgh for our E date. Luke said he had been briefly, but I had never been before, so we were both so excited to go for a few days. We had gotten a few recommendations from friends and family (It was weird getting Europe recommendations from my parents since they went last year after our wedding!) and had a tentative outline of what we wanted to do, but we didn’t have any solid plans when we went, other than a gin tasting that we booked early.

It didn’t take very long for me to realise that Edinburgh is my favourite city in the UK (sorry London!) and my second favourite city in Europe (I see you, Rome!). But while I loved visiting Rome, I could legitimately see myself living in Edinburgh, especially if it’s in the Morningside/Bruntsfield area where we stayed.

Edinburgh also felt like a foodie’s dream come true. Like I said, we got a lot of recommendations from friends and family and we simply didn’t have enough time to eat at all the restaurants that we heard about. I’ll include both where we did eat and what else was recommended below. We could easily plan another trip just to eat at all these places!

WHERE TO STAY

We didn’t have a ton of time to plan the trip, so by the time I booked an Airbnb, a lot of places I thought I wanted to stay were already booked. We ended up booking a room in a family home, which isn’t usually our first choice (we prefer to have the whole place to ourselves), but it ended up being a godsend. We absolutely loved it!

The house is big enough that the room, which was an ensuite, felt separate from the family home. But Gi & Winston were truly the best Airbnb hosts we’ve ever had. When we arrived, Gi sat down with us over tea and homemade sourdough bread to give us some recommendations and show us the area where they live, Morningside.

We absolutely loved the area. Everything was very walkable (though I chalked up almost 26,000 steps on our first full day) and there were a ton of shops, cafes, and restaurants that looked amazing. I loved walking through the neighbourhood in the morning when things were quieter. I would absolutely recommend staying in Morningside or Bruntsfield, especially if you want to be outside the city centre a little, but still close enough to be able to walk (or take the bus) to everything you want to do.

On the Harry Potter Walking Tour we did, the guide talked about the Balmoral Hotel and the JK Rowling Suite, where she lived for six months to finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. If you want to go big (and can afford £1,500 a night), by all means, stay there!,

We had drinks at Black Ivy, but it looked like a really nice hotel as well.

WHERE TO EAT

Our Airbnb host recommended La Barantine for a quick breakfast. She said they have the best croissants she’s ever had, including in France. We stopped there for breakfast on our first full day on our way into town. It definitely felt like being back in Paris, sitting in the little French cafe having a croissant and coffee. Well, tea for me, of course. Gi said if you miss the croissants in the morning, you can head down the road a bit to their bakery and buy some straight from there.

We had breakfast at Southside Scran on Sunday morning since they only serve breakfast on Saturdays and Sundays. It’s on the expensive side, but it didn’t feel to me like we were overpaying for things we could make at home. Of course we could make breakfast at home, but we usually don’t make eggs benedict or avocado toast at home. We booked a table, but we really didn’t need to. The only bummer was that we went too early to get a Bloody Mary or a mimosa since they can’t serve alcohol before 11:00 on Sundays.

Gi also recommended Honeycomb & Co. for breakfast, but we weren’t able to try it during our visit. They’re brunch menu looks pretty good!

We’ve been wanting to go to Dai Pai since we first found out that Edinburgh had sushi burritos. We planned to go on our last full day in the city since it was near our gin tasting. We got two sushi burritos to go and sat in a nearby park for lunch. Sushi burritos aren’t the easiest thing to eat on a park bench, but they were pretty good. It was no Motomaki in Boulder, but it definitely hit the sushi burrito spot.

We actually had breakfast at Karine the morning before we left, but I’ll include it with the lunch spots because I basically had a sandwich for breakfast. It was SO GOOD and I think Luke really regretted just getting a croissant and a coffee to go. I can’t remember exactly what was on the sandwich, but it was something like ham, Brie, and some kind of chutney. It felt breakfasty enough for me and I’m so glad I got it. The cafe itself is also beautiful both on the outside and the inside. Again, you’ll feel like you were transported straight to Paris!

Our friend, via her sister who lives in Edinburgh, recommended Bread Meats Bread, a burger place with locations in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but we weren’t able to make it there on this trip. We did walk by it basically every time we went into town, though! They have vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, and halal options. Plus they have poutine!

We stumbled upon Oink while visiting the iconic Victoria Street. We had just had lunch (and a delicious one at that), so we basically just ogled over the pork sandwiches we could smell from outside. Oink is hands down the place I’m most sad about us not having time to visit on this trip.

Our friend recommended Dishoom as it’s the only place her father will eat out for a curry. That’s got to be the best recommendation I’ve ever gotten for a restaurant. There was a bit of a wait to even get into the bar, but they served traditional Indian drinks in line. The bar was absolutely stunning and the cocktails were delicious. Luke even considered posting his very first Instagram story of the bar, but settled for a regular post instead. I had the Kishoom Fizz and the Bollybellini while Luke fell in love with the Old Fashioned. They age some of their cocktails in these really cute apothecary bottles, which is such a cool idea. We pretty much decided on the spot we have to try that sometime. We definitely ordered too much food, but it was all so good. The couple sitting at the table next to us had ordered something that looked (and smelled) delicious and when I asked them what it was (Salli Boti), hoping it was something we had already ordered, they offered us a bite! We hadn’t ordered it already, but we were able to tack it on to our order. And it was worth it! If I remember correctly, we ordered the Vegetable Samosas, Butter-Bhutta, Gunpowder Potatoes (OMG!!!), the Dishoom Chicken Tikka, and probably more. It was absolutely a feast! They also have a location in Manchester and four in London. Each location has a different speciality dish, the Salli Boti being that for Edinburgh. I definitely recommend making a reservation.

My sister and her husband recommended Mother India’s Cafe to us, but we didn’t have time to try it. Rachel said she still dreams about how good Mother India was!

Our friend, again via her sister, recommended Kanpai Sushi, but we opted for the sushi burrito at Dai Pai instead. The menu looks amazing!

Our Airbnb host, Gi, recommended both Bia Bistrot and Three Birds, but we didn’t have time to try either.

We walked by Seeds for the Soul every day we were there and definitely thought about trying it. It’s a completely vegan place and while their website feels a little preachy, their menu looks pretty good! Nearby is Thrive, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant we also wanted to try.

And of course, we had to try Mary’s Milk Bar. My sister said she had the best ice cream of her life there: sweet corn and black pepper. Seriously! It was unseasonably warm while we were in Edinburgh so everyone was on the same page about getting some ice cream. We waited in a bit of a line, maybe 15 to 20 minutes, and I definitely felt panicked and rushed while we were in there, though I’m not sure I needed to. I felt like we couldn’t sample the flavours and even though there wasn’t anything as different as sweet corn and black pepper, I did play it safe with my choices since they didn’t have any of my usual go-to flavours. I got a cup of rhubarb and orange sorbet with cherry mascarpone ice cream. The cherry mascarpone was to die for! Since the shop is so small and it was so busy, we took our ice cream across the street to sit in the grass beneath the castle.

WHERE TO DRINK

We actually had dinner at Lebowski’s on our first night off a recommendation from my stepmom, who was given the recommendation by our friend at our wedding last year. Neither of us were very hungry, so we split a burger, which was really good. But of course the main attraction is the White Russian menu. The whole place is themed from the 1998 film, playing the soundtrack on a loop and showing the film on screens around the restaurant on a loop. The White Russian menu is quite extensive, based on quotes, characters, and more from the movie. I tried The Dude and The Kieffer, while Luke had The Marty and The Donny. Neither of us had every tried a White Russian before and even though I was worried I would feel sick from all that dairy, I felt completely fine.

Cold Town House was recommended to us for drinks, but we had lunch there as well. We ate lunch downstairs, splitting a pizza and fries, before we headed upstairs for drinks on their rooftop patio. It’s easily one of the coolest places I’ve ever been and probably has the coolest rooftop patio I’ve ever seen. If we lived in Edinburgh, I’d happily hang out there once a week at least!

We walked by Black Ivy while we were walking through The Meadows and I was immediately drawn to the facade. On the way back to our Airbnb on our last night, we decided to pop in and see what it was all about, even stopping for a drink. They had a really cool bar and Luke’s favourite beer on tap.

WHAT TO DO

Edinburgh Castle sits atop a hill visible from pretty much anywhere that we were at least. To be honest, I was picturing an entirely different castle because of an Edinburgh Instagrammer who I follow who regularly posts the castle from her hometown as well as her snaps of Edinburgh. Colour me surprised to find this castle instead. We saw it from all angles and walked up to the top, but ultimately decided not to go in. It’s £19.50 per person (£16 for seniors and £11.50 for children) and we just decided to spend our time elsewhere. We might get tickets next time we’re in town.

We decided when we got there that we would do a Harry Potter Walking Tour. We were able to book The Ultimate Harry Potter Walking Tour through Airbnb, snagging the final two spots for the tour the morning of. It’s £15 per person, but 100% of the money goes to Child.org. We met outside the Balmoral Hotel and our tour guide took us around the city, pointing out places that inspired JK Rowling when she wrote the stories, showing us where she wrote, and even the Scottish Writers Museum. The tour was certainly a lot of walking and we did see some cool stuff. The only thing I would have liked was more Harry Potter trivia. Our tour guide asked us a couple of trivia questions toward the end of the tour, but I wanted more!

We went down Victoria Street during our walking tour, but I recommend it regardless. It’s quite a touristy place, but it’s the most photographed street in all of Scotland and for good reason. There are a lot of shops (including two Harry Potter shops) worth popping into. It’s also where you’ll find Oink.

Luke found a Gin Tasting through Airbnb as well, which we booked in advance. The emails I got when I booked it called it a distillery tour (but it’s not labelled online as just a tasting), so we were a bit disappointed that it wasn’t actually a tour at all. One of the distillers at 56 North talked us through the process of making gin, what gin is made of, and basically all things gin while we sipped a G&T and got to taste a flight of gins. Afterwards, you get a mimosa upstairs, though I still don’t know why it’s a mimosa at a bar famous for their gin? If I recall correctly, 56 North has one of the largest collections of gin in the country, but they do have other spirits available as well. Luke and I got another drink after the mimosa and would have hung out there a bit longer, but Luke wanted to go watch the football match that was on. It was £25 per person, which includes two cocktails and an hour-long class.

My sister said we should visit the Botanical Gardens and I’ve seen plenty of beautiful photos, so I really wanted to. Sadly we didn’t have the time to make it on this trip, but it’s at the top of my list for next time.

Arthur's Seat Edinburgh

We really wanted to hike Arthur’s Seat on our second day, but we were absolutely wiped out from Saturday. We logged about 25k steps on Saturday and were genuinely sore from walking so much. Arthur’s Seat is an extinct volcano that you can now hike up, getting sweeping views of Edinburgh and the surrounding area. Depending on where you are in the city, you can probably walk there. It would have taken us about an hour to walk from our Airbnb to the top.

You have to visit the Morningside and Bruntsfield neighbourhoods while you’re there, especially if you’re not staying there. It was such a lovely place to stay and I really enjoyed walking around, seeing all the shops and restaurants. We stayed in Morningside, but walked through Bruntsfield on our way to the city centre every day. These were the areas that made me feel like I could live in the city. In a way, they reminded me on New York City, but much quieter.

We didn’t get to visit the Stockbridge neighbourhood while we were there, but my sister said it’s gorgeous. It looks to have some of the most picturesque streets in the city and it was seriously a mistake to miss this area.

Inside Stockbridge, you’ll find Dean Village, a former milling centre dating back to 1128. The buildings have been well maintained and it will probably make you feel like you’re outside of the big city and living in a quieter time.

Have you been to Edinburgh before?

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