Edinburgh is a beautiful, buzzing city and there’s always something new to explore. Last year I took Mr TBST to this awesome city to celebrate his 30th, and we later returned for the Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo, squeezing in as many classic Edinburgh experiences as we could.
You can fly to Edinburgh with ‘budget’ carriers from a number of UK cities, and there are great rail and bus links. If you’re flying, the Airlink return transfer from the airport is cheap and cheerful and the bus will take you into the city centre. And if you’re looking for reasonably priced and central accommodation, the Hub by Premier Inn is compact but friendly and just off the Royal Mile.
So here are my personal top 10 recommendations for an Edinburgh first-timer…
1. Take a walking tour. OK yes this may be a little obvious, but Edinburgh truly is a walking city, and you can take your pick of tours: Historical, Haunted, Sherlock, Harry Potter…. the choice is yours, but definitely take a tour, get your bearings and maybe even learn something. Many are free, and most are advertised along the Royal Mile. My favourite was the Sandemans ‘Dark Side’ tour with the brilliant Angus.
2. Join the gin craze at the Edinburgh Gin experience. Confession time… This gin is so good that we paid for checked luggage to fly our new gin supplies home! The Gin Connoisseur Tour will introduce you to some Edinburgh Gin classics, and by the time you leave you’ll be firm friends. Try the Navy Proof gin… if you dare!
3. Try something a little different at the Panda and Sons speakeasy. If you like your cocktails with a side-helping of prohibition-era glamour and pictures of animals wearing clothes, this is the spot for you. This kitsch secret bar is hidden behind a barber shop front with a false bookshelf door, and if you can find your way in you can reward yourself with a cocktail served in a take-away box – or something equally creative from their unusual menu.
4. Climb Arthur’s Seat. Head out early on a clear day for spectacular views, and clear your head after all that gin! So pack your walking boots, it’s worth the hike.
5. Get lost in the past at The Real Mary Kings Close. The eerie underground streets are the true Old Town, with 400 years of history to share, and the brilliant actor-guides will entertain you while giving a very real history lesson.
6. Pay your respects to Greyfriars Bobby. This beautiful commemorative statue to a loyal pooch is popular with visitors and always attracts a crowd.
7. Get swept up in the excitement of the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. I admit I was sceptical as I thought military bands might be a bit stuffy, but the event brings together entertaining performances from global military groups, and Edinburgh Castle is the perfect setting for this annual August event. The iconic lone piper is both haunting and beautiful, and the fireworks and visuals are super. Just remember to wrap up warm!
8. Indulge in a full Scottish breakfast at Whiski bar. This friendly bar is quickly becoming a tradition for our Edinburgh visits, offering reasonably-priced Scottish fare on the Royal Mile.
9. Stroke a bald cat in the Maison de Moggy Cat Café. Feels like velvet. Promise.
10. LOL at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Famed for its comedy, this August festival is about so much more, with drama, dance, cabaret, street performers, talks, burlesque… Navigate the frankly overwhelming Fringe programme or just see what takes your fancy. It’s a down-to-earth festival with artists flyering their shows up and down the Royal Mile and beyond, so you’ll have plenty of choice. At last year’s festival we spent a lot of time at Whistlebinkies, and the Waverley bar on St Mary street had some great comedy too. Some of the best (and worst!) things we saw were spontaneous and free – it’s all worth a punt. After all, laughing is good for you!
So that’s my top 10 Edinburgh first time activities, and I’ve just realised that most of them involve food and drink. No surprise there I guess!
Happy Travels x