Edinburgh’s Rich History
From the atmospheric cobbled streets of the Old Town to the beautiful Georgian avenues of the New Town, Edinburgh is a city of contrasts blending shopping, historic attractions, gardens and plenty of restaurants and cafés where you can relax. Edinburgh boasts a rich and intriguing history which can be uncovered as you explore the city. The atmosphere of its quaint streets, wonderful architecture, old closes and wide avenues allow you to imagine yourself transported back in time.
Scotland’s capital grew around its Old Town until the late 18th century and this area of the city still has a distinct character from the iconic castle at the top of the Royal Mile to the Grassmarket below, where public hangings formerly took place. The Nor Loch acted as a natural defence for the city at this time before it was drained and converted into the beautiful Princes Street Gardens in later years.
During the Victorian era, Edinburgh earned itself a nickname as ‘Auld Reekie’ due to the smoke from the steam engines and the pollution of the industrial revolution.
After 1583, the city was also a hub for educational and professional development since the world-famous university was founded. The University of Edinburgh still stands today as a symbol of the knowledge and intellectual talent to be found in the city. Many new ventures occurred including the founding of the Bank of Scotland in 1695, marking Edinburgh as a financial capital by the end of the 20th century.
The year 1707 saw the Act of Union, which joined Scotland and England together politically, and moved power from Edinburgh’s old parliament to London’s Westminster. Tenements were an identifying feature of the city by the late 18th century, when the population was expanding rapidly to around 35,000. The rich lived on the desirable upper and middle floors of these buildings while the poor were relegated to the lower levels.
Living conditions were not good at this time and many wealthy residents moved to London. Eventually a competition to design a new part of the city was put in place to try to attract the wealthy back to Edinburgh. James Craig won this contest and his ideas and influences are still visible in the grid pattern of the streets of the Georgian New Town.
King George IV visited Edinburgh in 1822 and by then, it was Europe’s most influential financial city outside of London with neoclassical architecture giving it a name as the Athens of the North. Today, Edinburgh combines both modernity and tradition. Modern architecture such as the Scottish Parliament sits next to a wonderful baroque buildings, including the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Each community is individual, giving you a unique sense of the past and present as you explore.
Areas of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a compact city but you will be amazed at the diverse ‘villages’ just waiting to be uncovered. Explore the secret closes of the Royal Mile, stroll along the Water of Leith, dine at first-class restaurants and visit the home of Scottish Rugby. Explore Edinburgh’s beautifully preserved Old and New Town and discover an incredible array of historical and cultural attractions. Edinburgh’s stunning cityscape is one of dramatic contrasts. From the refined elegance of the Georgian New Town to the Old Town’s tangled web of medieval streets, these two complementary parts of the city offer visitors an ever-changing perspective alongside countless fascinating historical and cultural attractions.
Edinburgh’s World Heritage
Edinburgh is a city steeped in history and its stunning rich architectural heritage is now recognised as a World Heritage Site. With over 4,500 listed buildings, Edinburgh is world-renowned for its rich architectural heritage. The two main areas of particular interest in this historic city are the Old Town, which includes the medieval fortress of Edinburgh Castle, and the neoclassical New Town which dates back to the 18th century. The juxtaposition of medieval architecture with neoclassical terraces gives Edinburgh its own unique character.
Together, the Old and New Towns were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1995, a status which will conserve Edinburgh’s magnificent architecture for future generations to enjoy. Following this, the Edinburgh World Heritage was created in 1999 and is funded by Historic Scotland and the City of Edinburgh Council. The charity aims, amongst other things, to monitor the site’s state of conservation and fund conservation projects.
The Old Town features the tourist hub of the Royal Mile, a long street exactly one Scots mile long, featuring a medieval castle, narrow closes, Reformation buildings, kirks, turrets and plenty of nooks and crannies. Head over to the New Town and you will find the grand Georgian Terraces, more suited to the figures of the Scottish Enlightenment who wished to escape the over-crowded Old Town.
Discover for yourself the fascinating history and stories behind many of the public spaces of the Old and New Towns by downloading the Heritage Trail and listening to the podcast for each location. You can uncover the fascinating layers of history that lie hidden behind the stone façades of Edinburgh’s historic building by listening to the Edinburgh’s House Histories podcast.
For more information visit the Edinburgh World Heritage website, and download your copy of the free new Edinburgh World Heritage iPhone App to help you explore the best of Edinburgh’s extensive heritage.
Discover Edinburgh’s amazingly preserved medieval Old Town as you wander its labyrinthine network of narrow alleyways and cobbled streets. Admire its Reformation-era tenement buildings as you walk down the Royal Mile from the top of Castle Rock where Edinburgh Castle sits, to the grand Palace of Holyroodhouse. See the magnificent vaulted ceiling and ornate tombs of St Giles’ Cathedral and view priceless artefacts in the recently refurbished National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.
You can even delve beneath the town’s surface on an Edinburgh Vaults Tours and discover a secret subterranean world of forgotten chambers that once housed the city’s poor. While the Old Town is a fascinating destination at any time of year, it is particularly captivating in August when its austere streets come alive with the sights and sounds of the Edinburgh Fringe and Festival.
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is the perfect place to begin a rich, historical journey of Scotland’s capital city then wind down in the vibrant and eclectic Grassmarket area. Then you’re off for a visit to Leith, which is an area like no other boasting its own distinct character. Leith is a hub of lively eating and drinking spots, creativity and cultural diversity.
Inspired by the lofty ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment, the neat and ordered grid of the New Town provides an elegant contrast to the jumbled design of the Old Town. Admire the spectacular neoclassical architecture as you wander down its broad streets and get a glimpse of how life was lived by the city’s upper classes in the 18th century on a visit to the beautiful Georgian House in Charlotte Square.
You can also view paintings and photographs of Scotland’s most iconic figures, from Mary Queen of Scots to Sean Connery, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street. Afterwards, browse the sophisticated boutiques on George Street before settling down to a drink or meal in one of its chic bars and restaurants.
Edinburgh’s bustling city centre is a sight to behold offering visitors an extraordinary blend of shopping and fascinating historical and cultural attractions alongside magnificent architecture.
Edinburgh’s city centre ranks as one of the most handsome in Europe. With its elegant Georgian streets set against the dramatic silhouette of Edinburgh Castle and the medieval turrets and spires of the Old Town, Edinburgh’s city centre offers visitors an exciting fusion of shopping, dining and architectural splendour.
Where else can you experience fantastic shopping while enjoying uninterrupted views of an ancient fortress perched atop a giant volcanic rock? Admire stunning views of Edinburgh’s iconic castle as you browse its stunning selection of high street and designer brands, and explore inside large shopping centres and old-fashioned department stores. But Princes Street has more to offer than just retail therapy.
For a mesmerising bird’s eye view of the city, climb the 287 steps to the top of the Scott Monument, and visit the National Gallery of Scotland to see world-renowned works of art. Or spend pleasant summer days relaxing in Princes Street Gardens, or experience the city at Christmas when the gardens are transformed into a glittering winter wonderland complete with an ice rink, Ferris wheel and German Market.
Shopping Princes Street
When it comes to shopping in Edinburgh, it’s not just the unique mix of high street names, designer stores and independent shops that make it an experience to remember. Combine the wide choice of shops with stunning architecture and striking views and Edinburgh becomes the perfect shopping destination.
For a first-class experience shopping in Edinburgh, Princes Street should be your first stop. Wander along the wide pavement of the street in Edinburgh’s city centre and enjoy the impressive views of Edinburgh Castle, towering above the beautiful Princes Street Gardens. Equally impressive is the shops; Princes Street shopping is a blend of high street brands with famous department stores such as Jenners, an Edinburgh institution since 1938, which sits in a beautiful building full of Victorian grandeur.
Take the time to look around the shopping centres of Princes Mall and the St James Centre in Edinburgh to find more variety of stores with new trends in clothes and footwear and gifts for friends and family back home. The St James Centre is home to the department store John Lewis, where you can spend hours browsing, while Princes Mall also has a fantastic food court where you can grab a bite to eat or enjoy a quick coffee.
The Royal Mile sits at the heart of Edinburgh and connects the magnificent Edinburgh Castle perched high on volcanic rock with the splendorous Palace of Holyroodhouse resting in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat. The Mile is overlooked by impressive, towering tenements between which closes and stairways help to create a secret underground world.
Peppered with superb attractions such as The Real Mary King’s Close, historical sites such as St Giles’ Cathedral, wonderful shops and some of the best eating and drinking spots in the city – don’t miss the luxurious Witchery Restaurant – there is so much to see and do on the Royal Mile. For recent history, be sure to visit the impressive and ultra-modern Scottish Parliament building with its cutting-edge design.
Shopping the Royal Mile
The Royal Mile isn’t just the best way to reach the city’s famous castle – it’s also the best destination for Scottish shopping in Edinburgh. In Royal Mile shops you can pick up an authentic kilt to treasure forever from Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmaker and Weavers, visit the Edinburgh Woollen Mill for classic cashmere jumpers and pop in to the Scottish gift shops for souvenirs.
You can also enjoy a bite to eat in one of the cafés, bars or restaurants and make the most of the attractions around the area, from Edinburgh Castle at the top to Canongate Kirk, right down to the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
One of the most prestigious thoroughfares in Edinburgh, George Street originally served as the city’s financial district. Today, its beautiful neoclassical buildings are home to a collection of luxury fashion boutiques, jewellers, stylish bars, restaurants and clubs.
Admire some of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country including the Assembly Rooms and the Dome Bar, just two of the street’s many upmarket dining establishments. Peruse the designer collections on display in exclusive department store, Harvey Nichols, located at the east end of the impressive St. Andrews Square. At the opposite end of the street lies Charlottes Square where you can meet top authors at the Edinburgh Book Festival in August.
Shopping on George Street
The shops on George Street offer a stylish mix of sophisticated clothes, accessories and home ware alongside an exciting range of trendy bars and places to eat. George Street shops include Karen Millen, LK Bennett, Jigsaw and Coast, beauty boutiques including Jo Malone, and the country’s only Anthropologie as well as Scottish stores such as Arran Aromatics, a leading producer of luxury toiletries and exclusive fragrances.
Either side of George Street you’ll find gems tucked away down charming side streets such as Thistle and Rose Street. These shopping streets are home of some of the country’s best boutiques including Jane Davidson, honoured by fashion bible Vogue as one of Britain’s top 100 independent stores.
Once a medieval market place and site for public executions, the Grassmarket area is now a vibrant meeting place bursting with lively drinking spots and eclectic shops, loved by students, tourists and professionals alike. As with all of Edinburgh, be sure to look up to appreciate the medieval architecture and stunning views of the castle.
Though executions ceased here in 1784, some of the traditional Grassmarket pubs, such as The Last Drop and Maggie Dickson’s, keep alive the bloody tale of a chequered past. The White Hart Inn boasts some historical famous patrons including Robert Burns. The pub, along with many others along the Grassmarket, hosts live music and acoustic performances most nights.
Eclectic shoppers will be in heaven at Armstrongs Vintage Emporium, a paradise of vintage clothes and quirky accessories, while a trip to Fabhatrix will reward you with a beautiful handmade hat perfect in a Scottish summer shower or winter frost.
Shopping the Grassmarket
Discover the unique but quaint side of shopping in Edinburgh down behind the castle in the Grassmarket. The shops in the Grassmarket represent the city and country’s creative side. These traditional cobbled streets are packed with Scottish designers and independent stores selling vibrant fashions, antique books and unique gifts.
Bohemian Victoria Street is full of charm, with its cobbled streets and brightly coloured buildings leading you down into the lively Grassmarket area, lying in the shadow of the dramatic Edinburgh Castle.
Explore the city’s leading independent hat shop, Fabhatrix, for innovative design, and delve in to Bill Baber Knitwear for an individual one-off garment, made by hand. The Grassmarket is also home to the vintage wonderland of WM Armstrongs, an Edinburgh institution which is filled to the rafters with unusual and striking pieces from the 1920s right through to the 1980s. When you’re tired, it’s a great place to sit and watch the world go by as you soak up the relaxed atmosphere at one of the Grassmarket’s many pavement cafes, restaurants and bars.
Disembark at Haymarket rail station, a perfect base to explore some of Edinburgh’s best attractions. Discover Murrayfield Stadium, the home of Scottish Rugby, just a short bus trip or walk westbound and experience the electric atmosphere on match days. The stadium also plays host to events and rock and pop concerts.
At the neighbouring Murrayfield Ice Rink, you catch an ice hockey match or hire some skates and take to the ice yourself. On the same route, discover the superb Edinburgh Zoo less than 10 minutes away, a perfect family day out. Head east from Haymarket towards Edinburgh’s city centre and find quirky shopping streets off the beaten track in the West End.
Shopping the West End
The West End, only a few minutes’ walk from Princes Street, has two streets packed with remarkable shops – Stafford Street and William Street. Tucked away just out of the centre of town, these shopping streets offer one-off pieces and handmade products with William Street popular with those with their finger on the fashion pulse.
Edinburgh’s West End is perfect for boutique shopping and there is plenty of eating and drinking options too – all just a few minutes’ walk from Princes Street. Stafford Street and William Street are tucked behind Shandwick Place, the main thoroughfare leading from Haymarket to Princes Street.
These cobbled Georgian streets along with colourful shop fronts, quirky window displays, relaxed, traditional pubs and fabulous delicatessens combine to create a laid-back, bohemian vibe. Pick up a handmade home accessory from Studio One or a special designer piece from Mulberry Home. Hadeel Palcrafts is a beautiful boutique stocking gifts from the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon helping to bring families out of poverty. You’ll also find exclusive designer clothes galore, quirky jewellery and exquisite, vintage evening wear.
Leith is an area like no other. Boasting its own distinct character, Leith is a hub of lively eating and drinking spots, creativity and cultural diversity.
The district of Leith rests on the shores of the Firth of Forth at the mouth of the Water of Leith and has been the port of Edinburgh for hundreds of years. The original harbour dates back to the 14th century, and thus has witnessed many travelling kings and queens. Today, Leith is a vivacious area jam-packed with top restaurants boasting the best chefs, delicious delis and chic drinking spots. The district asserts a jovial attitude and hosts an eclectic mix of people and cultures ensuring exploring Leith is an unrivalled experience.
The most charming way into Leith is to follow the Water of Leith walkway from the city and emerge into the picturesque Shore area which is lined with bistros, stylish bars, traditional pubs and first-rate restaurants. The five-star Royal Yacht Britannia is berthed alongside Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre and offers a fascinating insight into this unique, royal residence.
Leith is also known for its culture and creativity. As you explore the area, uncover independent galleries where you can buy artworks and contemporary galleries, too, such as the Corn Exchange Gallery. The district also plays host to various cultural festivals such as the Leith Festival and the Edinburgh Mela. Leith even has its own radio station. Take a stroll up Leith Walk back into the centre of Edinburgh for a shopping experience like no other in the capital. The locals proudly boast that there is little to nothing you won’t be able to find on this street.
From historic properties and wonderful wildlife to world-class golf and exciting outdoor activities, there is so much to discover in the Lothians. Explore evocative ruins, spot distinctive species and play a round on an Open Championship course.
About West Lothian
Discover West Lothian’s rich heritage as you explore stunning castles, prehistoric burial sites and a famous palace. Get active and enjoy the beautiful rolling countryside with long scenic walks or spend a day in one of the extensive country parks.
Follow the Linlithgow Heritage Trail to find out more about the history of West Lothian. Uncover many intriguing features and attractions, such as the stunning St. Michael’s Parish Church and the Peel, one of only two royal parks in Scotland. The trail brings you past Linlithgow Palace where you can spend some time exploring the evocative ruins of the 12th century royal manor house and enjoy views over the tranquil loch below.
Other historical highlights include Scotland’s finest stately home, Hopetoun House, the incredible fortress of Blackness Castle, the turreted House of the Binns and Cairnpapple Hill – the site of a 4,000 year-old temple and burial site with breathtaking views that stretch as far as Arran.
Spend an active afternoon at one of West Lothian’s fantastic country parks such as Beecraigs near Linlithgow where you can choose from a wide range of outdoor pursuits such as biking along the park’s beautiful forest routes and fishing for rainbow trout on the sheltered 20-acre loch. Spend a family day out at Almond Valley Heritage Centre and enjoy fun activities from getting up close to farm animals to racing each other on pedal carts. Spot some wonderful wildlife at Five Sisters Zoo, which boasts a variety of unique animals such as West African dwarf crocodiles and pygmy marmosets, the world’s smallest monkeys.
After experiencing all of the wonderful outdoor activities that West Lothian has to offer, why not treat yourself to some relaxation at Livingston Designer Outlet? Great for some essential retail therapy, spend a few hours perusing the fantastic selection of shops in the centre.
Just south of Edinburgh, Midlothian is best known as the home of beautiful Rosslyn Chapel. It also boasts river valleys, woods and hills making it ideal for more adventurous activities.
Walkers should head to the Pentland Hills Regional Park, a wild and scenic area right on the doorstep of Scotland’s capital city in Midlothian. Cross Moorland to reach Crichton Castle where you can see one of the oldest tower houses in the country dating back to the 14th century. The castle sits in a wonderfully isolated spot overlooking the River Tyne.
Another popular route follows the River South Esk where you can witness deer, dippers, woodpeckers and even otters. Or why not challenge yourself to climb the Pentland Hills where colours change throughout the seasons? Midlothian’s must-see attraction, Rosslyn Chapel, lies within the peaceful village of Roslin, close to Roslin Glen. Catapulted to fame by Dan Brown’s novel and film – The Da Vinci Code – marvel at flying buttresses, gargoyles and carvings before strolling through the atmospheric gorge.
Visit Arniston House, a wonderful Palladian style mansion, which has been home to the Dundas family for more than 400 years. See the work of Scottish artists including Sir Henry Raeburn, famed for his picture of Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, before admiring the magical interiors from the Drawing Room to the Dining Room.
The whole family will enjoy a day out at the National Mining Museum Scotland where Multi Media Tours bring the attraction to life. You can also experience a tropical rainstorm at the enchanting Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World as well as getting closer to tarantulas, snakes and millipedes.
About East Lothian
East Lothian is ideal for touring with its beautiful towns, wonderful beaches and fantastic attractions to explore. There are also many outdoor activities to enjoy such as extensive walking and cycling routes along with golf and even kite surfing.
Discover the historic towns of East Lothian such as Dunbar, the birthplace of John Muir, Haddington, a small market town, and picturesque North Berwick which boasts stunning coastal scenery. Take a trip to Athelstaneford where the original Scottish Saltire flag is said to have been first adopted. Visit the National Flag Heritage Centre to find out more about how the distinctive blue and white St. Andrew’s Cross helped the Picts to win a crucial battle in AD 832.
Admire the amazing architecture and grandeur of stately homes and castles such as Lennoxlove House and Dirleton Castle. A great way to explore East Lothian’s magnificent historical attractions is by bike. Take your own or hire bikes once you arrive and follow extensive cycle routes through the area for an exhilarating tour. Or for a more leisurely pace, follow the John Muir Way from Musselburgh to Dunbar to relax and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
Have a wild day out with the whole family at the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre where you can discover around 150,000 gannets nesting on the spectacular Bass Rock. Watch from the warmth of the centre’s state-of-the-art Discovery Centre, observe live footage from cameras at the nesting areas, or take a thrilling boat ride out to the huge granite Bass Rock described by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the 12 Wildlife Wonders of the World.’
Spend a day at one of the beautiful beaches such as hidden gem Seacliff, pristine Yellowcraig and kite surfing paradise Gullane. Or enjoy a few rounds of golf on the region’s fantastic collection of links courses that rank among the best in the world. Play on the famous Muirfield green where 15 Open Championships have been played and be sure to visit historic North Berwick Golf Club, established in 1832.
Then There’s Shopping it the Lothian Towns and the Livingston Design Outlet
Explore some of the towns of the Lothians for great local shops and independent stores, or visit the Livingston Designer Outlet for up to 60% off designer prices. Enjoy the chance to take a wander around some of the towns of the Lothians, pick up a bargain or two in the local shops and experience more of this beautiful part of the region.Taking a walk around one of the towns is a great way to learn more about the area from the shops and the people who work there, as you see what life is like in the Lothians.
Livingston Designer Outlet is one of the gems of the Lothians, as it houses over 90 designer stores all under one eye-catching roof. The designer outlet has many stores from popular brands, with designer savings of up to 60%. Stores include Calvin Klein, Levis, Ted Baker, Karen Millen and Revlon. Also in West Lothian, you can enjoy an array of shopping pleasures and experiences such as in Bathgate and Linlithgow, a Fairtrade town full of character where the independent shops retain their charm and sense of history.
East Lothian boasts a plethora of independent shops with a friendly local welcome, particularly in scenic North Berwick and Haddington. Nearby, Fenton Barns is a unique retail village housed in hanger-esque barns and offering designer gems, vintage pieces and a wealth of traditional Scottish arts and crafts.
For Those That Love to Shop Till They Drop
Harvey Nichols, on St. Andrews Square, is a shrine to style. Packed with designer names, Stella McCartney, Prada and Gucci to name but a few – this is a must for every fashionista!
Just around the corner is Multrees Walk, home to some serious designer labels, including Louis Vuitton, Emporio Armani and Mulberry. Just a short walk across St. Andrews Square takes you to Jenners, Edinburgh’s original department store – a magnet for fashion lovers since 1838.
High street brands and amazing views…
Princes Street offers a shopping experience with a difference – the perfect mix of shopping and sightseeing, with High Street favourites, such as Zara, Gap, H&M and House of Fraser as well as a spectacular view towards Edinburgh Castle.
A block away from Princes Street is George Street. With a divine mix of sophisticated shops and hip bars, this is one stylish street not to be missed! Visit Lime Blue for sparkling diamonds, The White Company for exclusive home accessories, Space NK for a spot of pampering and LK Bennett for a fantastic selection of shoes!
Unique trends and individual pieces…
The West End, Stockbridge and Bruntsfield are all within walking distance or a short bus ride from the city centre and provide an ideal hunting ground for unique items. Stafford Street and William Street have Ark Angel and Sam Thomas, which is a favourite amongst the Edinburgh fashion shoppers, while Studio One is full of unusual gift ideas and homeware.
Head to Stockbridge in the New Town where you will find an abundance of second hand shops and galleries. A little further afield in Bruntsfield, you’ll find everything here from scented candles in Halibut and Herring to the latest trendy boardwear at Freeze Scotland.
Authentic Scottish wares and souvenirs…
From the finest cashmere in The Hawick Cashmere Company to modern Scottish interiors at Anta Scotland, to the first-class tartan of Geoffrey (Tailor) Kiltmakers and beautiful knitwear at Ragamuffin and original Scottish pieces at Ness Scotland, the Royal Mile offers more excellent shopping.
Get away from the city…
Visit one of the towns in the Lothians and enjoy a quiet day shopping independent stores and learning more about these idyllic places. See what life is like and enjoy a cup of tea and cake in a local cafe after perusing the friendly town shops.
Then there’s that rainy day…
Browse some of the UK’s biggest fashion retailers, accessory stores and much more at one of Edinburgh and the Lothians shopping centres. Escape the weather and find everything under one roof, with a great range of cafes and restaurants so you can enjoy a break after your hard day shopping.
With everything from international cuisine to Scottish restaurants, Edinburgh boasts some wonderful dining experiences for all to enjoy.
Whether you want to eat at the best restaurants in Edinburgh or simply wish to sample good pub food, the capital is an excellent destination for dining out.
When it comes to local produce you are spoilt for choice with many eateries serving regional flavours. From traditional dishes including the national dish of haggis, neeps and tatties to more contemporary and innovative offerings, Scotland’s larder is showcased throughout the capital. Fresh fish, game meats, fruit, vegetables and whisky are used alongside many other natural ingredients to create some wonderful flavours.
Atmospheric pubs and bistros can be found in Edinburgh’s Old Town, from the historic Royal Mile, which leads to the castle, to the Grassmarket. Walk the length of Rose Street, running parallel to Princes Street, and again you will have a great variety to choose from with some surprising names along the way. Live music often invites you in to receive a warm Scottish welcome as you sip a pint and dine alongside the locals.
Indulge yourself with fine dining in Edinburgh city centre at The Witchery or head to historic Leith where you can soak up culinary experiences near the water. From Tom Kitchin’s wonderful seasonal menu at The Kitchin to the signature seafood dishes at Restaurant Martin Wishart, you will not be disappointed by the city’s Michelin-starred establishments. Castle Terrace is the newest addition to this list, offering the finest produce Scotland has to offer.
There are also many restaurants serving international cuisine from beautifully cooked European dishes to flavours from further afield including China and India.
Outside the city, the towns and villages of the Lothians also offer some great dining opportunities. The Orangery at Dalhousie Castle & Spa boasts sweeping views over the gentle River Esk as well as a relaxed atmosphere while one mile east of the historic Burgh of Linlithgow you will find The Park Bistro which focuses on fresh local ingredients. East Lothian’s La Potinière is owned by award-winning chefs Keith Marley and Mary Runciman and Scotch Beef is a popular choice on the menu while not far away in Aberlady, Duck’s Restaurant boasts great cuisine as well as a cocktail bar and courtyard area for the summer months.
Farmers’ Markets, Local Stores & Delicatessens
From the largest farmers’ market in the country to specialist local stores, it is easy to see why Edinburgh and the Lothians is a popular region for foodies.
Whether you are staying in self-catering accommodation and want to stock your kitchen with tempting local flavours or you simply wish to purchase a snack or sweet treat as you explore the area, Edinburgh and the Lothians offers both regional and international flavours.
Browse the stalls at Edinburgh Farmers’ Market, a weekly event taking place every Saturday morning, and you will discover a great range of goods from meat to fish, chocolate and bread. You can also sit down and soak up the atmosphere with a warming cup of coffee or a hearty soup and ask the stallholders for some tips on how to cook up culinary delights.
Held on the last Saturday of each month, Haddington Farmers’ Market is another regional highlight which focuses upon artisan farms. Learn about the methods of growing and rearing before buying delicious homemade jams, fresh trout and salmon, local beef and lamb, to name just a few options. The Lothians also boasts markets in both Balerno and Howgate so you really are spoilt for choice.
Pop into local stores and delicatessens across Edinburgh to experience a feast for the senses. Valvona & Crolla offers food products and wines from around the world with cakes and biscuits, champagne, pasta and oils while Ian Mellis boasts a mouth-watering array of Scottish cheeses in stores around the city. For European influences, The Manna House is a traditional French patisserie and coffeehouse and you will also find delicious bread and cakes at the German Falko Konditormeister.
Discover many grocery stores selling fresh fruit and vegetables as well as bakeries, butchers and fishmongers as you shop in Edinburgh and the Lothians.
Michelin Star Restaurants
When it comes to fine dining, Edinburgh boasts an array of Michelin star restaurants both in the city centre and peppered around the historic port of Leith.
After gaining its first Michelin star in 1999, there are now several establishments which have earned Michelin stars around the capital. Many famous chefs are attracted to the natural larder and regional flavours Scotland has to offer and Edinburgh boasts more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other part of the UK outside London.
Head to Leith to sample the excellence at Restaurant Martin Wishart, soak up views across the water and try signature seafood dishes including langoustine and beautiful Loch Fyne crab. Not far away, The Kitchin serves up some of Scotland’s finest produce which changes on a seasonal basis. From autumnal game meats to delicious sweet desserts, there is plenty of choice at this welcoming restaurant.
At the heart of the city, 21212 offers an adventurous menu in Edinburgh’s beautiful Georgian New Town. A modern French style is used in the dishes created by Paul Kitching and you can enjoy pre-dinner drinks in the Drawing Room before savouring a delicious meal in the 38-seater restaurant.
The Balmoral is one of the city’s famed hotels where you can have an outstanding culinary experience at Number One, which has retained a Michelin star for 10 consecutive years. Fresh Scottish ingredients are used to make innovative dishes including west coast scallops, Borders lamb and wonderful grouse. Why not round things off in the chic and modern Balmoral Bar where you can taste a warming dram or simply sit back with refreshing cocktails?
A recent addition to the list of Michelin-starred establishments is Castle Terrace, set in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle and led by Dominic Jack. Elegant meals are prepared with a flair and passion and once again both the interiors and the dishes display a warm French influence.
Coffee Shops & Tearooms
Take a break from the bustle of the city to enjoy a simple cup of coffee or afternoon tea in Edinburgh. Delicious sweet treats provide the perfect accompaniment to some beautiful and unusual flavours.
Edinburgh boasts many hotels where you can sit amid luxurious surroundings to enjoy afternoon tea. After a morning of shopping, exploring the attractions, or strolling amid wonderful gardens, this is the perfect way to indulge yourself.
On the main thoroughfare of Princes Street, The Caledonian is a grand Hilton Hotel built from distinctive red sandstone, which dominates the skyline. A focal point of the city for 100 years, you can admire magnificent original features as you relax in the Pompadour Restaurant and soak up views towards Edinburgh Castle. Choose from teas including fruity Camomile Flowers and traditional Caledonian Royal Scottish as well as a selection of cakes, finger pastries and sandwiches depending upon which package you opt for. You can even enjoy champagne for a very special occasion.
In Edinburgh’s East End, you will discover The Balmoral where you can take afternoon tea in the refurbished Drawing Room. Highlights include traditional Balmoral shortbread, homemade scones with cream and your choice of tea or coffee.
There are also plenty of cafes and tearooms dotted around the city where you can sit with friends, read a book and watch the world go by. From larger chains to smaller, independent tea boutiques, Edinburgh has a unique selection. Why not try eteaket on Frederick Street where the choice is immense, making good tea accessible to all. Or Anteaques is a traditional tea and antiques store open only on Friday, Saturday and Sunday – truly a one of a kind experience.
From rich blends of coffee to wonderful herbal teas, an inviting coffee shop is always full of wonderful aromas and presents a welcome retreat for you to enjoy.
Pubs & Bars
Edinburgh’s Georgian New Town boasts wide avenues where you can step inside a world of beautiful interiors. Why not stroll along George Street and spend an evening in unique cocktail bars?
In the West End, you will discover Candy Kitchen and Bar, a trendy venue serving classics such as French Martini and Pina Colada as well as more unusual options including Passionate Kiss and The Flamingo. Tigerlily is another favourite, a boutique hotel and bar where shimmering mirrors line the walls and sparkling chandeliers hang from the ceilings. Choose from the black bar and the champagne bar, discover an extensive wine list and try something different such as the Tequila Espresso.
Further along at Le Monde, you can have cocktails in Paris, wine in Vienna and coffee in Milan. The owner is a keen traveller and has named all areas of this unique hotel, bar and restaurant after his favourite cities.
Edinburgh’s historic Grassmarket is another lively area of the city with a great selection of bars and pubs. In the West Port, Dragonfly is a cocktail lounge where you can choose from a list of 30 options on the cocktail menu or order your own bespoke creation. There are also many atmospheric pubs including The Beehive Inn and the Last Drop – aptly named, since the Grassmarket was formerly used for public hangings.
Enjoy Edinburgh’s distinct communities such as Stockbridge, Bruntsfield, Morningside and Leith to absorb the different personalities of the city and meet the locals . From the students to the visitors and established residents, all can enjoy the quirky and distinctive bars and pubs. Why not head to The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston, Scotland’s oldest surviving public house which offers a warm atmosphere? You can even play skittles on the designated alley for some old-fashioned fun for the whole family.
Scotland’s national drink, whisky, is a must on a visit to the capital and you can sample a warming dram at many Edinburgh pubs. WHISKI Bar and Restaurant is an award-winning establishment on the Royal Mile serving a collection of around 300 malt whiskies and blends. To try whisky tasting, the Edinburgh Scotch Whisky Experience offers a variety of tours from the Silver Tour with one tasting to the Gold which boasts five.
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