1. Scale the heights.
As it’s built across seven hills, Edinburgh boasts some of the most beautiful views in the world. The city also has a number of viewpoints in the form of towers, Sky Bars, castles, monuments and even a volcano! Don’t be lazy, climb the peaks.
Climbing Scott’s Monument costs £4 and its different viewing platforms on each level will not disappoint.
2. Ditch the map.
Parts of Edinburgh are built on top of the city’s vaults which were the housing for the lower class in the 18th century. Therefore, the maps of Edinburgh are pretty confusing unless they’re 3D. The best thing to do is dump the map that you’ve found in the Tourist Information office because your curiosity will overpower your sense of direction and the map will only act as a lining to the inside of your handbag.
3. Take the stairs.
The city is dotted with staircases, and no matter how many steps you have to climb, it’s always worth it at the other end. Secret courtyards, 18th century cul-de-sac’s, winding streets and even astronomy towers – it’s worth the bun burn!
4. Go to the seaside.
Take yourself out of the bustling city centre and take a short bus ride to the neighbouring seaside village of Portobello (on the right) for some traditional fish and chips, and a walk along the beach. If you fancy something a little closer to town, take a stroll to The Shore in Leith or to Newhaven Harbour (on the left).
5. Take a boat trip.
The Union Canal in Edinburgh is a definite must-see. Perfect for evening strolls, afternoon picnics, and of course, canal boat rides. You can take a trip down the narrow river on a Rosie and Jim-style boat, or if you fancy channeling your inner-Bridget Jones, take a bottle of wine and your Hugh Grant equivalent and rent a rowing boat from the Boat House across from Harrison Park. (Late Spring – the end of summer)
6. Visit the University, but don’t get in the way.
Staying clear of Edinburgh University students is quite difficult when in Edinburgh, as the campus is practically on the Royal Mile. But don’t stop and block the pavement at the statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby, or The Elephant House coffee shop (‘The Birthplace of Harry Potter’)… It’s really annoying. Like seriously, don’t do it.
7. Leave the dug alone!
We locals plead that you do not rub Greyfriar’s Bobby’s nose. The myth is not true, you will not be inundated with good luck if you veraciously rub his now golden snout. You’d might as well go and find a leprechaun. Please don’t do it, his concealer is expensive.
9. Enjoy a taste of Brazil.
Indulge in one of the city’s best kept secrets! Brasil Crepes, aka. as Tupiniquim, is a crepe takeaway stand in a converted Police Box on Lauriston Place. They serve the best gluten free, filled crepes in the city, using ingredients from their cabbage patch behind the box. The lovely couple who run it are so welcoming, making your lunch while dancing to music in the most confined space you could imagine! They also serve fresh juice from their Juice Bike, as well as showing movies from time to time.
10. Dodge tourist bars.
Do yourself a favour and avoid the Grassmarket and Rose Street bars if you’re hoping for a quiet drink, to meet a local, or to even get a drink at all. Great fun during the sporting seasons and the Fringe Festival, but like a cattle herding the rest of the year. Head to Sandy Bells on Forrest Road for live Scottish Folk music every night. I can’t promise that you’ll get a seat, but you’ll definitely get a drink.
12. Seek out Golden Hour in the city.
Edinburgh’s sunsets are one of a kind, and if the weather plays game then they’re not to be missed. So take a blanket, a flask of hot whisky and your thermals to the top of Calton Hill and relish in the wondrous golden hour views.
13. Step down a side street.
Edinburgh’s side streets add to its intriguing character. Housing some of the best restaurants in town, little boutiques, vintage shops, local cheese mongers, old bookshops and even a hidden vodka bar on Cockburn street, they’re worth going off the beaten track for. Victoria Street in particular!
14. Indulge in chip shop dining.
Forget The Witchery, The Kitchin, Ondine and all of the other high class restaurants. All you need to complete your Edinburgh trip is some chippy cuisine. Get a battered sausage, a pizza crunch and a battered Mars Bar from City Café on Nicholson Street, washed down with a pint of Deuchars and you’ll feel like Braveheart. Don’t forget to ask for Chip Shop sauce!!
15. Visit the Cameo Picturehouse.
One of my favourite things to do in Edinburgh is to visit the Cameo Picturehouse. The art house cinema shows incredible films that you may not find at your local Cineworld, as well as showing some absolute classics every now and then. (I saw the Lion King on the big screen for the first time a few months ago at the Cameo. What made it better is that I could drink while watching the movie! That’s what dreams are made of.)
16. Or go for punch and pictures.
If you’re titillated by the sound of drinking while watching a movie, the Brass Monkey on Drummond Street is where you need to spend your day from 3pm onwards. Beers, movies and beanbags all for free… well, not the former.
17. Don’t discuss the trams.
Do yourself a favour and don’t discuss the Trams with any locals that you meet. It’s a sore spot for us who have dealt with the upheaval for more than 5 years.
18. And carry change for the bus.
While on the topic of transport, make sure that you have change for the bus - £1.50 for a single ticket – because otherwise you’ll hold up the bus and all passengers, as well as the driver, who will curse you in a Scottish braw.
19. Give yourself a nightmare on a Ghost Tour.
The vaults, dungeons, graveyards and foggy nights all add to the scare factor of these tours. Make sure to take the tour from the side of St. Gile’s Cathedral on the Royal Mile. It’s definitely the best one! It only costs a few pounds for the fright of your life.
20. Embrace the weird.
You will most definitely see the pierced lady if you’re strolling down the Royal Mile, or perhaps a ginger bloke in a straight-jacket. Maybe even a lady with a cryptic sign in front of her reading ‘Photo’s £1’, or perhaps just a guy who’s looking to chat. Whatever the weird, don’t walk on. Take it all in because it’s people like this that give Edinburgh its charm.
You can never have too much time in Edinburgh, and you’ll certainly never have enough. While on your trip to our gorgeous city, take your time while exploring the streets, and don’t forget to look all around you, you never know what you might see.
An earlier version of this post stated that the bus cost £1.30. This has since been corrected.