Edinburgh is a gorgeous city, full of history and charm. With cobbled streets, medieval stone buildings, pubs tucked below street level on every other corner, and some seriously good cocktail bars, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good time.
I hadn’t planned on Edinburgh being my first trip after arriving in the UK. But, a flight deal for $28 persuaded me to consider otherwise.
At some point during my time in the UK, I want to do a road trip throughout Scotland- visiting whisky distilleries and exploring the highlands. Even though my first visit to Scotland was only a few days, and I stayed in Edinburgh the entire time, sometimes all you need is a weekend to fall in love.
A Little Bit About Edinburgh
Downtown Edinburgh is primarily split into two parts, Old Town and New Town. Old Town is the oldest part of the city, with much of the medieval street plan still preserved. On one end of Old Town, you’ll see the castle, with the Royal Mile leading away from it and small streets branching off.
New Town isn’t new per se, but the interiors have been modernized. New Town and Old town are connected via streets and stairs, making it easy to walk around the city to wander as you wish.
When looking for a place to stay, I looked for an Airbnb as close to New Town / Old Town as possible and ended up in Stockbridge, an eclectic local neighborhood, that may be my favorite part of Edinburgh. So many great shops, bars and restaurants that represent the culture of Scotland.
48 Hours in Edinburgh
Friday evening, I flew from London to Edinburgh ($28 airfare deal, #praisehands). After landing, I took the Airlink bus downtown (£5) and walked to my Airbnb in Stockbridge.
I started the night in New Town by meeting up with a few friends who were also in Edinburgh for a drink at The Bon Vivant. Bon Vivant is known for their whisky and champagne cocktails. Not quite ready for dinner, we headed to Bramble Bar next for another cocktail. With a hidden entrance, cozy corner benches, old school hip hop tunes and expertly mixed cocktails, it’s easy to see why Bramble has become known as one of the best cocktail bars in the UK.
Next up: El Cartel for dinner. Y’all, I found bomb tacos in Scotland. You must come here- the fish tacos, sweet potato tacos and bombers (fried jalapeños with cream cheese) were outstanding.
Waking to a rainy morning, we decided to sleep in and didn’t head out until late morning. But, when we did- wow, so surprised and happy with how beautiful our Airbnb neighborhood was.
A walk over to Old Town was next up to do some exploring before having breakfast at the Hula Juice Bar & Grill.
Highly recommend Hula if you’re looking for a fresh, healthy breakfast while visiting Edinburgh- I had the acai bowl and breakfast tea, both were amazing. Pop in the Red Door Gallery, a cute art gallery down the street if you’ve got a few minutes after eating.
When we left Hula, the weather was absolute rubbish- rain/snowing, so we headed to The Elephant House for afternoon tea in a warm, cozy space. Fun fact: Elephant House is where JK Rowling wrote some of Harry Potter.
After warming up with tea, we went to the National Museum of Scotland. With free entry, it’s a great place to spend a few hours learning about Scotland’s history.
Post museum, we stopped in Greyfrairs for a pint and snack- gotta be adequately prepared for whisky tastings. 😉
The first tasting of the evening was at Whiski Rooms, which I can’t recommend enough. Our whisky and chocolate tasting guide was super knowledgable and very patient with our group’s questions. The tasting was only supposed to be 60 minutes, but ended up going almost an hour and a half. 10/10 would recommend the experience, our tasting guide even recommended a few additional whiskys for us to try at our next bar.
After the Whiski Rooms, we headed to Bow Bar and talked with the bartender to choose a few whiskys off the menu to try. Bow Bar’s selection is phenom, and the vibe was so low key- can’t recommend it enough.
All that whisky tasting left us hungry, so we headed to The Dogs to sample more whisky, and enjoy great Scottish food. After dinner, I would have been content calling it a night, but because we were celebrating a birthday, we headed to The Dome for martinis and then ended the night at the Voodoo Rooms. While not my favorite cocktail spot of the trip, I dug the music and beautiful ceilings at Voodoo Rooms.
Sunday morning, we woke to blue skies and sunshine streaming in the windows of our Airbnb and decided to make the most of it.
Eager to spend as much time as possible soaking up the sunshine, we walked up Calton Hill for some seriously great views of the city skyline. If the weather is nice while you’re visiting Edinburgh, would definitely add this to your to-do list- it’s only a ~10 minute walk uphill to the lookout point, and the views are incredible on a clear day.
After we were done admiring the view, we walked down through New Town on our way to Old Town and Edinburgh Castle. Along the way, we passed the Scott Monument and a few bagpipers- cue the heart eyes.
Although Edinburgh Castle is touristy, it’s also a great way to ground yourself in Scottish history. Loved walking through the castle rooms, it was like going back in time. My only gripe was the cost- nearly £20 for a ticket and audio tour.
Post-castle jaunt, we walked along the Royal Mile for a bit before deciding it was time to start Sunday-fundaying.
First stop: Devil’s Advocate for whisky tastings and cocktails. Next was a walk back to New Town to hit up Panda and Sons for another drink.
I can’t recommend Panda and Sons enough- the drinks were the best I had in Edinburgh, the speakeasy space was cozy and chill, and the bartender, Leon, was a real gem. He wrote me a list of places to check out on my next trip to Edinburgh, and recommended another cocktail bar in the area before dinner.
On Leon’s recommendation, I headed to The Voyage of Buck for one last drink before dinner. This place was the literal definition of hygge. Big comfy couches with fur pillows, cushiony velvet arm chairs and beautiful fixtures at the bar- a perfect atmosphere for enjoying great cocktails.
Ready for a Scottish feast, I headed to The Scran and Scallie for fish and chips and sticky toffee pudding. Can’t recommend this place enough, if you only go to one Scottish restaurant in Edinburgh, make it this one. The food was so, so good and there were a few fiddlers playing in one of the rooms- perfection.
After dinner, we decided one more drink was needed to cap off the weekend, and headed to the Stockbridge Tap for a pint. On our way back to the Airbnb, we passed by The Last Word Saloon, and I’m so glad we decided to pop in for a cocktail- superb cocktails and great service in an adorable spot.
I may not have had much time in Edinburgh, but I loved what I saw of the city and can’t wait to head back to Scotland to explore even more of the city and surrounding countryside.
Extra Know Before You Go Info
- Identification: Passport
- Language: English
- Currency: Pound sterling
- Money Exchange: I’d recommend taking enough money in pounds to cover small purchases and using a credit card with no international transaction fee to cover larger items
- If you do plan on using a credit or debit card while abroad, remember to alert your bank that you’ll be traveling internationally
- Getting There: Edinburgh is easy to reach by plane, train or car. I flew from London for this trip, but I’ll be taking the train up in the future (may be a bit more expensive, but likely more enjoyable)
- Getting Around: Edinburgh is super walkable. There’s a good bus system but we never took it. Twice, we took Ubers and were surprised by how affordable it was
- When to Visit: I’ve only been to Edinburgh in January, but I’ve heard it’s even more enjoyable in late spring-early fall, when the weather is warmer. Because of Edinburgh’s location, it’ll likely rain
- Where to Stay: As always, I’m partial to Airbnb. Not knowing much about Edinburgh’s neighborhoods, I tried to find a place as close to New Town as possible so we’d be central to restaurants and bars. We really lucked out with a place in Stockbridge, an awesome neighborhood
- Wifi Access: Wifi is easy to find in restaurants and cafes. As long as you plan activities ahead of time and have a general sense of which subway stops you need/general direction, you should be fine to only use wifi as it’s available
- If you really need wifi for directions or other activities, I’d recommend adding it to your cell phone plan (Verizon offers connectivity for $10 a day) or renting a TEP wireless device
- Power Adapters: You’ll need an international adapter, this one is similar to the one I have. I also travel with a USB charger so I’m able to charge every device imaginable at the same time