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I have been fortunate to visit Edinburgh twice now and it’s one of my favourite cities. Here are all the reasons I love Edinburgh and why I recommend visiting when it’s safe to do so.
For some ridiculous reason, I never wrote about Edinburgh after my first time in the city two years ago (shame on me). So here I am today, ready to tell you all the reasons why I love Edinburgh. After falling instantly in love on my first visit, I was wondering if I would feel the same way two years later. Well, in case it wasn’t obvious, I needn’t worry because Edinburgh is still firmly one of my favourite places. So much so, I hope one day to call it home (for a little while, anyway). Okay, keep scrolling to listen to me gush about Edinburgh like a lovestruck teenager.
How to get to Edinburgh
Firstly, let’s cover some important bases, like how to get to Edinburgh. You can fly to Edinburgh, but I’ve personally arrived by bus from Glasgow and train from York. Both times I left Edinburgh, I hopped on a train to London. When in Edinburgh, it’s pretty easy to use public transport. However, as you’ll see below, one of the reasons I love Edinburgh is that it’s a very walkable city. I caught a public bus once in two trips.
For more information, here are my Europe budget travel tips and my tips for travelling alone in Europe.
Best time to visit Edinburgh
I have only visited in October, which is actually a lovely month to visit Edinburgh. Temperatures may be cooler, but I was also graced with predominantly sunny days. Nonetheless, May is the driest month of the year, closely followed by September. I recommend heading to Edinburgh in the shoulder season months of May and September, as the summer months of June to August are B-U-S-Y.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Both times I’ve visited Edinburgh I’ve stayed at Kick Ass Greyfriars (formerly Budget Backpackers) in a four-bed female dorm. It’s in a great location near Victoria Street and just down the road from The Royal Mile. With modern and spacious rooms, I’d say the only downsides are that there isn’t a common area as such (instead there’s a chill room and bar) and the showers could be better. But for the price and location (and the fact there’s a kitchen), I’d return for a third visit.
Alternatively, if you’re searching for Edinburgh hotels, there’s a Holiday Inn centrally located on the Royal Mile, which has good reviews. Otherwise, if you’d like a luxurious stay in Edinburgh, check out The Balmoral. Defined by its clock tower, The Balmoral is a five-star property with a Michelin-starred restaurant. Its notoriety comes from the fact it’s where J.K. Rowling famously finished writing the last Harry Potter book. You can stay in her suite for around £1000 per night –that’s all 😂.
Speaking of hostels, here are my top tips for staying in hostels and my other favourite hostels across the UK and Europe (yes, Kick Ass made the list).
Why you need to visit Edinburgh
1. The locals are ridiculously friendly
One of the many reasons why I love Edinburgh is because the locals are so friendly. As a solo traveller dining out in Edinburgh alone, I never once felt self-conscious, as the staff were always welcoming and many even had a chat with me. This friendliness also extended to tour guides, bus drivers and hostel staff. Coupled with that irresistible Scottish accent, I want to become friends with every Edinburgh local.
2. There are many day trip opportunities
Whether you want a different city escape, a water-based adventure or to go hiking, there’s a day trip waiting for you when you visit Edinburgh. You can head to Glasgow, an hour’s drive away, visit legendary Loch Ness or Loch Lomond National Park, or see St Andrew’s by the seaside. Here are plenty more Edinburgh day trip options from Visit Scotland.
Personally, I’ve done two organised day trips with Rabbie Tours. The company is great, as they offer small group tours at very reasonable prices. There are also plenty of photos stops along the way, so you don’t spend hours at a time stuck on a tour bus. The two tours I’ve done are the Loch Ness, Glencoe and Highland tours, and the West Highlands Lochs and Castles tour. Don’t make me choose which one was better, as I thought they both included interesting stops and beautiful scenery.
3. Visit Edinburgh for the delectable food scene
I’m going to write a guide to my favourite places to eat in Edinburgh, as I have had some amazing meals during my two visits. The way to my heart is truly through my stomach, guys. Some of the meals that made me love Edinburgh more include the Nutella and hazelnut French toast at Mimi’s Bakehouse Leith. The cakes and slices available at Mimi’s Bakehouse are also insanely delicious. Then there is the pulled pork sandwich from Oink, the jumbo pizza slices at Civerinos Slice and the homemade ice cream at Mary’s Milk Bar (complete with Edinburgh Castle views). Seriously, you will love Edinburgh’s food scene.
4. There are plenty of free things to see and do in Edinburgh
Even after two Edinburgh visits, I still have attractions to tick off my list. Edinburgh is made for tourism, so it’s overflowing with free museums, family-friendly attractions and things to do. Some of my favourite free things to do in Edinburgh include visiting the National Museum of Scotland and The Writers’ Museum, walking along the Royal Mile, relaxing in Princes Street Gardens, and taking photos of Dean Village and Victoria Street.
One of my favourite memories (and one of the reasons I love Edinburgh) is when I woke up around sunrise and wandered up to Edinburgh Castle. There were only a couple of other people around and the castle was glowing in the rising sun. It was an incredible sight to see. If you want to take photos of the castle or the Royal Mile, I recommend waking up early to get crowd-less photos.
5. Let’s not forget the many other worthwhile paid Edinburgh attractions too
As a budget traveller, I do love Edinburgh for its plethora of free attractions. But there are also plenty of other things to do in Edinburgh that are worthwhile mentioning. This includes stepping inside Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, hopping aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, enjoying samples at the Scotch Whisky Experience, and visiting Camera Obscura and the World of Illusions. Seriously, if your ideal city escape involves a jam-packed schedule, I highly recommend you visit Edinburgh.
6. It’s ridiculously beautiful
Yes, you need to visit Edinburgh because it’s so pretty 💁♀️. Its beauty lies in both its architecture and natural surroundings. I love the historic brick buildings in the Old Town, Victoria Street’s colourful shop fronts, the views from Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle, the incredibly picturesque Dean Village and Water of Leith, and the views from Calton Hill. No matter where you go, you will find a pretty scene waiting for you in Edinburgh.
7. It’s a very walkable city that will make your calves burn
I love walkable cities and Edinburgh is one of them. As I mentioned, I only caught the public bus once and that was to reach Leith. Otherwise, I walked from Leith back to my hostel; from the Old Town to the New Town; and down to Dean Village, along the Water of Leith and up through Stockbridge to reach the New Town once again. The only thing I don’t love is the hills. Edinburgh is a hilly place, guys, so your calves will undoubtedly be burning in no time. I like to think the extra exercise works off treats like a Snickers brownie from Mimi’s Bakehouse, for example 😉.
8. Visit Edinburgh as it’s a Harry Potter hotspot
You should definitely visit Edinburgh if you’re a Harry Potter fan, as it feels like there’s a Potter moment waiting around every corner. Start at The Elephant House, a cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote parts of the series. Then head down the street to Greyfriars Kirkyard and try to find Thomas Riddell’s gravestone. Next, visit Edinburgh City Chambers to see Rowling’s handprints on the ground. Finally, pick up some Harry Potter merchandise at the two wonderful wizardry shops on Victoria Street. If you want to go one step further, The Potter Trail is a popular Harry Potter-inspired free walking tour too.
9. Edinburgh knows how to host a festival
Did you know that Edinburgh is the world’s leading festival city? I mean, if I wasn’t in love before I would be after hearing that declaration. I’ve only visited Edinburgh in autumn, but I would one day love to attend Hogmanay, the city’s epic New Year’s Eve celebration. With multiple events, live music concerts and spectacular fireworks, it sounds like the party of the year. Alternatively, there’s the iconic Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. There’s even a website solely dedicated to Edinburgh festivals.
10. Finally, it’s a great solo travel destination
Okay, my final reason to visit Edinburgh is that it’s a great destination for solo female travellers. Take all the points mentioned above, add in the fact it’s easy to get to and home to plenty of hostels, and you end up with many reasons why I think Edinburgh is the perfect solo travel destination. I always felt comfortable in Edinburgh and I was never bored – no wonder it’s one of my favourite cities, right? 😉
So, will you be adding “visit Edinburgh” to your bucket list?
I mean, with beautiful architecture, plenty of free attractions, a delicious food scene and ample day trip opportunities, why wouldn’t you want to visit Edinburgh? I truly hope you love Edinburgh as much as me.