Wowcher’s Guide to Edinburgh!

With its tall, grey stone buildings, hilltop castle and narrow cobbled streets, Edinburgh is truly a city with a sense of history. The striking old architecture, and the forward planning of the council to restrict the erection of bland modern buildings in the Old Town, means that Edinburgh can truly claim to be one of the most visually striking and beautiful cities in Europe.

The steep hills and dramatic gradient around the city mean that the roadmap of the town necessarily works on several criss-crossing levels, which can confuse the un-initiated traveller. For example, be prepared to enter a building at street level on George IV Bridge, walk down four flights of stairs and leave the building at street level again on Cowgate (this took me several attempts to get my head around). It’s quirks like this that lend the city part of its undeniable charm and make a stroll around the beautiful Old Town feel like walking in an MC Esher print.

Things to do:
With the Scottish National Gallery and the National Museum of Scotland both with free entry and both within a few minutes’ walk of the centre of town and the main train station at Waverley, there is no shortage of affordable culture in the city. Further to the north of the city lies the Botanical Gardens and Edinburgh Zoo. The Zoo is proudly home to Tian Tian and Yang Guang, the only two giant pandas in the UK, and the pair are a must-see attraction for any animal lover visiting the capital.

Throughout August every year, the city becomes home to the largest selection of festivals in the world with the International, Fringe, Literature, Jazz and Television Festivals coming to town throughout the month. With world-class entertainers including jugglers, clowns, tightrope walkers, musicians and beat boxers on seemingly every street corner, it is impossible not to be swept up in the magical atmosphere that festival month creates. I, for one, can testify to the wonderful ‘festival vibe’ that embraces the city each year (fuelled often by trips to the late night outdoor bars constructed for the festival), making real life seem positively dull by comparison.

View of the city from Arthur's Seat

View of the city from Arthur’s Seat

Food and drink:
Edinburgh always has a rich variety of food to offer visitors, from the fresh seafood available as a result of the city’s proximity to the sea, to a traditional Scottish haggis and just about everything in between. Vegetarians can choose from any of the cities many famous veggie restaurants and cafes including David Bahn, whilst meat-lovers have a mouth-watering list of options. For me, no trip to Edinburgh would be complete without a trip to two great bastions of culinary delight, Oink and Mosque Kitchen. Situated between the Royal Mile and the Grassmarket, Oink serves large baps filled to the brim with delicious pulled pork to weary tourists, struggling with the inclines of Edinburgh’s many hills, whilst the Mosque Kitchen offers cheap and extremely cheerful mixed cuisine food and is a favourite of performers at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Finally, food wise, you could take the plunge and try one of Scotland’s most unhealthy but undeniably moreish exports: the deep-fried Mars Bar. In terms of bars, Edinburgh is well stocked with quality drinking holes, from the uber-trendy Brewdog on Cowgate, to the bizarre and gothic Frankenstein Bar on George IV Bridge.

What else?
Did I mention the mountain? Oh, yes, Edinburgh has its very own volcanic mountain sitting plum in the middle of the city. Known as Arthur’s Seat, the imposing rock is a defining part of the capital’s skyline and well worth a trip to the top if you have the time, inclination and physical endurance for the climb. The view from the top is simply stunning, with the rolling hills of the Borders to the south, the North Sea to the east, the estuary of the Firth of Forth and the city’s docks to the north, and the beautiful city, topped by the Castle, to the west. Be aware though, it’s perpetually windy at the top, so you will need to wrap up warm.

With its endless hills and steep inclined roads, and with its near endless supply of things to do throughout the day and night, the main symptom of a great stay in Edinburgh is usually utter exhaustion after taking on all the delights that the city has to offer.

Copywriter Matt takes a break on the Royal Mile after an exhausting but fulfilling day walking around Scotland’s capital

Copywriter Matt takes a break on the Royal Mile after an exhausting but fulfilling day walking around Scotland’s capital