How to #UncoverEdinburgh Like a Local
19 October 2018
I might be a little bit biased, but I think Edinburgh is one of the best cities in the world. No matter what age you are, what your interests are, or what your budget is, you'll be able to find plenty of things to do. As well as amazing history, culture and architecture, Edinburgh also has a fantastic food and drink scene, interesting attractions and museums, cool pop-ups and world-class festivals and events.
I'm always happy to shout about the best bits of Edinburgh, so was delighted when This Is Edinburgh asked me to take part in the #UncoverEdinburgh campaign. Working with Youth Travel Edinburgh and VisitScotland, the campaign aims to showcase Edinburgh as a great destination for young travelers - which fits in perfectly as 2018 is Scotland's Year of Young People.
I was Sandy's insider guide on a mission to help her #UncoverEdinburgh like a local. Here's what we got up to, along with some of my top tips on how to explore the city like a local.
Check out special events in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is well known for its famous Fringe Festival during the summer, but there are plenty of other events to check out throughout the year if you aren't visiting during August. There are loads of festivals (ranging from magic to jazz music and science to films) held in Edinburgh, as well as special one-off events.
We headed along to Knight at the Castle, a special event at Edinburgh Castle to celebrate the Year of Young People 2018. Described as "Edinburgh's oldest knightclub", it was a really cool way to see the city's most famous landmark as it had never been seen before. Think neon lights, live music, magic shows, DJs and lots more - including a set from Be Charlotte to close the night.
It's well worth checking out This Is Edinburgh's What's On page to find out what's happening during your visit.
See the sights
Edinburgh is a beautiful city which combines the higgledy-piggledy Old Town with the refined Georgian streets of the New Town, and plenty of green spaces in between. There are lots of monuments and landmarks to look out for, and plenty of vantage points to snap the perfect picture postcard photo.
If you're only visiting for a few days, it can be difficult to see everything on foot so I'd recommend hopping on an Edinburgh City Tour with Rabbie's. You'll get to explore some of Edinburgh's most scenic spots as part of a small group, with a very insightful audio guide telling you about the history of places as you pass by them.
The Rabbie's tour is great for getting an overview of the city in just a couple of hours, and you can always make a note of any areas you want to go back and see in more detail later. One of the places our tour went was the Dean Village - a must-visit for any Instagrammers!
If you have slightly longer in Scotland, you might want to discover the rest of the country with a Rabbie's tour ranging all the way from one to 17 days. Departing from Edinburgh, they'll take you to Loch Ness, Loch Lomond, the Isle of Skye, the Speyside whisky trail, Glencoe and beyond.
Eat in Edinburgh's independent restaurants
Edinburgh has a fantastic food and drink scene, so you'll be spoilt for choice when you visit the Scottish capital. Whether you fancy some traditional fayre, want to try international cuisine or are up for dining in a Michelin starred restaurant, Edinburgh has it all.
Avoid the chain restaurants and visit some of our lovely independent places - take a look at my Food & Drink category for some inspiration.
As it was Sandy's first visit to Scotland, it was only right that I introduced her to haggis! We visited the Whiski Rooms for lunch and tried traditional haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky cream sauce, accompanied by a glass of Innis & Gunn beer. Luckily, it got the thumbs up! I also recommended The Outsider for delicious food with an amazing view of the castle, The Devil's Advocate to try some Scottish whiskies, and Civerinos for relaxed street food vibes.
Not sure where to dine during your visit to Edinburgh? Just ask! We're a friendly bunch and are always happy to give recommendations - drop an email to local bloggers before your trip, or ask your hotel concierge/Airbnb host for their favourite spots.
Visit unusual attractions in Edinburgh
Whether you're into traditional museums and galleries or something a little more quirky, Edinburgh has lots of attractions to keep you entertained. One of my favourite places to take visitors is the Camera Obscura, one of the oldest tourist attractions in Edinburgh and also one of the most fun.
Start at the top of the building, where you get stunning panoramic views of Edinburgh from the rooftop and an incredible sweeping look around the city in the original camera obscura room. Then, make your way back down through the six floors filled with optical illusions, tricks and interactive hands-on exhibits. See if you can escape from the mirror maze, take a selfie in the infinite light room, spot some very life-like holograms and try not to fall over in the vortex tunnel.
Top tips to help you #UncoverEdinburgh
Now you've seen a little taste of what's on offer, why not book yourself a trip to Edinburgh? To make the most of your time in the city, here are a few more of my top tips for exploring Edinburgh like a local.
Walk or take the bus
Edinburgh is a fairly small city, so you can walk just about everywhere. It's quite hilly though, so take a comfy pair of shoes! If you're going slightly further out of the city centre (or if it's raining...), hop on a Lothian Bus. The buses here are great, very frequent and pretty cheap - it's £1.70 for a single journey or £4 for an unlimited day ticket. The buses don't give out change, so make sure you have the right coins with you, or download the m-tickets app for digital tickets - available on Android and iOS.
Find hidden gems
If you head just slightly off the beaten track, you'll find plenty of hidden gems in Edinburgh. One of the best is the Dean Village, a hidden historical oasis just 10 minutes from Princes Street. It feels like you've left the city and are in a cute countryside village, but it's right in the heart of Edinburgh.
Explore the neighbourhoods
Edinburgh is full of distinct neighbourhoods which all have a unique personality. Venture away from the city centre to find out what Edinburgh's really like. Stockbridge is quaint and a wee bit fancy with its great brunch spots, cafes and weekly Sunday market. Leith is a bit grittier and very hipster, with cool bars and restaurants down by the waterfront. Bruntsfield is full of independent boutiques and cafes, perfect for a weekend browse. Newington is quite studenty, full of cheap bars and street food restaurants.
Enjoy the cafe culture
We love a good coffee shop here in Edinburgh. If you've had enough of sightseeing and want to feel like a local, head to one of our many independent coffee shops to enjoy some cake and a spot of people-watching. If you fancy something a little stronger, there are plenty of pubs too!
Stroll through the green spaces
Edinburgh has lots of beautiful parks and green spaces, perfect if you're in need of a breather from city life. Princes Street Gardens is right in the city centre, as is St Andrew Square. Head slightly further out to The Meadows for a picnic in the summer, or stroll through the autumn leaves at Inverleith Park. Don't forget a walk along the Water of Leith or the Union Canal - finishing up in a pub, of course.
Snap the most Instagrammable locations
Pretty much everywhere in Edinburgh is picturesque, but here are a few of the very prettiest spots you can't miss. Circus Lane for the cutest cobbled street. Calton Hill for iconic views of the city. Victoria Street for the most colourful street in Edinburgh. The Vennel by the Grassmarket for a breathtaking view of the castle. The top of Arthur's Seat for a bird's eye view of Edinburgh.
Thank you to This Is Edinburgh for helping me #UncoverEdinburgh last weekend - I had a great time showing Sandy around the city! Make sure you head over to Sandy's Youtube channel to watch her vlog from the weekend and find out exactly what we got up to.