My first visit to Edinburgh was during a backpacking trip through England. We had decided to stop of there a few days before going up to Inverness to see Loch Ness and hopefully Nessie. We had not figured that accommodation was going to be an issue so we didn’t look into booking something until a few days before. While looking through the booking sites there was not really much there, but we found a B&B not far from Old Town which is a central district of Edinburgh. When we arrived it turned out we were double booked, but the hostess was nice enough to set us up in a friends empty loft at the same cost (thank you). Anyway when we made it into town we understood why there was a lack of accommodation, it was the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The worlds largest arts festival which spans almost all of August. Streets full of performers, comedy shows and concerts almost everywhere, practically every venue is packed from dusk till dawn with performances of some sort. Needless to say we extended our stay in Edinburgh just to find out what all the fuss was about.
The costs of living and food is pretty much comparable to the rest of western Europe. Although if you are going to Edinburgh during the Fringe festival I would advise you to book accommodation early since the prices do go up for those weeks. The last time I visited Edinburgh during the Fringe I used Airbnb which saved us a ton compared to a hotel or hostel. And the accommodation we got was located pretty much in the centre and was probably a fair bit better than any anything else in our price range.
The locals in Edinburgh are in my experience both helpful and friendly. Most of the folks I’ve met seem easygoing and never far from a laugh. There is a certain atmosphere of camaraderie that I haven’t found anywhere else than in Edinburgh and that camaraderie comes through even stronger in some of the pubs. There is something special with many of their pubs, I think it is a combination of certain factors that leads to that atmosphere. Alright bear with me here, but image it’s a cold dark evening and the streets are almost deserted but in the distance you hear voices singing together and if you concentrate your gaze you can see a yellow glow as from glowing embers coming through a window further down the street. The singing gets louder and become accompanied by a smell of earthly delights as you draw near the door to this refuge from the night. When the door finally swing open it is not only the warmth from an imagined fire that hits you but also the joyous laughter of others seeking refuge from the night. And while I’m on the topics of pubs…
The Food and Beverages
I’m going to be honest here and say that my main food experience in Edinburgh comes from the pubs. Now I’ve been to a few restaurants in the city and they’ve all been fine. But so has most of the food i’ve gotten in the pubs been as well (even the haggis), and often quite a bit cheaper. So try a few of the Scottish pub classics if you get the opportunity. But now on to the important part, the beverages. Now if you, as I, come from a country without much tradition in anything apart from lager beer and clear spirits you are in for a pleasant surprise. Because you can practically go from pub to pub for a new and refreshing pint at every stop, and that is saying something since there are more than 700 pubs in Edinburgh. If it takes your fancy to order a whiskey be prepared for some contemplation since the list of options are often not so much a list as a several paged folder. I can recommend the pub Whiski on the Royal Mile, especially if the Gorms (a local band) are playing.
There are plenty of sights and activities to take part in around Edinburgh. First of all I would simply recommend taking a stroll on the Royal Mile in Old Town, the street that leads up to the castle, and soaking in the atmosphere. Speaking of the castle, it is well worth a visit but be prepared to spend a few hours because it rather large. If spooky is your thing the there are both underground and cemetery tours at night to take. I can recommend the underground tour which takes you underneath the Royal Mile and lets you see the Edinburgh of yore. It is an interesting tour if somewhat short. The botanical garden is also a great choice if you want to kill a few hours strolling around a beautiful garden with a particularly horrifying scarecrow. I know most people probably do some sort of highland tour, but if you aren’t I at least urge you to take a walk down to, and up Arthurs seat. Arthurs seat is a hill located at walking distance from Edinburgh centre and from the top you get a great view of Edinburgh and its surroundings. There is also the option of shopping if the urge strikes you there are several malls and entire Princess Street is filled with shops. And if you’re feeling adventurous there is the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, featuring climbing routes up to 28m high and an aerial assault course set 30m above the ground. I haven’t been yet but I surely will go on my next visit. If nothing of the above sounds interesting you could try seeing each pub as a new sight to be explored…
The town of Edinburgh has become one of my favourite places over the years and I enjoy my visits there more each time. I mean what is there not to like? The people are great, the setting is beautiful, the food is good and the above 700 pubs have a vast selection of both beer and whisky. And if you are in the mood for entertainment take a look at my post about the Festival Fringe. In conclusion I highly recommend you pay a visit to the Scottish gem that is Edinburgh.