Struggling through changeable weather year-round, Edinburgh, the UK’s most northerly capital city, has better things to offer than endless days of unbroken sunshine – it has class, heritage and candlelit folklore to keep you warm.
We should mention, It was unusually sunny and hot during our visit in late May – but we promise everything in this guide is, pretty much, weatherproof and true to ‘usual’ climates.
Now that’s been cleared up, let’s take a five-pillar approach to what makes a good trip; relaxation, culture, LGBTI spaces, food and drink and the outdoors.
We had exactly 48 hours from the time the plane touched down to when we departed from the tarmac once again – so it was on to cram in as much as possible but still feel chilled.
Here’s a quick round-up of guide of where we found ourselves in those 48 hours:
Wake up with the dawn chorus and head to a spa for relaxation.
Have you ever had an hour-long exfoliating facial massage? It’s a definition of living.
One Spa at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa offers a huge range of treatments designed individually to suit men and women, as well as an outdoor hydropool and signature spa experience, ‘Escape at One’, that leads relaxation-seekers around various treatment rooms.
Diving in bright and early, around 9am, starting our adventures in Edinburgh with a vigorous workout followed by intensive therapy sessions was just what we needed to unwind from a busy week we’d just left behind – and truly left behind.
Soothe aching muscles in the sauna, let your pores breathe in the thermal suite and rejuvenate your skin in the Laconium and Tepidarium.
For us, the 55-min intensive men’s facial was incredible – and we would argue a lot more relaxing than a massage, which has its own benefits, because it promotes body-wide relaxation using pressure points in the face. Women’s options are also available.
‘Escape at One’ is available Monday to Friday and lasts 3 hours, including use of the gym, fitness studios and 19m indoor swimming pool for an inclusive price of £70 per person.
This pub and its surroundings offer true pockets of Scottish culture.
The Royal Mile, one of the UK’s most iconic heritage sites, stretches for – you guessed it – one Scot mile connecting Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace.
The essence of Scottish culture, and Edinburgh’s own, lives in the small alleys, cobbled streets and pivotal landmarks cradled along The Royal Mile, the heart of the Old Town.
That essence bursts into life in one small and well-hidden pub, Whiski Bar.
Although Whiski Bar is on The Royal Mile its discreet facade makes it overshone by the blinding lights of neighboring chain restaurants, which you don’t want to fall into if you’re looking for Scottish authenticity.
In the evening, the candlelit windows and the shadowy movements of people at the bar enjoying the nightly live music from local bands, all playing Scottish folk songs and alike, will lure you in.
While their signature Whiski Burger, complete with crumbling haggis, and great whisky selection will make you stay until the wee hours singing merrily away with a scotch in hand.
Here are two places you should reserve some time to have food and drink.
Civerinos, Hunter Square
Enroute to scale Arthur’s Seat, which we’ll talk about later, we made a pit-stop in Hunter Square to get a carb-injection from Civerinos, an italian street food and pizza slice bar.
Born in the midst of World War II, when founder Nonno Marino Massari arrived in Scotland, the success of Civerinos as a staple family-led business couldn’t of been predicted. Starting as humble street food carts in small Scottish towns was to be the beginning of the future.
Today, Civerinos self-identifies as ‘the slowest fast food you’ll ever come across, and we’re here for that mantra which doesn’t sacrifice quality for speed but finds a happy, and we mean very happy, middle.
The pizza are huge and will put stars in your eyes, but you’ll want to manage it all – trust us.
The ingredients are truly authentic, so you won’t find any Domino’s Chicken Tikka fusion here, and stay true to the history of its origins and Italian cuisine.
A great idea, if you’re not crazy peckish, and want a taste of what’s on offer is to grab ‘The Civerinos’ to share, a couple of sides (the Aranchini is to die for) and their signature slushy cocktails, which change with the seasons/the bartender’s impulse that day!
Oh, and we got the Italian Zeppole Doughnuts to share between two us for dessert and there was easily enough for 4 – tread with care, our friends!
Le-Di-Vin, New Town
Easily the most up and coming wine bar in New Town, the Kensington & Chelsea of Edinburgh, Le-Di-Vin is a pocket of modern day France tucked away within the historic walls of a converted chapel.
The owner, and the majority of the staff, hails from France and came to the Scottish capital to bring their passion for French exports, in the forms of wines and cheese, to the palettes of Whisky and Angus beef lovers from here, in Edinburgh, to every corner of the Highlands.
The full wine list here is vast and with unfussy, but authentic, foods from France, including meat and cheese platters, seafood, terrines and fresh bread there’s enough to go around.
The accompanying restaurant next door, La P’tite Folie, also belongs to the same owner and welcomes wine-fanatics revelling in Le-Di-Vin to enjoy the full culinary experience French cuisine has to offer.
They may be few, but Edinburgh’s LGBTI spaces are full of warmth and welcome.
CC Blooms is the longest established gay bar in Edinburgh, so it takes the responsibility to create a safe space in a smaller visible area seriously with love and warmth.
Like in Manchester, Birmingham and London, Edinburgh doesn’t have a gay village or similar area in the city; CC Blooms brings that community into its doors for everyone to enjoy.
At biggest and best, since its opening in 1994, CC Blooms has had a chic new redesign making it a popular cocktail bar, chillout area and daytime eatery – something for all.
Two other bars in Edinburgh are Planet Bar, welcoming LGBTI women, and the gay-owned Regent Bar; both are well worth checking out.
The great outdoors…
Arthur’s Seat offers the most spectacular view over Edinburgh, from the castle towering above the city to the surrounding hills and out to the sea from Leith, it’s a must see for all visitors – if the weather’s fair.
The climb to the seat starts nearby Holyrood Palace and Scottish Parliament, a trail will need walkers on a gentle-ish incline around the seat before reaching the top for a well worthwhile view.
So, that’s how we spent our 48 hours in Edinburgh – how will you spend yours?