Your ultimate guide to planning the best Edinburgh vacation in Scotland

On my recent trip to Edinburgh, there was rain, cancelled plans and a couple of blisters. But it was still perfect for me because visiting Edinburgh is all about finding new expressions and refreshing old experiences.

The primary emotion that washed over me once the hissing doors of the bus shut behind my back and my feet hit the wet pavement was pure adoration; Edinburgh is a ridiculously good looking city.

Scotland’s second-largest city Edinburgh is a trendy destination with travellers who wish to see a new part of the world, it’s a city with an ideal blend of culture, fun, history and nature.

There are lots to see at any time of the year – spring arrives with the trees flaunting their pretty gowns, summers come with world-famous festivals, autumn is a storytelling and harvest time and winter offers Christmas magic.

As you walk around Edinburgh where dark facades invite to discover what is inside, it doesn’t take much to imagine knights in shining armour and dragons looping over the castle walls.

“This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again.” – Alexander McCall Smith

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Part of the UK,  yet very much its own country.

 

 

Things to know before you go

With the wet, grey and windy weather aside, Edinburgh is a dynamic and open-minded city and sort of perfect city too. So perfect in fact that it is the second visited city in the whole of the UK – every year, around 4 million people arrive eager to take delight in exploring its uniqueness.

  • Crowds | That’s why one of the first things you have to expect in Edinburgh is crowds. And crowds come with congested tourist attractions, expensive accommodation and long ques at the airport. Trying to get through the swarms of tourists on the Royal Mile during the August festival can be a quite overwhelming experience. Nevertheless, you can avoid a distressing visit by planning ahead and doing your research.
  • Local lingo | Local slang in Edinburgh takes some time to get used to. ‘Ah right, pal?’ is just another way to say is everything OK.  Before you go, learn the definition of a couple of local jargons such as: ‘Shan’ – terrible, bad, disappointing, ‘Barry’ – good, ‘Ken’ – know, ‘Reeking’ – drunk and/or smelly, ‘Braw’ – brilliant and ‘Chum’ – accompany.
  • Currency | The official currency in Scotland is the pound sterling (GPB and £) and the most common banknotes are £5, £10, £20 and £50.
  • Walk |  Skip the car and explore Edinburgh on foot – thanks to cities central layout driving around and finding parking will only lead to frustration.
  • Plan ahead | Fringe Festival and Hogmanay party are the two most significant events in Edinburgh’s calendar. Anyone that plans on visiting – book your accommodation well in advance as the prices shoot up!
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Circus Lane in Stockbridge is one of Edinburgh’s prettiest street.

 

How to get to and around Edinburgh

 • Flights | The easiest way to get to Edinburgh (EDI) is by plane. Edinburgh Airport, situated just 15 kilometres from the city centre, is very well connected with Europe, Turkey and the USA. It’s the busiest airport in the country, so use Skyscanner to find a convenient flight.

  • Trains | Edinburgh’s railway station that has been operating since 1846 has fast rail services to London. If you live in the UK, taking the train from London, Leeds or Liverpool to beautiful Edinburgh Waverly Station is another great option if you are not in a hurry. The road to Scotland takes you trough the York, Durham and Berwick before you arrive in the centre of the city.

  • Airlink 100 | The best way to get into the city if you arrive by aeroplane is by Airlink bus which travels all the way to the Waverly Bridge. The buses run 24 hours, leave the terminal every 10 minutes and takes around 30 minutes to get to the city. Tickets cost £.4.50 for the single and £7.50 for the return journey.

  • Walking | Once in Edinburgh,  which by the way is an effortless city to navigate with the New Town one and Old town on the other side – you have several options. You can wander around on foot, use a bicycle or choose the bus or tram. Many of Edinburgh’s major attractions are located within walking distance from each other that’s why it’s best to wear comfortable shoes and explore the city on foot.

  • Taxis| You can also use one of the black cabs (with the yellow light switched on), which you can pre-book or simply hail down,  to explore Edinburgh. Central Taxis and City Cabs are two of the most reliable.

  • Buses | Lothian buses run throughout the city and can take you to attractions like Royal Yacht Brittania and Edinburgh Zoo. Unlimited bus and tram tickets costa £4 for adults and £2 for children. Download their mobile app for live departure times and daily updates.

*Our Crossings Tip: Lothian Buses do not offer change, so have the exact amount of money when purchasing tickets from a bus driver.

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Edinburgh Waverly Station, Scotland.

 

 

When to visit Edinburgh

Weather is unpredictable throughout Scotland with June, July, August and September being the warmest month with the most amount of daytime. Edinburgh is relatively cold throughout the year, so be prepared for variable weather by wearing layers and by bringing your umbrella.

Choosing when to visit will have an impact on your trip as every travel season comes with its own pros and cons. Deciding when to visit will also largely depend on what type of traveller you are because families, young adults, business travellers and domestic visitors all want different experiences.

In general, Edinburgh is one of those European cities you can visit all year round and don’t fear on missing out on its food and arts scene – restaurants, shops, attractions and music venues are all opened even when the tourists leave.

If you can’t decide when to book your holiday to Edinburgh, consider these four simple questions to help you to make the most with your time and budget:

  • Entertainment – what’s on
  • Cost of staying in Edinburgh
  • Weather and climate
  • Accommodation availability
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Stockbridge Market, Edinburgh.

 

Edinburgh’s Travel Seasons:

HIGH SEASON: JULY and AUGUST

With average high temperatures around 19’C, summertime is the warmest time of the year in Edinburgh and its also a high season in tourism.

The advantages of travelling in high season to Edinburgh – plenty of festivals, blooming gardens, good weather, long days and its when the most tourist attractions are opened. The disadvantages – high coasts, chaotic airports and large crowds of visitors.

SHOULDER SEASON: MAY and JUNE, SEPTEMBER and OCTOBER

Shoulder season is the best time to visit Edinburgh with May being the driest month. It sees the drop in visitors compared to the summer month, yet it is still lively. Rhododendrons begin to blossom in spring and autumn arrives with fantastic colours.

The Braemar Gathering, the most famous of Scotland’s Highland games are held in September.

LOW SEASON: NOVEMBER trough APRIL

From mid-October to mid-April the weather is miserable, but the accommodation is much cheaper, and you’ll mingle with fewer tourists in cosy pubs.

Edinburgh rarely gets extreme temperatures during the low season, but it’s cold and dreary and the days are so short; think 4pm sunsets. You have to pack more clothes then it is summer, yet its the time of Christmas markets and Hogmanay celebrations and if you are lucky you could also see snow.

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Did you know that Edinburgh was the first city in the entire world to have its own fire service?

 

Where to stay in Edinburgh

On your first trip to Edinburgh, you will most likely spend time visiting top tourist attractions, and that’s why staying central is a good choice. Edinburgh is a relatively compact city with the New town and Old town being the most central areas.

You can also look into staying at one of the hotels/hostels located at West End or check out once-thriving port of Leith-all very well linked to the city centre.

Depending on your length of stay Stockbridge with its two artisan cheesemongers and an award-winning bookshop, a coastal suburb of Portabello, Brustfield and the Meadows are all very trendy neighbourhoods worth booking your stay.

  • Edinburgh’s Old Town that encompasses Royal Mile is an excellent choice for accommodation if you plan on visiting major tourist attractions and like to be centrally located. Don’t dismiss it for being touristy, after all – it’s an official UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 where some of the city’s oldest attractions are located.  Here you’ll find a great variety of museums, the Scottish parliament building and    Edinburgh castle among many others. Grab a coffee or freshly baked cakes at locals favourites Lovecrumbs, Mary’s Milk Bar or Brewlab.
  • Edinburgh’s New Town is another area you can look into staying as there are loads of shops, restaurants and tourist attractions to explore and visit. Blessed with beautiful Georgian architecture, high-end boutiques and fancy cocktail bars. It’s where Scottish National Portrait Gallery and Edinburgh Playhouse is located as well as beautiful Charlotte square and Gorge street. Youll love a false bookcase doorway at Panda and Sons bar or enjoy your coffee fix at Artisan Roast. 
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Beautiful St. Gills Cathedral, Edinburgh.

 

Where to go for a meal in Edinburgh

From the sushi and deep-fried mars bars to fish and chips – a staple dish in Scotland – Edinburgh is a foodies haven. Scotlands finest dishes can be found throughout the city as well as plenty of trendy cafés, upmarket dining rooms, casual bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Once in Edinburgh, why not try Scottland’s traditional dishes such as Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup made with potatoes, smoked haddock and onions. Or Lorne sausage, often known as square sausage or sliced sausage is a local delicacy made with beef, pork or the mixture of both.

Scotlands national dish is  Haggis-made of heart, liver and lungs mixed with onions, suet, herbs and spices all packed into a bag made of sheep stomack. It’s a classic for the locals but can be daunting to visitors; give it a try anyway, it is said to be delicious.

For vegetarians |  Fear not if you prefer plant-based dishes – you’ll find plenty of super cool cafes and restaurants throughout the city catering to vegetarian needs. Some of the places worth looking up:

For seafood |  Fish and chips is a nation’s favourite you can sample at the seaside or at the takeaway in the city. Don’t forget to add a special chippy sauce – made from dates, salt and spices and available in all the decent shops around Edinburgh –  when ordering fish and chips.

  • L’Alba D’Oro | 7 Henderson Row –  for fish and chips
  • Bertie’s | 9 Victoria Street –  for fish and chips
  • Hakataya | 122 Rose Street S Lane  – for sushi

For breakfast & brunch | You’ll find plenty of trendy spots for that all-important first meal of the day. While the hotel and B&B breakfast is convenient, make sure you dedicate one morning or early afternoon if you love lie-ins, scanning local cafes and fresh bakeries.

  • Broughton Deli | 7 Barony Street  – for local and organic dishes
  • Papii | 101 Hanover Street –  for  freshly baked scones and strong coffee
  • Peter’s Yard | 27 Simpson Loan + 3 Deanhaugh Street –  for  Sweedish baked goods
  • The Treehouse Cafe | 44 Leven Street – for the best pancakes in town
  • Cafe Milk | 232 Morrison Street –  for outstanding coffee and breakfast burritos
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Grassmarket is is a great place to find a cosy place for lunch and dinner.

 

 

Top things to do in Edinburgh

Travellers looking for traditional Scotland, Edinburgh is it. Whether you are looking to marvel at world-class museums or sample its cuisine or nightlife

  • Dynamic Earth | Visiting Dynamic Earth, situated at Holyrood Rd, is taking a journey through time and space with cleverly created interactive galleries, visual effects and movies at its 360′ planetarium cinema.
  • Surgeons’ Hall Museum | Explore the history of medicine in an award-winning museum and enjoy lots of interactive exhibits. The museum is very interesting although a bit gruesome, not many people will have stomack for it – there’s a room with all body parts and lots of pathology specimens here in jars.
  • National Museum of Scotland |A very remarkable museum, located at Chambers Street, with excellent exhibits about science and technology, the natural world, design and fashion all in one building. You can watch the Millenium Clock chime the hour and travel back in time with Scottish history.
  • Edinburgh Castle | Edinburgh Castle is a wonderful place to explore and learn about history throughout various displays, see the Crown Jewels and marvel at the city below. It’s one of the most visited attractions in Edinburgh, it can get hectic during the peak season, so plan your visit accordingly.
  • Free Stuff | If you are on the budget, there are loads of things you can do in Edinburgh for free.  Visit Greifyirs Graveyard, see Scottish Parliament, hike Arthur’s Seat, explore Botanical Gardens, see all of the Harry Potter sites, visit Dean Village and many more.
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National Museum of Scotland with the stunningly beautiful Grand Gallery offers visitors plenty to see and do.

 

 

Great day trips from Edinburgh

The Scottish capital is a perfect starting point for a day trip. Book an organised tour and head into Highlands or choose a multi-day trip along NORTH 500 to be inspired by the variety of the scenery, adventures and places to explore because there is more to Scotland than guidebooks will tell you.

  • Loch Ness | The most popular day trip from Edinburgh, usually around 12+ hours long, takes visitors through the varied landscapes of the famous Scottish Highlands with an opportunity to see Glen Coe, Highland Cows and Loch Ness.
  • Rosslyn Chapel |A fantastic full-day tour where you get to travel over the UNESCO–listed Forth Bridge to visit Rosslyn Chapel, Stirling Castle and Dunfermline Abbey. Highlights of the trip – Wallace Monument and Abbey Kirk.
  • Hadrian’s Wall | A great trip to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site Hadrian’s Wall as well as visiting  Northumberland National Park, the Irthing Valley and the Southern Uplands.
  • Stirling Castle the secret to staying warm while visiting countries with freezing temperatures are to wear a warm hat that covers your ears. Travel to Stirling to see one of the most important and largest castles in Scotland. Sitting atop on Castle Hill, beautifully restores Stirling Castle offers fantastic views of the surrounding area and lots of Scottish history.
  • North Berwick | A little seaside town, best known for Scottish Seabird Centre and Bss Rock makes for a lovely day trip from Edinburgh. Jump on a train, and within half an hour you’ll be walking on the beach.

*Our Crossings Tip: If you prefer to travel independently, there are loads of little day trips you can plan using public transport.  We would recommend – St. Andrews, Stirling Castle, Glasgow and South Queensferry.

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Visiting The William Wallace monument – one of the Stirling’s most distinctive monuments – is always a good idea.

 

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Edinburgh? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Edinburgh and have travel-related questions!

 

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Our Crossings follows the daily adventures of Latvian expats living in Sligo as they surf and explore the world

37 thoughts on “Your ultimate guide to planning the best Edinburgh vacation in Scotland

    1. Thanks so much for reading. Edinburgh is such a bucket list destination and such a fantastic city to explore that deserves at least one encounter if not more. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely festive season. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading. Edinburgh is indeed a fascinating city to explore and a home to several fabulous attractions from the National Museum of Scotland to the iconic Edinburgh Castle, so you can never get bored! Have a lovely festive season and thanks for stopping by. Aiva

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  1. I’ve never been to Edinburgh, but I would sure love to visit there one day. The Loch Ness day trip sounds like it would be pretty fun and a great way to see more of the Scottish countryside. As a vegetarian, it’s good to hear that they have lots of plant-based food options around the city.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Edinburgh is a fantastic place to explore, nature abounds in the Scottish capital, and if you are an outdoors person, there are lots of green spaces you can visit as well as a distinct volcano you can climb known as Arthur’s Seat. And, of course, not to mention all the fantastic day trips to the incredibly stunning Highlands to keep your heart and soul full. Thanks for reading and have a wonderful festive season. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautiful photographs! Edinburgh looks like a beautiful place to visit. You have provided such good information, and that’s all I need to go there, which I probably will, in spring. I’ve always had very good Scottish friends. They are lovely people and I do wish them independence and to remain in the EU. All the best to you,
    FBC

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and sharing your thoughts, Francisco! Although Edinburgh isn’t the most budget-friendly destination there are many incredible things to do, you won’t find anywhere else.

      Like climbing a volcano, learn all about whisky and going on a day trip to the Highlands to see the Lochness Monster – how exciting is that?

      Edinburgh’s art scene also is vibrant, the Scottish National Gallery holds a permanent collection of fine art and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, includes works by Salvador Dalí and René Magritte. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely festive season. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much. Edinburgh is a city of sheer beauty, and I love every nook and cranny of it so much that I can write endless amounts of posts about it. Thank you for reading and have a lovely festive season. Aiva

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  3. Great post. We have been to Edinburgh a couple of times. Once on our honeymoon (1977) and once with our 2 boys (2008) so I could show them where my family came from. We always enjoy Auld Reekie and your post reminds me that I need to return to Scotland. But, perhaps, I’ll wait until this whole Brexit thing shakes out. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had no idea your family is from Scotland, and I bet you had plenty of memorable experiences on both trips! Edinburgh is a beautiful city to explore at any time of the year, and I can’t wait to go back again, this time with our toddler in tow just so we can show her a city we once called our home. But just like you, we are waiting for whole Brexit thing to finalise and who knows, maybe next time we’ll travel to Scotland, well visit an independent country. Thanks for reading, Allan and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thanks so much for reading! I hope you get to visit Edinburgh in March. Steeped in history, it’s a city unlike any other with plenty of amazing tours, monuments and sights to uncover. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely festive season. Aiva

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  4. Great post and wonderful pictures! I went to Edinburgh almost 2 years ago now but I still feel like I haven’t seen all of it. Hoping to go back soon, this time with your amazing guide! Thanks a lot for sharing!! 😊

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    1. Thanks so much for reading, Juliette. Edinburgh has a special place in my heart and I could never get enough of everything this beautiful city has to offer. Believe it or not, but after re-visiting Edinburgh for 11 times now, I still haven’t had the opportunity to see everything. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful holiday season 😊 Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I have been to Edinburgh but only for a day and an overnight. Not even enough time to go into the castle! I definitely want to get back and see more of it. Already the plans for some future visit to the UK have us flying into Edinburgh instead of London (because we want to go climb Ben Nevis). Fingers crossed it won’t be too long before we can enact this plan! Great post. I will surely reference it when the time comes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading!

      I’ve always proclaimed my love for Edinburgh. From the cobblestones of the Royal Mile to the quaint atmosphere of Dean Village, Edinburgh is a fantastic and culturally significant city worth visiting and exploring over and over again. One of the things I love most about Edinburgh is the variety of emotions I get to experience on every visit. Excitement, amazement, joy and belonging is just a few of them. Fingers crossed you get to visit Edinburgh again and have a lovely festive season. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for reading and interacting. Edinburgh is the most vibrant destination in the whole of the UK, and I hope you get to visit Scottish capital one day. The best advice we can give you – don’t worry about making the plan, explore its charming neighbourhoods and go whenever cobblestone streets take you. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You would love it! Edinburgh is known as one of the most haunted cities in Europe, so there are plenty of spooky and witchcraft stories as well as lots of green spaces, beautiful gardens and incredible bookshops. Hope you get to visit Edinburgh one day! Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely festive season. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! No visitor will be short of things to do in Edinburgh. From Edinburgh Castle that affords some of the best views of the city to the National Museum of Scotland’s Grand Gallery displaying items from around the world – Scottish capital is a real treasure box. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

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    1. Thank you. I have to say, Edinburgh is one pretty special city – from underground towns to rooftop terraces and hidden alleyways, you’ll feel as if stepping into a dreamy scene. Thanks for reading and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Wonderful guide! I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times and agree it’s good to visit no matter what time of year you visit. Hoping I might get to Fringe this year but we’ll see 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Having lived in Edinburgh for three years, we had a chance to experience everything that the Fringe festival has to offer and it’s unlike anything we’ve experienced so far. I hope you can make – it’s crazy busy and even messy at times, but it’s gonna leave a lasting impression. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

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