What to do in Edinburgh: 12 hours in…

We don’t want our service to stop with left luggage. That’s why CityStasher has conjured up some handy guides for time-poor tourists who want to make the most out of their trip. Where to stash, what to see, do, eat and drink — we’ve got you covered in our 12 hours series…. What to do in Edinburgh?

12 hours in…Edinburgh

Edinburgh. The Athens of the North, the home of the Scottish Enlightenment, one of the most high profile festivals in the world, and, of course, Trainspotting. It’s a great mix. But there’s more to this fantastically broody and haunting city than first meets the eye. The quintessentially gothic Old Town brims with history, and has more nooks and crannies and quaint little alleyways to explore than even the most energetic tourist can manage in twelve hours. The port offers romantic vistas of the Water of Leith and some of the best seafood in the country. Beyond the city, you can enjoy windswept panoramas of the higgledy-piggledy stone tenements, clinging to craggy rocks. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more gorgeous place in the UK — so find a StashPoint and get going!

Nearby StashPoints

Don’t burden yourself with bags in this beautiful city. We’ve got a huge range of StashPoints to choose from in Edinburgh, many of which are located on the Mile. The bus station, train stations and various other locations are also covered, with late-night options also available. Take a look and see what suits you best.

What to do

Let’s be clear, if we weren’t already — Edinburgh is definitely a contender for the most jaw-droppingly beautiful town in Britain. Better still, its size means that, while you’re never short for things to do, pretty much everything is within reasonable walking difference. With that in mind, it’s easy to tighten the purse strings and make the most of Auld Reekie’s rich sightseeing opportunities, museums and walking tours.

The Royal Mile

Hit the Royal Mile to explore the city’s beating heat. The Mile cuts through the centre of town and is lined with bars, Scottish souvenir shops and dominated by the imposing St Giles Cathedral. During Festival time this street is thronged with huge crowds and a wide range of free street shows, and can be somewhat claustrophobic at its peak. However, it’s a great thoroughfare to explore Edinburgh at its most picturesque.

For shopping, Princes Street is your best bet — you may remember the Scottish capital’s main high street as the iconic backdrop for the opening scene of the notorious Trainspotting. Some of the city’s most upmarket boutiques and established flagships can be found in and around Princes Street, which also boasts some breathtaking views of Old Town to complement a spot of retail therapy. Stroll through the Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh’s most popular public park space, for a tranquil getaway from the hustle and bustle.

Edinburgh Castle

At the top of the Mile you can find Edinburgh Castle, jutting out over the city. Home of the British Army in Scotland, this medieval beauty is rich with historical importance and is the most popular tourist attraction in town. You can walk up to and around the walls for free, and explore the castle at your leisure for a small fee. A particular highlight is Mons Meg — a giant 15th century siege cannon captured from Belgium.

Arthur’s Seat

And, for Edinburgh in all its sweeping, panoramic glory, you cannot beat Arthur’s Seat. At the bottom of The Mile, and past the Scottish Parliamentand the exquisite Holyrood Palace, you can start your ascent of this most distinctive feature of the skyline. The trek takes around 45 minutes, and offers unparalleled views over not only the city but the surrounding countryside, and even the Highlands on a very clear day.

Of course, we have to mention the world’s largest arts festival. The Edinburgh Festival (and the ironically dominant ‘Fringe’) flood the capital for the whole month of August, offering comedy, theatre, music and literature in a frenzied feast of culture. This is definitely the most popular month for tourists to visit, and although this reasonably small city can feel cramped for the duration, it really is an unmissable experience. The Fringe is by far and away the main attraction, and many venues still host the free events that have characterised the main Festival’s infamous alternative for decades now. Make sure to snap up tickets early — acts tend to sell out in a very short space of time. Surge charges also tend to apply for accommodation and taxis, although luckily, a handy low-cost luggage storage service can be found in town…

Don’t worry — if you can’t make it in August, Edinburgh still offers some world-beating cultural ventures to enjoy all year round. The Royal Botanic GardensThe National Museum of Scotland and The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art are all within walking distance of each other. Phew.

Where to eat

Edinburgh has established itself as one of the nation’s premier foodie hotspots. From the cheap and cheerful to gourmet Michelin-star fare, there’s something for everyone’s tastebuds.

Perhaps nowhere is the Edinburgh food revival more apparent than in Leith. The city’s port has undergone substantial regeneration in recent years, and is the best place to go looking for fresh seafood. The Kitchin, situated in a converted warehouse and the flagship restaurant of famed chef Tom Kitchin, is a particular highlight. Famed for its bold use of seasonal, local ingredients, this waterside establishment lets the produce speak for itself. Scallops, oysters, lobster and monkfish arrive fresh, delicate and bursting with flavour — the ultimate homage to the Scottish docks.

For food with a view, the rustic Maxies Bistro is a great option. Overlooking Cockburn Street and with stunning vistas of the Old Town, if weather permits this is a great spot to enjoy home-cooked, comforting brasserie fare al fresco.It also has an extensive wine and beer list that will leave you spoilt for choice. If the heavens do open (very likely), the interior is just as lovely — charming, cosy and boasting some of the friendliest staff in town. No wonder it’s so popular with the locals.

A little off the beaten track, Papilio is a charming, family-run establishment away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist-heavy centre. Serving authentic home-made Italian cuisine and a favourite of locals, the lunch menu in particular is a steal.

Where to drink

Grassmarket

For great pubs in the heart of town, head to Grassmarket, where an array of historic watering holes can be found (conveniently close to the Mile). The Last Drop is a moody, dark and charming boozer which draws its name from the fact that Grassmarket used to be the site of many public hangings (in August, you’re more likely to find its become the central location for human statues). The gallows were actually located within the walled area opposite the pub, as a plaque testifies — a great spot to enjoy beer and history at the same time. Biddy Mulligans is a charming Irish bar that puts on regular live music, and a bit further up the road you can find The Bow Bar, offering a fine selection of whiskies (or is it whiskys?) if you fancy a nightcap.

The Balmoral Hotel

Want something more sophisticated? Fear not, the classy Scottish capital has a great selection of cocktail bars too. The Bon Vivant has won international acclaim for its mixing skills, and is both innovative and skilled at the classics. For something truly stunning, The Balmoral Hotel and its exquisite bar offer the opportunity to sip some beverages in one of the most prestigious and grand locations in town. While you can enjoy individual cocktails, the Bar also offers a £45 taster menu of amuse bouche and then five hand-picked drinks — just remember to pace yourself!

CityStasher Recommendations

We’re massive Harry Potter fans here at CityStasher, so where better to visit than the place where it all began? The Elephant House on George IV Bridge may not catch the eye initially, but has played host to some of the most celebrated writers in the country. Enjoy a latte in the same seat that Ian Rankin penned his novels, or a slice of cake where Alexander McCall Smith devised The Number One Ladies’ Detective Agency. The views of Old Town are pretty hard to beat, too.

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