After a relaxing few days in the Scottish Highlands where we celebrated our 10 year anniversary, it was time to head into the city! We spent three nights in Edinburgh and absolutely fell in love with this beautiful city. If you take a trip to explore the Scottish Highlands, then I also highly recommend that you make sure you save some time to discover the sights and charm of Edinburgh as well.
S T A Y //
First off, let me tell you about where we stayed because it was a GEM! I’ve admired hotels before through the British booking site Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but since we are normally traveling with children and they specialize more in couples’ travel, we haven’t had a chance to use them. Until now! I’d been eyeing the five-star G&V Royal Mile Hotel and got the absolute best deal booking through Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We got a premium room with this gorgeous view onto Victoria Street, free breakfast daily (which was fantastic), a gifted bottle of wine from Mr. and Mrs. Smith, welcome gin and tonics, and get this…free mini bar for our entire stay. That’s right, snacks, beer, wine, and soft drinks. Replenished daily and included in the rate. And we got this for the same price they were offering just for the base price room over on other popular booking sites.
There is a bar and restaurant on-site that we didn’t try, but we did check out the spa for some short treatments one afternoon and it was great. Everything about the hotel was faultless from location to service to this lovely anniversary surprise and I would highly recommend it for a special stay in Edinburgh.
Now, on to what to do!
P L A Y //
1) Sightseeing on the Royal Mile
Edinburgh is a beautiful city filled with amazing architecture and the first thing you will want to do is just wander around and take it all in. Start at the castle and work your way through the Royal Mile and Old Town for some lovely sights.
We got super lucky with the weather for the whole three days we were there-I think it only rained once for about an hour (which was when we decided to visit the spa)! Obviously that helped with the sightseeing and even though it was mostly overcast and gray, it added to the charm with all the gray buildings. I can imagine you’d feel differently about all the gray though if you lived here!
Our room looked out onto the colorful Victoria Street, which is filled with lots of cute little bars, restaurants, and shops.
I had always heard good things about Edinburgh, but I was a bit blown away by just how much we loved it…and can’t believe that we waited so long to get here! We found the people to be super friendly and just really liked the vibe of the place. Enough to do, but not too big…perfect place for a weekend city break!
2) High Tea at the Balmoral
Despite the fact that we’ve traveled to the U.K. a few times we had never had high tea, so we knew that we needed to remedy that on this trip! There are several places around town that offer high tea, but we opted for the fancy experience at the Balmoral, a luxury five-star hotel.
This was such a fun experience! The food included a soup amuse bouche, finger sandwiches, mini quiche, haggis bites (and a veggie version for me), scones and clotted cream, and three different small deserts. Even though it was small portions, it was still a lot of food and we were able to have two of our scones boxed up for later which was nice since they were too good to waste! You also get to take home a little parting gift-chocolates and a small tin of tea…can’t wait to have a cuppa now that we are back home and can reminisce. All of the food was fantastic and the atmosphere was just lovely. I was surprised that despite the fact that there were tourists there, it was also lots of locals mostly celebrating special occasions. It’s expensive, but such a unique thing to do and I’d recommend it especially if you’re celebrating something special!
3) Explore the Trendy Neighborhood of Stockbridge
Only a 10 to 15 minute walk from downtown Edinburgh, Stockbridge once used to be a sleepy little village but is now one of the most affluent parts of the city. It’s a popular place for both locals and visitors alike thanks to its classical architecture and upscale shops, restaurants, and bars. Stockbridge also has lots of green spaces including the Royal Botanic Garden and Inverlieth Park, and it runs alongside the Water of Leith, one of the main rivers that runs through Edinburgh.
We loved exploring this charming neighborhood and had fun just wandering around and popping in some shops.
There are lots of foodie shops in Stockbridge and if you happen to be in town on a Sunday, don’t miss the Sunday afternoon market-apparently a foodie paradise! (PS. As much as I love cheese here in Switzerland/France, I have to say it was nice to be in the land of cheddar for a bit!!)
3) Climb Arthur’s Seat
A short walk from the Royal Mile lies Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano that sits 251 meters above sea level and provides an excellent view of the city. It takes about an hour to go up and down and the walk is not difficult although you do have to climb some rocks at the end to get to the top. The 360 degree views are beautiful!
The Queen’s Residence at Holyrood Palace is on the way back into town and it is open to the public for tours. It looked interesting, but unfortunately was closing by the time we finished the hike so we just peeked through the gates. The weather was changing anyway and from full sun when we started the hike to being able to see it raining way in the distance from the top of Arthur’s Seat, we knew our time was a bit limited before the rains reached us. Thankfully it didn’t last long and it was dry by the time we headed out for dinner!
4) Take a Gin Master Class and 5) Check out Edinburgh’s Nightlife
Unfortunately, neither of us are the biggest fans of whiskey…but we do love gin and with the ever expanding craft gin market in Scotland, we knew we needed to do some gin sampling! Thanks to this article from a friend of a friend, I found out about this super fun Gin Master Class at Heads & Tales, a bar with its own mini gin distillery. The class provided an interesting history of gin from its conception to present day with samples along the way and your choice of G & T at the end. It was such an informative class and we learned lots of new tidbits including the best ways to serve our favorite cocktail. Gin has had a huge rise in popularity in recent years and is set to outpace sales of whiskey in the UK by the year 2020. We had no idea that since gin takes such a short time to produce (only 3 days from start to finish!), many whiskey distillers are creating their own gins while they wait for the whiskeys to age (minimum 3 years!). Our favorite gin we tried was the Isle of Harris…we even brought a bottle home with us and I am in love with the pretty bottle it comes in so I don’t want to drink it. 😉
You can buy the Harris Gin here… (as well as other places, I’m sure!)
Edinburgh has lots to offer in terms of night life-from cozy pubs to unique and quirky bars. One of those quirky bars that I knew we had to try was Panda & Sons, a prohibition style cocktail bar hidden behind a bookcase in a fake barbershop. You go in and literally push through the bookcase and you’re there. It was very unique with a big choice of cocktails…and although the service was horribly slow, it was still fun.
Of course, we also had to visit a whiskey bar despite the fact that we’re not wild about it because well, when in
M O R E //
The good food continued on this leg of the trip and our favorite restaurants were Howie’s on Victoria Street where we had fresh fish and this fantastic sticky toffee pudding, and Forage and Chatter where we had more amazing seafood in inventive dishes.
We really loved Edinburgh and its easygoing charm…and with Easyjet flights direct from Geneva, we’d definitely come back again! Maybe the kids will even get to come next time! 😉
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