Is Edinburgh worth visiting?
It’s almost impossible not to fall in love with the Scottish capital. There’s something incredibly captivating about Edinburgh. In fact, I have yet to meet someone who has visited the city and not been enthralled by it.
I lived in Edinburgh for three years and I kept finding new reasons to love this place (although the weather’s not one of them).
So, if you’re thinking of visiting Edinburgh, I’ve put together a list of things that make this city a great place to visit (and live in).
Here are 10 good reasons to visit Edinburgh.
1. The Green Spaces
Edinburgh is the greenest city in the UK. There are parks and gardens scattered across the city, the most popular being Princess Street Gardens right in the heart of the city, and The Meadows, a favourite spot among University students and festival performers.
Other quiet green areas in Edinburgh include Inverleith Park and Holyrood Park. If you’re up for a wee adventure, take a walk up Arthur’s Seat and spend a few minutes inhaling the clean Scottish air. You can also have a picnic on Calton Hill, where you can enjoy panoramic views of Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth.
These green spaces make up for the lack of pedestrianised streets in Edinburgh, serving as a retreat from the hordes of tourists and heavy traffic in the city centre.
2. The Free Museums
OK, let’s be a bit realistic for a second – you’re more likely to be spending time indoors than having picnics in the parks when you’re in Edinburgh.
Thankfully, there’s enough to keep you busy on a rainy day as most museums in Edinburgh are free.
Yep, you can immerse yourself in the history of Scotland without spending a penny, although you are expected to leave a donation when visiting a museum.
For history buffs, there’s The National Museum of Scotland, The Museum of Edinburgh and The People’s Story Museum. If you love art and literature, make sure you check out The Writer’s Museum, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and The Scottish National Gallery.
3. The Atmospheric Old Town
Edinburgh’s Old Town looks like something straight out of a Victorian ghost story. The Old Town is laced with narrow alleys cutting through towering tenement buildings. Some of these alleys are reputedly haunted, while others harbour a hidden shop or restaurant, making them less formidable.
If you’re an avid photographer, you’ll definitely have a good time taking photos of the narrow lanes leading off the Royal Mile. Advocate’s Close and Anchor Close are possibly the most photographed alleys in the Old Town, while Mary King’s Close is supposed to be one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh.
4. The Bus Service
I can honestly say that so far I have never been let down by Edinburgh’s bus services. They are efficient, reliable and convenient – just make sure you always have the exact amount of change for the bus (click here for the latest bus fares).
You don’t really need to get a bus to explore the city centre – Edinburgh is quite a small city and can be easily explored on foot. However, you might want to take a few day trips to nearby towns and attractions, such as Craigmillar Castle, Portobello and South Queensferry.
5. The Indie Coffee Shops
Edinburgh is packed with cosy coffee shops. Many of them serve artisan coffee and delicious homemade treats. If you want to explore Edinburgh’s coffee culture, head to Bruntsfield Place, South Bridge and Clerk Street – these streets are lined with quirky coffee shops.
6. The Offbeat Festivals
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe hardly needs any introduction. This world-famous event draws thousands of tourists to the Scottish capital every year. However, there are a few other festivals held throughout the year which are also well-attended, though a bit more offbeat.
The Beltane Fire Festival has become one of the most anticipated events in Edinburgh. Held on the eve of May Day, this festival is a re-interpretation of the old pagan ritual of Beltane. A similar event is the Samhuinn Fire Festival on Halloween, which celebrates the Celtic New Year with drums and fire. Both events are organised by the Beltane Fire Society.
7. The City Views
There are plenty of places in Edinburgh where you can get a stunning view of the city without having to pay for it – although you’ll definitely sweat for it!
Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill offer panoramic views and they’re both a great spot for watching the sunset in summer.
I also recommend walking up to the castle from Princes Street Gardens. There are a couple of steep paths zigzagging up Castle Hill, where you can see almost all of the New Town and as far as the Firth of Forth.
The Roof Garden at the National Museum of Scotland (free entrance) is also a great place to enjoy some amazing city views.
8. The Cool Neighbourhoods
A great way to explore the lesser-known side of Edinburgh is to go for a walk along the Water of Leith. Start from Dean Village, a quiet residential area with quaint houses, and walk along the river towards Stockbridge, known for its gorgeous cafes, vintage shops and Sunday food market. Keep walking along the river until you arrive in Leith.
Leith is a quirky and multicultural neighborhood. Besides being home to the Royal Yacht Britannia, Leith also boasts a thriving food scene, with many pubs and restaurants offering al fresco dining along the waterfront.
9. The Pub Scene
If you want to get a taste of Edinburgh’s beer and whiskey culture, spend a night or two pub-hopping in the New Town.
Rose Street is a great place for pub crawls. This pedestrianised street is packed with bars and pubs, and is one of the liveliest places at night.
Another great (and less busy) place for a good night out is Leith Shore. The cobbled streets on the waterfront are lined with bistros and pubs that specialise in craft beers and seafood.
10. The Morbid Stories
Edinburgh’s history is laden with tales of torture, murder and grave-robbing. Going on a two-hour tour of Edinburgh’s bloody history is like watching a full season of Game of Thrones. Almost every street in the Old Town has a gruesome story to tell, and things get darker as you venture into the underground vaults.
Explore the sinister side of Edinburgh by taking a ghost or history tour through some of the eeriest places in the city, including Mary King’s Close, Greyfriars Kirkyard and the South Bridge Vaults.
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