Find a better UK city break than Edinburgh … I’ll wait. An ever growing food scene, artisan coffee shops, gothic architecture, labyrinths of streets to meander through, stunning landscapes and city hikes for incredible views – a weekend in Edinburgh, Scotland has it all. It’s often overlooked when planning a UK mini break considering a Google search for “best UK mini breaks” generate links to the majority of English towns. Don’t discount north of the border just yet because Edinburgh has so much to offer, generally for a lot less coin and is considerably less busy than other UK capital cities. Read on for restaurant recommendations, fun actives and other suggestions in this Edinburgh guide.
If you’re looking for an Edinburgh Festival guide check out my post here.
Once a popup stand during the Edinburgh Festival serving authentic Thai street food, Ting Thai Caravan has now become a permanent residence on the Edinburgh food scene. Remaining true to their roots the street food is now served to your table in takeout boxes. Authentic, delicious and very reasonably priced Thai food. Don’t miss these dishes on your order: Kai look-kuey (deep fried egg), Goong frong beer (bubble prawns), Duck Massaman curry. The owners actually now have three restaurants including Saboteur it’s Vietnamese sister restaurant.
Slice on the go? Civerinos Slice is the place you want to be. Weird and wonderful combinations of toppings on these very generous slices. They’re all great, but you can’t beat the Civerinos original – sausage, salami, rosemary and buffalo mozzarella with a bit of black pepper. *chefs kiss*
Best Ramen in the city? With a side of exceptional quality for price sushi? Maki and Ramen is your go to. The black garlic and pork belly ramen is out of this world creamy, salty and heart warming. The sashimi is melt in your mouth. The green tea is unlimited. Fresh Japanese food at its best!
Chez Jules: This tucked away basement French Restaurant is quite possibly the best value lunch in Edinburgh. The £7.95 set menu is a two course meal with bread, salad, pickles and charcuterie to start. The main course even has the option of a steak with pepper sauce and fries. The atmosphere here in the evenings is cosy – candle lit tables, the low hum of chatter amongst diners, a glass of Cote du Rhone in hand and delicious French food on your plate.
Want Tacos? Go to Bodega. This small restaurant in Leith does great tacos and is BYOB. Even if you bring your own wine, make sure to order a jug of their margaritas or a round of their passionfruit frozen margs! The small plates mean you can try a whole selection of their tacos. Plenty of veggie and gluten free options but my all time favourite is the buffalo sesame chicken taco with celery slaw, blue cheese and Franks hot sauce! It’s no reservations for small groups and does get busy so get there early.
East Pizzas – some of the best pizza outside of Italy. Their creamy cheese and tomato pizza’s secret ingredient is double cream. If I could describe a pizza as tasting luxurious this would be it. They make their own sourdough too.
Tempo Perso is an Italian restaurant in Bruntsfield. Owner Marco will make you feel like you’re dining in your own home with his friendly and familiar service. Perfect for a family gathering think big sharing starters of meats and cheeses, delicious pizza and pasta dishes, don’t miss the ever changing specials board for dishes like lobster ravioli or slow cook ragu and tagliatelle. Washed down with a few glasses of Prosecco or an Aperol spritz. This place is unpretentious, great food and great service.
BABA for food inspired by the flavours of the Levant. Mezze and grilled meats in an elegant setting. Go in a group to enjoy sharing as many of their dishes as you can. Think rich hummus, juicy lamb koftas, whole blackened grilled chicken. The flavours are smokey, creamy and fragrant. The decor is opulent and the vibe is luxurious. Deep jewel tones on the walls and the high ceilings make this restaurant A VIBE! Afterwords head through to the Kimpton bar for a few drinks. We love this restaurant so much we actually hosted our intimate family wedding meal after our legal nuptials last year.
For Brunch – check out the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh. Or known as Brunchfield to my husband, and for good reason. Honeycomb cafe serves great hazelnut mochas, interesting salads and a 10/10 shakshouka. La Barantine for an almond croissant and other French buttery patisserie options that could rival those in Paris. Project Coffee for artisan coffee and good full breakfasts. Bross Bagel for bad ass fillings. Classic NYC options like salt beef or pastrami and other more unique options like sweet and sticky chilli glazed tempeh, scotch lamb shoulder and mint dressing, turkey and apple slaw. Artisan Coffee Roasters for the most DIVINE coffee in Edinburgh. There I said it! It’s a tough call because Edinburgh coffee scene is SO good but this will always be my favourite.
For a memorable dinner – The Lookout is a truly fabulous restaurant at the top of Calton Hill. Floor to ceiling glass walls encase this restaurant giving you breathtaking views over the city. The food is special, the wine is divine and the service is friendly. The Lookout is a real occasion restaurant and make sure you book up in advance, it’s small and always busy.
For a bit of everything – Pitt Street Market. This old industrial yard turned hipster food and social scene in Leith is brimming with gastronomical delights to satisfy everyone’s palette. Me? The Buffalo Truck for a fried chicken burger of course. But why just stick to what you love when you can sample everything with the touch of a button on their Pitt Market app. Order food and drinks from various venues all at once and have it delivered straight to your table.
The Garden Bar at the Kimpton Hotel. Luscious, tropical plants fill this atrium bar from every angle. This is an anytime of day bar, from coffees in the morning, cocktails at lunch or martinis in the evening. The bar blends into BABA restaurant which is an absolute must visit. Read above for the full run down of this place.
Norloft Champagne Lounge at the top of the Market Street Hotel. Go Thursdays between 4-6pm for £1 oysters to pair with an excellent selection of Champagnes by the glass and bottle. If you need more than oysters, their tapas style small plates are delicious too. Incredible views of the castle as a backdrop is an additional bonus.
Montheiths for a cosy drink on the Royal Mile. Follow the alleyway lit with twinkling lights down to the basement bar and restaurant. Fine Scottish food and and an excellent cocktail menu. The bar’s mixologist has a creative list of cocktails mixed up with potions made in house. Their Old Fashioned is laced with house made salt spray.
Gin tasting – One Square Bar offer a £35pp intimate group gin tasting experience. Try out four gins (including their house made) with different tonics. Learning the history of gin. Did you know? All gin is made from vodka. Infused with juniper berries and other herbs. Also 90% of gins have coriander seed in them! Edinburgh Gin also offer gin distillery tours and tastings at both their Rutland Street and Leith distilleries.
Other bars to check out in the centre on Queen Street are Panda and Sons with its speakeasy vibes entering through a barber shop, this quirky basement pub serves craft beers, cocktails and wines. And Lucky Liquor, a small independent bar serving an array of interesting cocktails.
Edinburgh has plenty of activities in both the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town alike. One of my favourite things to do in Edinburgh is wander around the sweet villages admiring the boutique shops, beautiful buildings and mountainous backdrops, popping into a cosy bar for a drink and just soaking up the atmosphere.
If you want to get a feel for Edinburgh’s eerie history then check out one of the Ghost walking tours of Edinburgh’s hidden city. For any Harry Potter fans there are plenty Potter Tours throughout the city taking you on a journey of where the magic of Harry Potter began, where Lord Voldemort is buried and take a trip down the real Diagon Alley on the Grassmarket.
For those seeking outdoor activities in the city centre then look no further than a hike up Calton Hill. The centrally located viewing point is a spectacular panorama of the city and you get to witness a little piece of unfinished history in Edinburgh and you’ll realise why Edinburgh is known as Athens Of The North.
Arthurs Seat is another great hike in Edinburgh. It’s a little more challenging but fantastic views span all over Edinburgh and North to Fife. Just in front of the imposing mountain in Edinburgh’s city centre is the less gruelling hike to The Crags. Go for a sunset picnic and take in the panoramic views of the city. If you’re lucky Edinburgh will treat you to spectacular scenes of deep pink and orange skies.
A wonderful spring through to autumn activity would be a visit to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh’s New Town. It’s free to get in but pre booking must be done online prior to arrival. Afterwords a wander through Stockbridge and Dean Village is worthwhile with its artisan coffee shops, independent restaurants, a Sunday market for food and art give this area of Edinburgh cute village vibes.
The Kimpton – Best for boutique hotel vibes, food and style.
The upmarket hotel in Charlotte Square oozes elegance and style. Start your day with breakfast in the atrium style lobby surrounded by tropical plants and end it with dining in sheer opulent elegance in their Lebanese restaurant BABA. The food is as exquisite as the decor. The suites are plush. Staying true to its Scottish heritage in the capital with chic tartans and grand chandeliers the rooms have a real luxurious feel to them.
The Sheraton – Best for spa.
The award winning One Spa at the Sheraton is the best hotel spa in Edinburgh. So if you want a little relaxing and pampering between sightseeing this the hotel for you. Forget about the world below as you float in the outdoor hydropool above Edinburgh city centre. Dry salt rooms, steam rooms, Hammams, and saunas are a plenty. The centrally located Sheraton hotel has many restaurants, bars and sights nearby. The rooms are light, bright and recently refurbished. Make sure you book one with a castle view!
The Balmoral – Best for luxury.
A notable landmark on the Edinburgh skyline, this hotel is as lux inside as it looks from the outside. Described as a love letter to Scotland, with it’s subtle nods to Caledonia with paisley print curtains, thistles blending into the patterned wallpaper and the Harris tweed headboard make it certain that without even leaving the room you couldn’t be anywhere else in the world. However if you did plan to leave the room, a nightcap in the ultra chic Bar Prince will transport you back to the glitzy Parisian 1920s. Even without being a guest at the hotel dinner at Michelin Star restaurant Number One, a wee dram at whisky bar Scotch or champagne afternoon tea at Palm Court there is a special experience for every visitor to Edinburgh at the Balmoral. Oh, and dogs are most welcome at The Balmoral so don’t forget to bring your furry friend along for the stay!
I hope this not too exhaustive list has convinced you to visit one of my favourite cities on Earth. Check back for updates as this list is as ever changing as Edinburgh’s expanding food and drink scene.