Edinburgh has been somewhere I have wanted to go back to for a long time. My first and last visit being nearly a decade ago, it was a city I could barely remember and one I wanted to rediscover.
Luckily for me, one of my good friends had just moved back to Edinburgh a few months before my trip and had lots of great recommendations of places to go to explore the city like a real local.
So, with a little help from my local (thanks Kirsty), here’s my alternative travel guide to the best things to do and places to go in Edinburgh that are off the beaten track.
Pickering’s Gin Distillery Tours
It has to be said first, Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat and Edinburgh’s other main attractions, although sometimes a little overpriced, are all definitely worth visiting. But for an attraction that’s a. away from the crowds and b. a little bit different, the Pickering’s Gin Distillery Tour is a great little find.
Although widely known for its whisky, Edinburgh also has a flourishing gin scene too that’s sprung off the back of the spirit’s recent resurgence in popularity. And Edinburgh’s homegrown Pickering’s Gin, are running a tour of their city centre distillery, where they teach you all about the history of gin, how it is made, and their different types of gins. Of course, you get to try some too, with a short sampling session and a G&T in their bar afterwards all included in the ticket price.
Collective art gallery
If you are wanting to experience Edinburgh’s creative scene like a local, make sure to visit one of the cities independent art galleries. Although there are many to choose from, Collective was my favourite. Set on top of Carlton Hill, the walk up to the gallery is wonderfully scenic in itself, and inside, there’s a regular programme of exhibitions and events that showcase the diversity of modern art and design.
Restaurants, cafes & bars
For coffee and amazing tasting cakes, look no further than Lovecrumbs. This little cosy cafe is the perfect spot for a lazy morning or afternoon pick-me-up, ideally located close to both Edinburgh Castle and Grassmarket. The cafe also has a lovely little window seat you can sit in which I loved, it was so snug and great for people watching! I just need to steal it for my flat now…
Set in the Old Town, Holyrood 9A is a traditional pub with a focus on two things: Good beer and good burgers. I learnt afterwards, that the pub actually has a reputation for being one of the best burger joints in the city. Something I would have to agree with. Their burgers tick all the boxes when it comes to taste and choice, with over 16 different ones to choose from. Whilst over at the bar, there’s endless (well 25 to be exact) beers, ciders and ales on tap to try too, ranging from local brewers to international brands.
Montheiths is a small boutique cocktail bar, located on a street just off the Royal Mile. Although it’s right in thick of tourist central, the entrance to the bar is pretty well hidden – look out for a narrow alley decked out with twigs and string lights. The bar itself is underground giving it a secret cosy vibe, and its cocktail menu is refreshingly experimental – my favourite was the Orchard Bramble, made with gin, blackberry liqueur, apple, lemon and elderflower.
Liquorice Tree Gifts
There are lots of fantastic independent and boutique shops on Cockburn Street close to Waverley train station. And Liquorice Tree Gifts is definitely one of them, selling jewellery, unique gifts and homeware, with designs inspired by Scottish style and heritage. A perfect place to look for presents, or just simply to treat yourself!
The Blue painted shop
Now I don’t actually know the name of this shop, but it sits just a few doors down on Cockburn Street with a bright blue painted front – hence my imaginative name for it. Filled with design-led homeware, books and decorative bits and pieces, it’s the kind of shop where I just wanted to buy everything. A must visit if you are shopping on this street, especially if you have a slight obsession with buying home decor like I do!
This isn’t by all means an extensive list of all Edinburgh’s hidden wonders, but hopefully it is enough to get you started on exploring and discovering the real side of this wonderful historic city. Have fun!