Where To Stay
The Dunstane Houses
For a touch of old-school glamour, check in to the Dunstane Houses on a leafy street just outside the city centre. ‘Wee’ doubles are just that, but the pick of the rooms are the suites, featuring Instagrammable baths and four-poster beds. The Ba’Bar is a cosy place to linger – start the day with duck eggs and haggis followed by sightseeing and an old-fashioned nightcap.
If you’d rather have self-catering facilities, this cool studio apartment is located on the famous Grassmarket in Edinburgh’s Old Town. The property has simple yet modern interiors throughout, with an open kitchen and living area, a bedroom with double bed, and a separate shower room with luxury toiletries. Guests can also make use of underfloor heating and will be treated to a welcome hamper on arrival.
In Edinburgh’s New Town, this boutique aparthotel has everything you need for a comfortable stay. An affordable option if you’re staying for a weekend, there are three types of room to choose from – a studio apartment comes with a fully equipped kitchen, while a one-bedroom apartment also includes a spacious living room, ideal for families. Guests can enjoy coffee or evening drinks in the hotel’s lounge before exploring the local area.
Eden Locke is a design-led ‘aparthotel’ in the centre of the capital. Designed for longer stays, each suite comes with free wi-fi, a fully equipped kitchen, a large L-shaped sofa, sash windows with views over the city and plenty of storage space. In the communal spaces, a juice bar/coffee shop transforms into a bar by night, and health and wellbeing coaches are on hand if you need to recharge your batteries.
Apartment On Cheyne Street
This small but cosy apartment has some of the most stylish interiors on this list. Head to the cobbled streets of Cheyne Street in Stockbridge to stay in this lovely, characterful one-bedroom property. There’s an open-plan kitchen-diner with several cookbooks if you want to whip up a traditional Scottish meal, as well as a spacious double bedroom, a bathroom with a free-standing tub, and a study with a further single bed. Ideal for a long weekend, New Town is a short walk away, as are the Botanic Gardens and several local artisan shops.
One of the best adult-only spots in Scotland, The Witchery is a beautiful, gothic-style hotel in Castlehill. Occupying a collection of historic buildings at the gates to Edinburgh Castle and oozing with atmosphere, it’s a great destination for couples looking for a romantic getaway. The hotel has dark, opulent interiors – rooms are filled with antique furniture and rich fabrics – with nine suites, ranging from spacious boudoirs with rooftop views to rooms tucked away in a turret with their own private staircase.
The Balmoral, with its majestic clock tower, has been a fixture of the city’s skyline since 1902. Adjoining the train station, it plays to its rich history as an Edinburgh landmark with porters poised to whisk guests from the station hall to the reception desk, and doormen in traditional kilts. Inside you’ll find a spa, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant, which, whether you’re staying here or not, is a must-visit for the Scottish tasting menu alone.
Intercontinental Edinburgh The George
Right in the middle of the city centre, this hotel is a great spot from which to explore Edinburgh. The rooms are sleekly simple, albeit with everything you need for a comfortable stay, from plush linens and fluffy bathrobes to roll-top baths and a tuck box full of treats. If you’re travelling with a friend, the superior twin rooms are a great option, while the King Forth View has a spacious seating area with beautiful views of the New Town. Guests can dine at the relaxed brasserie-style restaurant and unwind at The Printing Press bar with a cocktail or glass of champagne.
100 Princes Street
This hotel is still a work in progress, but if you’re planning to visit the city next year, 100 Princes Street is somewhere to bookmark. Set to open in April 2022, it’s owned by the Red Carnation Hotel Collection (behind Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana and Ashford Castle in Ireland), so we’re expecting good things. Located in New Town, the hotel will have 28 rooms with Alexander McQueen-inspired interiors, plus a lounge overlooking Edinburgh Castle. We can’t wait to visit when it opens.
Where To Eat & Drink
Bryant & Mack Special Detectives
Having opened four years ago, this bar is a hidden gem. Tucked away down North Lane and behind frosted glass, you’ll be transported to the secretive world of Bryant and Mack’s private detective agency. Thankfully the hospitality isn’t as frosty as the entrance – within, warm-spirited bartenders serve up a selection of classic and inventive cocktails.
Tom and Michaela Kitchin opened Michelin-starred The Kitchin on Leith waterfront in 2006. The kitchen serves modern British food influenced by French cooking techniques and showcases Tom’s passion for the high-quality ingredients available from Scotland's fantastic natural larder. We like the sound of poached Loch Fyne oysters, squid ink tagliatelle, spelt, spring vegetables and Oscietra caviar, followed by terrine of Highland venison, venison tartare and liver parfait, celeriac, bramble and orange.
The Table is the first interactive, fine-dining experience in central Edinburgh. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a stone counter that comfortably sits ten people in front of an open-plan kitchen. Here, guests join chef-patron Sean Clark for an evening of fun food via a multi-course tasting menu that showcases the very best of Scottish produce. The Table focuses on European cooking with some influence from further afield – think ‘Golden Wonder Cheese and Onion' (Isle of Mull cheddar raviolo with onion broth).
The Gardener’s Cottage
Inside a charming, historic building in the heart of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site, The Gardener’s Cottage (which it once was) focuses on seasonal cooking and social dining, offering à la carte lunches and a six-course set dinner menu served on communal dining tables.
As well as being a top hotel, The Witchery is probably the most atmospheric setting you can imagine for a city dining experience. Guests can relax with a bottle of champagne before enjoying dinner in either the 16th-century candlelit dining room or the elegant Secret Garden room with a hand-painted ceiling and secluded terrace. Both menus celebrate the best of Scottish produce, with dishes like steak tartare with burnt onion mayo; a seafood platter of lobster, langoustine, oysters, clams, mussels and crab; and bitter chocolate tart with blood orange sorbet.
Southside Scran is Tom Kitchin’s more recent Edinburgh opening. Here, the menu reflects Kitchin and head chef Dominic Jack's passion for seasonal produce and their shared love of France and its cuisine. The rotisserie grill in the room presents diners with a daily selection of meat, fish and vegetables while the bistro setting encourages guests to share dishes and salads with the entire table for a family-style approach to dining.
The Lookout by Gardener's Cottage is an exciting partnership between Edinburgh restaurant The Gardener’s Cottage and Collective, the organisation that transformed the City Observatory site on Calton Hill into a new home for contemporary art. Work up an appetite with a bracing walk to the top of Calton Hill and then head to The Lookout. Built on a cantilever, the restaurant is partially suspended over the mount’s northwest slope, meaning its floor-to-ceiling windows offer views across Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and beyond.
This elegant boutique hotel serves a seasonal menu of Scottish dishes with field-to-fork traceability. All the food is excellent, but the specialty is afternoon tea, which includes a selection of sweet and savoury snacks served with a crisp glass of Veuve Clicquot.
The Printing Press
A relatively new dining haunt for Edinburgh, the Printing Press & Kitchen opened up last October, aiming to bring the freshest Scottish produce to the table. If you like game, be sure to try the rather special Spatchcock Borders grouse, served with red cabbage and brambles.
Hoot The Redeemer
From the team behind the hugely successful Panda & Sons, Hoot The Redeemer describes itself as a ‘dive bar with a wonderful twist’. The twist is that it’s 1950s themed – but panic not, this isn’t a Grease tribute bar. Instead, you’re at a funfair; expect an ice-cream parlour, a Pinch ‘n’ Sip cocktail vending machine and cocktail slushies.
Ondine is a seafood lover’s paradise. Fresh oysters are served up daily – and generously – at the Oyster Bar, together with a whole host of impressive seafood dishes. Think Shetland mussels cooked in an Asian broth of ginger and coriander, and classic fish soup enhanced with North African saffron and orange.
Nobles Café, Bar & Restaurant
Down in newly reinvigorated Leith, Nobles is a restored Victorian café that brings modernity to its classical surroundings – think original stained-glass windows, dark wood-panelling and a vague nautical theme. Food focuses on traditional Scottish ingredients, while local craft ales and cocktails make this boozer a great late-night destination.
The Devil’s Advocate
Inside a historic Victorian pump house (expect plenty of bare brick, beams and wood), The Devil’s Advocate serves up hearty, Scottish-inspired dishes alongside an impressive cocktail and whisky menu. Whatever you do, be sure to try Bodega No.11 – guaranteed to convert any non-whisky drinker.
This fine-dining restaurant at The Balmoral is proper ‘special occasion’ territory. The glamorous dining room is resplendent in dove grey wool banquettes, contemporary art, lacquered red walls, and Adam Ellis’s stunning Scottish oak triptych. Meanwhile, the menus are fashioned using seasonal ingredients to create dishes inspired by Scotland and flavoured by the team’s international travels. We like the sound of smoked potato, egg yolk, onion broth, pickled leek and aged comté.
MATTHEW KALAPUCH / UNSPLASH
What To Do
One of the most historic landmarks in Scotland, you can spot the castle from most of the neighbourhoods in the city, but the best way to learn about its history is to climb the hill towards Entrance Gateway from where you can explore the buildings on site, including St Margaret's Chapel which dates back to the 12th century. Tickets sell out weeks in advance so be sure to buy yours online ahead of time.
A few miles outside of Edinburgh’s city centre lies Portobello Beach, a seaside suburb with two miles of sand. A great spot to visit year-round, you can brave the chilly waters or simply take a walk along the beach, followed by a pitstop at one of the bars or cafés along the promenade.
Princes Street Gardens
A must for horticultural lovers, Princes Street Gardens lies at the centre of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site, stretching across both New and Old Town. It was awarded a Green Flag ten years ago thanks to its colourful display of over 30,000 flowers and plants, and the many memorial sites that commemorate some of the city’s most famous alumni.
If you’re up to the challenge, climb Arthur’s Seat. This peak on the edge of the city was carved out by ice sheets forming on top of the eroded stump of an extinct volcano thousands of years ago. Today, it takes around 45 minutes from Holyrood to reach the top of the hill, where you can appreciate panoramic city views.
The train journey from Edinburgh to London is a beautiful one, passing through the east coast via Northumberland. If you want to make the trip even more exciting, book a Caledonian sleeper train. All rooms come with a washbasin, complimentary toiletries and free wi-fi; some have en-suites with showers.
ARNO SENONER / UNSPLASH
Palace Of Holyroodhouse
Holyroodhouse is the Royal Family’s official home in Scotland and is best known as Mary Queen of Scot’s palace during the 16th century. Visitors can take a tour around the estate, including Mary’s bedchamber and the Great Gallery, with its 89 portraits of Scottish kings.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Edinburgh is home to the second oldest Botanic Garden in the UK. It was founded in Holyrood in the 17th century, before moving to its current location in 1823. Today, visitors can walk through 70 acres of landscapes gardens, full of beautiful botanical plants and rare flowers. Make a beeline for the famous rock garden, then visit the John Hope Gateway visitor centre to learn about its history.
The Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art
If you visit one gallery in Edinburgh, make it The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Here, you can see an extensive collection of contemporary art, from grand portraits to world-class sculptures. The gallery holds regular exhibitions featuring both well-known and up-and-coming artists, so be sure to check what’s on ahead of your visit.
Mercat runs free guided walking tours of the city. A great way to see some of the most historic sites in a couple of hours, you’ll learn about Edinburgh’s rich and dramatic history, and discover how the city has changed and expanded over the last few decades. If you’re not easily spooked, be sure to book one of their ghost tours.
*DISCLAIMER: Travel restrictions are changing daily, so please check the latest government advice and entry requirements to Greece before you book anything. Visit Gov.uk for more information