Edinburgh, my hometown. There’s no better small city in the world. It’s perfectly packaged. It’s all walkable. There’s exciting history, there are fabulous restaurants, there are world-class cultural events, galleries and museums and, if you come in summer, sometimes there’s even some sunshine.
To start your perfect day in Edinburgh, get up early. Drag yourself out of bed when it’s still dark and head out towards Arthur’s seat. It’s a bit of a climb and will be sure to get the heart pumping, but there’s nothing more magical than watching the sunrise over the city from a rocky perch on the Crags or from a windy seat on the peak. You’ll get a real sense of the city from here. It’s the perfect vantage from which to take in the bones of Auld Reekie – the spine of the city, the Royal Mile, cutting through the heart of the Town with the Castle standing proudly at it’s peak; the winding old town, with it’s narrow streets, and; the glistening majesty of the Georgian New Town. If it’s a clear day, you’ll see out to the countryside and the Firth of Forth. It will leave you just itching to get down amongst the fray.
You’ll be hungry after all of that stomping. Best fill your belly, as they say in Scotland. The only way to that in is to head for a proper fry up. My favourite local haunt, Toast, is in Marchmont, not far from Arthur’s Seat. Toast is a delightful little cafe on Marchmont Road that serves a full Scottish breakfast. Drink in endless cups of strong tea and feast on black pudding, rashers of smoky bacon and home-made baked beans.
From breakfast, head into the city, to begin your adventure. Walk down Marchmont Road to the Meadows, one of the cities favourite green spaces. You’ll see the students of Edinburgh University whizzing by on their bicycles and the yummy mummies of Bruntsfield walking with their bugaboo strollers. Take it all in. Head directly up Middle Meadow Walk and into the heart of the Old Town. Whilst in this area, be sure to visit the newly renovated National Museum of Scotland. The building is breathtaking and the collection is very fine. Enjoy an amble around the vaulted halls and learn more about Scotland’s rich heritage. And it’s free!
Now for lunch. You could try any number of fantastic eateries in the Old Town. A poke of hot fish and chips. Or you some good old fashioned Scottish fare. But if you’ve got the money to spend, I’d recommend taking a walk down to Castle Terrace and to try out Edinburgh’s hottest new restaurant, Timberyard. Timberyard celebrates British design and uses the freshest, best quality Scottish produce to create interesting, creative dishes. Well worth the splurge.
After a long, leisurely meal, wander back up to the Royal Mile and visit the Castle foreground. The Castle itself deserves a proper day (so if you’re home exchanging for a while, it’s perfect), but a walk up to the foreground will reward you with equally as good views. Afterwards, warm your cockles with a hot chocolate from Chocolate Soup (located just off the Royal Mile) or if you’re feeling properly Scottish, a nip of the stronger stuff in one of the many pubs lining the Mile.
You’ll want to spend the rest of the afternoon in the New Town. Elegant and beautifully proportioned it’s a world away from the dark, winding passes of the Old Town. Architecture lovers will fall for the beautifully maintained Georgian houses and squares in this smart, affluent part of the city. Explore at your leisure, taking in the small boutique shops that line the streets. If you’re a foodie, it’s worth walking a bit further down to the Stockbridge area of the New Town, where you’ll fin some of the country’s finest independent food shops.
End your day with dinner at the Café St Honore, one of Edinburgh’s cosiest, most quaint restaurants and, if you’re still feeling active, a nightcap and or dance at one of George Street’s many bars and clubs. The best for a quiet drink are Thistle Street Bar and the Voodoo rooms. (a bit more lively). For those who’ve brought their dancing shoes, make a bee-line to Lulu’s or the Opal Lounge.