I went on a bit of a whirlwind 10 day trip to the UK last September (I know, it’s taken a while to write this!). We stayed in London most of the time but decided to head up north for a bit and spend a weekend in Edinburgh. This was one of the best decisions that we made on the trip, as Edinburgh quickly made its way into my heart, claiming the spot of my favourite city to have visited so far (though, there seems to be plenty of room in my heart for favourite cities).
We had the most amazing 3 nights in this fairytale city and managed to squeeze in as many activities as we could.
How we got there
We took the train from Kings Cross in London to Edinburgh on a Friday afternoon. This was the cheapest ticket that we could find at £40 (booked on Trainline). The train trip took about 4 and a half hours and had lovely scenery along the way — especially after we passed Newcastle and the train started going along the coastline. We then took the afternoon train back to London on the following Monday.
What we did
So we essentially had one full day and one half day in Edinburg as we also decided to spend one day going to North Berwick for the day (which was really cool, read about it here). We tried to pack in as much as we could and managed to squeeze in the below activities:
- Walking tour: We always look out for the free New Europe walking tours in the various European cities and were excited to find one in Edinburgh. Their tour guides are always really good, full of knowledge about the city that they’re taking you around and usually quite fun as well. The walking tour is a great intro into the city as you’ll walk around the main tourist sites and learn about the history, as well as get a few tips on where you should eat/drink/party/get around.
- Ghost Tour: I can’t remember the name of the ghost tour that we joined, but we found them gathering in the main area on the Royal Mile and just joined. You’ll find a few adverts on the street, so just pick one and join in when it’s time to start. There are a few paid ghost tours, though I’m not sure which ones are good. The free one was good enough if you’re on a budget and just interested in listening to a few ghost stories.
- Arthur’s Seat: On our last morning in Edinburgh we decided to hike up Arthur’s Seat, and despite being slightly hungover (see whisky drinking below), it was a good decision. The views up there are amazing, and we were lucky to have a sunny day to enjoy it all.
- Castle: We didn’t go for the tour inside, rather just looked around it out from outside. We’d heard that it’s not worth the ticket to go in, and because of budgeting, we decided to give it a skip.
- Princess Street: We strolled up and down the famous shopping street, enjoying the bagpipe players and watching the locals go by.
- Whisky drinking: You can’t go to Scotland and not enjoy a bit of whisky. We bought a bottle of whisky and water from the store and drank it in the park (again, budgeting…haha). The park adventure then led into roaming the streets, meeting some really gangster kids asking us for drugs, and later finding a cool Canadian who took us to a pub with a dungeon. It was a really fun night!
- Eat: One of the highlights of what we ate in Edinburgh was trying a traditional breakfast (yes, with black pudding!), I can’t say I’ll be running at the chance to try it again but it’s always awesome trying the local food. We also fell in love with a local fast food joint called Oink — possibly the best pulled pork sandwich I’ve ever had in my life. We ate there twice over the weekend. They have three shops, Victoria Street, Canongate and Hanover Street, so make sure you find one and smash a pulled pork sarmie in your face.
Where we stayed
We were on a budget as I mentioned (converting South African Rands into Pounds isn’t a great experience), so decided to brave it by booking a dorm room in a hostel. While we’ve stayed in all sorts of hostels before, we’ve recently started rather booking a private room if a hostel is our only option. Unfortunately, when booking, the private room wasn’t available, so we just booked two beds in a dorm room at St. Christopher’s Hostel.
The hostel has a great location on Market Street, right opposite the train station so it was really easy to find. It was also close to the Royal Mile to explore the Old Town as well as Princess Street to explore the New Town.
I must say that I didn’t enjoy staying in the dorm room. It was a 20 sleeper mixed dorm, so lots of people constantly in and out. What made it worse, was that on our first night the roof was leaking. So much so that whenever someone flushed the toilet in the room above us, the water would come pouring out our roof (right next to our beds). Not awesome, but at least they fixed it by our second night there.
What was great at St. Christopher’s though was the 25% discount at the bar connected to the hostel. Their food was really good, and with affordable drinks. If you ever go, you HAVE to try their sweet potato fries!
What I loved the most
- Learning about Edinburgh’s crazy history – Edinburgh some crazy history stories, from suffering through the plague, fighting off grave diggers, ghosts, and getting through some really filthy times. I loved listening to all of the stories, each crazier than the last.
- Walking through the streets – this is seriously the most beautiful city that I’ve ever been to. You feel like you’re walking through a fairytale while wandering through the streets. It’s hard to describe the feeling, it’s just incredible and completely breathtaking.
- The buskers – I have some Scottish in me so hearing bagpipes always gets all my feelings going. I know it’s super touristy and must drive the locals absolutely nuts, but I loved the buskers dressed up in their traditional kilts playing the bagpipes on the street. It was so cool to hear them constantly chiming on in the background.
What I want to go back for
A weekend wasn’t enough at all! It was great to get a first impression and tick off a few bucket lists sights, but there’s still so much to see and do!
A few things that I’d love to still do/see in Edinburgh if I ever get the chance to go back:
- Spend a day at the National Museum of Scotland.
- Go for a tour inside the castle.
- Go for a proper Gin or Whisky tasting.
- Explore the dungeons and hear more fascinating ghost stories.
- Go in August for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe (we just missed it and still saw the stage set up below the castle for the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo performance).
- Or…go for Christmas/New Years and explore the amazing Christmas markets then party the night away at Hogmany for New Years Eve.
When traveling to a new destination for such a short time, it’s important to plan your trip in advance to best manage your time and know what items you want to tick off your list while you’re there.
Have you been to Edinburgh? What were your favourite things to do?
All photos by Michael Langer.