I loved–lovedlovedloved–Edinburgh! It has a story for everyone; it’s a romance and a thriller; a tale about magic and a tale about murder; it’s a volume of history and it’s stories of legend. It’s possible to enjoy Edinburgh for the views, the whisky and the inspirational coffee shops, but I recommend you go on a few guided tours; the city is much more than meets the eye.
View of Edinburgh Castle from Castle Rock
1. castle rock hostel
I try not to be pushy with my travel suggestions, but staying at Castle Rock Hostel is one of the exceptions. If you never stayed at a hostel or are against it for whatever principal, I beg you to make an exception for this Scottish hostel. Its price, its location–steps away from Edinburgh Castle–and the social life facilitated at Castle Rock Hostel are amazing. It will make a hosteler out of anyone!
Getting from the Airport to Castle Rock Hostel is as easy as taking Bus 101. When you walk out of the airport, you can’t miss it. Click Here for map.
There are also grocery stores nearby, so you can very easily save on a few meals by using Castle Rock Hostel’s kitchen!
Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter
2. go on lots of tours
The magic of Edinburgh lives in its history. You can visit the city and marvel as it stone streets and bag-piping entertainment, but you’ll miss something if you don’t get any of the history or narrative.
- Sandeman’s free tour was fantastic! They meet just down the street from Castle Rock by the Starbucks. They offer a lot of other tours, too, but I believe those cost money.
- I discovered Strawberry Tours while in London. They were awesome. Looks like they have tours in Edinburgh as well. I suggest checking it out.
- I discovered the Potter Trail on one of my last days and couldn’t go. But it would have to be excellent, right?
- Mercat Tours are not free but very excellent. I went on their Outlander tour and their ghost tour. The ghost tour was great because Mercat actually bought one of the bridges that is said to be the most haunted place in the UK. It’s where I got my orb pictures.
- Literary Pub Tour was hilarious and so nerdy. I really loved it. It’s an odd tour to be on on your own; lots of couples were on my tour. But it’s still great, so you should definitely not let that stop you!
My view from inside an Edinburgh bridge, the most haunted place in the U.K. Is that an orb?!?
3. taste the highlands
Even if you plan to camp out in Edinburgh for the duration, I hope you venture north to the highlands. I took a day tour, allowing myself to be shuttled around by those who know better. There are a lot of options online and at the tourist office. I chose Ness Bus because it was pretty cheap and simple. I hate tours that cram too much into the day.
The Scottish highlands
4. take tea at balmoral
The tea service at Balmoral is luxurious. If you go and REALLY want to geek out with Harry Potter, sneak up to room 552. It’s the JK Rowling suite where she finished the 7th book. The door knocker is an owl.
Room 522 in the Balmoral Hotel, Scotland
5. give yourself a whiskey experience
The Scotland Whiskey Experience, near the Edingburgh Castle, was worth the time. They explain the differences between Scotch varieties and let you taste the differences. Plus they have the largest Scotch collection in the world, which is impressive to see.
In Scotland, they spell whisky without an “e” and say “Slàinte” when they cheers.
6. take arthur’s seat
I climbed Arthur’s Seat on a clear-ish day. It will take about 2 hours and was pretty steep-trek at some parts, but it was worth it.
View of Edinburgh from Arthur’s Seat
7. explore grassmarket
The Grassmarket is where I typically milled around when I was hungry, thirsty or looking for someone to hang out with. It’s touristy, for sure, but an excellent taste of Scotland all the same.
Do you believe in the Loch Ness monster?
8. venture to world’s end
In the 16th century, Edinburgh was a walled city. There was a tax to enter or exist the city, so people hardly ventured passed the wall. The farthest many people went was the little pub the took up real-estate right next to the wall: The World’s End. The pub/ tavern is still open. It was a cozy atmosphere and live music throughout the week.
Coffee and postcard from The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter.
9. explore the coffee places
Coffee places are my kind of places. I, of course, wanted to be in the room where JK Rowling wrote, but I also just revel in the quick space where coffee smells live, famous or no. There are lot of options about Edinburgh.
- Black Medicine Coffee has a great vibe and that’s right next to Blackwells, which is an adorable bookshop.
- Elephant House is where JK wrote book one. Go early so you can get a seat with a good view of what inspired Harry Potter. Warning, there is no wifi so if you’re a nomad looking to work, go to basically any other cafe in Edinburgh.
- … and check out all the coffee shops where JK Rowling did not write.
10. edinburgh castel
Last but not least: Edinburgh Castel, neatly situated on top of a 350-million-year-old volcanic plug. Humans have occupied the top of this volcanic plug–Castel Rock–since the Iron Age in the 2nd century. It has been the home of kings, queens and saints; it has hosted wars and rebellions; it is considered one of the most attacked places in the world. It’s marvelous to see and explore.
Edinburgh Castle in Sctoland
- Roads and Kingdom’s 16 Things to Know Before You Go to Edinburgh
- 15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Edinburgh
- 25 Things to do in Edinburgh before you die by from the Scotsman.com
- What Nomadic Matt has to say about Edinburgh
- Lonely Planet’s Guide to Edinburgh
- Fodor’s Travel Guide to Edinburgh
- U.S. New’s Guide to Edinburgh
- Free Things to do in Edinburgh from VisitScotland.com