Edinburgh has a magical charm that has people returning again and again. If you’ve already been inside Edinburgh Castle, climbed up Arthur’s Seat, checked out the art at the Scottish National Galleries and had your first taste of haggis, it’s time for you to get off the tourist track and do the Scottish capital like the locals do. Edinburgh holds a special place in the hearts of the city’s locals, so we’ve rounded up what they love most about their city so that you can experience Edinburgh like a true city expert. Here are 7 things locals love about Edinburgh...
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The Eating Out Options
Cosy pubs are a big part of local life in Edinburgh. We recommend eating in pubs where the locals fill their bellies. For authentic affordable pubs, we recommend going to Broughton Street where you’ll find some awesome pubs like Cask and Barrel, The Barony, Treacle, The Basement and the Pickles of Broughton Street.
Our favourite gastropubs are The Lioness of Leith and The Three Sisters where there’s a cool young crowd. For vegetarians, try Paradise Palms - a brilliant veggie restaurant with an awesome interior.
But Edinburgh isn’t all pubs, pies and haggis. While the traditional Scottish pubs are all part of the city’s charm (and loved by the locals dearly), in recent years some really trendy international restaurants have also been popping up. From tasty Thai food, fragrant Lebanese & Indian cuisine to Italian and Spanish tapas, the city offers everything for foodies.
For special occasions, locals are spoiled for choice. Big restaurant names from London have opened up in the heart of Edinburgh like Dishoom, a sophisticated Indian street food restaurant, and Hawksmoor, an upmarket steak joint.
The bars in Edinburgh are one of our favourite things about the city because they’re just so quirky and concept-driven. Brewhemia is always our first stop on a bar crawl and one of the only Bavarian-style bars in the city. Fresh beer from copper tanks, great cocktails and a buzzing atmosphere, you’ll simply love this local hangout. Then there are the hidden underground bars like Hoot the Redeemer, which is inspired by a vintage fun-fair in 1950’s New Orleans. Eat boozy ice cream and explore the inventive cocktails on offer. But before all the fun, you need to find the entrance which is a secret door on Hanover Street. If you’re looking for a classic Irish bar, Malone’s is our go-to!
For the best local sports bar in town, Belushi’s is (of course) our top recommendation. After a massive refurb, the bar now boasts the biggest projector in the city, weekly live music and an epic drinks menu. After the game, head to Leith Walk where you’ll find a great bar/pub crawl route which involves Jeremiah's Taproom, Joseph Pearce, The Joker and The Thief, Black Fox, Brass Monkey, Woodland Creatures, The Mousetrap, Leith Depot and Bar Brig.
The Green Spaces
Charming park walks and weekend hikes; locals in Edinburgh make the most of the outdoors, particularly on days when the sun is shining. There are plenty of beautiful places for a walk in and around the city including a walk along The Water of Leith, Calton Hill, Holyrood Park, Princes Street Gardens and The Meadows (where students of Edinburgh University like to hang out). Plus, just a 40 minute bus ride out of Edinburgh’s city centre will take you to a beach near Cramond Village.
The Independent Shops
Edinburgh is brimming with cool independent shops and cafes. Located on hidden alleys and narrow passages, you may end up finding an interesting boutique somewhere you wouldn’t expect. Lining Victoria Street, the Royal Mile, Thistle Street and other cobbled areas within the Old Town, you’ll pass by some of the adorable little facades on a walk through the city. Old book stores, antique shops, cashmere retailers, joke shops, small cafes, trendy fashion boutiques and Harry Potter souvenir shops - there’s so much to have a look at.
There are plenty of big events that take place around the city and locals love to get involved in it all. Edinburgh goes all out for the festive season with Christmas markets and Edinburgh Hogmanay where everyone gets together for a massive celebration to see in the Scottish New Year. Edinburgh Hogmanay attracts backpackers and tourists from all over the world, just so they can get a taste of how hard the Scots go for the New Year. It’s brilliant!
Then there’s the incredible Edinburgh Fringe Festival than runs for 25 days in August - the busiest month in the city’s calendar. This is the world’s largest arts and theatre festival where locals and tourists watch shows, street acts and amazing performances all throughout the city.
Edinburgh is so beautiful and old-worldy thanks to the stunning architecture throughout the city. Medieval buildings and neoclassical structures make up much of Edinburgh’s Old Town, giving the whole city a sense of rich history. From the Victorian-Gothic Scott’s Monument, to the centuries-old St Giles Cathedral and the neoclassical Scottish National Galleries, the city has a range of different architectural styles. Edinburgh’s architectural landscape is truly like something out of a fairytale with cobbled streets, narrow walkways and Reformation-era buildings. In fact, part of the Old Town and New Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site which means it’s protected from ever being changed.
It’s not all old buildings, either! There are also some fantastic examples of modern architecture in Edinburgh too such as the Scottish Parliament Building which boasts a post-modern, futuristic design.
The Nearby Villages and Neighbourhoods
Get out of the city and pay a visit to some of Edinburgh’s quaint neighbourhoods and small villages. Dean Village is a beautiful little 'suburb' with a countryside feel, just a 5 minute walk from Princes Street. Escape the hustle and bustle and find a true oasis in the heart of the city at this picturesque little pocket of Edinburgh which lies on the Water of Leith.
The Stockbridge neighbourhood is also well worth a visit if you’re looking for some trendy restaurants, cute Victorian and Georgian terraced houses, quaint cafes, posh delis and the beautiful Edinburgh Botanical Gardens. There’s also a local farmers market in Stockbridge which takes place in the area every Sunday - a great place to have a quick lunch on the go and see the local produce.