Edinburgh. Where do I begin? If I wasn’t already deeply in love with Scotland, I am now. A sweet friend of mine is finishing up her Master’s dissertation there right now, and it had been far too long since we last saw one another. When I was travel planning for summer, Edinburgh landed on the map quickly. I am forever grateful it did.
Not only was it therapeutic to see my friend, but I felt at home in Edinburgh. Here is what I did in 3 days, and what I recommend for you, too!
getting around: waverley and airport
We came from Glasgow on a regular ScotRail train, which landed us right in the heart of the city at Waverley station. If you’re buying tickets from Glasgow to Edinburgh, don’t get too confused by the different Edinburgh station options. Unless you’re staying in a specific area of the city, buying a ticket to the station marked “Edinburgh” will get you to Waverley, which should suit your itinerary just fine. Like I mentioned in my Glasgow post, just buy the tickets right before you’re ready to get on a train. There are so many departures that you shouldn’t have any issues getting a seat.
On our way out of Edinburgh, we were headed to the airport for a flight to Italy. We had an early morning departure, so usually that means taking a taxi. However, I was very pleased to find out that Edinburgh has a 24-hour airport bus for only 4.50 GBP, and you can even buy an open return at a discounted 7.50 GBP. We bought ours from the driver since they can accept tap card payments on board. There are luggage compartments with security cameras, and two levels of seating. A short 30 minutes later, we were at EDI. That was one of the easiest airport transfers of my life.
where to stay: the airbnb of your dreams
I am a sucker for Airbnb. From my first stay over two years ago, I’ve been hooked. I love the aspect of having a more authentic experience while traveling. Since then, I’ve stayed at many properties all over the world. I hit the jackpot with the place I booked in Edinburgh. The hostess is so kind, professional, and helpful. It’s clear that she truly wants her guests to have a spectacular time in Edinburgh. The location was right on the Royal Mile, and a 5-minute walk from the train station. The building and apartment are so quaint, and staying there felt like a dream. Do yourself a favor and book a stay at this place. You can find it here!
where to eat
Before I elaborate on where to eat, allow me to begin by saying what you should eat. I have two words: vegan haggis. Or regular haggis, if you’re not vegan like me. I will say that my mom, grandma, and friend who all enjoy meat preferred the vegan haggis, but found it worthwhile to try the meat version as well. I had two incredible vegan haggis dishes, but I’ll recommend the better of the two. It came from a veg- friendly restaurant a 2-minute walk from our Airbnb called Makars Gourmet Mash Bar. They had a vegetarian haggis listed on the menu, and I asked to have it made vegan. They made sure to use their olive oil mash and onion gravy so that my dairy allergies wouldn’t make their dreadful appearance. The flavors, the textures, the presentation, the heartiness of the dish–it all just worked. I’m drooling for it right now. Try it!
what to see + do
Before you do anything else in Edinburgh, just walk around. Seriously. There are so many beautiful buildings, adorable streets, and a multitude of things to discover when you just walk around with no plan. Edinburgh is one of those destinations that sticks out in my mind as a great place to just walk and look at the architecture. You’ll see why in the photos!
You can’t leave Edinburgh without visiting the castle. Perched on a hill overlooking the city and the sea, this former military fort is drenched in Scottish history, from wars with England to World War II. There are museums within the castle, demonstrating the ways in which the castle was used during wartimes and the traditional lives of Scottish soldiers. You can even tour the castle prisons–including the prisoners’ latrines! The museums explore the convoluted, imperialist history of England towards Scotland and how many Scottish men fought for the British empire despite their personal feelings about the Crown. Book in advance online here, even if you do it the day before like I did, and you can print off your tickets at self-service kiosks with the QR code from your email confirmation. No lines, and no stress. That was the easiest entry for any attraction I’ve been to!
used bookstores/charity shops
Check out a used bookstore or charity shop while you’re in Edinburgh! Since it was near the area I was in the city at the time, I ducked into Till’s Bookshop. I had a blast just perusing all the books that had been loved before, and picked up a read by one of my fave authors, Lisa See, for just 3.50 GBP! My friend living in Edinburgh explained that charity shops are all the rage for shopping there, and I love that. I went inside a few, but decided not to buy any clothes for lack of suitcase space…
Either way, head into a used bookstore and a charity shop for part of the local experience. You never know what you’ll find!
souvenir shopping on high street
I know, I know. It’s cheesy. But I couldn’t resist! Since we stayed at such a central Airbnb, we walked past all the souvenir shops on our commutes to see the rest of Edinburgh. I love coffee mugs, and picked up a cute little one with the Loch Ness Monster on it for my collection. After seeing this adorable stuffed highland cow, I just had to buy it. I realize that I’m a grown woman, but there’s something about stuffed animals that takes me back to being a little girl and obsessed with teddy bears. Judge me. I’ll own it.
If you go to multiple souvenir shops, especially those that aren’t right next to Edinburgh Castle, you’ll get some good deals. I got all my souvenirs at I Love Scotland on Bank Street for the best price. Happy shopping!
What’s more Scottish than hot tea on a rainy day? Drop into any restaurant or coffee shop around late afternoon for high tea. It usually includes a pot of tea, some sandwiches, and some type of dessert. Since we’d just had a delicious lunch at Makars, we stopped by Lovecrumbs and had tea with cake. I got their last slice of vegan vanilla orange pecan cake and a cup of violet tea. It was lovely to unwind with such an interesting blend of flavors I’d never had together before!
These 3 days in Edinburgh will be the first of many. I’ve fallen in love with the buildings, winding streets, food, and small-town feel of Edinburgh. Maybe the next time I write about this amazing place will be as an expat living there. Edinburgh didn’t even give me a chance not to love it, and I’m sure it’ll draw you in just as much. Book tickets for Edinburgh Castle, get yourself a plate of hot vegan (or regular) haggis, and have the time of your life!
Edinburgh is one of my absolute favourite places in the world, and that list is pretty short. I’d love to get back and see more!
I feel the exact same way; thanks for reading!
I definitely want to get to Scotland after all those gorgeous shots. Plus, I had no idea there was a castle right in the city!
Thanks for reading, Lana! And yes, Edinburgh castle is a super convenient way to see Scottish architecture and learn more of its history!
I’m dying to visit Scotland, so I’ll hang on to these ideas because I’m sure I’ll be spending some time in Edinburgh. Also, vegetarian haggis?! What a novelty, glad you could find that!!
Thanks for reading, Natasha! Scotland is pure magic; I hope you make it there soon!