First Timer’s Guide To Edinburgh

Some of you will be surprised to know that I visited Edinburgh for the first time for New Year. I travel into Edinburgh airport on a regular basis, but I travel straight out to St Andrews. Edinburgh – particularly at New Year – has been on my bucket list for some time, so I was very excited for my trip.

Where to stay

We stayed in this wonderful, fully-renovated Georgian apartment in Chester Street, booked through Airbnb. Chester street is in the heart of Edinburgh, but in a quiet, beautiful street; you don’t feel like you’re in a bustling city at all.

Everywhere in the city was in walking distance. Princes Street; the main shopping road, is a five minute walk. The longest walk up to the castle took fifteen minutes.

This was one of the cleanest places I’ve stayed in – including five-star hotels – and I’m one of the fussiest hotel guests when it comes to cleanliness. I’d thoroughly recommend it and would certainly stay here again next time I visit Edinburgh.

Where to eat

Edinburgh has some truly wonderful places to eat. I didn’t realise how many independent places we’d find. Two of my favourite Edinburgh-based bloggers, Laurenella and Water Painted Dreams have extensively reviewed different places to eat in Edinburgh and they’re very much the experts, but I’d like to give a special mention to a couple of places I visited during my stay:

I’m so glad we came across Copper Blossom; it was recommended by a friend. We had our New Year’s Eve meal in there and the atmosphere, food and service was exceptional.

We ate from a set menu, given the date, but it usually offers light bites from 12 – 9pm daily, lunch from 12 – 4pm on Monday – Saturday, and classics (which are a little bit heavier and suitable for dinner) from 12 – 8.30pm daily. On a Sunday they also have an extraordinary looking Sunday Brunch.

Copper Blossom is primarily a bar, and serves a huge array of drinks with an impressive list of cocktails. I opted for gin and tonic (of course) but you can never go wrong with a Cosmo, if you’re undecided on what to opt for on the cocktail menu!

Foundry 39 was another of our great finds. We went for lunch on the day after we arrived. It had similarities to Copper Blossom in that it had a huge selection of cocktails and craft beers. They also offer Edinburgh’s residents a Deliveroo service – it’d be dangerous if I lived there!

I had the cheese burger and sweet potato fries which were delightful. There were quite a lot of small friendship groups in there and in many ways this is the ideal place for a friend meet-up. I felt Copper Blossom was a great date night/first date location.

What to do

It’s fair to say that most people go to Edinburgh with some sort of itinerary at the back of their minds. There’s a lot of well-known tourist destinations available to you and because of the type of tourist attractions; the Castle, Arthur’s Seat, Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Zoo – as examples, you never feel like it’s too crowded or that you have to queue up for tickets.

St Giles Cathedral (shown in the first three pictures under this heading) was one of my favourite places; we happened to fall upon it whilst we were waiting for our underground ghost tour. There was something very relaxing and serene about it.

The only picture I took at the castle was of the dog cemetery – of course! I’d never seen something like that before, it was very interesting. In hindsight I wouldn’t have paid to go into the castle. Being up above the city and taking in the views is enough. When we went into the castle, there was big queues to get into anywhere of significance and it’s exceptionally windy up there, as I’m sure you can imagine. We ended up spending the majority of our time in the coffee shop – I know, I know – how very cultured of us! But, we did catch the 1pm gun salute, which was a nice touch.

Another consideration for the castle is to pre-book your tickets. I’ve certainly been in longer queues before (yes, I’m talking to you, Vatican!) but for the convenience it’s worth pre-booking.

We were lucky enough to be there during the Christmas market and fair and if you do get a chance to head there around Christmas time, I’d certainly recommend heading over to Princes Street Gardens to experience a very special sensory experience. Like all Christmas markets, it is overpriced, so be aware of that.

Here’s my top five places to visit for first timers; St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Scotch Whisky Experience (we didn’t do it but I’ve heard good things), Arthur’s Seat & Edinburgh Zoo.*

*The last two on this list are best reserved for Summer visits.

What to pack

Scotland has an ever-changing climate. I’ve never seen weather change as quickly (bar Thailand!) anywhere I’ve been previous to this.

If you’re heading out in the Winter, pack an extra warm coat (preferably with a nice furry hood because it does get windy), gloves, scarf and plenty of jumpers. I’d also recommend a good pair of trainers or walking shoes. The city isn’t exceptionally big, but it’s natural to do a lot of walking on city breaks and nothing ruins a trip like a pair of uncomfortable shoes!

If you’re heading over to Scotland from abroad, the UK doesn’t use the European plug, so ensure you pack accordingly.


A writer and author with two published books and a third one on the way. I write mostly about women's interest topics; travel, careers and cooking. I'm available for freelance work, so please contact me if that's of interest.

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© Caroline Elvin 2017.