Returning back home to Edinburgh has been hectic to say the least. Despite this, it’s a relief being back in Scotland and its lush capital, Edinburgh. Named the greenest city in the UK with the 2nd highest quality of life in the world, it’s easy to see why Edinburgh (pronounced Edin-bruh, not Edin-burgh or Edin-borrow) is such a desirable place to be. If you’re lucky enough to experience my beautiful home, staying in Edinburgh for a weekend will surely captivate you.
If you’re already in the UK, take the train and arrive at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. This will place you smack in the middle of the city along the main shopping street, Princes Street. By plane, you’ll arrive at Edinburgh Turnhouse Airport. You can take an AirLink bus to the Waverley Station for £4.50, or a one-way tram for £5.50. A taxi/Uber will cost you roughly £16-20. However, the cheapest way is to take the 35 Bus from Port F and it’ll take you straight into central Old Town for £1.60.
Where To Stay
Despite Edinburgh’s small size, there are tons of neighbourhoods to choose from. Most tourists stay smack in the centre near Princes Street. Other popular areas include the bagpipe-raging Royal Mile, the far, yet quirky Stockbridge, traditional Old Town, and the posh and pristine New Town. No matter where you stay, everything you need in Edinburgh for a weekend is reachable by an hour walking, at the very most.
As I said above, the city is very walkable but if Edinburgh’s hills prove to be too exhausting, there’s a bus system for £1.60 a ticket. We have a tram system, but it’s…ineffective, to say the least, outside of getting to the airport. Ubers are also quite cheap; the most I’ve ever spent on an Uber is £7.
Day 1: Hustle and Bustle
Start your inevitably gloomy day by heading to the Royal Mile, which is 1.1 miles of bagpipes, street performers, and shops. At one end lies the iconic 11th-century Edinburgh Castle, with the opposite end being the Holyrood Palace, Queen Elizabeth’s Scottish home. When you’re tired of bagpipes, go down to Princes Street to the Scott Monument. The world’s tallest monument dedicated to an author, Walter Scott, it offers unrivalled views of the city from 60 meters/200.5 feet in the air. Coming back down to Princes Street, you’re on the main shopping street in Edinburgh. Lighten your wallet here and on neighbouring George Street for fancier shops.
All museums are free in the UK, which makes this the perfect time to see all of Edinburgh’s museums. Within 15 minutes walking, there’s the National Museum of Scotland and my favourite, the Scottish National Gallery. We also have the Scottish Museum of Modern Art, but it’s a 30-minute walk from Princes Street.
If you do happen to walk to the sMOMA, you can’t forget to visit Stockbridge. A “bohemian and independent community,” you’ll find countless coffee shops, cafes, and markets to make a perfect weekend morning. If you stop there on a Sunday, you may catch the Stockbridge Farmer’s Market!
After all of this, end your day by taking a 15-minute hike to Calton Hill, directly east of Princes Street for the most famous view of the cityscape.
Day 2: Outdoorsy Edinburgh
It’s easy to see why Edinburgh is the greenest city in the UK. Next to Stockbridge lies Dean Village, a truly surreal escape from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh. Initially a grain milling area for 800 years, it’s now a stunning scenery to get your mind off of daily life.
10-15 minutes east of Dean Village is the Botanical Gardens, a truly massive property with countless exotic plants that’s easy to get lost in for an afternoon. For £6, there’s a spacious greenhouse filled with palm trees, which is the highlight of the Gardens.
Returning to Princes Street, you’ll notice that despite being the epicentre of Edinburgh, it’s adorned with seemingly endless greenery. That’s the Princes Street Gardens, which stretch throughout the entire street. I come out here for my daily 27 seconds of sunshine and get whatever rations of Vitamin D I can. During the winter, the Gardens turns into a buzzing Christmas festival, complete with a ferris wheel!
Another famous park is The Meadows, which is directly south of the University of Edinburgh. When it’s warm in May, students are stressed from studying exams for a top-20-in-the-world world-class university (not to toot my own horn), we usually come here to
cry about our exams and day-drink relax and sunbathe, but this time for a whole 5 minutes a day!
Better than any park, the true natural highlight of Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat. Located east at Holyrood Park, this extinct volcano, after a 45-minute hike, offers truly spectacular views of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is a truly underrated gem. When I talk to people back in the states about Edinburgh, few know where, or what Edinburgh is. I hope this post sparks action for those who’s been considering travelling to Edinburgh; to those finding out about Edinburgh today, I hope you’re interested now! Next time you come to the UK, don’t just go to London; come up to Edinburgh and hit Scotland as a whole, too.