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September 01, 2022 11 min read
Welcome to our new series of Scottish city guides! In this series, we’ll be covering the best places to eat, drink, explore, and sleep in Scotland’s cities, with a helping hand from some of our adventurous local friends from each city who are up for sharing their top insider tips. For our first instalment, we’re starting with Edinburgh, and who better to give advice on the best spots, and top tips for exploring the city than our very own locals: the Meander team.
We may be biased, but we believe Edinburgh truly is one of the best cities to explore, thanks to its incredibly close proximity to the countryside, its endless indie food and drink spots, and its winding historical streets that you’ll never tire of wandering. We must admit, it was pretty tough to condense our vast amount of favourites into one blog post, but we’ve done our best to compile a great list that won’t take you an age to get through. So, if you happen to be planning a trip to the stunning Scottish capital, or are simply an Edinburgh native searching for a new nearby adventure, then read on.
Honeycomb and Co.
Jill: My favourite place for brunch has to be Honeycomb and Co! They have an outdoor seating area that’s perfect for sunny days and they have a very cool interior too. I absolutely love their avocado toast with poached eggs and the Shakshuka. The menu has plenty of great vegetarian and vegan options, though i’m told the full Scottish breakfast has the best sausages in town.
Bruntsfield - 1 Merchiston Pl, EH10 4NP
Salt Cafe Kara: One of my go-to’s is Salt Cafe on Morningside Road, a dog friendly cafe known for its amazing brunch. They use seasonal ingredients, sourced from exceptional local artisanal producers and suppliers, to create the best possible experience. Perfect for a Sunday Brunch! Morningside - 54-56 Morningside Rd, EH10 4BZ The Olive Branch Thea: For breakfast, my favourite has to be The Olive Branch. They do a fantastic healthy(ish) fry up, and have great options for veggies like me! The Olive Branch is located in one of my favourite Edinburgh neighbourhoods, Broughton, a lovely area full of independent shops and great eateries. New Town - 91 Broughton St, EH1 3RX
Cowan and Sons
Steve: You can’t beat a good cheese toastie and, for me, Cowan and Sons in Stockbridge make the best cheese toasties in Edinburgh! Stockbridge has a lovely village vibe with plenty of independent shops and cafes (The Pantry also gets a shout out from me), but if you can get a seat inside, Cowan and Sons is my favourite spot to relax for a bit. Along side their menu of delicious breakfast, lunch and evening drink options, owners Noel and Becky are also avid art buffs and display and sell a range of limited edition art prints from well renowned street artists from the space. 33 Raeburn Pl, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1HX
Kara:Edinburgh is full of amazing eateries. However, one of my favourite restaurants is The Outsider, which has a wonderful view of Edinburgh Castle! I would recommend going at lunch time to make use of their lovely lunchtime menu, where they use fresh, seasonal ingredients. In case you would like to go for dinner, make sure to book in advance as it is extremely popular with locals. 1ee, 15 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EE
Thea:I love to go to my local markets to eat. Firstly, Stockbridge Market, which is open all year round every Sunday, has a variety of cuisines to choose from, from paella to freshly fried gyozas. And Neighbourhood Market, which opens in Inverleith Park in the summer, becomes home to some of my favourite local street food vans like Pizza Geeks and Mana Poké Bowls.
Edoardo: Noto, which is situated in the centre of town on Thistle Street, has a seriously great innovative and seasonal menu which introduces you to dishes you won’t be used to. Most of their plates are ideal for sharing and if you happen to visit the restaurant soon, I’d recommend trying their amazing chicken yakitori with umeboshi, so delicious!
47a Thistle St, Edinburgh EH2 1DY
Steve: El Cartel is a great spot for Mexican street food. They have 2 locations in Edinburgh both with a relaxed vibe for a cusual night out with friends and steady supply of frozen margaritas. The food is very authentically mexican and great for sharing. I’d definitely give the jalapeno bombers and guacamole with plantain chips a try before getting into the tacos.
15-16 TeviotPl, Edinburgh EH1 2QZ
Thea: My favourite dinner spot at the moment is Saboteur, a Vietnamese street food restaurant by the Meadows. I crave going to this spot for dinner just about every day, which I think says it all! They also have a great sister restaurant called Ting Thai Caravan which makes the most amazing Thai food I’ve ever had and it is conveniently located on the same street as Saboteur. 19-20 Teviot Pl, Edinburgh EH1 2QZ
Jill: My favourite’s Café Milk at the Sculpture Workshop. They do amazing coffee and good cake too! Café Milk is also just off one of Edinburgh city’s cycle paths, so it’s a great place to stop for a break when out exploring.
1 Hawthornvale, Newhaven, Edinburgh EH6 4JT
Edoardo: There are too many good options in Edinburgh. However, one of the best has to be Lowdown Coffee on George Street for its great coffee and its amazing minimalist interior and they happen to have the best cakes too (try their carrot cakes!). Definitely worth checking if you’re into good brews, nice cakes and modern interior design. ~
40 George St, Edinburgh EH2 2LE
Thea: Wellington Coffee on George Street is possibly one of the most picturesque cafes in Edinburgh, I love sitting in one of the seats by the window. It’s a great place for espresso and scones and just so happens to be next to our Edinburgh store, so why not come in and say hi if you happen to stop by!
33A George St, Edinburgh EH2 2HN
Bramble Bar & Lounge
Kara: I can’t recommend Bramble Bar & Lounge enough. With a wide range of drink and cocktail options available, there is something for everyone. My personal favourite is the Yuzu Old Tom Gin, it’s beautifully presented and tastes like nothing I’ve had before! Bramble also has a great sister cocktail bar named Lucky Liquor, famous for its neon window sign and its great selection of spirits and liqueurs. 16A Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JE
The Sheep Heid
Steve: The Sheep’s Heid is perfect for enjoying a well deserved drink or bite to eat after climbing Arthur’s Seat.The Sheep Heid Inn is famously known as the oldest surviving public house in Scotland having been established in 1360. It still retains plenty of historic charm, but has a few more recent renovations like the dining area and beer garden - at the rear of which lies a skittles alley. 43-45 The Causeway, Edinburgh EH15 3QA
The Keller Taproom
Thea: For evening drinks, The Keller Taproom on Broughton Street is my go-to place. The Keller hosts quiz nights every Tuesday and has a great selection of beers, ales, and cocktails. It also happens to sell house plants too which is pretty cool.
23-27 Broughton St Ln, Edinburgh EH1 3LY
Thea:If you’re looking for a fairly quick hill walk which will reward you with stunning views of the city, then Calton Hill is super-central and is also home to the National Monument of Scotland. It offers one of the best views of the city especially if you visit Calton Hill at sunrise or sunset.
Thea: If you’re looking for a slightly more leisurely walk, then Inverleith Park is great. It has a fantastic picnic spot overlooking Edinburgh and is also perfect if you’re a dog lover, as it’s the place of choice for most local dog walkers! I also have to say that in Edinburgh, you don’t really need a specific walk in mind, as the city is full of picturesque views wherever you go, thanks to it being very hilly!
Edoardo: I love walking in the Meadows, a stunning park right in the heart of the city. It’s the place in Edinburgh where I walk to unwind and relax. In case you would like some great coffee while walking in the Meadows, I suggest you grab one from Soderberg, conveniently located in the Quartermile. And guess what! If you visit the park towards the end of April, you will see the wonderful cherry blossoms!
The Braid Hills
Jill:The Braid Hills are only a 30/40 minute walk from Edinburgh city centre and it provides the most incredible views of the whole city. I walk with Steve and my cockapoo Dexter up the hills almost every day and I'm still always blown away by how beautiful it is. If you want a longer walk, you can easily connect to the Hermitage of Braids and Blackford Hill too.
Thea:When it comes to shopping, every twist and turn in Edinburgh is likely to have a fantastic shop to explore. The areas with the best shops (in my opinion) are George Street, Bruntsfield, Grassmarket, and of course, Stockbridge, which is home to our Edinburgh store.
Jill:I love the cycle paths that go around the city. I like to hop on the cycle path near Fountainbridge, which is fairly close to Bruntsfield and the city centre, and cycle out to Cramond on nice sunny days. If you happen to visit Cramond during low tide, you can also walk across the walkway to reach Cramond Island.
Steve:My favourite route is out to South Queensferry via Cramond. It’s a great ride down the coast and there’s a nice part through the Dalmeny Estate, where I also saw Highland coos! South Queensferry will also reward you with the best views of the beautiful Forth Bridge, one of the most unique bridges in the world.
Steve:This one is more of a day out than a quick bike ride, but the coastal route heading south from Edinburgh has some stunning views and passes the beaches at Portobello, Longniddry and Gullane on the way to North Berwick. It’s about a 2 hour cycle to get there and once you’ve made it, there are plenty of great lunch options like the Lobster Shack and Drift, a cool up-cycled shipping container located on the edge of the cliff offering stunning views across the Firth of Forth. For coffee, Steampunk Coffee is a really good choice. From April to August you can also see Puffins on the nearby Isle of May via a short boat trip. If you fancy a drink while your’re here you can easily chuck your bikes on the train back to Waverley station instead of cycling back.
Explore The Pentlands
Steve: Steve:Sitting just south of the city, the Pentland Hills are my favorite local spot to get into the great outdoors. Spanning around 30km, there is plenty of the Pentlands to explore with plenty of big hills, reservoirs, wildlife and even a dry ski slope. I often start my long runs or hikes from the carpark by the Flotterstone Inn, but there are plenty of great places to start, like Threipmuir Reservoir and Swanston (Start here if you want to find the Highland Cows). There are also plenty of bike paths if you want to explore by mountain bike.
Head to the Coast
Kara: If I’m feeling like having an easy breezy walk, then walking along the Portobello Promenade would be my first choice. Breathing in the salty air and watching all the dogs playing on the beach, to me, is unbeatable. If you’re up for getting wet, there is a thriving wild swimming community in Portobello and you can rent standup paddle boards and kayaks from Tizo.
Jill:I love heading further down the coast. Winter or summer walks on Yellowcraigs beach just can't be beaten and if you’re into surfing, Dunbar and St Abbs have some great waves.
Edoardo:A good spot for bouldering close to the city is Gullane beach. The boulders on Gullane beach are easy to find, head to the beach, head west and you won’t miss them! It is one of my favourite places to go climbing near Edinburgh and landing on the soft sand is a definitely good thing! The area is really picturesque and it is also easily accessible by public transport from the city centre which is ideal for me.
Steve:When its open in the warmer months, I really enjoy a stroll around Jupiter Artland! It’s about 30 minutes to drive there from the city centre but it’s well worth it. It’s a bit of mix of a modern art gallery and a beautifully landscapped country estate, but he highlight for me has to be the outdoor sculpure park, where there are some amazing instalations from different artists in various styles dotted around a guided trail. If you;re on your bike you can aslo cycle there and make a day of it.
Bonnington House The Steadings, Wilkieston, Edinburgh EH27 8BY
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Kara: The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Artis home to Scotland's outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art and is one of my favourite places to go whenever I have free time. It’s free to enter, and is filled with inspiration. Whether you’re a keen sketcher or not, I recommend taking a sketchbook and pencil with you to document your favourite pieces of art. Near the art gallery is Dean Village, which was previously where milling of water mills took place, and is absolutely stunning - definitely worth a visit too!
75 Belford Rd, Edinburgh EH4 3DR
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Thea: The Royal Botanic Garden is my favourite place to escape to. It’s so peaceful and colourful, and also happens to be filled with great picnic and reading spots. The garden features a great variety of plants from all over the world and it presents one of the largest collection of Chinese plants being cultivated outside of China.
Arboretum Pl, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
Edoardo:Porteous’ Studio is a simple, yet beautifully designed holiday home in the heart of Edinburgh. The studio offers thoughtful perks like a breakfast hamper of fresh, local ingredients on arrival, but really, the space alone speaks for itself. The stunning studio is constructed from all natural products including clay, limestone, and oak, with all oak in the studio being sourced from a single oak tree from East Lothian. 25 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HP
Jill:The Raeburn Hotel is in the great location of Stockbridge, an area of Edinburgh that is filled with independent shops and cafes to explore. The luxury boutique hotel offers a range of beautiful rooms and suites, and also happens to be a fantastic place to eat and drink. Even if you don’t choose to stay here, be sure to pay a visit to their great beer garden space for some drinks. 112 Raeburn Pl, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH4 1HG
Kara:This quirky 16th Century cottage is situated right in central Edinburgh, but you would never know it once you’re there. Tucked away in a mature private garden, the space feels serene and secluded, and makes for the perfect peaceful hideaway after a busy day exploring the city.
Woodcroft Road, Edinburgh E H10
Let us know if you manage to check out any of our recommendations. And if you happen to have any other suggestions on the best places to explore in Edinburgh, then get in touch!
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