Guide to Edinburgh

Finally complete! This is both the first part, which I originally posted on my previous blog, and the second and third parts which haven’t been published before. The first part is about things to see and do in this wonderful city, the second is about shops and the third part is about places to eat. I feel I should point out that this is by no means a complete guide. It’s biased towards my interests and what I actually managed to get around and see. I’ve missed out a lot of the really touristy places, such as the castle, because you don’t need me to tell you to visit the castle.

Warning! This is a very image heavy post. Please keep arms and legs within the vehicle.

Part One: Things to See and Do
The National Museum of Scotland

Chambers Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1JF

I’ve shown you a sneak peak of the National Museum of Scotland before, and that was only a few pictures from the natural history section. This museum is huge, and to get round it all would take the best part of a day. It’s actually made up of two separate museums that are linked internally; the modern building is the National Museum of Scotland and the older building is the Royal Museum of Scotland.

There’s a great room on the ground floor in the older part of the museum that’s dedicated to all things vintage and retro, which of course I recommend. There are also large sections dedicated to Scottish history, world culture and science and technology. Upstairs in the Royal Museum of Scotland there’s a tea room that serves very generous helpings of cake, just so you know.

Website here.

Gladstone’s Land

477b Lawnmarket (Royal Mile), EH1 2NT

Gladstone’s Land is an old tenement house on the Royal Mile that has been furnished by the National Trust to give you an idea of what 17th century living was like in Edinburgh. As is always the case with National Trust properties, there are lots of friendly staff members about who are more than happy to relay the history of whatever beautiful old item has caught your eye.

There is also another National Trust run property on George Street called Georgian House. Unfortunately, I never got around to visiting that one, but judging by the pictures I’ve seen it looks very fancy and like it would be fun to snoop around.

Website here.

The Botanical Gardens

20A Inverleith Row, EH3 5LR

One of my favourite haunts, the botanical gardens in Edinburgh boast an overwhelming variety of plants and more friendly squirrels than you can shake a nut at. The gardens themselves are free to get into, but it costs around £5 to get into the glasshouses. The Victorian Palm House, pictured, is apparently one of the tallest historical glasshouses in Europe and is a sight to behold, both inside and out.

Website here.

Malleny Garden

Malleny Avenue, Balerno, Midlothian, EH14 7AF

This is another National Trust property and it’s outside of the city centre so you’d need to get a bus or some other form of transport to get there. We visited Malleny Garden in February last year and as you might expect of a garden in winter, there wasn’t a lot to see. Still, it was tranquil and charming and when the flowers lift their sleepy heads from the soil I imagine it explodes into a vision of loveliness.

Website here.

The Scottish National Gallery

The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL

The Scottish National Gallery houses many important pieces of fine art, including paintings by well known artists such as Claude Monet and Sandro Botticelli. Despite being busy, it is always so calm and peaceful in this gallery. If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Princes Street (the main shopping street of Edinburgh located directly opposite), this is the best place to go. There is also a great gift shop, which everybody knows is the best part of any museum experience.

If you’re still craving visual candy after your trip to the National Gallery then you might also want to visit the City Art Centre. On the other hand, if modern art is more to your liking, you may prefer the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

Website here.

The Museum of Childhood

42 High Street (The Royal Mile), Edinburgh, EH1 1TG

If, like me, you’re a lover of objects from bygone times, then I guarantee that you’ll love this museum. There are some really beautiful old toys to marvel at, as well as some coin-operated machines that still work if you’ve got some spare change. A fair warning though, if you’re afraid of dolls then it might be best you skip gallery three! That room is full of the little creepers.

Website here.

John Knox House

43-45 High Street (The Royal Mile), Edinburgh, EH1 1TG

If you’re interested in 15th/16th century architecture or the Scottish Reformation, then I’m sure you’d enjoy a visit to the John Knox House. What interested me the most here was the painted ceiling of the bedroom. Above is a picture of how the ceiling looks now, and below is a reproduction of how it would have originally looked. I’m sure if you were to have a similar feature in your house these days it would raise a few eyebrows.

Website here.

Butterfly and Insect World

Dobbies Garden World, Melville Nursery, Lasswade, Midlothian, EH18 1AZ

This little wonderland is an excellent place to practice your photography skills as the butterflies are free to wander wherever they please. The blue butterflies are the hardest to capture! Once you’ve finished snapping away, there are also reptiles and other insects to see out the back.

Website here.

Our Dynamic Earth

Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS

Our Dynamic Earth is very much a family-orientated exhibition. It’s very interactive and can be kind of fun if you’re able to tune out the enthusiastic (annoying) tour guides. If you’re at all interested in how our planet works (which you should be!) then it’s worth a visit.

You can pick up all sorts of awesome facts to impress your friends here. For example: Did you know that it quite possibly rains diamonds on Neptune? Me neither! Other highlights include a giant iceberg and a ‘time-traveling machine’ that takes you all the way back to the big bang. “It’s actually a lift”, said one less enthusiastic tour guide. No kidding.

Webite here.

Camera Obscura

Castlehill, The Royal Mile, EH1 2ND

Camera Obscura is situated right next door to the castle and is another of Edinburgh’s very interactive exhibitions. It’s a bit pricey to get in, but if your idea of a good time involves getting lost in a mirror maze, trying not to fall over in a swirling vortex or swapping heads with a friend, then this one’s for you.

Website here.

Part Two: Places to Shop

Those of you that followed my last blog will know that these last two parts have taken a really long time to make an appearance! In the end I decided to whittle this part down and just do a whistle-stop tour of my favourite vintage and antique shops. I originally planned to talk about other independent and high street shops too, but I think those of you that read my blog are probably more interested in the vintage and antique shops anyway.

Before I begin, I just want to point you towards this map, which details the locations of the many charity shops Edinburgh has to offer. It’s more or less up to date and it lists all the ones I used to visit when I lived there. I don’t have any particular favourites because all of these have turned up gems at some point or another, so my advice would be to just go to as many as you can.


83 The Grassmarket, EH1 2HJ

Armstrongs is probably the most popular go-to place for vintage in Edinburgh, and this is actually just the front of one of three shops. Armstrongs can also be found at 64-66 Clerk Street, EH8 9JB and 14 Teviot Place, EH1 2QZ. They have a wide range of stock, but the good stuff is a little on the pricey side and they have the unfortunate habit of stocking modern tat, which I find infuriating. Still, I have occasionally come across pieces that make my heart flutter, so it’s worth a look.

Website here.

Those Were the Days

26 Saint Stephen Street, EH3 5AL

Those Were the Days is a small, independent vintage shop situated in Stockbridge. All pieces are carefully handpicked and then cleaned and steamed so they’re ready to be worn straight after purchase. Everything is well organised and easy to look through, and there were definitely a few pieces I would have liked to have taken home were I not such a poor student back then!

Website here.

Elaine’s Vintage Clothing

55 Saint Stephen Street, EH3 5AL

Small, cosy and crammed to the rafters with beautiful, genuine vintage, Elaine’s Vintage Clothing is another hidden gem in Stockbridge. The lady who runs it is absolutely charming and has been in the business for years. You will not want to leave empty handed.

Duncan and Reid

5 Tanfield, Inverleith, EH3 5JS

If you decide to walk to the Botanical Gardens from the city centre, then you should definitely make a pit stop at Duncan and Reid. Having been in the business for 18 years, they have amassed a wonderful collection of pieces. It’s quite a small shop, but it’s well curated. I wish those little lace-ups had been my size!

Unicorn Antiques/Charlie and Jane’s Vintiques

65 Dundas Street, EH3 6RS

If, like me, you enjoy hunting for your treasure as opposed to having it served up to you on a platter, then you’ll love Unicorn Antiques and Charlie and Jane’s Vintiques (which is below Unicorn Antiques). Both shops are jam-packed with old junk, from jewellery to walking sticks and fine china to plant pots. There’s even a small selection of clothing to browse through in Charlie and Jane’s Vintiques.

Le Chariot Express

47a South Clerk Street, EH8 9NZ

Another great junk shop full of bits and pieces, both modern and old, collected from house removals. Whenever I walk past this place I can’t help but stop and stare in the window. A few of my finds from here include a little embossed deer brooch and a beautiful old leather trunk. A word of warning though: the man who runs it is a bit intimidating. He tries to be friendly but it’s quite an enclosed space and he has a knack for making people feel very uncomfortable – take a friend.

Edit: It would appear this gem of a shop has since closed! May it rest in peace.

Still going?

If you’re not out of pennies by the time you’ve visited these, then there are also the following antique shops:

  • Cabaret Antiques & Curios – 137 West Port, EH3 9DP
  • Cavanagh – 49 Cockburn Street, Midlothian, EH1 1BS
  • Courtyard Antiques (check the wardrobes!) – 108a Causewayside, EH9 1PU
  • Iconic – 23 Grassmarket, EH1 2HS
  • James Scott Antiques – 43 Dundas Street, EH3 6QQ
  • Martinez Antiques – 17 Brandon Terrace, Canonmills, EH3 5DZ
  • The Thrie Estaits (for fancier wares) – 49 Dundas Street, EH3 6RS

And a couple more vintage shops:

If you’re there at the right time of the month then you may like to go to the Out of the Blue flea market, which Cait has posted about here. Also, every Sunday there is a car boot sale held in the OMNi underground car park (Greenside Place, Edinburgh EH1 3AA) where a handful of antique/vintage/junk vendors can sometimes be found.

Finally, moving away from antiques and vintage for a moment, if you’re feeling flush with cash then definitely stop over at Goodstead (76 Rose Street, EH2 2NN), pictured below, which is a great little shop where you can find labels such as Antipodium, A.P.C., Margaret Howell and Sessun.

Part Three: Places to Eat

Forgive me for my lack of knowledge in this area, but as a student the closest I usually got to eating out was eating on my windowsill with the window open. Still, I did manage to go to a few nice places, so I may as well share what little I do know.

If you fancy a curry… the best place to go is The Kismot (29 St Leonards Street, EH8 9QN), a family-run restaurant and home to the infamous Kismot Killer Curry, which has reputedly put several people in hospital. If burning insides aren’t quite your thing then you should still go for the extensive menu, delicious food and super friendly staff (like the nicest I’ve ever met).

If you fancy a gourmet burger… look no further than Holyrood 9A (9a Holyrood Road, EH8 8AE) which serves the most delicious halloumi burger. Also a good place for beer connoisseurs.

If you fancy cocktails… visit The Dragonfly Bar (52 West Port, EH1 2LD). All the cocktail recipes are created in-house, offered up on a witty menu and beautifully served (with a rim of hundreds and thousands if you order a Raspberry Ripple). This place has a really intimate atmosphere so it’s perfect for couples or small get-togethers.

If you fancy being posh… try The Garden Cafe (14 George Street, EH2 2PF). This quaint little outdoor courtyard cafe is part of The Dome, a luxurious hotel on George Street. A plate of sandwiches will set you back around £7, which sounds pricey but you do get a lot of sandwich for your money. The perfect place for lunch on a sunny summer’s day.

If you fancy vegan or vegetarian food… eat at David Bann. I went here for my graduation meal with a bunch of self-professed meat lovers and not one person had a bad word to say about their food. Needless to say, everything was delicious and as a vegetarian it was so nice to have the pick of the menu for once.

——————————— FIN ———————————

And that’s all folks! I hope the vast amount of pictures didn’t crash your computers. If you have any recommendations of your own, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments!

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13 comments - leave another

  1. These places all sound amazing — particularly the Botanical Gardens and Childhood Museum (how magical/creepy is that?), and the photos are unbelievably stunning. I wish I had had this guide when I was in Edinburgh a few weeks ago. Can’t wait to get back there, and see what is next up your sleeve =)
    all the best,

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for this beautiful guide. Lately i’ve been thinking about visiting Edinburgh and this is more then helpful!
    And such a lot of work you made out of this, so thank you for showing your favorite spots and scenes.
    Living in Holland, and the weather is pretty much the same, what’s the best period to visit ? don’t mind when it’s gray and dreary.


    1. Thank you, Audrey! I’m glad it’s been of use to you. As for the best time to visit, it’s hard to say. Edinburgh is quite often overlooked by grey skies, even in the summer. We do get sunshine too of course, but it’s quite difficult to predict! And there always seem to be tourists, but the peak time for visitors is in the summer when the Fringe Festival occurs. So unless you want to go to that, I’d say avoid going in August. Hope this helps!

  3. Hannah, you photography is just stunning. Seriously, it makes your blog a joy to read.

    Also, I’m totally bookmarking this guide. I’m planning to go up to Scotland at some point this year and determined to have a good mosey around Edinburgh.


  4. I’ve just got home from a weekend in Edinburgh! It’s so beautiful! We’re planning another trip soon and for a bit longer! Great post! (We ate at Hard Rock Cafe, not your typical Scottish food, but hands down; best meal of my life!) xx

  5. I lived in the UK for nearly four years as a student, and your post has brought forth unbelievable pangs and pangs of nostalgia. Thank you for sharing!

  6. Only a year late with finding this… but THANK YOU. My boyfriend moved to Edinburgh for work and although I have been the ‘flexible one’ and said that I quit my job and move to Edinburgh later this year to finally do a postgrad I am struggling to fall in love with it. I was going to PM you for tips but this is amazing. While he is sending me links to flats to buy I am responding with butterfly world and places to kit out our imaginary flat. I am actually excited to drag him to these places now.

    Thanks again!!

    Em xx

    1. Oh that’s so great to hear, I’m glad you’ve found it useful! I wish you and your boyfriend all the best of luck with the move – Edinburgh is a wonderful, wonderful city to live it, I’m sure you’ll come to love it very soon.

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