Edinburgh is a city of contrasts, twisting wynds open out to gleaming modern buildings and fine dining restaurants sit comfortably beside chip-shops. The architectural contrasts made Edinburgh a UNESCO World Heritage site – the well preserved Georgian New Town beside the Medieval Old Town. It’s a cosmopolitan city – home to some of Europe’s finest museums and art galleries, and also intensely local, made up of distinctive neighbourhoods with a village-like feel.

Edinburgh is like no other city I know, it has a mountain in the middle and a beach, and it’s dotted with green spaces and quiet places to explore away from the thrum of the city centre. This two-day tour intends to show you the delights of the city, but do pick and choose what appeals. We’ll visit cultural landmarks, explore mostly on foot, and of course, take in the best of the city’s food and drink along
the way.


THE first day of our tour takes in the Meadows, Arthur’s Seat (for the energetic) and plenty of cultural and foodie hot-spots.

Start the day in Marchmont, a leafy residential area, with a cracking breakfast at Argyle Place. Cold-pressed juices, a changing breakfast menu including favourites like Mackerel Kedgeree and sweetcorn and ricotta pancakes, and the Mr. Eoin in-house coffee roastery make this the perfect place to fuel up for a day exploring Edinburgh.

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If you’d rather take-away then nearby Elliott’s is a delicious option – they make an excellent breakfast roll – choose from sausage, soft boiled egg, mustard and lemony greens, or crispy coriander seed potato, soft boiled egg, and harissa-yogurt.

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Wander from here to the Meadows, a large grassy public park where students and locals love to meet friends, exercise, barbecue or play sports. The Meadows has beautiful views of our beloved extinct volcano Arthur’s Seat. If you’d like to go up, it’s just a ten-minute walk from the Meadows to the start of the path.

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It’s a popular route but do go prepared, sturdy footwear and a good jacket are needed year-round. From the summit on a good day, you can enjoy wide-ranging views of the whole city, across to the Pentlands and the Lammermuir Hills, over the water to East Lothian and Fife and up the Forth to the Forth Bridges.


If this sounds a bit strenuous then have a wander around the central University of Edinburgh campus instead.

Much of the original architecture around George Square has been replaced by less than lovely 60s slabs and modern offices but look for notable older buildings including Italian Renaissance style McEwan Hall, where students graduate – presented to the university by local brewer William McEwan in 1897 (to thank the beer drinking students), and grand Old College on South Bridge – which also houses the Talbot Rice Gallery.

Take time to explore the winding streets of the Old Town.

It can be very busy as the student-dominated Newington meets the throngs of tourists on The Royal Mile but don’t let that put you off. This area is full of cafés and noodle bars and plenty of independent businesses – don’t miss Lighthouse Books, one of Edinburgh’s best independent bookshops and the place to discover bold, important literary voices. They also run events including Edinburgh’s Radical Book Fair every November.

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The National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street is a vast and interactive museum that could easily fill days of your visit. My tip is pick just two or three galleries and really enjoy exploring them, and then plan a return trip. Make sure to visit the roof terrace on level 7 for panoramic views. To really get to grips with the history of Edinburgh’s Old Town a visit to Gladstone’s Land is enlightening – learn how residents lived and worked in this tenement from 1632 to 1911.

From the Royal Mile follow Cockburn Street down to the Fruitmarket Gallery and bag a table for lunch. The gallery recently reopened after an extensive expansion so enjoy exploring the new space. Currently you can see a major exhibition of work by American artist Howardena Pindell (until 2nd May) and a mesmerizing site-specific installation – Jyll Bradley’s Pardes (until 18th April).

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From here head over to the New Town. If you are in the mood for more art, then a visit to The Scottish National Portrait Gallery is always worthwhile.


The New Town is also the main shopping area for the city, check out Princes Street for High Street staples and parallel George Street for more up-market shops.

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Egg & Co. is a vibrant new space that is currently livening up George Street, bringing together a wealth of local female-owned brands with both permanent and temporary residents – currently this includes Fruit Salad Flowers, Tartan Blanket Co, Beira, Mardy Bum Active Club, Rare Birds Books, Diedododa, Danielle Hewlett, Jeffreys Interiors, Lautala, Pretty Pickled, Steampunk coffee and Hilda.co. Also on George Street I like Meander Apparel for outdoor wear and Wellington Coffee when the caffeine levels drop.

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When you’re ready to swap coffee for a glass of wine, descend the steps into the relaxed and welcoming new wine bar below L’Escargot Bleu on Broughton Street, though a warning, it may be hard to move on from here.

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For dinner you are spoiled for choice, so I’ll give a few favourites. Noto is the more casual sister restaurant to Aizle, it specialises in small plates without the formality of a set menu. Everything is designed to share (if you can bear to). Order the North Sea crab with warm butter and thank me later. The Corra Linn croquettes with truffle are incredible too. It’s a stylish wee place, with putty-coloured walls, branches and greenery.

The Palmerston only opened last year, and this bistro and bakery has already claimed a very loyal following. Expect hearty dishes like confit pork belly, Jerusalem artichokes, chard, sage and marsala, or lamb, turnip and potato gratin, anchovy and hispi cabbage. Large pies designed to share make regular appearances on the menu and the wine list is delightful.

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For a more casual option try Taco Libre for fun and authentic Mexican cooking in a gloriously kitsch technicolor restaurant. Order the fish baja tacos, guacamole, loaded sweetcorn, sopes with refried beans and plenty of napkins. The margaritas are outstanding too.

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From here the night is yours, will it be descending into the dimly lit The Jazz Bar to see who’s playing tonight? Or catching some stand-up comedy with a pint at The Stand? Or perhaps just a nightcap – in which case relaxed bar The Green Room on William Street is a favourite (mine’s a Jacobin Sour).

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For this second day, we’ll start in The New Town, and take in Stockbridge, Dean Village and end the day in Leith using the Water of Leith Walkway. This route contains a lot of walking, download the Lothian Bus & Tram app for alternative travel suggestions.

First stretch your legs with a quick jaunt up Calton Hill. Many argue this is the best view in Edinburgh as you can see the castle, Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags, and explore the distinctive buildings that dominate the skyline- including Scotland’s National Monument and the City Observatory. You can breakfast on the hill if you book in at The Lookout, which is perched on the side of the hill with incredible floor-to-ceiling windows and equally impressive food.

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From Calton Hill walk along Princes Street to Frederick Street, then follow it down the hill (it will become Howe Street) and then across Circus Place to Stockbridge. Take a left on to Saunders Place to find the Water of Leith Walkway. This is one of the loveliest sections of path so follow it to visit St. Bernard’s Well, ridiculously pretty Dean Village and on to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (some steps on route and one diversion in place).

The gallery has two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, either side of Belford Road with many sculptures in the gardens too. This is Scotland’s home of modern art and it’s an incredible collection. When hunger calls, either eat in one of the museum cafés or return to Stockbridge and take your pick of some superb cafés and pubs for lunch. Fortitude Coffee and Artisan Roast are good options for a casual bite, for something more substantial try Hamilton’s for epic brunch-style dishes or Hector’s for a roast.


After lunch walk to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh, a short stroll from Stockbridge. With a history going back to the 17th century, these gorgeous gardens are both an important botanical collection and a delight to visit – with over 70 acres to explore.

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 From the Botanics, exit by the west gate, by the John Hope Gateway and re-find the Water of Leith Walkway (at the top of Arboretum Avenue.) The path will take you through woodland on the other side of the river to the idyllic Stockbridge Colonies, up to the main road in Canonmills, follow Warriston Road to the next section of path, and then follow signs around St. Marks Park to Leith. (Alternatively take a bus from Ferry Road). Look out for Anthony Gormley sculptures in the river.

Leith is frequently voted one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world, so spend the evening here and judge for yourself. Home to two Michelin starred restaurants (The Kitchin and Martin Wishart), there are many other fine dining establishments that should also be on your radar.

Try Aurora, where a seasonal tasting menu of Modern European cooking awaits, inspired by the extensive culinary travels of head chef Kamil Witek. This intimate little restaurant is on Great Junction Street, not the fashionable Shore, but with the new premises of The Little Chartroom and superb new wine bar Mistral around the corner on Bonnington Road, this part of Leith is definitely on the up.

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It almost goes without saying that The Little Chartroom should be on your must-visit list too – chef Roberta Hall-McCarron is one of Scotland’s rising culinary stars, unfortunately unless you’re very organised the waiting list for a table is a few months long.

Newbie Heron on The Shore is very special too, with a relaxed minimal interior and views of the river. The menu is small with an emphasis on seasonality and showing off the very best local suppliers with flair and precision in the kitchen.

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If, like me, dining anywhere near the sea has you craving seafood, then head along The Shore where there are two brilliant choices that I’d struggle to choose between. Fisher’s is set in a 17th Century watchtower with small tables, flawless service, and a buzzing atmosphere. The menu is varied but fish is the main attraction – try Anstruther langoustines, then the Aberdeen halibut with samphire, ham hock, gnocchi and chicken butter sauce.

On the same stretch The Ship on the Shore bills itself as a ‘Champagne Bar & Seafood Restaurant’, so that’s the ordering taken care of.

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For a celebration you can’t beat the towering, impeccably sourced ‘Fruits de Mer’; for a more everyday but still lovely lunch go for Shetland Mussels with ‘ships chips’. It’s an elegant spot with a timeless feel, think dark walls, framed art, gleaming mirrors, and nautical ephemera.

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The Shore Bar on the same stretch is wonderfully atmospheric and perfect for a nightcap.


If fine dining isn’t on the menu, then Leith is also home to some top foodie pubs – the ever cheery Roseleaf serves up tasty burgers, flatbreads and mac and cheese.

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Nobles on Constitution Street punches far above most pub food offerings, with classics like excellent fish and chips, but also surprising and perfectly executed additions like roast rabbit with thyme polenta and roast baby carrots.

Eating or otherwise, Roseleaf and Nobles are great pubs to end the evening in too, and to that list I’d add The King’s Wark, Teuchter’s Landing and The Malt and Hops for traditional and welcoming pubs on the Shore; Nauticus for a cocktail and The Lioness of Leith for a pint and a bit of a party to end our tour of Scotland’s capital city.

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