Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Edinburgh
Tell us a little about ourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Edinburgh.
I’m Sonja and I blog at Migrating Miss! I write about living abroad and expat life, as well as short guides for weekend getaways while you’re in your new home. Edinburgh was my of my favourite homes, and spending two years there gave me the opportunity to really discover some luxurious hidden gems.
What makes Edinburgh a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Edinburgh is such a beautiful city, like no other. Everywhere you look the city is framed by a castle, ancient volcano, monument or hill. It has so many great historical buildings and as the capital city of Scotland it offers a wide range of options to suit all travellers, whether you want to enjoy the city itself or road trip around Scotland.
What 5 star hotel is the best in Edinburgh?
The most famous of the 5 star hotels in Edinburgh would be The Balmoral. This Victorian era hotel is right in the heart of Edinburgh at the end of Princes Street and next to the train station. You can expect pure luxury and Scottish charm from this hotel, right from the kilted doormen who welcome you as you enter!
What about boutique hotels in Edinburgh, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
The Witchery by the Castle is as close as you can get to staying in Edinburgh Castle itself. Enter this unique hotel through a historic close at the top of the Royal Mile. Each Gothic suite is different, but usually contains a four poster bed and free standing bath. With the restaurant providing Scottish dishes and breakfast by candlelight, if you were in any other city you wouldn’t need to leave, but the delights of Edinburgh will beckon you out.
Where are the best hang outs during the day in Edinburgh?
Spending time in Edinburgh in the summer means taking advantage of the all the green spaces. On a nice day (and they do exist!) the Meadows is typically crowded with people and portable barbeques. The promenade at Portobello is the closest beach option and the Epsy on the promenade has a great burger menu if you’re in need of a bite to eat.
In the winter Edinburgh is on the colder side, although probably not as much as you might imagine! There’s a great cafe culture here, with an eclectic range of cafes all over the city available for you to escape the cold. I’d recommend Lovecrumbs near the Grassmarket as my favourite, although pick anywhere that looks slightly hipster and you’re probably good! Bruntsfield has some options including Project Coffee and down by The Shore in Leith you can find Mimi’s Bakehouse.
Taking a wander through Stockbridge at any time of year means discovering cute little shops and cafes, and on Saturday the Stockbridge Market has great food original art and crafts. If you need a pub then Hamiltons Bar and Kitchen would be my pick! Stockbridge is also close to Dean Village, one of the most picturesque areas of Edinburgh.
Afternoon tea is a great activity for a mother/daughter or girls weekend and the best on offer in Edinburgh is at The Balmoral. With unlimited tea options, a three tier afternoon tea a treats trolley coming around and live harp music the atmosphere is a wonderful break from wandering around the city.
What is something not to miss in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh has so many great sites to see it’s hard to even list them all! A day spent wandering around Edinburgh taking in the sights and stopping at a pub or cafe is the best way to see this city.
The first stop for any traveller is probably the Royal Mile, starting at Edinburgh Castle and meandering down to Holyrood Palace at the end. About halfway down you can stop for a tour of one of Edinburgh’s oldest streets, at Mary Kings Close. Much of it is now covered by buildings above, but the tour gives you a great idea of what life would have been like in Edinburgh hundreds of years ago.
If you’re feeling adventurous once you reach the end of the Royal Mile you can then climb the ancient volcano of Arthur’s Seat, and wander along the Salisbury Crags for great views over Edinburgh.
Edinburgh is also home to the Museum of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland. If you like Whisky (that’s without the E!) or you’re keen to see if you do then the Scottish Whisky Experience is near Edinburgh Castle on the Royal Mile.
J K Rowling spent a lot of time in Edinburgh while she was writing Harry Potter, and the Elephant Cafe was one of her regular haunts early on. The cafe, near the Royal Mile and overlooking the Castle from the back window, has stayed true to how it was at that time, but the bathroom is covered in Harry Potter quotes. A keen fan will recognise some of the names on headstones in the nearby Greyfriars Kirkyard, also the resting place of Scotland’s most famous dog, Greyfriars Bobby, who faithfully sat by his owners grave until he too passed away and had the honour of also being buried in the Kirkyard.
Edinburgh is soaked in history, and is made for walking to see the different sights of the beautiful city.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Edinburgh and what are their best dishes?
Edinburgh has several Michelin Star restaurants, one being The Kitchin, in a converted warehouse in Leith where French technique is combined with Scottish ingredients. If you want to go but dinner is out of your price range, try the lunch service. Castle Terrace is Tom Kitchin’s restaurant located in city and another Michelin star in his belt. Once again The Balmoral provides another Michelin option with Number One, arguably serving some of the best food in Edinburgh.
As for restaurants less than Michelin star but still amazing, Timberyard in the Old Town always rates highly. It’s a family run business that sources from local and artisan growers.
If you’re looking for more of a pub atmosphere I love Ghulli Dhu, which their delicious food and great atmosphere. If you’re lucky enough to be there when they have a Ceilidh, a Scottish folk dance, in the upstairs room then abandon your inhibitions and join in!
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best dessert?
Sticky Toffee Pudding will always be my dessert of choice, and many restaurants around Edinburgh offer this delight. It’s a cake based on dates, (don’t let that put you off!) covered in a caramel toffee sauce. Keep an eye out for it on menus all over.
I am obsessed with having coffee and cake, and in Edinburgh your spoilt for choice. Not to mention the delicious and huge scones on offer at many cafes. For some delicious cake during the day I’d recommend Lovecrumbs once again!
Tell us all the hot shopping spots in Edinburgh; who’s carrying the trendy local designers? Are there designers we should make sure to meet?
Multrees Walk defines luxury shopping in Edinburgh. You can find Edinburgh’s only Harvey Nicholls here, alongside highend designer shops, framing a pedestrian only pathway lit with lights around trees. If you want to find anything like Louis Vuitton, Michael Kors and Mulberry, this is the place to go.
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Edinburgh?
Anyone staying at The Balmoral won’t even need to leave their hotel to find one of the best spas in Edinburgh. Other great options are also linked to luxurious hotels at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa, and the Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian Hotel.
Time for a great sunset view… where would you go?
On a clear and not windy day an amazing place to see the sunset would be from Arthurs Seat, but walking down after dark can be a bit of a mission. The Salisbury Crags next to this would slightly easier, but the best option would have to be Calton Hill. In the winter months the sun sets almost directly behind the Castle, providing a stunning backdrop to many of the icons of Edinburgh. Just out of the city at South Queensferry there are great spots to watch the sunset around the Forth Bridges. The Forth Bridge is an rail bridge that is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us in on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
Whisky might be the most famous drink in Scotland, but gin is often a more popular option. At One Square Gin they have over 60 gins to choose from, including one made just for them. Another gin and general cocktail bar is 56 North, in the Southside. If gins not your thing these are still great places to go. The main tourist drinking spot is probably the Grassmarket, just below Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s smallest pub as well as some of the oldest. A more highend option is George Street, adjacent to Princes Street, where you can find more luxury restaurants and cocktail bars.
If you end the night at a fancy club, which one do you head towards?
Edinburgh has a surprisingly huge number of bars and clubs. In two years of living there I feel like I barely scraped the surface! It’s really hard for me to narrow down the options, and everyone loves something different.
If you’re at Tigerlily, a great place for cocktails on George Street, there’s a club underneath called Lulu, playing most of the chart hits to dance the night away to. Other options in the area are Lola Lo, or The Shack for a bit of cheesy fun. One of my favourites is Caberet Voltaire, known as Cab Vol, located off the Royal Mile. This small venue hosts DJs playing a wide range of music, and offers some great cocktails to keep you going!
Where to head for breakfast the next day
While you’re in the United Kingdom you might have tried an English Breakfast but don’t miss trying a Scottish one, complete with haggis and a tattie scone. If you don’t understand Scottish then a tattie scone is a flat potato griddle scone, and they are delicious. My favourite place for brunch is Kilimanjaro in the Southside, although it’s cafe style and can be super busy on the weekends. For something more luxurious try the Huxley in the Rutland Hotel. Popular options with locals and visitors alike include Urban Angel in Hanover Street and The Roseleaf in Leith. Both offer traditional breakfasts and other great options. Tables at most places are snapped up quickly on the weekend so call ahead or be prepared for a wait!
Sonja is a original Kiwi but perpetual expat who has lived in numerous countries such as the US, Australia, Canada, Scotland and currently calls Spain home. Usually to be found in some quirky cafe eating coffee and cake while blogging on Migrating Miss about her living abroad adventures and thoughts on all things travel. Follow the adventure on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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