Having lived in Edinburgh for over three years now, I often find that a lot of my friends and family come to me for recommendations of where they should go when they come to visit this wonderful city. Moreover, they were looking for interesting places in Edinburgh that they couldn’t go to anywhere else. I found that the more I was being asked, the more I was suggesting the same great places. This gave me the idea to collate a list of my favourite suggestions for fun in Edinburgh from food to leisure, here’s the places I love to go to! (This list is absolutely a work in progress and I will update it whenever I find more great places).
Spoon: brunch, lunch, dinner, hot drinks – famed as one of the many Edinburgh locations where JK Rowling penned Harry Potter, it’s pretty easy to see how she found it a chilled but productive creative environment, I love it – pretty central and across the road from the Festival Theatre so a decent hideaway pre-show for food
Mary’s Milk Bar: gelato, hot drinks, chocolate – Mary’s gets pretty busy during peak tourist times since they went viral for their lush hot chocolate ice cream floats (10/10 would recommend though) – it is also located in the quaint Grassmarket so you can eat your ice cream in front of the castle and super close to various other Edinburgh attractions like the adorable Victoria Street (the real life Diagon Alley)
Strumpets: speciality coffee, tea, light lunches and home bakes – Strumpets is a dog friendly establishment and also is pretty versatile for various dietary requirements, vegans will be happy! I love their Fairies’ Blood tea, it is delicious – Strumpets would be an easy one to miss since it’s tucked away in the West End but there you can find loads of hidden gems on quaint cobbled streets
Casa Amiga: Portuguese bakery, delicious pastries and nice coffee – there’s a wee seating area so you can go in and sit, very lovely vibes – down Leith walk a bit so worth doing if you’re over that side of town
Café Nomad: right next to Haymarket station they have lovely pastries and sandwiches etc. I am yet to eat it but their brunch also looked amazing. The cofee is great and it’s super chill inside – would recommend if you’re waiting for a train or meeting someone once you arrive
The Voyage of Buck: great for cocktails, artisan breakfast, lunch and dinner – TVOB is my favourite restaurant in Edinburgh, I love the concept and the small menu means that every time I go there’s something different to try, I visited when they first opened, read about it here – a tad on the more expensive side, for a student anyway! It’s a place I love to go when I have a parent to pay – the decor is super interesting and TVOB is another hidden gem in the West End! (Similar restaurant in Tollcross is The Blackbird)
Six by Nico: I love this place so hard but it’s definitely for special occasions. I’ve only been twice but I absolutely love the concept of it and I’ve never eaten a better meal. Six by Nico presents a six course tasting menu along a theme and it’s the most delicious stuff that also feels like I’m in a Heston Bloomenthal programme or something. Definitely 100% recommend, if you wanna know more I wrote about my trips there in more detail here.
Bar Soba: pan asian street food, super delicious and great if you’re in the mood for a yummy lunch or dinner – average price point, if slightly on the cheaper side, they are great for student discounts too! – it also feels like a very chill space, cool for hanging out with friends.
Chizuru Tei: japanese fusion and sushi – great value for money, you can get a lot for not very much – cute little place with the cutest and most attentive staff, it’s right beside Haymarket train station so perfect for food if you’re coming or going – delicious food, I’m inclined to agree with the Trip Advisor person who said it’s the best sushi in Edinburgh.
Makar’s Gourmet Mash Bar: this is my suggestion for a Scottish meal – if you’re here with friends from somewhere else or you just want the comforts of home, Makar’s is the one for you – with two locations on different sides of Edinburgh it’s super convenient and pretty inexpensive for some great food!
Chez Jules: This Parisian little café/restaurant is tucked away off of George Street and really makes you feel transported into another world, it is always bustling because it’s so damn good but feels very cosy and comfortable – they have incredibly low priced set menus (3 course lunch for less than a tenner – whaaat!) food is amazing so would definitely recommend!
Dishoom: super delicious, real Indian food, they have lots of different dishes so you can pile in and share and everything tastes great! The place is super relaxing and generally just freaking great, you should do it.
La Casa: Tapas!! Spanish classics with the added choice of mezze platters too. The restaurant is gorgeous and a great pairing with a trip to Cineworld without eating at one of the Fountain Park chains. A great place for sharing and I loved the food, dessert, coffee and wine – all that plus being super close to my casa makes it a firm favourite with me! For sure give it a go!!
Drinks & Cocktails
The Fat Pony: This is absolutely one of my favourites – a wine bar tucked in on Bread Street off of Lothian Road you’re close to it from Princes St or Grassmarket – the vibe is super chilled and they play great music – prices are pretty fab as you can get wine by the glass £3-£5 meaning you’ve got more chance at trying out different ones, they also serve charteurie and cheese boards, so what more could you want?
Hoot the Redeemer: this is a cocktail bar that is themed like a vintage carnival, there are arcade style games that enable you to get different cocktails or alcoholic ice cream, it gives a child-like joy to going for some drinks – it’s quite a difficult one to spot, the entrance is themed like a palm reader’s shop and as you step through the Zoltar fortune teller door you go back in time – great drinks and a lot of fun, 10/10 would recommend.
Panda & Sons: owned by the same people as Hoot, Panda & Sons is themed like an old school speakeasy, you enter through the secret door in a bookcase after coming down the stairs of a barber shop and inside it’s dark and cosy and really comfortable. The cocktails are incredible and always have a visual twist – my favourites are the Tiki Takeaway which comes in a chinese takeaway box and spiralised cucumber noodles as a garnish and I love the Free as a Curd which is a lovely lemony cocktail in a teacup served on a book and with a wee shortbread.
Theatre Royal Bar: next door to the Playhouse theatre, it’s the best stagey environment for a theatre nerd to enjoy. Plastered in signed posters from various shows the Playhouse has seen over the years, it creates a fun game to look around and see how many you know or have seen. I’ll be honest, otherwise, it’s just a regular bar but I really love the atmosphere in there. I would sometimes go there for drinks after a shift – but most times we’d go to the Spoons in the Omni centre because money.
The Caley Picture House: This is THE cutest Whetherspoons in existance – as far as I know anyway. Obviously since it’s a Spoons, you know what you’re getting, the menu is the same and the value for money is the same. But why drink your £10.99 bottle of prosecco in a dingy pub when you can have it in a massive restored 1920’s art deco picture house, complete with a stage and a balcony. It is so extra and such a great contrast to the familiar simplicity of the menu, I love it.
Dominion Cinema: it is a wee independent cinema and it is absolutely adorable! You can pay to sit in a two-seater reclining sofa to watch your movie and if you go in the evening they also do table service of drinks, alcohol and snacks straight to your sofa and everything. It is definitely worth the extra walk and the wee bit of extra cash to head here rather than a Cineworld if you want to watch movies in perfect comfort and style – 10/10 would recommend.
Blackford Hill: I felt like it was important to include a free option in this things to do list, and whilst everyone knows about Arthur’s Seat, I would recommend the lesser known Blackford Hill – it has a really lovely park you walk through at the bottom and the climb is about the same, if not a bit easier than Arthur’s Seat. Plus when you get to the top, you can just enjoy the view of Edinburgh without pushing around the many tourists…
Gravity: I love trampoline parks – they are so much fun and really great exercise. Other than just the trampolines, there are also basketball nets, foam pits and a high wire/climbing area so there’s loads to do, the hour session really does fly by. Ryze is actually kinda out of town and there’s a new one called Gravity added to Fountain Park so that one’s a bit more convenient and has a huge air bag to jump into but unfortunately no foam pit!
New York Nails: this is where I like to get my claws done every now and then! Cheap prices and walk ins taken without appointment – results vary depending on the person but I’ve almost always been happy
Lyceum Theatre: My idea of leisure is always going to be theatre, and if you’re gonna go to any of them in Edinburgh, the Lyceum is the prettiest. I might be slightly biased because I worked there for a while but the upcoming 18/19 season is so strong and I don’t want to miss any of those shows. It’s quite tucked away but it’s one of the most beautiful little theatres I’ve ever been in. Worth it.
National Museum of Scotland: I questioned whether or not to add this one because it’s kind of a no brainer when you come to visit Edinburgh however it is one of my favourite places in Edinburgh and it’s free so what’s not to love. The main gallery is so huge, open and light, it makes me feel really calm (unless there are screaming children around), there’s lots of fun to be had with the technology games and the animals are always cool to look at. There are featured, ticketed exhibits on and sometimes they can be really cool. I recently went to the Rip It Up exhibition which is about the history of Scottish pop music.
The Pitt Market: If you fancy a day out, especially fun in the sun, head down to Leith and check out the pitt! It’s a wee market filled with drinks, music and street food trucks! When I went I had a Chicken Katsu Bao Bun from the Ròst food truck as well as some lovely ciders and ice cream to celebrate my graduating freedom. The music was cool and the whole vibe is just very chill – plus loads of people bring their doggos!
Armchair Books: This is my favourite bookshop in town, it has books as far as the eye can see and definitely way too many out of my short reach (they have ladders don’t you worry) It is such a nice vibe in there and definitely a good place to find likeminded readers to talk lit with – also who doesn’t like to support second hand independent book shops?
There’s a couple of extra suggestions on the map above! Keep checking back for updates when I find new favourite places! And if you have any recommendations, please send them my way!