I love the Scottish series Outlander, the Harry Potter movies, pubs and Christmas markets – so what better way to celebrate my birthday than to give me a long weekend in wonderful Scotland? 🎁 That’s exactly what Tristan thought and at the end of November, we went to Scotland’s capital Edinburgh! 😍The city immediately captivated me and is now one of my favorite cities in Europe. Certainly not least because it has its very own charm. The Scots exude good humor and you get the feeling that the city is always full of life.
Welcome to fabulous Edinburgh 👋
The easiest way to travel to Edinburgh is certainly by plane (unless you live in the UK or Ireland, perhaps). There are several ways to get from the airport to the city. You can take the streetcar for about 30 minutes (about 6 pounds). 🚃 We used the airport express bus Airlink 100 for around 5 pounds, as it stopped almost directly at our accommodation. 🚌 Depending on the traffic, you can get to the city faster by bus. If you are traveling with a larger group, a cab is certainly worthwhile. 🚕
Once in the city, there is plenty to explore. Basically, Edinburgh consists of two parts: the historic Old Town with its winding streets, historic houses, and picturesque squares and the hip New Town with many cafes, stores, and restaurants. So wrap up warm and let’s go!🚶
My Edinburgh Highlights ⭐
I have put together my favorite sights of the Scottish capital. Most of my highlights you can explore on foot and especially in the fresh air. 👣 I am not a big fan of museums but prefer to stroll through the streets and immerse myself in real Scottish life. By the way, Edinburgh is a real paradise for visitors to museums, because almost all admissions are free.
Edinburgh Castle 🏰
The castle was the first thing we saw during our city walk. No wonder, because the castle is easily visible everywhere from the city and is the most visited sight in Scotland. 👀 It is located on an extinct volcano, Castle Rock. You have a great view of the castle from Princes Street Gardens and can take a pretty picture in front of the fountain. ⛲ Of course, you should also take the path directly to the castle, because the view from up there is breathtaking. If you visit Edinburgh in winter, you will also be rewarded in the evening hours with a sea of lights of the Christmas market – wonderful! ✨ You also have the possibility to go inside the castle. There are several museums, cannons, Scotland’s crown jewels, and the coronation stone to visit. 💎
Tip: At 1 pm every day (except Sundays) a cannon is fired at the castle, you shouldn’t miss that!
Royal Mile 👑
… or also the Tourist Mile! 😅 The 1.8 km long street leads from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarchs in Scotland. The Queen regularly stops by in the summer to host receptions, garden parties, and knighting ceremonies. Did you know, for example, that the famous James Bond actor Sir Sean Connery was knighted there?! 🗡
The Royal Mile runs along with Edinburgh’s oldest buildings. You can explore the street wonderfully on foot. On your way, you will pass traditional bagpipers and the imposing St. Gilles Cathedral, one of the city’s landmarks. You can also take a look at the side streets of the Royal Mile. There you will find cute cafes and pretty backyards.
Tip: Take a closer look at the square in front of St. Gilles Cathedral. You will discover a mosaic heart on the ground, the Heart of Midlothian. 💗 The heart marks the former entrance of the Tolbooth, and administrative seat that housed a prison. Traditionally, this heart is spat upon, so don’t be surprised if someone does just that. Originally, the spitting was done as a sign of contempt towards the former prison. Today, in turn, many understand it as a gesture of good luck. 🍀
Calton Hill 🏛
Calton Hill is located at the eastern end of Princes Street and offers a beautiful view of the city. You can either take the stairs to the hill or the trail, which already offers you some viewpoints on the way. There are several buildings on the mountain, the National Monument and the Dugald Stewart Monument are especially beautiful. Real postcard motifs!
Arthur’s Seat ⛰
The highest mountain in Edinburgh is Arthur’s Seat (251m), where you’ll feel a bit like you’ve landed in the Highlands. I enjoyed the hike to the mountain incredibly. 😍 The sun was shining and we hiked right through the Scottish nature. I briefly felt like Claire during her Scotland trip in Outlander, the only thing missing was the traditional Scottish music and of course Jamie. 😂
You should wear good shoes and a warm jacket for your hike because the trail is muddy, slippery, and windy in some places. For the more adventurous, I recommend going off the beaten path and climbing the mountain cross-country. At the top, you have a magnificent view over Edinburgh – an absolutely recommendable tour, if the time is too short to go on a side trip to the Highlands! You should plan about half a day for this trip and don’t forget your camera for panoramic photos! 📸
On the trail of Harry Potter ⚡
The birthplace of the Harry Potter books is probably the Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling wrote the magic novels. Today it is a place of pilgrimage for many Potter fans and is usually flooded with tourists. 📚
As a Harry Potter fan, you should definitely make a stop at the spooky Greyfriars Kirkyard cemetery. J.K. Rowling named some of her novel heroes after the people whose tombstones rest in this cemetery. 💀 Can you find the graves of Thomas Riddel, McGonagall, or Moodie? By the way, at the crossroads in front of the cemetery is the little Skye terrier Greyfriars Bobby, who kept watch at his master’s grave for 14 years, a really heartbreaking story. 🐶
Right next to the cemetery is George Hariot’s School. Well, can you see the resemblance to Hogwarts? Incidentally, the students here are also divided into four houses… 😏
There’s no question that J.K. Rowling was also inspired by Victoria Street. The street is brightly colored and nostalgic. Check out the local boutiques, tasty little restaurants, and magical Harry Potter stores. You’ll find everything your wizarding heart desires. 🤓
One last Harry Potter highlight is probably the Balmoral Hotel. This 5-star luxury hotel is where J.K. Rowling finished her novel Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows. You can spend a night in the J.K. Rowling Suite (for a lot of money 🙈) and experience the magic of the room.
Edinburgh Dungeon 👹
If you’re in the mood for some history but bored with classic museums and city tours, I can recommend the Edinburgh Dungeon. You will take a journey through the underground of Edinburgh and learn more about the dark and spooky history of Edinburgh. The whole thing is presented with live actor shows. I think that Edinburgh is particularly well suited for this because the scary atmosphere simply invites you.
Whisky, Haggis & Co. 🍺
Your belly growls? Go to one of the restaurants, cafes or pubs in the city, because there are many of them and especially good ones. 😊
If you are in Scotland, you have to try the national dish haggis! What is it? Well, it’s a porridge made from sheep’s innards and oatmeal. To be honest, I found the idea anything but delicious. 🤐😅However, since a friend had recommended that I definitely try this particular dish, I turned my head off and ordered myself a serving of haggis at The Advocate. And what can I say? It’s super spicy and really delicious! You should definitely try it, preferably with a freshly tapped Belhaven to go with it. The Advocate is a real Scottish pub with very nice service, absolutely recommended! 👍
A good alternative is also The Grosvenor Pub. Here you will find a large selection of whisky, Scottish beer, and excellent fish & chips. 🍟 The service was very friendly and since the pub was right across from our accommodation, we enjoyed one or the other cold drink there.
Do you rather feel like a warm café? ☕ Check out Deacon’s House Café during your tour of the Royal Mile. It’s not easy to find a seat there, but it’s worth it. On the walls, you’ll find the story of William Brody, the real-life model for Jekyll & Hyde. We were there in the afternoon for tea & scones, certainly not quite as good as in southern England, but quite tasty.
If you are on your Harry Potter discovery tour, I recommend the Oink on Victoria Street. 🐷 There you can get Pulled Pork from a suckling pig for only 5 pounds!
Christmas magic in Edinburgh 🎄
At Christmas time, Edinburgh is a very special experience because the city is truly a sea of lights. 😍The house facades are festively decorated and illuminated. The Christmas market starts already in mid-November and goes on until January. Should you ever shiver, you can warm up in one of the very well heated restaurants, pubs, or charming Christmas stores, sounds great isn’t it?
But now we go to the Christmas market, namely the European Market in East Princes Street Gardens. Since our accommodation was only a 10-minute walk away, we could taste our way through the mulled wine stalls and stagger into bed afterward. 😃 Besides mulled wine, there are some food stalls (funnily enough with German Bratwurst, because the Christmas market is also called German Market), unusual art and gift items, and carousels. 🎡 The Christmas Market also doubles as a fair with lots of rides and a lovely Santa Land for the kids. 🎅
Tip: Take a ride on the Star Flyer and enjoy the view over the beautifully lit Christmas market… but it’s best to eat something afterward. 😅
You should also visit the Street of Light at the western end of George Street. At 6 and 8 p.m. Scottish music plays and the more than 60,000 bulbs shine in a light show. 💫 When we were there, the theme was “Silent Night”, so everyone had headphones on and listened to music and danced over them. A very unique and great experience that we won’t soon forget!
Edinburgh Summary 🌟
Our little trip to the mysterious and enchanting Edinburgh was simply wonderful. 💕 The Christmas light makes the city seem almost magical and mysterious. Next, I would like to make a road trip through Scotland and the Highlands, including a trip to Inverness hehe. 🚗