Edinburgh is the perfect destination for a stay-cation city break. Whether you want history, fine culture, vibrant hospitality, or simply a walk in beautiful surroundings, Scotland’s capital has something to offer. To take some of the invaluable research off your hands, here’s a round-up of the best things to do on a weekend in Edinburgh.
When the sun shines…
Edinburgh is arguably best enjoyed outdoors. Thanks to its high vantage points, you can enjoy Scotland’s spectacular wild scenery even in the centre of this historic city. Between the elegant Georgian townhouses and the cramped winding alleyways and towering fortress walls of the medieval old town, its architecture is arguably some of the finest in Britain.
Take a hike up Calton Hill
No trip to Edinburgh is complete without the obligatory snap of the city’s ornate turrets and elegant Georgian rooftops from the top of Calton Hill. It’s in the heart of the city, with Holyrood Palace not far from the foot of the hill. As well as the unmissable views, you’ll find the National Monument and the City Observatory at the top – plus, the walk will certainly have you working up a sweat before lunch.
Take a guided tour with a twist
Of course you could take a tour of the iconic sites of royal Edinburgh, however the nooks and crannies of the old town’s labyrinthine cobbled streets are steeped in a history rather more gruesome. The Murder and Mystery Walking Tour is run by enthusiastic guides in ghostly fancy dress, who will take you through the sites of Edinburgh’s more sinister past, including the scenes of torture, bloody executions, and reported hauntings.
Leith Waterway Walk
Leave behind the central hub around the castle and Prince’s street to walk the Leith Waterway. This peaceful canal-side path, canopied with thick foliage and creeping vines feels more rural retreat than city getaway, but at points, you’re barely 15-minutes’ walk from central Edinburgh. The whole path runs to just over 12 miles long, so you can easily spend a day strolling along and duck into the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art for something different.
And when it rains…
Don’t gamble on great weather for a break in Edinburgh. But even if the heavens open, there is plenty to fill your time. Home to the largest comedy festival in the world, the city is a hub for the creative arts all year round, with great galleries and museums to explore.
Get lost in the galleries
Edinburgh’s museums are possibly the best outside London. The accessible (and free) Scottish National Gallery in the centre of town, features works from big hitters including Monet, Van Gogh, and Cézanne, as well as an important collection of Scottish art and high profile temporary exhibitions. If historic art is a tough sell to the kids, try Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, full of optical trickery and seemingly magic exhibits.
Sip a whiskey cocktail
Think Scotland, think whiskey, right? Edinburgh’s thriving, friendly nightlife is a reason to visit in itself and you won’t have to walk far to find a watering hole where the whiskey is good and the vibe welcoming. Rose Street, a narrow pedestrianised walkway in town, is packed with pubs on either side, and you can expect a roaring log fire, well-stocked bar and lively atmosphere. For something a little quieter, opt for a cocktail lovingly prepared by some of the city’s best bartends; Whiski Rooms, on The Mound near the Royal Mile, serves up expertly crafted whiskey concoctions that won’t disappoint.
Enjoy comedy all year round
During the famed Edinburgh Festival every August it’s rich pickings if you want comedy, whether that’s high profile names or new faces cutting their teeth on the circuit. However with the acts come the crowds – and the prices. The Strand has a great line up of comics all year round, however, with stand-up shows every Friday and Saturday that feature up to five different acts, so you can still enjoy the laughs out of festival season.
Where to stay?
Alpharooms.com summer top picks:
Sleek and stylish, Malmaison offers a high-end nights’ sleep for a fraction of the price of the big names. The hotel is on the Leith waterfront, with stunning views and a brasserie worth visiting even if you’re not a guest.
Rooms from £135 per night
This hotel is situated outside the city, but what you lose in convenience is more than made up for by this 13th Century castle hotel’s impressive rooms, luxury spa and picturesque park setting.
Rooms from £175 per night