Okay, I was there Saturday mid-morning to Sunday late afternoon, so minus sleeping I actually got 13 hours of exploring time. This didn’t make for such a catchy title though. However, this post is still all about my top picks for things to do if you happen to be in Edinburgh for a weekend. There were still a few other things I wish I could’ve crammed in, and so if you have slightly more time than I did, then head for the Dungeon, and take a ghost tour!
(£17ISH ADULT ENTRY, EXTRA FOR AUDIOTOUR)
This HAD to appear on the list. You can see the castle from the main street in Edinburgh and it is beautiful. It costs roughly £17 for an adult to get in, and you can pay for an audio tour too. I didn’t buy one of those, but just wandering around makes you feel like you’re in Game of Thrones. The view of the city from here is phenomenal (there’s also a whiskey tasting experience nearby!).
HENDERSON’S SALAD TABLE
The best veggie/vegan eatery in Edinburgh. I had planned to go to several different coffee shops, but this place was just too good to miss. Super-fast service, delicious home-cooked food, and a city centre location. I can recommend the Vegan Shakshuka (creamy, caramel-y sweet potato in place of eggs), and the porridge (super thick and a massive bowlful- just as porridge should be). If I had had another meal to fill, then I would’ve gone for their vegan haggis and tatties; unfortunately I arrived too early for the lunch menu, so if you want this be sure to get there after 12pm!
CALTON HILL, NATIONAL MONUMNET, NELSON’S MONUMENT
All of these are together because they are all next to each other. This is another spot where you get an amazing view of the city and surrounding areas. Best time of day? Get up early and head up there either for, or just after, sunrise. I was up early on Sunday morning, and as cities tend to be quite quiet until lunchtime at the end of the week, I had the monument pretty much to myself.
SCOTTISH NATIONAL GALLERY
(FREE, PAY FOR VISITING EXHIBITIONS)
The art gallery near the Princes Street Gardens is spread over two buildings. You have to pay for one exhibition, but the other galleries are 100% free to get into. If you’re a fan of large oil paintings with tonnes of detail, or impressionist work, or modern art, take a look at the galleries. I spent a good couple of hours there.
EXPLORE THE STREETS
(FREE, depending on if you buy something)
For me this is my favourite thing to do when I visit somewhere new. I love to just wander around and explore, seeing what shops, cafés, art galleries, and bookshops I can discover. Edinburgh has plenty of hidden gems, and plenty of small winding cobbled streets to make your way down. Exploring on foot also means you get a good view of the statues dotted around the city.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF SCOTLAND
I was blown away by this museum. When you go up the stairs and into the main hall it takes your breath straight out of your chest. There is a lot in this place, so leave a couple of hours for it. I wish I’d had more time here. At the moment there is an exhibition on fashion through the ages, and much as I’m not really a fashion-enthusiast, I find past fashions really interesting. The café here is also really good, so check it out. Finally: try and arrive just before the hour to watch the millennium clock chime.
PRINCE STREET GARDENS, QUEEN STREET GARDENS
These gardens stretch alongside the highstreet, and you’ll often find people picnicking here or just enjoying the good weather (when it arrives). Grab some food, and bring a book with you to relax out in the open. The Queen Street gardens are also an option, though I feel like the Princes Street ones have more of a busy, lively vibe.
NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
This isn’t far from Henderson’s Salad Table, so perhaps tie them in on the same day. This was one of my favourite excursions. Its packed with self-portraits at the moment, in all kinds of mediums. The most impactful exhibition was Graham Maclndoe’s; he photographed himself both using and coming clean from heroin. If you’re more into modern art then check the Portrait Gallery out. The roof of the entrance hall is painted liked the night sky, with the zodiac constellations. Absolutely stunning.
There you have it, some cheap ideas for playing tourist in Edinburgh. If you have anything you think I should try next time I visit then comment below!