City break in Edinburgh | ancient tradition and modern creativity

Edinburgh’s blend of ancient and modern, urban and wild, creative and traditional make it one of my favourite city breaks. From multi-arts venues to medieval heritage sites, there’s always something new to discover in the Scottish capital.

Hiking to Arthur’s Seat on a chilly December day, I looked back at the city of Edinburgh. The Scottish capital stretched towards the North Sea, a blend of medieval architecture and modern buildings. Standing halfway up the extinct volcano, surrounded by hills and crags, I knew I was looking at a city like no other.  

From innovative exhibitions to celebrated restaurants, Edinburgh is always evolving. Meanwhile, the city’s iconic attractions remain unmissable. Here,  I’ll show you how exploring both Edinburgh’s classic sights and its contemporary attractions will give you a deeper insight into this wonderful city; so as well as exploring the capital’s fascinating past, you’ll be hanging out at its most vibrant spots.

SEE | take in the sights of old and new in Edinburgh

In Edinburgh, you’re never far away from a heritage site, art exhibition, or an impressive view. Get your history fix while you explore Edinburgh’s Old Town, before enjoying some of the best contemporary art the city has to offer.

The Classic

Edinburgh Castle

Perched high on Castle Rock, Edinburgh Castle is one of the city’s most iconic landmarks. A historic fortress towering over the city, the castle is a symbol of Edinburgh’s intricate history. To get the most out of your visit, book a tour with one of the castle’s entertaining guides. Or explore on your own by following the trail of blue shields. I never miss an opportunity to visit The Esplanade, the area just outside the city walls. As one of the best viewpoints in Edinburgh, it’s a great spot for taking photos. And even if you don’t have time for a tour, the expansive views are definitely worth the uphill walk to the castle.

The Close

For an even deeper dive into Edinburgh’s history, head to The Real Mary King’s Close. An underground warren of preserved 17th-century streets, the Close is shrouded in myths and legends. But the rooms and passageways offer a real glimpse of Old Edinburgh and the hardships endured by its citizens. The Close was closed to the public for many years, so it’s worth making the most of the chance to visit now.

The Contemporary

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Every August, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival lights up the city with thousands of shows. Opera, dance, comedy, and theatre performances take place across the city in hundreds of venues. And in between shows, street performances add to the party atmosphere. As the world’s biggest arts festival, the Fringe is one of the most exciting times of the year to be in Edinburgh. But be warned, you’ll need to book accommodation well in advance.


To explore beyond the main tourist spots of Edinburgh, make your way to the hip neighbourhood of Leith. Just an easy bus ride from the city centre, Leith is packed with cool cafes, lively arts venues, and independent boutiques. It’s also home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than anywhere else in Scotland, so foodies tend to flock here regularly. Formerly Edinburgh’s centre of shipbuilding, Leith experienced a period of poverty in the 1980s, as depicted in Irvine Welsh’s book, ‘Trainspotting’. But after large-scale regeneration, the area is now thriving and has quickly become one of the most popular places to live in Edinburgh.

Dedicate a couple of hours to exploring its ancient narrow passageways on the Royal Mile; and make sure you don’t miss Dunbar’s Close Garden, a tiny formal garden near the bottom that feels like a secret escape from the rest of the city.

Hotels in Edinburgh

5401 Hotels
from 33
View Hotels

STAY | rest and relax in Edinburgh’s central hotels

From period-style elegance to contemporary cool, Edinburgh hotels are a diverse bunch. The following hotels offer comfort and style in unbeatable central locations.

Classic | traditional Scottish stay with views onto Edinburgh Castle


Built in 1905, The Scotsman hotel has retained lots of its original features. So if you’re looking for period-style elegance and luxurious touches, this the place to stay. From the elegant marble staircase to the stained glass windows, The Scotsman is full of classic appeal. And with clear views of Edinburgh Castle, you can pretend you’ve gone back in time to Medieval Scotland. No two rooms are exactly the same at The Scotsman. So depending on your budget, you can snuggle up in a cosy Study Room or sprawl out in a luxurious Feature Suite.

The Scotsman Hotel

Top rated
Edinburgh, 0.2 km to 3D Loch Ness Experience
8.5 Excellent (4370 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.6 / 10
View Prices

Classic | historic hotel in the city centre for travellers on a budget


A three-star hotel in a historic building, the Leonardo Boutique Hotel is perfect if you’re on a budget. Originally built in 1879 as Simpsons Memorial Hospital, the hotel walls are steeped in history. Inside, touches of tartan are a fun nod to the hotel’s Scottish heritage. And despite the affordable price tag, you can expect to sleep in comfort in your spacious room. Just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile, and Princes Street, this hotel is a great base for exploring Edinburgh’s Old Town.

Leonardo Edinburgh City

Top rated
Edinburgh, 0.9 km to 3D Loch Ness Experience
8.5 Excellent (2860 reviews)
Excellent Cleanliness 9.1 / 10
View Prices

Contemporary | boutique hotel with rooms for all budgets


With its glittering blend of baroque and modern details, staying at The Rutland Hotel feels like a treat. A short stroll from Princes Street Gardens, one of my favourite parks in the city, The Rutland is a boutique hotel in Edinburgh’s city centre. There are 12 individually designed guestrooms, each with a touch of glamour. Depending on your budget, you can relax in a standard room, or treat yourself to Room 5 – a dramatic black and gold room with castle views and a sparkling chandelier.

The Rutland Hotel

Top rated
Edinburgh, 1.1 km to 3D Loch Ness Experience
9.2 Excellent (578 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.6 / 10
View Prices

Contemporary | boutique hotel with rooms for all budgets


If you’d prefer to save your pounds for shopping and dining, the IBIS Edinburgh South Bridge is a great choice. Located on the historic Royal Mile, it couldn’t be any more central for Old Town sightseeing. But inside, IBIS has a fully contemporary aesthetic. No matter which room you choose, you can expect comfy IBIS Sweet Beds and modern furniture. The IBIS is all about functional style with natural wood, exposed brick, and pops of colour dotted throughout. As an added bonus, there’s air conditioning in the rooms, making it a great choice for summer.

Hotel ibis Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile

Edinburgh, 0.1 km to 3D Loch Ness Experience
8.2 Very good (1908 reviews)
Excellent Location 9.3 / 10
View Prices

EAT | feast on traditional grub and contemporary cuisine

Whether you’re looking for pub food or an elegant meal, you’ll find it in Edinburgh. From hearty Scottish dishes to vegan cuisine, there’s no shortage of delicious food options in the city.


Whiski Rooms

For the ultimate Scottish foodie experience, book a table at the elegant Whiski Rooms restaurant. Perched on the historic Mound, the award-winning restaurant fully embraces its heritage. The chefs are passionate about Scottish produce and create dishes that represent the flavours and traditions of the country. So you can feast on haggis, Scottish salmon, or venison loin, knowing that it’s truly authentic. There are over 100 types of whisky behind The Room’s gleaming wooden bar and every traditional dish comes with a recommendation for its perfect whisky match.

Teuchter's Bar

Teuchter’s Bar has a highland pub feel and a menu offering traditional Scottish grub. The bar menu is hearty, so expect burgers, pies, and beef chilli. And if a bar stool is the only place you can find to perch, order from the ‘mug menu’. Designed with ease of eating in mind, the mug menu offers dishes like soup, haggis, and curry.


The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen

The Printing Press Bar & Kitchen is a fresh new restaurant in a restored Georgian townhouse. With an emphasis on seasonal dishes, the menu is endlessly tempting. Tuck into substantial mains like the roast pork fillet or the craft ale-battered fish and chips. Just remember to save some room for the delicious bread and butter pudding.

David Bann

When I last visited Edinburgh, I was overwhelmed by the variety of vegetarian restaurants. But if you only have time for one special meal, eat at David Bann. As Edinburgh’s best-known veggie restaurant, David Bann offers a diverse menu. Try the stir-fried vegetables, udon noodles, and smoked tofu dish or the goat’s cheese Heather Ale strudel.

For a delicious selection of street food, head to the monthly Pitt Market in Edinburgh’s Old Town. For Vietnamese-inspired snacks, try the Pitt Noodle truck or grab a wood-fired pizza from The Big Blu.

DRINK | drink up in hip bars and classic pubs

Edinburgh has a seemingly endless number of places to drink. Sip wine in an airy cafe, drink cask ale in a historic pub or knock back cocktails in a buzzing bar.



Tucked away in Leith, Nobles is a Victorian cafe-bar that dates back to 1896. The impressive stained glass windows, dark wood, and nautical theme all add to Nobles’ old world charm. Local craft beers are in plentiful supply, but there are also cocktails and an impressive wine list.


Spend an evening in Bennetts Bar for a real taste of history. One of the city’s best-loved pubs, Bennetts has been an Edinburgh institution since 1839. There’s a variety of cask ales to try, as well as an array of malt whiskies. Next door to the King’s Theatre, Bennett’s is full of colourful characters and it’s ideal for a pre or post-theatre drink.


The Blackbird

Bursting with colour and style, The Blackbird is one of the trendiest spots in the city. The spacious beer garden, decorated with street art and flowers, is an unbeatable place to spend a summer evening. Meanwhile, the whimsical cocktail menu is full of gems, like the whiskey-based ‘Murial Plays Piano’ and the gin-infused ‘Big in Japan’. And if you get hungry, you’re in luck, because there are lots of delicious dishes on the menu, including some great veggie-friendly options..


Far from a typical pub, Toast is a cool wine cafe in Leith From the exposed brick walls to the industrial lighting, there’s a definite trendy vibe here. But it’s the innovative drinks menu that truly sets Toast apart. Organic, biodynamic wines are the main focus here, so don’t have to feel too guilty about ordering a bottle.

Learn more about whisky, Scotland’s national drink, by touring a distillery or trying a tasting session. At Usquabae Whisky Bar & Larder, one of the city’s best whisky bars, you can pre-book a high quality tasting session or enjoy a couple of relaxed drinks.

DO | discover unmissable landmarks and new attractions

Given the huge number of things to do in Edinburgh, fitting it all into one trip is impossible. So make the most of your visit by mixing outdoor adventures with heritage, shopping, and theatre.

Summerhall (Mihaela Bodlovi Photography)

Arthur's Seat

Few cities are built around an extinct volcano, but Edinburgh is special. Towering over the city of Edinburgh, Arthur’s Seat is an unmissable symbol of the city. At 259 m high, it’s a relatively easy hike to get to the peak, which rises out of Holyrood Park. And the views of Edinburgh city, the surrounding hills, and the distant sparkle of the sea are worth every step.

Edinburgh Playhouse

After a day of walking, an evening at the theatre might be just what you need. The UK’s largest working theatre, the Edinburgh Playhouse is a landmark in its own right. Dating back to 1929, when the building had a previous life as a cinema, the theatre hosts all of the biggest musicals to arrive in the UK. If you get the chance, book ground floor seats as the balcony seats can get uncomfortably cramped.



As Edinburgh’s newest and coolest arts venue, Summerhall is a must-visit if you want a taste of Edinburgh’s creative side. This contemporary multi-arts venue always has a lot going on. From art exhibitions to dance performances, the most difficult decision you’ll need to make is choosing what to see.

Elk & Wolf

A new boutique in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, Elk & Wolf offers a curated selection of bohemian products. Aside from supporting the work of local artisans, the owners also sell a hand-picked selection of jewellery, home and lifestyle products from around the world. It’s a colourful, fun, and quirky place to shop. And you can shop with pride, knowing that you’re supporting independent makers.

If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, browse the shops along historic Victoria Street, which was apparently the inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Grace Harding Author

The mix of old-world and current culture makes Edinburgh a thrilling place to visit. Green hills are just a stroll from the city centre and the endless restaurants will keep you fueled while you explore. Edinburgh is a city that never fails to keep me on my toes and I hope you leave feeling as inspired as I do.