A warren of underground streets and houses hidden beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile. Costumed guides take you around this amazing site, revealing the stories of the former residents. Very eerie and supposedly very haunted. Great for adults and older kids alike.
Mary King's Close, off the Royal Mile;
Bookings: 08702 430 160;
There are plenty of free museums and art galleries to see in Edinburgh: Chambers Street museums (Royal Museum and Museum of Scotland), Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, The People’s Story (all central) and City Art Centre, Dean Gallery and the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (n.b: you have to pay entry fee for some exhibitions within the galleries).
Royal Museum and Museum of Scotland: www.nms.ac.uk;
City Art Centre, Museum of Childhood, Museum of Edinburgh, The People’s Story: www.cac.org.uk;
Dean Gallery and Scottish Gallery of Modern Art: www.nationalgalleries.org
It's one of the best tours in the UK and it is totally free - it's the weirdest tour, but gripping! It's about a dead agnostic physics teacher and her alternative Edinburgh guide - really has to be done to be believed. Takes you to places tourists would never be aware of. I've done the tour and it changed my perception of Edinburgh completely. Suitable for everyone I would say.
A stand-out bar wedged in between the Grassmarket and the go-go bars of the West Port. The best cocktails in town cosy up to flock wallpaper, choice pieces of furniture, friendly and unpretentious service, uniquely decorated walls, and a carefully programmed iPod. The icing on the cake is the grand’s worth of collectable adidas trainers topping the best stocked bar in Edinburgh. She's a peach, but is also very small, and it can be tough to get a seat. Mine’s an Ape Expectations.
52 West Port, Edinburgh, EH1 2LD;
tel: 0131 228 4543;
A former Co-op building that was converted into a state-of-the-art minimalist hotel in 1995. Lots of light, curves and uncluttered space with white bedrooms and blocks of vivid coloured lighting. Good restaurant and bar. Some rooms have views of the castle. Prices can be as low as £85-95 for a double, depending on availability.
34 Bread Street, Edinburgh 0131-221 5555
Rick's is a great bar/restaurant with rooms on Frederick Street just off Princes Street.
The food is lovely and the place very buzzy. The rooms are pretty stylish in a luxurious minimalism sort-of way. Rooms with breakfast cost £129/night - pretty good value.
Frederick St, Edinburgh
Wonderful little Turkish restaurant doing simple but hearty kebabs. I have watched Gursel, owner and chef, carefully prepare his lamb, lovingly getting rid of all fat and gristle. It is then marinated overnight, with herbs wiped off before cooking to make sure they’re not burned and then added again. Delicious, big portions, very reasonable, dependable and friendly.
West Preston St; tel: 0131 667 4242
Fabulous Italian restaurant, specialising in seafood and Neapolitain cuisine. A wee bit of heaven on Dalry Road, with a warm welcome from chef Rosario. Hard to beat, and getting well known these days, so booking ahead is a good idea. A la carte is available but it's hard to see past the specials.
Dalry Road - three minutes walk from Haymarket Station
From outside the Dean Gallery looks like what it used to be: a hospital. Not the orphan hospital it actually was, but more a retreat for Victorian gents with gout, set as it is in opulent grounds. But it’s all about the beauty on the inside. Surrealist art (including works by Dali and Man Ray), a recreation of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi’s haphazard studio, a shop packed with fascinating books, and a buzzing café in which locals and visitors share their love of art over steaming cups, all combine to make it an unusually vibrant gallery experience.
Not quite so lively is the Dean Cemetery, located at the side of the gallery. But it’s still wonderful to stroll through the trees and read the names of forgotten scholars and captains of industry on mossy mausoleums and gravestones.
Old and new melted into one another. Dali might have liked it.
The Dean Gallery it located directly opposite the National Gallery of Modern Art, Belford Road, Lothian. Number 13 Bus from Georges Street; entry is free; www.natgalscot.ac.uk
Finding somewhere to eat on a weekend away is generally a hit-and-miss affair – there’s just no time to learn from your mistakes. Which is why a restaurant like Rick’s is a godsend. In fact, it was so good we ended up eating there two nights in a row.
55a Frederick Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1HL; tel: 0131 622 7800; www.ricksedinburgh.co.uk
A Mexican bar/restaurant found on Broughton Street. The food is pretty basic fare, but is a reasonable price and the restaurant is always busy. It's a great place to go for lunch or a light evening meal or even just some drinks with friends, with a good atmosphere and a great location.
It's simple, but effective.
This is a traditional bar on the south side of the city with a cosy atmosphere, excellent beer, a huge choice of whisky and champagne, delicious food (mostly smorregebrod) and a courtyard for secluded al-fresco libations in the good weather.
239 Morningside Road
A cosy little bar and restaurant on the Shore, where you can curl up in winter with the papers over a great coffee and sit outside in the summer with a cool pint. The food's fab, whether dining in the restaurant or sharing a huge bowl of steaming mussels in the bar. And the best things... the unprententious and friendly staff, the jazz pianist, and the other clientele!
3 the Shore
A working class town at the mouth of the river Esk, the Romans built a fort on high ground overlooking the harbour from which mussels were exported to the capital of the empire.
45 mins from the centre of Edinburgh on a 26 or 44 LRT bus.
A small, "independent" cinema just up the road from the larger and more obvious Odeon and Filmhouse. It has an old-fashioned entrance, with the films and times chalked up on a blackboard on the way in. Shows a mix of independent, art-house and cultish mainstream films, with midnight specials and Sunday double-bill matinees. Friendly young staff (apparently there's a waiting list to work there), old-fashioned foyet snack shop, and a small bar/cafe in the back. A really nice cinema experience.
Home Street (top end of Lothian Road).
0131 228 4141
Served by buses: 10, 11, 15, 16, 17, 23, 27, 37 to Tollcross
or the 23, 27 to Lauriston Place.
An Edinburgh institution for 40 years, Henderson's sells all sorts of nutritious and comforting vegetarian food in a very friendly environment. The Bistro is the smaller, more intimate restaurant attached to the main salad bar and shop. Practically everything is homemade, such as delicious soups,curries, cakes, bread, veggie pates and pastries and the fruit and veg is bought from local farmers. They also are able to cater for any special diets - all you need to do is ask!
26 Thistle Street, just off Hanover St.
A great place to stop after a walk on Arthur's Seat, the Engine Shed is an unpretentious vegetarian cafe-cum-community project (several of the staff have Down's Syndrome, for example). Give something back to the local community and stop here - also handy for Inspector Rebus sites...
19 St Leonard's Lane, Edinburgh, EH8 9SD
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