Exploring Edinburgh

So as long time readers will know I usually don’t cover the destinations I visit in great detail, and the simple reason is that there are much better resources on the internet than anything I could write from a visit of a few days. Ultimately I try to make my flight, lounge, and hotel reviews as detailed as possible, but Googling something like “what to do in Edinburgh” would return better results than anything I could write.

But I’ll still share my general thoughts:

Edinburgh is gorgeous and there’s a lot to do

I don’t know why, but I didn’t have especially high expectations. But everything about Edinburgh is gorgeous, from the architecture (given how many old buildings there are) to the landscape. Also we spent five days in Edinburgh and certainly didn’t run out of things to do in that time. Admittedly we were only sightseeing half days as we were working as well, but it’s truly a gorgeous city.

For that matter the city was much bigger than I was expecting, and was actually quite spread out. From Edinburgh Castle, to The Royal Mile, to Scott Monument, to Nelson Monument, there was a surprising amount of stuff to do.

View from Nelson Monument

Edinburgh Castle


Scott Monument

View from Nelson Monument

The people are really friendly

I found the locals in Edinburgh to be especially friendly and welcoming. Even taxi drivers always asked where we were from, how we were enjoying Edinburgh, what we had seen, etc.

Edinburgh is kind of a smaller version of London with lower prices

I couldn’t help but feel like Edinburgh resembled a smaller version of London in many ways. While I certainly wouldn’t describe Edinburgh as an inexpensive destination, I just didn’t feel like I was being priced gouged everywhere I went (unlike London), despite them using the GBP.

Winter in Europe doesn’t suck

As I said in the introduction to the trip report, I was really apprehensive about traveling to Europe in winter. I lived in Florida for over a decade and consider myself to be warm blooded, so cold temperatures kind of scare me. However, the weather was borderline pleasant, not unlike Seattle.

It was 40-50 degrees and raining for most of the time we were there, and there were even two days of sunshine. There was no snow, and I don’t think it ever got below freezing. We probably got lucky, though I wouldn’t hesitate to take another trip to Europe in January to sightsee. The major benefit is that attractions aren’t quite as full (though we were traveling over New Years, so they were probably more crowded than they’d be later in January).

The food is surprisingly varied/international

I don’t have high hopes of food in the UK. Admittedly London has gotten much better over the past several years with more international cuisine, though Edinburgh had a surprising variety of quality international cuisine as well.

Here are the places we ate:

Prestonfield House afternoon tea

The Scotch Whisky Experience

The street names are funny

Need I say more…?


Bottom line

When most people that I know want to go to Europe they think of London, Paris, or Rome. While they’re all great cities in their own right, I had just as much fun in Edinburgh as I’ve had in any of those cities. I’d highly recommend visiting if you haven’t yet been.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. I love going to the UK in the winter. In fact, I’m about to do another trip there soon. Sure, it can be a bit dreary, but nothing is crowded, and it’s not like the weather is amazing the rest of the year.

  2. Lucky: which card did you use primarily? If it was the Chase Sapphire Preferred, do you have the new card with the chip? Mine recently came in but I am not sure if it will make a difference.

  3. @Jon G: it will probably make a difference if you want to use any sort of vending machine. i was dismayed in london to find only my chip cards worked on london underground ticket machines

  4. @ Lucky — are you going to do brief “Exploring ____ ” posts for other destinations you visit? I found this write-up helpful; sure there are a million pages for any touristy place but reading your take on a place and, hopefully, insightful comments from readers would be a useful feature 🙂

    P.S. If you liked Ediburgh, you probably liked Prague – also an old city and prices are cheaper (especially if you like beer!).

  5. Haha from your pictures the weather does look Seattle-like (on a good day in SEA). Met some lovely Scots on my last trip to Europe; they did a great job of “marketing” Scotland and made me want to visit. Is Edinburgh’s public transportation infrastructure good enough to forgo renting a car?

  6. @ Claire — Well we were hoping to rent a car and make a day trip, but we just couldn’t practically make it work between the rain and limited hours of daylight.

    As far as the city itself goes, taxis weren’t unreasonably priced, and most things were within walking distance, so I definitely wouldn’t rent a car if you just want to explore the city.

  7. I liked this because it wasn’t a list of attractions, but rather a short re-cap of your overall impressions. Since we all (sorta) know you, it’s nice to hear what you think. And on a personal level it’s nice to know that destinations and the experiences there are also important to you.

    Thank you!

  8. …”There was no rain, and I don’t think it ever got below freezing.”
    I think you meant snow. Thanks for another good report

  9. @ Michael T — Thanks for the feedback, will include a section like this in all reports from hereon out.

  10. I have a new CSP w/EMV, and the chip was broken, so had problems b/c vendors HAVE to use the chip since it’s there, and couldn’t manually swipe the card. This was with vending machines and restaurants. I returned to the US, and got a new card, and it appears to work…but I have no way to test it here.

  11. Great post! But what do you think about the hotel rates in Edinburgh? I wanted to go to there last you, but the rates were so outrageously expensive (even compared to London) that I skipped my plans to visit the city.

  12. Lars – Did you try to go during one of the festivals, like the Fringe Festival? The whole city sells out and of course rates will be high. At other times of the year the hotel rates are more reasonable. There are also lots of little B&Bs, sometimes just a room or two in someone’s house, that are cozy and not too expensive.

  13. Loved Edinburgh, too! We spent a week there in 2004 and found lots to do – including easy day trip to Glasgow, sadly getting caught in torrential rain – think it’s why they drink tea and whisky! Super friendly, helpful locals. Enjoyed reading your report.

  14. Please tell me you tried haggis. It’s the best part of a full Scottish breakfast in my book. So sad that real haggis is prohibited by the USDA, especially now around Burns Night.

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