When traveling, we don’t just want to hit up the standard tourist spots. Sometimes we’ve been disappointed, but other times they are absolutely worth it! Take for example the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Talk about a tourist-packed site. When inside, you are literarily shoulder-to-shoulder with other travelers and perhaps you might think for a minute, “I’ve made a huge mistake.” But once you look up, it’s nearly impossible to think that twice. We would stay there for days with our jaws dropped to the floor.
We were able to discover these types of places while living in Edinburgh for a month and a half. The nice thing about living in a city is you get to see A LOT of it. Throughout our time, we had the chance to visit all the tourist spots if we wanted to. Although we didn’t, we did see several and in our humble opinion, they were absolutely worth it.
The Edinburgh Castle
The Edinburgh Castle is a staple destination you can’t really miss. You can see it looming up on its hill almost everywhere you go. This castle made it really high on the list of best places we’ve seen. The views from the top alone are worth the $20 entrance fee, but you get so much more! The castle boasts the crown jewels of Scotland in its fascinating museum. This place truly lives up to its hype in more ways than one, and we would HIGHLY recommend taking the time to see it.
The Real Marys Kings Close
This was a destination that came highly recommended via TripAdvisor. Old Town Edinburgh is built on top of a massive hill. As you work your way down The Royal Mile, you can find alleyways that are popularly known as “Closes.” They are very narrow long streets that were built to come out from the main street and then descend into the newer part of Edinburgh. Mary Kings Close is one of these streets. This was once one of the widest streets stretching from the Royal Mile, but you’d be surprised to learn what they considered “wide” when you go in. One of the intriguing things about this place is that part of it was buried under the Royal Exchange in the 17th century. The town was beyond crowded back then and the only way to expand was upward, so authorities looked to Mary Kings Close as the place to go. They used the homes as the foundation, which meant that the people who had lived in the homes were paid a pretty price to move out. When the Royal Exchange was built, it covered only the top end of Mary King’s Close, leaving the lower half still open until the final works were completed in the early 1900s.
It wasn’t until World War II that people even went back down and realized that it was a fascinating place to see. People used to pay the caretaker of the City Chambers to give them a tour around its spooky paths. It is nothing short of riveting. Is it a little kitschy and touristy? Absolutely. But honestly, the historical context of what you will see will make you look way past that. Expect to pay about $16 a person.
King Arthur’s Seat
When walking down Princess Street, one of the largest and most developed areas of New Edinburgh, you can’t help but see an enormous hill/mountain to your right-hand side. This is King Arthur’s Seat, a beautiful hiking trail that takes you high above Edinburgh and allows for some incredible views from the top. There are many ways to hike its trails. Some are very rigorous, other’s less so, but either way you’ll want to break a sweat for this one. There will be A LOT of tourists there with you, but hey, we’re part of the pack too, aren’t we? It is also free, so you’ll get to save your cash for other things. Here’s another look at what you’ll see, or miss if you choose not to go 🙂
Top restaurants for our fellow foodies
- Viva Mexico Restaurant: As most of you know, we’re from Northern California, the land of nearly endless food options. Mexican food remains one of our favorites and we’ve been seriously CRAVING it throughout the year. Now, who would have thought that the best Mexican food we could find would end up being here in Edinburgh? The owners immigrated from Mexico, so they know what they’re doing. If you go, you HAVE to get the Mexican chocolate cheesecake. This is a must for chocolate lovers or any human being in general 🙂 You can also go there for lunch when they have their taqueria open. This means cheap tacos and traditional Mexican drinks like Horchata and Jamaica, can it get any better?
- La Garrigue: This is a French fusion restaurant we visited for a date night. The food is delicious and fresh. The wine is off the charts and the ambiance is what really sold us. It’s fancy enough, but no too posh for those who prefer more casual vibes. It was a little bit more expensive for the dinner menu, but they are open for lunch if you want to experience their food at a cheaper price!
- Tin Thai Caravan: Another staple in our diet while living in Norcal was Thai food. We have found okay Thai food while traveling, but nothing compares to Ting Thai in Edinburgh. Expect a busy atmosphere, cheap prices, portions meant for sharing and spicy flavors to the max. We went a long time without spicy food while living in the UK until we stumbled upon Ting Thai. We wanted to play it safe so we went for the UK spicy level. The name totally misled us. We had a papaya spicy salad and literarily couldn’t finish it. Don’t underestimate their spice game 🙂
That wraps up the list of places and restaurants worth visiting in Edinburgh, Scotland. Hope you guys have enjoyed this inside look into Edinburgh! We have to say it is one of the best places we’ve lived in recently. The people, culture, and area made us want to stay much longer. Well, before winter hits. Let us know if you plan to visit and we’ll be happy to share more!