City of mysteries and legends, Edinburgh is intriguing in every way. From the Old Town district (old town) to the New Town district (new town), it offers you a compendium of architectural treasures, many of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. To the sound of bagpipes and ghost stories, she invites you to take a leap into the past.
Here are our tips for exploring the beautiful Scottish capital for a weekend.
Nothing better than a stroll through the cobbled streets and dark alleys of Old Town to soak up the unique atmosphere of Edinburgh. Head to the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of the old town, to explore its historic buildings, secret passages and shops. Along the way, stop at Saint-Gilles Cathedral and marvel at the architectural richness of this religious building.
Take Victoria Street, the most photographed street in Old Town with its colorful buildings, to reach Grassmarket. It is in the pubs and restaurants of this former market, which also served as a place of execution, that visitors mingle with students during long drunken evenings. To enjoy a warm atmosphere and taste traditional Scottish dishes, push the door of The White Hart Inn pub.
The White Hart Inn, 32-34 Grassmarket
Perched on the hill of Castle Rock, at the top end of the Royal Mile, is Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish capital's must-see attraction. Through the visit of the ramparts, the royal apartments, the dungeons, the Sainte-Marguerite chapel and the Crown jewels, you will learn more about this military fortress which bears witness to nearly 1000 years of history.
Edinburgh Castle, The Esplanade
To recharge your batteries, head for Princes Street Gardens, a vast green space that marks the transition between Old Town and New Town. Located on the site of the former Nor’ Loch lake, this urban park lends itself well to a stroll and a picnic away from the crowds. A word of advice: sit near the Ross fountain to enjoy a nice view of the castle.
A few minutes walk from Princes Street, discover a small haven of peace where time seems to stand still. Crossed by the Water of Leith river, Dean Village was once the watermill district. A bucolic stroll along its banks will allow you to escape the hustle and bustle of the historic center and capture some shots of the pretty stone houses that line the water.
With its Georgian and neoclassical architecture, New Town offers a stark contrast to the dark and messy streets of Old Town. Built towards the end of the 18th century for the more well-to-do inhabitants of Edinburgh, this district extends north from Princes Street. If it rains, head to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to explore this neo-Gothic building that houses portraits of the great figures who helped shape Scotland.
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street (free admission)
At the end of the day, reach the top of Calton Hill, east of Princes Street, to enjoy breathtaking views of the city skyline. The one that is regularly nicknamed "the Athens of the North", because of its many historical monuments, is in fact an ancient volcanic hill.
Are you fond of ghost stories? Rumored that the Scottish capital is one of the most haunted cities in the world, you will enjoy strolling the streets of Old Town after dark. Different guided tours will lead you to meet its ghosts and its most frightening places, starting with the famous cemetery of Greyfriars.
City of the Dead, various tours offered departing from Saint-Gilles Cathedral
A quintessential symbol of Scottish cuisine, the scone is a small cake that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. At The Edinburgh Larder, a small café in Old Town, scones are served according to Scottish tradition, with strawberry jam and fresh cream, and they are accompanied by tea or coffee.
The Edinburgh Larder, 15 Blackfriars Street
From science to archeology, fashion and design, this museum paints a comprehensive portrait of Scottish history and culture. Grouped by era and by theme, the collections, which are spread over six floors, promise to captivate young and old for several hours.
National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street (free admission)
At the eastern end of the Royal Mile stands the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the Royal Family while in Scotland. If the latter is not there, you will have the opportunity to visit the sumptuous rooms of this jewel of classical architecture. Do not miss the apartments of Mary Stuart, the famous Queen of Scotland who met a tragic fate.
Palace of Holyrood, Canongate
Did you know that it is possible to treat yourself to a nature bath in the heart of the city? A short walk from Holyrood Palace is 'Arthur's Seat', another extinct volcano that gives you incredible views of the city from the sea to the Pentland Hills. This is the ideal place to conclude this magnificent stay to discover the Scottish capital.