Sunday, 24 February 2013

The Edinburgh Guide {travel tips}

Now I have thought about writing this post for ages but then dismissed it because I thought I would just write several posts about various areas. However, I now decided to just throw everything in here. Obviously I have my preferences when it comes to all these things and obviously I only have limited knowledge about everything- so keep that in mind.
However, I hope this will be useful for anyone who is visiting Edinburgh.
There are several nice things you can do:
Go and visit the Camera Obscura- they even give you your money back if you don't have fun (~7£). There are a lot of fun illusions, then on the top you get a tour of the camera obscura and get an amazing view of Edinburgh and its surroundings.
To be honest, I do not think the visit to the Edinburgh Castle is worth 15£, unless you are super interested in all that stuff. You can go for free on St. Andrews day or you can go visit the War Memorial for free. That means that you get a certain pass which only allows you to walk to the memorial and back and nowhere else in the castle. We did this once and the lady at the office was a bit grumpy for some reason. Do a bit of research about the war memorial and you will be fine though.

Seriously just walking around Edinburgh will perfectly fine to cover the sightseeing part.  Make sure you see the Royal Mile, Cockburn Street, Princes Gardens, Calton Hill (or Arthurs Seat if you are ambitious), George Street, Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Royal Botanic Garden.

I think I have mentioned before that we started bar hopping like a year ago in order to find our perfect bar. We have a form we fill out every time, rating atmosphere, prices and all that stuff. So far we found some nice bars but nothing that lives up to my expectation of THE bar.

A bar I quite like due to its live music is Malones, an Irish bar. Around that area is also Vodka Revolution which can be quite fun. They have a massive selection of vodka, really nice longdrinks and sooo many different shots. All the fruit flavors you can imagine, candy and cake and soo many more. You name it. Then around the corner from them is Frankensteins Bar which is a nice as well. I remember Mona and me just going in there to go pee but we ended up dancing for ages because the music was so fun.

For a bit of posh fun there is George Street. At the weekend it is suuuper expensive to get in, so try to avoid that. Seriously, 10£ to just get in? No way.
Shanghai, Why Not and Lulus' are alright.
The bar Tigerlily all the way at the end of George Street is amazingly posh and very fancy. Fake fireplaces and all that stuff.
Obviously I have to mention Hive, the cheap place where all the underage kids go. Only good if you are super wasted.
In terms of non mainstream music there is Balkanarama, which is a monthly party hosted in various places, quite fun with a crazy live band from the Balkans. For "Spanish" music there is El Barrio, a small but really nice club. A lot of older men trying to dance with you and kiss your hand but still fun.
Broughton Street is buzzing on the weekends as well, starting Friday afternoon. Treacle is a super cool bar with super pretty people and seems a lot of fun. Come early otherwise you won't even fit in. A bar I have never been in is the Basement, which is always (!!!) super crowded and there must be something really cool about this bar. Not sure what it is yet.
Then there are several gay bars in that area as well, CC Blooms and GHQ (they are renovating atm) for example. To be honest, they have the best music.

Places I heard of that are supposed to be fun: Bongo Club, Whistlebinkies, Cabaret Voltaire, Liquid Room...

Another bar Julia has discovered with an amazing live session on Friday nights: The Canongate. Good to just have a drink and listen to the music.

This will just be a list of restaurants I think are worth mentioning. There are so many other nice cafes I have not been to yet, but it is hard not to get stuck on your favorites after a while.

Now in general you can say that my budget is about 15£ for a main dish (maximum) and usually the whole bill should be 20£ or less.
Bella Italia is very yummy Italian place, a chain which has two restaurants in Edinburgh.
Treacle has good breakfast until the afternoon and they offer noodles and other fancy stuff.
Yo Sushi is at the top of Harvey Nichols,has very good sushi (a tad expensive though). Has the cool running sushi.
Jamie's Italian is very good food, sometimes a bit too small portioned.
Hamburger Heaven has American burgers which are really good but I do not like the atmosphere very much.
Asti is a really good and small Italian restaurant with nice lunch offers.
Conan Doyle is a super cozy pub at the top of our road. Has good food although the drinks are a bit expensive (4£ for a cider?).
Red Squirrel is a cool burger place on Lothain Road. Very stylish bar that is buzzing at night.
Bar Italia seems like a really authentic Italian restaurant and the pizza is fantastic!
10to10Deli is a great tiny and super cozy Indian restaurant with super cheap currys (and big portions!), brought to my attention by Ilinca.

Phew, this section is going to be a bit messy and I apologize. There are different areas for different stuff and I was not sure how to keep it seperate.Just to mention it beforehand, I love stationary, home stuff and decoration and cheap clothes. So this is what this section is going to be about.

Even though my favorite shopping country is still the States, I love the UK as well. New Look is probably my favorite because I always manage to find pants (aka trousers), which usually NEVER happens. They have super cute dresses as well and mostly they fit quite nicely.
I love the Primark store here because it is just massive (5 floors), but a lot of their stuff just does not fit right. Both stores you can find on Princes Street, which is just the main shopping street and you cannot miss it. It has all the regular high street shops, kind of finishing with Urban Outiftters at the West End. Another tiny shop I love for fun cards is Scribble.
The Princes Mall is a tiny "mall" which has stores such as Republic, New Look, Superdry and Joy, a quite expensive clothing store but they have a nice home section as well as cards and other fun stuff.
Princes Street
The St. James Center has Republic as well, unfortunately only a small store but still pretty good. They also have Internacionale which sometimes has really nice clothes and then again... not so much.
Other than that, there is George Street.
It is poooosh and there is Hollister and other expensive stores I do not go to.
Talking about expensive, there is John Lewis. It is a massive department store and I just love their little gadgets, notebooks, stationary and those things that no one needs but are still so preeetty.
Now moving on to the stores that are special to Edinburgh:
I will start with Broughton Street. There is Dragonfly which has really cute baby stuff as well decoration, gifts, dresses and other really cute things.
If you go around the corner more to London Street, there is actually a new store which is called Life Story and it looks a bit like Urban Outfitters in terms of its simplicity. They don't have a lot of products but well chosen items which just looks really cool.
If you go up Broughton Street a bit, there is Curious and Curiouser. (Everything they have is on their website as well) I love their prints by designers, so many cute gift ideas, jewellery and the whole shop just looks very magical. I could buy so much in there! They also have a funny dog walking around in the shop haha.
To jump to the other end of town now: Papertiger on Lothian Road is horrible. I just want to buy everything, seriously. I mean the whole shop concept is a bit like the other stationary shops I have seen but they just have that little bit of extra amazing stuff you don't know yet. I love it.

A street that I love as well is Cockburn Street (pronouced Coburn street, to avoid awkwardness) and it has Old Town Context which I have mentioned here before. They sell really cool retro and vintage stuff, nice stationary and gifts and especially some Scottish designer products like cards and prints etc.Then on the other side of the street there are several vintage clothes stores that sort of all belong together. If you buy a gift gard there you can use it in all their stores. My favorite is Pie in the Sky (they sell piercings there as well just like those creepy contact lenses for halloween).
South Clerk Street/Nicolson Street has a lot to offer as well. First, there are sooo many charity shops. Very good for cheap books, DVD's and nice posters! Oh and board games. Then there is Finishing Touch, who has a lot of baking accessories and wedding stuff and costumes!
A couple stores next to that is the Edinburgh Bargain store which has everything and nothing. And an actual costume store next door if you are looking for proper slutty American costumes.
In terms of souvenirs: Roman and Patterson and The Works on Princes Street- trust me on that.

A bit outside of Edinburgh city centre is Meadowbank. They have a massive TK Maxx and B&M, which has insanely cheap wall decorations!

I have limited experience here, as you might imagine. Nevertheless I have some tips.

When I came here for the first time, we slept in St. Christophers Inn. It is clean, nice rooms with different themes, not expensive, excellent location and they have a good pub and bar downstairs. Whats not to like about that?
There are several cute hotels on Broughton Street and in the side streets that all look very good, especially the Broughton Town House. Also Mona's parents stayed in the Holiday Inn on Picardy Place and they liked it there. There are so many hostels around the city and if you are not too picky I am sure everyone will find their perfect match.

I got my piercing directly on my street at the Den Of Iniquity Tattoo Parlour on Broughton Street. Their shop looks clean, the people are friendly and especially on Facebook they have continuing offers, sometimes even free tattoos for certain motives. 
I have heard good stuff about Old Town Tattoo as well and I know their prices for piercings are pretty cheap.

Leaving Edinburgh
If you are on a longer visit in Edinburgh it might be worth checking out the surrounding areas.
In terms of beaches and cliffs, North Berwick is just amazing.
You can take the train from Edinburgh which should be around 8 pounds round trip and spent the day walking on the beach, having a picnic or checking out some of the cafes on their high street. They have a seabird centre as well where you can book boat trips to go and see some cute puffins for example.

If you want to go to the Highlands but don't feel comfortable renting a car (I sure as hell don't want to drive here), bus tours are a fantastic option. There are so many tour operators and so far I have only tested two of them but I am sure most of them will be just fine. For those who like smaller tour busses and more individual experiences, go for Rabbies. Their busses are smaller and can only hold around 16 people. The other company I went with was Scotline Tours and their busses are just proper massive ones. I still don't know how they manage to drive on these tiny roads (a side note: if you tend to be car sick, you will feel a bit queezy in the busses. They drive insanely fast given these tiny windy roads and will stop so abruptly that it will make you hit your head on the seat in front of you. Sit either in very first or just take seasickness pills).  
With Scotline Tours I went to Loch Ness and even though it was very fascinating as it was my first view of the Highlands, the tour in general was very rushed and we spent hours in the bus just to get there. Loch Ness is just a tad too far away from Edinburgh for a simple day trip. I would suggest going on a 2 day trip or just chose one of the other trips.
With my parents I went on this tour and it was just as nice as going to Loch Ness. There so many nice lochs out there that you won't miss out. Loch Lomond was cool and we were able to stop several times for pictures because the whole day was not rushed at all. We were super lucky with the weather and had shiny blue skies which made the pictures even prettier. The tour guides are just a nice way of getting to know a bit more about Scotland and not just seeing all these lochs and bens without any explanation. What I love is all the film references they make, especially Harry Potter ones.
With Rabbies Julia and I went on a tour in November last year and because it was completely out of tourist season, we were the only ones on the bus. It was crazy. However, we could totally individualize out trip because the bus driver let us decide. Due to the weather we had to change our route a bit as well but it was just really cool to have our own driver. We stopped for so many pictures which was quite nice. 

I bet there are so many other things that I am going to remember once this is posted. So maybe there will be a second part, who knows.
For now, I hope you have enjoyed reading it and some tips might even have been a tiny bit useful.

No comments :

Post a Comment