A Guide to Edinburgh

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My darling sister came to spend three weeks with me on this side of the Pond and we tried to stuff as many adventures into her trip as humanly possible. We waffled back and forth about visiting Scotland, but an email about Virgin Atlantic's £15 tickets from London to Edinburgh made our decision for us. We only had about 48 hours in the city, but every one of them was saturated with magic! All cities have personalities, I believe, but Edinburgh's character was more potent, more pronounced than any other place I can remember. It was gloomy and heavy and mysterious, yet a dash fanciful and droll. The place was so charming, in fact, I felt like I was cheating on my lovely London!

 Keep reading for ideas on how to spend your next weekend in Edinburgh...

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to SEE & DO

Edinburgh Castle: Kind of a "duh" suggestion, but a visit to the castle is non-negotiable. Mary and I especially enjoyed the exhibition on the history of the Scottish monarchy and seeing the rooms where Mary Queen of Scots spent her days. (Anyone else a Reign fan?!) Snow began falling as we were wandering through the castle, which added an extra glint of magic!

Walk the Royal Mile: We fought the snow and rain down the Royal Mile, the stretch of road between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. Expect to see beautiful cathedrals, an abundance of pubs and shops, bagpipe players, and owls!

Scottish National Gallery: Admittedly, the National Gallery was a free place to escape the cold at first, but we ended up spending hours soaking in the collection. The Impressionism exhibit was especially gorgeous.

Pop in and out of shops: Edinburgh has a wealth of adorable, winding streets with shops full of wonderful knick knacks and artwork. Check out Grassmarket, Victoria Street, Cowgate, Candlemaker Row, and Cockburn Street.

Wander through the kirkyards: The graveyards of Edinburgh were so intriguing. In fact, Mary and I were lured into a kirkyard en route to almost every destination. We made the rather irresponsible decision (but the RIGHT decision) to risk missing our train home to track down the grave rumored to have inspired J.K. Rowling's Tom Riddle. We had to run all the way to the train station, but that one was for Harry, darn it!

Arthur's Seat: We had the best intentions of making the hike up to this famous Edinburgh overlook, but the freezing rain won. Arthur's Seat was recommended to us over and over, so I will be making it a priority on my next trip to Edinburgh.

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to EAT

CiverinosWe ducked into this hip pizza restaurant to escape what felt like the coldest snowstorm of the century (don't believe the photos... it was pouring snow). The food was delicious and the atmosphere was so trendy and fun.

Mary's Milk Bar: I know I employ this hyperbole a lot, but Mary's Milk Bar changed. My. Life. We ordered the Hot Chocolate Shake (hot chocolate with a scoop of hazelnut ice cream) at this precious throwback of a cafe. I was ready to quit my job, buy an apron, and beg Mary's Milk Bar to hire this poor American girl with a love for all things dairy.

Under the Stairs:You'd expect a place like Under the Stairs, with it's mismatched retro furniture and avant-garde menu and ironically bespectacled wait staff, to feel inaccessibly cool, but it didn't! Instead we found it to be a cozy, funky peek into Edinburgh's foodie scene.

Lovecrumbs:Mary and I shamelessly planned our itinerary around what bakeries were open when. We reached Lovecrumbs just in time to grab the last piece of Rose & Raspberry cake, and they threw in a bunch of free cookies since it was closing time. The little white-walled shop was spilling with live plants and beautiful pastel cakes and twinkle lights, which is basically my idea of heaven.

The Milkman: This rustic little shop, tucked away in a stoney nook on Cockburn Street, was such a pleasant place to people-watch and enjoy a latte and (free!) hot chocolate.

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to STAY

The Caledonian: Nice hotels are my love language, so I was really excited to find a great deal on this stay thanks to Agoda. We got so much good rest in this tranquil. sprawling old castle and found it so conveniently located (about a fifteen minute walk from Waverly Station and Edinburgh Castle).

The Balmoral:We didn't stay at the Balmoral, but I would love to someday. Fancy and located in the heart of the city, it is a guaranteed win.

Airbnb: An Airbnb rental is my accommodation of choice almost everywhere I travel because they are often far less expensive than a hotel and you get the experience of real home life in your destination. Check out these 11 gorgeous Edinburgh Airbnbs and prepare for a bad case of wanderlust. Ugh, take me back!

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