Travel Stories

A First Timer’s Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Throughout all my years of traveling, I have never been to Scotland. However I have been blessed to have many friends who live either in Scotland or in northern England who have told me all about the beautiful places in Scotland and I’ve been dying to visit for years!

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This past year, I finally got to visit one of the great cities in Scotland, Edinburgh! Like I mentioned earlier, my family and I have made many friends with families and people from Scotland and northern England and during this trip, I was able to see so many of them and all of them made the trip so memorable and they were really able to give us an amazing tour of the city and the places nearby in Scotland that I’ll be writing about next week.

Where To Stay?

For this trip, my family and I made the right decision to book an VRBO (similar to Airbnb), which I highly recommend booking if you have more than two people in your party. Why? Because staying in a city can be chaotic and having an apartment or a house to stay in allows you to have a place to relax in after a long day of sightseeing.

Edinburgh: A truly medieval city

Edinburgh has been the capital of Scotland since the 15th century. This city was built on seven hills and has more listed buildings than anywhere in the world. All around the city you can see all the medieval architect dating back thousands of years ago. Although it is the second largest city in the country, it is still well populated with people coming from all over the world. The city is also very proud of the amount of great authors that have come from their city that you are sure to find a Book Tour and/or statues dedicated to them throughout the city.

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Old Town

On the first day, my family and I went by ourselves and took a walk around Old Town which was very close to where we were staying and where we spent a lot of our time. Although it was grey most days, the area felt even more beautiful with the gorgeous long castle looming ahead of the city.

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If it is your first time in the city, I recommend walking around without a plan on the first day. Obviously make sure to not get too lost and definitely pop into a pub and grab a bear or a fruity cider and get to know the people around you. I found by just hanging out in pubs, how kind many of the locals and tourist were in the area.

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Princess Street Gardens

Even on the gloomiest of days, you can be sure to find lots of happiness out in nature in this blooming park. I was fortunate enough to be there during the end of spring and beginning of summer so everything was blooming and bright and one of my favorite things to do in the city was simply just walk around this majestic park. By the park, there is sometimes people dressed in kilts and typical Scottish attire playing bagpipes.

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The park is very long and right below the castle and during this time of year, you can find many people, young and old, laying on top of a blanket on the grass, simply spending time with friends and pets.

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New Town: Breakfast in The Dome

Our friends from Newcastle who we had just met recently on the Mediterranean cruise, came to the city to spend time with us and have some fun in Edinburgh. Because they live not too far away, they often come to Edinburgh and knew exactly where to take us.

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They invited us out to breakfast in The Dome, which was gorgeous and I heard is even more beautiful during Christmas time. The building smelled amazing and had different rooms to eat and drink in. The building also held intricate and magnificent detailed high ceilings with grand chandeliers that had probably been admired by very important people in the past.

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The food there was also amazing and they even had pancakes which was great! I HIGHLY recommend coming here to eat for breakfast, as fancy as it was and I felt, it was really affordable and worth every cent and more.

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Grass Market

Craving a beer? Head over to the Grass Market!

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After walking around for a bit, our friends took us to the Grass Market which was a large street filled with all kinds of pubs. Staying in the U.K for so long, I was starting to love these little pubs. I liked the quiet ambiance of having a place to simply drink with friends after a long week or day. Although the United States has bars, being in a pub has more of a community feel than a bar does, its a place to laugh with friends, hang out with family and always have a good beer.

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The pubs all along the Grass Market were all different shapes and sizes and each had their own unique story and name. We enter a cool small pub and as I spent time with my family and friends, I watched hen and stag parties walk in and out of pubs, all ready for an unforgettable night. I also watched the weather drastically change from rain to hail to sunshine. Most of all, I had an amazing time simply hanging out with my family and friends.

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HARRY POTTER: The city filled with magic

Victoria Street

As a HUGE Harry Potter fan, I was really excited to see the place where the world of Harry Potter was born. Since our friends from Newcastle came often to Edinburgh, they knew right where to take me first, Victoria Street.

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Victoria Street is said to be inspiration for Diagon Alley, and I could definitely see that as I walked up the curvy street filled with different colored buildings. The street was a tad smaller than you’d imagine it would look like but it was bright even on that cloudy day.

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The street was simply magnificent and full of all types of shops. The colors and feeling of the street felt almost out of place in this all too elegant city just like Diagon Alley in London. It felt special, unique and magical in the best way, just as J.K Rowling had described it through the eyes of a young boy with a lighting bolt scar.

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If you’re a fan of the books or not, you should come see this beautiful street that is unlike anything I’ve ever seen.

The Elephant House

If you are a fan of J.K Rowling and her story, you may know that J.K Rowling wrote the beginning plot lines out in the cafe called The Elephant House. This asian cafe is small, quaint and calls itself the “birthplace” of Harry Potter. It’s said that J.K Rowling would come in and order one cup of coffee that she could get refills with so she could stay for hours and write. Right outside the cafe sits a mural of what she looked like sitting in the cafe coming up with an imaginative world.

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The cafe sits on George IV Bridge and the amount of inspiration she gathered from this small street alone is amazing. Everywhere I walked, I was reminded of a name, place or street that that was mentioned in the books and it felt very surreal to be there in Scotland surrounded by reminders of one of my favorite series of all time.
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If you are a fan of the books, I would definitely come by and check out The Elephant House, I personally didn’t go in and eat there but it was just as cool to see it from the outside.

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Bonus: Greyfriar’s dog’s statues sits on this street and people from all over the world come to get some luck by rubbing the nose of the dog that used to sleep on his owners grave.

Greyfriars Kirkyard

Some people may not know this, but many of the names from the story come from this large and very old graveyard in Edinburgh including Tom Riddle and McGonagall. My friend Gregor who I’ve known for year was nice enough to spend some time with me in the city for the day and we spent the day grabbing in pubs, eating Nandos and looking for names in the graveyard.

As the Harry Potter fan that I am, I was determined to find at least one name from the books. However, don’t underestimate how big this cemetery is. The cemetery was quiet and haunting yet peaceful. The tombstones read old fashioned names with dates leading back centuries ago. Some of the tombstones were even older than the United States itself!

I unfortunately didn’t get to find any names but I did find where she must have gotten the inspiration for some of the more haunting quieter scenes from the stories and that was a success of itself.

Overall, I was really happy to be finding all these Harry Potter gemstones so close to the 20th anniversary. J.K Rowling is such an inspiration to myself because she knew her worth and her stories worth and she never gave up and I want to strive to be more like that.

Calton Hill

On one of the last days in the city, I climbed the very climbed up the very steep hill that overlooked the entire city of Edinburgh. It was cloudier earlier in the day, but as I reached the top of the hill, sweaty and breathing heavy, the sun had come out to give me one last look at this incredible city.

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On top of the hill sits what feels like ancient monuments, along with what looked like a church and various battle equipment. I reckoned that this was where soldiers would come to defend the city and lookout for enemies.

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Looking out on top of the hill, the view was worth the hike. You could see out for miles and miles of this medieval city. So no matter the weather, take the hike on Calton Hill.

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As I looked across the city, I said goodbye to this area and to these people in Edinburgh and Scotland in general who were so nice and hospitable. I loved it here and all of it’s elegant ways and and greatness. I know for sure that I will one day return.

I hope you all enjoyed my time in the city of Edinburgh. Thank you so much for reading and be sure to comment and subscribe for more stories and tips!

I'm a twenty-one year old wandering soul. I've been traveling the world and having adventures of all types since I was young. Welcome to my traveling journal, from swimming in the crystal blue Caribbean to hiking and yodeling on an Austrian mountain. Here we go!

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