I have now been living in Edinburgh for three weeks!
The rewards of moving abroad have very much outweighed the challenges. During these three weeks, we have had to relearn every aspect of daily life- where to eat, sleep, shop; how to travel, communicate, and adapt; and how to balance trying new things with pursuing your own interests. That, I think, has been one of the hardest adjusts for me. With so little time abroad, you are very conscious about how you want to spend it (and lets be honest, what you want to spend ON it) which can be intimidating. Everyone seems have an opinion on the things you must see, do, try, and experience. So, naturally, I’d like to add to that list. Take my travel brochure with a grain of salt, but nonetheless, here it is- a review of some of the main sights we have done so far in Edinburgh.
The Royal Mile- I hesitate even putting this on here, because it would be very difficult to avoid this street even if you tried. However, its worth mentioning anyway. This is a must-see. Start from the lower end of the mile (near the World’s End bar- or, if you want to walk to whole thing, the Holyrood Palace) and make your way up the street. This infamous vein of the city contains more history than you’ll be able to digest on your walk, so take in the architecture, the people, and the shops instead. At the top is the Edinburgh Castle, which will give you great views down upon the entire city.
The Edinburgh Castle- Our program included the ticket price in the cost- if this is true for you, definitely check out the castle. You stare up at it from most vantage points the city, so its good to see. If you have to shell out the cost yourself, I’d wait- the ticket line can be long, and if your short on time I would suggest moving on.
Arthurs Seat- Up next, a great place to move on to! Arthurs Seat is an ancient volcano. You won’t need to worry about any eruptions on the way up, but definitely wear proper shoes- the climb can be step and extremely muddy. The views, however are priceless (also, literally, cost nothing- a good castle alternative!)
Calton Hill- For a less strenuous but just as free hike, try Calton Hill. You can catch sights of the city and Arthurs Seat for much less of a hike. A good alternative for those who want something more moderate, disregarded my message about proper shoes, or are short on time. You can also snag a picture in front of the Dugald Stewart monument which is probably featured in your Study Abroad pamphlets somewhere.
New Town- New Town is most likely where you first stepped into upon arrival. The main road, Princes Street, sits alongside the train station and contains multiple bus stops. Everything behind Princes Street is regarded as ‘New Town’, built between the 1700-1800s as a more stately alternative to Old Town, its older and more rugged brother. New Town houses crisp street grids, cobblestones, intricately detailed homes and most of Edinburghs major shopping stores. It’s definitely worth wandering in and around, if only to be able to know whether you prefer it over Old Town. If you find you do prefer it, I suggest checking out the Stockbridge Market on Sundays, strolling the Leith Walk, taking candids on Circus Lane and experiencing the quaint Dean Village.
Old Town- The side I personally prefer, though I’ll try not to be biased. Old town is the opposite side of the Royal Mile from New Town. The streets here dart off in various directions, making maps a bit pointless. You’ll also find a 2D map to be difficult to read, as many of the streets are built on top of another. My first suggestion: get lost! follow your instincts. IF you’re short on time or like more structure, I suggest walking down Victoria Street (the original Dragon Alley, for any HP fans), Greyfriars Kirkyard (where the supposed inspiration for the ‘Tom Riddle’ name came from- can you see a theme here?) and the Museum of Scotland. It’s free and incredibly informative.
Food and Drink- In terms of specifically what to eat, I suggest trying any of these that you might come across (split them with others though, I’m not promising you like them!). Irn Bru is an orange colored soda that outsells Coke here. I thought it tasted like bubble gum, but worth a try. A traditional Scottish meal to try is haggis, neaps, and tatties- maybe wait until after to ask what is all in it. Lastly, a new one for this American was putting milk in tea. However, I’ve grown to really like it. If you stop for a coffee somewhere, try branching out and getting a breakfast tea and a scone. You might surprise yourself!
Restaurants- For coffee: The Elephant House, Wellington Coffee, Odds & Ends (more by school). I can’t really suggest major dinner places, as we so far have made most meals at home! For nights out, the Edinburgh Bar Crawl is a great opportunity to be taken around to different pubs and see what you like. Double check the night bus schedules before a night out, or have taxi money ready.
There you have it! A (sort of) insider review of living here so far. Once again, don’t be afraid to try your own thing based off of your interests. You’ll get more out of that than doing things that are ‘must-see’ attractions that you aren’t excited about.