When I make a list of my favourite cities in the world, you can bet that Edinburgh will feature somewhere on it. An often overlooked destination in the UK, Edinburgh has history, culture, creative energy and it's the perfect size to explore in a short amount of time. Perhaps best of all, it's one of the most beautiful cities that I have had the privilege of visiting, thanks to its almost uniform Georgian architecture. You can read detailed notes about my visit to the Scottish capital here, but here are the 5 things I most loved about Edinburgh.
5. Relax in Princes St. Gardens
Inhabiting the area between the Old Town and the New Town (which isn't that new), Princes St. Gardens was a nice break from the busy city. A 30 acre area of tranquility in the middle of a large city isn't bad, but it's the views looking on either side that make this a standout area of greenery. It doesn't quite have the scale of its larger cousins such as Hyde Park or Central Park, but what it lacks in size it more than makes up in charm.
There's quite a few statues, pieces of art and other landmarks dotted around the Gardens. The Scott Monument, located on the edge of the Gardens - a 200 foot high tower in remembrance of Sir Walter Scott, a famous Scottish author - was a personal favourite of mine.
4. Take a stroll down the Royal Mile
Beginning at Edinburgh Castle on one end and ending at Holyrood Palace at the other, the stunning Royal Mile is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever walked on.
Particularly stunning is the first third of Royal Mile as you walk out of the castle at Castlehill looking toward an old Victorian church. The path up here is cobblestone, and a bagpipe player was standing against a wall plying his trade. All I needed was for someone to walk past having the flag of St. Andrews to make this the most Scottish moment ever.
Small independent shops and a handful of larger chains dominate either side of the road, but there's a lot to see along the way, including St. Giles' Cathedral, the Heart of Midlothian and innumerable, charming alleyways and side streets. By the way, if you decide to explore one of these alleyways, you can't go wrong with Anchor Close in the evening - probably one of the most Instagrammable places in Edinburgh..
3. Feel like you're in Game of Thrones at St. Giles' Cathedral
This cathedral would feel at home in a historical film, a fantasy film and a sci-fi film - it's just so - different!
The reason this cathedral sticks out so much is the incredible steeple. It's not a pyramid style structure of certain churches, or a dome shaped structure as many cathedrals. It looks almost like an ancient crown.
Although dating back to the 12th century, most of the building is considerably more recent than this. Entry is free, although there is a suggested donation of £5 and a photograph permit of £2, neither of which is policed strictly, so it really does come down to how generous you feel.
It's worth paying particular attention to the incredible stained glass windows that make this cathedral worth visiting as much as some of the more famous ones you'll have heard of like the ones in London, Barcelona, Rome, Rio de Janeiro or Paris.
2. Take a trip back in time at Edinburgh Castle
This one's a no brainer. It's arguably the most famous landmark in Edinburgh, a symbol of the city - and it remains one of the best places to visit.
Most of the castle you see today dates back to the 16th century, extensively rebuilt following its destruction in the Lang Siege, however older parts of the castle still remain standing. It costs £18 for entry, so it's not a cheap place to visit but it is definitely worth the price of admission. You enter through the 16th century Portcullis Gate and almost immediate find yourself surrounded by cannons and a fantastic view over the city.
My favourite thing about the complex is that there is just so much to see and do - you definitely need to set aside a few hours. For instance, there is the National War Museum of Scotland, housed in a former munitions store dating back to the 1740s and focused on Scottish military history. The museum is on the far side of the castle from the entrance and the cost of admission is included in the castle ticket. Then there is the oldest part of the castle is the 12th century St. Margaret's Chapel, built by King David as a private chapel for the Royal family, You also have the Crown Room, home of the Scottish Crown jewels, which date back to 1543.
And if history isn't your thing - you can't help marvel at the views over the city and the harbour. I couldn't think of anything that could provide a better view than looking over the Upper Ward from the castle, that is until I visited the number 1 thing on my list.
1. The view from Arthur's seat
At 251 metres high, you have to complete a decent trek in order to savour the views from the top, but believe me, it's well worth the effort.
Not that it takes that much effort, in fact a spare 30 minutes should be enough to take you up, and slightly shorter on the way down. There are a number of 'trails' you can take, some have a clear path, others are steeper, with parts where you are clambering up rocks or boulders. Either way, they'll get you to the same point at the top, and it's a pretty spectacular point.
There's nothing that particularly stands out about the Edinburgh skyline, but that's what I like about it. It's definitely a different perspective from some of the other look out points in other cities around the world.
Parts of the walk up reminded me of the rolling green hills of the Quarry Trail I had done in South America a couple of years ago. Other parts, particularly the city views from the top were more like Bunkers in Barcelona, or similar views in Vienna, Paris or Rio.
Edinburgh is one of those cities that I would happily visit again. As a Sikh I had absolutely no issues - it's a fairly progressive and liberal city with a small but active Sikh community. One of the things I've always wanted to do is visit Edinburgh during the world famous Fringe Festival - so that is still on my list.
As always, if there is something I've left out please leave a comment or connect with me on Instagram.
British Sikh, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.