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Edinburgh City Guide

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Check out The Scene's recommendations for the Scottish capital and send us your ideas and suggestions below.

SEE: Escape from the biscuit tins and bagpipes purgatory of the Royal Mile into the warren of narrow alleys and precipitous passageways that link up Edinburgh's Old Town. For a macabre glimpse beneath the 18th century makeover head to Mary King's Close, a medieval street abandoned after a visitation of the plague and eventually built into the foundations of the City Chambers. Explore Edinburgh's rich literary heritage - it was UNESCO's first World City of Literature in 2004 -- with a visit to the Edinburgh Writer's Museum, a grand Jacobean building dedicated to the likes of Robert Burns, Robert Louis Stevenson and Walter Scott. Edinburgh's newest building is also its most controversial and expensive. The Scottish Parliament, a chaotic postmodern design by late Catalan architect Enric Miralles that came in more than 10 times over budget at $730 million, earned an architectural seal of approval by winning this year's prestigious Stirling Prize, but locals are still unsure. Edinburgh is carved out between the peaks of two extinct volcanoes. The castle sits on one; climb the other to Arthur's Seat for the best view over the city and scenery so rugged you'll think you've stepped into a Highland wilderness. If urban sophistication is more your thing, head for the regenerated waterfront at Leith. For years the docks had a reputation as one of the toughest areas of Edinburgh. Now, thanks in part to Trainspotting's injection of junky-chic, it's the chosen hangout for cool, creative types living doppelganger lifestyles centered around bars, galleries and renovated warehouse apartments.

BE SEEN: The highlight of the social and cultural calendar is the Edinburgh Festival, the largest performing arts festival in the world. It's actually a series of festivals covering film, music, TV, books and most famously comedy. For six weeks the entire British comedy scene decamps here to show off their latest gags -- all hoping for a career-making Perrier nomination. There are literally hundreds of shows to choose from everyday -- from heart-stoppingly embarrassing student revues to the biggest names on the stand-up circuit. Like any Scottish city, Edinburgh is well-stocked with pubs, ranging from tourist holding pens to unassuming locals. The Oxford Bar (Young Street) -- Inspector Rebus' favorite watering hole -- manages to span the two extremes. Also try the Abbotsford (Rose Street), an Edwardian throwback with a mahogany island bar. For novelty-value, visit the horror-themed Jekyll and Hyde (Hanover Street). For a more contemporary vibe, check out Wash (North Bank Street), underneath the castle. Many Edinburgh pubs won't call last orders until 3am on weekends -- which blurs the usual distinction between bars and clubs. For music-orientated drinking check out the Bongo Club (Holyrood Road) and Studio 24 (Calton Road). If you make it as far as Leith, Pond (Bath Road) is the best place to wrap up a night out -- it's the scene of some of Edinburgh's best after-club parties and the Cadillac in the beer garden conveys just the right ambience of wasted decadence.

EAT: After London, nowhere else in the UK has more restaurants to choose from. The doyen of the Edinburgh food scene for the past few years has been James Thomson -- the "star restauranteur" behind both the mock-Gothic Witchery (Castlehill) and the new Tower Restaurant at the Museum of Scotland. The latter has quickly earned a reputation as one of the best eateries in Scotland, serving seasonal Scottish produce with an extensive wine list and spectacular views over the city. Thomson's supremacy has however been challenged in recent years by Martin Wishart (The Shore), whose eponymous French-themed restaurant in Leith was the first in the city to earn a Michelin star. Beyond upmarket dining, Edinburgh is particularly well served for seafood. The Cafe Royal Oyster Bar (West Register Street) has been in business for almost 150 years and retains an air of Victorian indulgence. Also worthy of mention are the Mussel Inn (Rose Street) and the Fishers restaurants (Rose Street and The Shore). There's plenty of international options too -- La Garrigue (Jeffrey Street) does Languedoc cuisine with an accompanying range of aperitifs and pastis while Valvona & Crolla (Elm Row) does old-fashioned Italian cooking amid aromatic cheeses and cured meats.



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