I don’t need to tell you to visit Paris, my former home.
My hometown, Milwaukee? Yeah, okay, that may take some convincing (Bloody Marys! A giant lake!)
But everyone knows of London’s energy. Everyone’s heard of the allure of Paris.
What about Edinburgh, though?
“I’d love to visit Edinburgh. All of Scotland, really. But it’s just ‘there,’ you can see it whenever you want. It’s a bit like northern England, really.” – An anonymous English person I met in a cafe the other day
I can nearly see my Scottish friends seething with indignation.
Unfortunately, this lovely country – and its capital – are often neglected. And as my train rumbled along from King’s Cross, I couldn’t help but feel infinitely grateful to call Edinburgh my home away from home.
So if you’re at all uncertain, let me convince you to travel to Edinburgh. I promise that it’ll be worth it.
1. The journey
If you’re traveling from London, you’ll be able to take the train from King’s Cross up to Waverley Station. Apart from driving yourself, there’s no better way to see the countryside.
I’ve found more and more people of my generation romanticizing train rides, almost, I believe, in the way people used to romanticize flights. Whether it’s some hipster need for “authenticity” or a distaste for airports these days, many seem to prefer trains, myself included, though mostly because of the hassle-free experience of trains over planes.
As the train rolls along past farms and villages in a misty kaleidoscope of yellow and green, you’ll have time to sit. To think. And to watch the world pass by the window – perhaps even discover new towns and cities you’ll want to explore.
Once you reach deeper crevices in the hills, and a darker, mossy green, you’ll know you’ve arrived in Scotland.
Soon, the North Sea will appear on your right, where birds soar from gold to blue, blue to gold, back and forth across the shoreline.
It’s the perfect introduction to this beautiful country.
Edinburgh Castle sits within the center of the city, perched atop molten rock. Once a formidable fortress, the castle is now open to visitors. Although admittedly touristy (and most of you probably know I avoid tourists like the plague), I’d highly recommend splurging on the £16.50 ticket.
It’s a living piece of history – a glimpse into the Scottish past – with relics and informational sessions in each room.
Even if you’d rather not tour inside the castle, you can still wander the looping paths through the Princes Gardens, up towards the castle drawbridge.
3. Literary History
Could you expect anything less from a book lovin’ traveler? The cobbled streets coil and wind through parks and shops, around overgrown cemeteries, and rugged stone turreted buildings with converted cafes and shops at their doors.
It takes little imagination to understand how so many legendary writers found material for their work. From Robert Burns to Robert Louis Stevenson – and of course, J. K. Rowling – Edinburgh is filled with so much literary history, there are numerous pubs, cafes, bars, and monuments devoted to the artists who have walked Edinburgh’s streets.
You can check out my complete book-lover’s guide to Edinburgh!
4. Quick roadtrips
If you have time, explore beyond the hills of Edinburgh. The city is quite close to Glasgow for a fun night out, as well as Stirling, one of Scotland’s infamous castles. Various tours offer to pick you up at your hotel and take you all the way up to Inverness and Loch Ness for a full day of exploring.
Honestly though, I’d suggest just renting a car, picking a national park or set of lochs on a map, and driving.
You never know what you’ll find in the bends and dips of Scottish roads.
5. Cafe culture
I live in cafes. If I’m not at home, you’ll most likely find me slurping down coffee at some local haunt, either writing, or staring at a blank screen, attempting to write. Either way, there’s almost always coffee, and the cafes of Edinburgh rarely disappoint.
One of my local favorites is the Salt Cafe. Black Medicine, a block away from my old flat, is also fantastic.
Keep an eye out for an upcoming post on my favorite cafes of Edinburgh!
Despite its reputation for abysmal weather, Scotland has its share of beautiful, sunny days, even in winter. And in the warmer months, you can join the throngs of people enjoying a beer in the sunny pockets of Rose Street.
7. It’s a Walking City
I love living in a city as sprawling as London – I’ll never want for new places to explore – new hidden corners – crooked streets where people of the past once lived, loved, or maybe lived and resented their lives. But they lived there, and they mattered, and their streets are still tucked away all over London.
But as a visitor, you couldn’t possibly hope to experience all that London has to offer. You’d never leave!
Which is why Edinburgh is the perfect city to visit.
You can get to know Edinburgh very quickly – feel famililar here, like you’re a part of something.
Because it’s a capital city, there’s plenty of energy and life, so you won’t likely find yourself bored too quickly. However, most of the interesting sites are within walking distance. If you stay for a few days, you’ll have ample time to explore the Royal Mile, Princes Gardens, Holyrood Park, Leith, the Meadows, and Morningside (where J.K. Rowling lived!). Of course there’s always something new to experience, but there’s a certain satisfaction in feeling as if you truly understand a place when you leave.
One day, in the future, you could guide someone else through the city.
8. The People
Yes, Edinburgh is a diverse, energetic, historical place. The Royal Mile will snake into crumbling alcoves, and the gritty grey buildings will remind you of a time long gone.
The city feels its age.
You can nearly glimpse beyond the mountains, into the past, without feeling uncomfortably lodged in the past – the perfect combination. And every time I arrive at Waverley Station, I’m reminded yet again of Edinburgh’s beauty.
But more than anything, I admire the people.
I admire the Scottish pride – the “Yes” stickers still adorning windows and car bumpers – and their biting sense of humor, which you’ll find throughout the country. Edinburgh is the perfect place to begin. Visit Edinburgh – learn about the Scottish capital city and the history it encapsulates – and then travel north to the mountains and lochs beyond.
Have you ever been to Edinburgh? Would you like to go? Why? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
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