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My Edinburgh

7 min read

The author on Cramond Island

A friend asked me to recommend some places to visit in Edinburgh — not the big stuff (Arthur’s Seat, for example), but the small haunts and little delights that I used to love. I lived there for a long time, and think back on the city with a lot of fondness. But I’ve been in the US for 13 years now, and a lot will have diverged from the version of the city I have in my head.

I thought I’d publish my list here. I’ve done my best to research whether these places still exist, but I make no guarantees. And, of course, there are new places that are probably even better than the ones I’ve listed here but aren’t even on my radar.


You’ve got to start with pubs. They’re not so much bars as community spaces: open living rooms that serve as gathering points. Although, of course, Edinburgh has a drinking culture, and I would never recommend a place that didn’t have a real ale or two.

The Regent was always my favorite pub in Edinburgh: cozy, welcoming, lively. The walk there, either from the Bridges or the Parliament, is atmospheric in its own right, although I always found myself getting a bus or a taxi home at the end of the night.

The Bow Bar takes you down Victoria Street, which is a nice walk in its own right. It’s got a great whisky list, and the whole place feels like a Real Pub, albeit a bit on the fussy side.

The Sheep Heid Inn is a 14th century pub in Duddingston Village. Definitely worth discovering, particularly if you’re wandering around Arthur’s Seat anyway.

I’ll include Doctors not because I particularly like it, but because it’s so convenient that I always bloody ended up there. It’s fine. It’s totally fine. And it’s right by the Meadows and the Museum of Scotland, which are both places you need to obviously visit if you’re in town. So it’s convenient. But I’ve never been excited. And I don’t have a good reason to explain why not.

RIP The Auld Hoose, which was as close to a local as I had. (Update: it’s all a lie! It still exists! Fake news! Weird!)

And an anti-recommendation: pubs on the Royal Mile and Rose St are often recommended but are not my favorite.


A lot of the places I used to go to are gone. I’ve omitted some frequent haunts — there are chippies I love that are objectively terrible, for example. But also, I didn’t eat out all that much when I lived in Edinburgh. The best general advice I can give you is to try haggis if you haven’t, and avoid what the city calls Mexican food if you’ve ever had the actual cuisine.

There was a point where all the staff knew me at Loudons (which now seems to have two locations; mine was in Fountainbridge). It’s a good breakfast spot that, when it opened, was set up for laptop workers, including printing facilities and so on. That initial intention is long gone, but it’s still a lovely place to meet. Or it was, the last time I was there.

David Bann is an upscale vegetarian restaurant that still seems to be going strong. It was the kind of place I’d go to for special occasions.

The Mosque Kitchen is tasty and affordable; a good place to grab a quick lunch. There seem to be two now — one by the mosque and one on Nicholson St — but the former (the one in the mosque) is the original and the one to try.

Khushi’s was the first restaurant I visited in Edinburgh — and, as it turns out, the first Indian restaurant in the city. It’s relaxed and delicious.

I’m convinced that Cappadocia is the best kebab shop in Edinburgh. Still best enjoyed late at night, after you’ve left the pub.

RIP Forest Café, which was the kind of independent arts space you hope exists in every city. Anarchic, inclusive, and beautiful. It, more than anywhere else, represented exactly what I loved about Edinburgh when I loved it, and I’m really sad it’s gone.

RIP also to that one café by the Meadows with the terrible nachos, which was really important to me, and goddamnit, why can’t I remember its name? (Update: it was Favorit. Don’t believe the people talking about the nachos in the linked thread, though.)

Attractions / Etc

This is a grab bag. I used to walk around the city a lot, and I think these choices reflect that.

The National Museum of Scotland — the Museum of Scotland and the Royal Museum, now combined into one mega-museum — is a big thing, so it’s probably on your list already, but it’s free, as all museums everywhere should be, and it has an epic roof terrace view that you should probably check out.

The Scottish Storytelling Centre is one of those places I’m glad exists in the world. The events are worth catching, and the whole place has been put together with real thoughtfulness. But don’t sleep on the café: one of my favorite things to do was grab a cup of tea and a slice of cake here.

Cramond Island (listed at the link as “Cramond Ghost Island” — really?) has great views across the Forth of Firth and is a fun adventure if it’s not freezing cold. There’s a fairly convenient bus.

Dean Village is completely lovely to walk through. I guess the Dean Gallery has been renamed Modern Two, but it was always worth checking out.

The Water of Leith Walkway takes in Dean Village and various works of art, including Anthony Gormley’s series of statues.

The Cameo Cinema is a century old and going strong. I used to buy film festival tickets by the foot here. Even if you don’t want to take in a movie (and if you want to see a movie, it’s the place to do it), it’s got a nice bar. It shows up in The Illusionist, Sylvain Chomet’s homage to both Edinburgh and Jacques Tati, which is in itself worth checking out before you visit.

Edinburgh Inspace is a creative digital hub that showcases events and exhibitions. The space itself is experimental and is wired up for different kinds of multimedia interactivity. It’s worth checking for upcoming exhibitions.

Not mentioned: anything to do with Harry Potter, even that one pachyderm-themed touristy café that’s still pretty lovely (update: no, never mind, it burned down), because, sincerely, fuck JK Rowling.

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