Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world!
It’s a charming city that is the perfect size for walking, though you’ll have to bring a raincoat as the city is notoriously wet and grey. (The photo above is an anomaly!) Whether you love shopping, afternoon tea or enjoy being out in the great outdoors, there’s something in Edinburgh for everyone.
I lived in Scotland for 4 years so I know the city well and I hope you’ll enjoy this list of things to do in Edinburgh on the weekend as much as I do! (If I ever left Singapore for good, Edinburgh is the city I would love to live in.)
1. Victoria Street
Victoria Street is a beautiful street in Edinburgh’s Old Town, known for its colourful buildings which are built along a curved slope. The street is often compared to Diagon Alley from the Harry Potter series, and it’s easy to see why!
The street’s curved shape and rainbow-colored buildings make it a favorite spot of photographers- you’ll probably have seen better photos of it if you follow any Instagram accounts that share photos of Edinburgh.
There are many independent shops, cafes and restaurants here, so it’s popular with tourists. You’ll find anything from clothing to souvenirs.
If you need to pick up a gift, I highly recommend the Red Door Gallery, which has been operating for 20 years and showcases the work of British and Scottish artists. (Their artworks range from jewellery and homeware to illustrations.)
For those looking for a bite to eat, you can get anything from Mexican at Mariachi to French & North African at Maison Bleue. If you’re not in Scotland for long, Oink Victoria Street is a good chance for you to try Scottish hog roast!
Note: Walk all the way down Victoria Street and you’ll end up at Grassmarket, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
2. Dean’s Village
Dean’s Village is 1 of the most charming and picturesque neighbourhoods in Edinburgh.
This is another UNESCO World Heritage site and it is located very close to the city centre. If you’re fit and not carrying luggage, I’d say it’s within walking distance of Victoria Street. (By which I mean about 25 minutes on foot and 15 minutes by cab.)
It is a slightly less well-known – as compared to Arthur’s Seat, for example- but nonetheless still popular destination for visitors who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. You’ll feel like you’ve travelled back in times as the village boasts well-preserved architecture, quaint alleys, narrow cobbled streets, and beautiful gardens.
Do note that the cobblestone streets are very slippery when wet especially since the path leading to the village goes downhill!
In addition, keep in mind that this is a residential area and that many of the historic buildings, dating back to the 19th century, are occupied today so do be respectful of the residents. Some houses have even been let out as holiday accommodation- I myself stayed in an AirBnB here a few years back.
Visitors can take a guided tour of the village to learn more about its history and architecture, though these are almost all ticketed (i.e. not free.)
Top tip: Be sure to look out for the Well Court building!
3. Water of Leith
If you’re visiting Dean’s Village, I highly recommend making an afternoon of it and visiting the 13-mile Water of Leith Walkway.
This scenic trail follows the path of the river and offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside. To find out more about the sights and wildlife you see along the way, there is an Audio Trail.
Some sights to look out for along the Waterway (& near Dean’s village) are Dean Bridge (designed by Thomas Telford) and St. Bernard’s Wells (a classical temple.)
Top tip: Parts of the walkway are sometimes closed to remove fallen trees etc so make sure to check the website before you go! You can also take one of the famous Outlander tours to learn more about the Jacobite wars and see where the series was shot.
If you don’t have time to do the entire Water of Leith walk, Stockbridge is a good place to make an exit.
This charming neighbourhood is where I would live if I ever have the chance to move to Edinburgh. It is also a perfect base for a weekend visit!
The neighbourhood is known for its bohemian vibes, independent shops, and local markets, such as the Stockbridge Market at Jubilee Gardens every Sunday from 10 to 4. Visitors can find everything from artisan bread and cheese to handmade soaps, and jewelry.
Tip: I highly recommend the Scran and Scallie Gastropub in Stockbridge, if you’re searching for a place to eat.
5. Duddingston Village
Located near Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, this historic village is so under the radar that I only found out about it after I had left Scotland for good!
It’s a great place for history lovers as you’ll find buildings dating to the 12th century. Don’t expect many shops and restaurants. Instead, it feels like a charming but very quiet country village.
Top tip: get lunch at the village pub (The Sheeps Heid.) There has been a public inn on site since the 1300s and was a favorite of Mary Queen of Scots. She enjoyed playing skittles when she visited and there is still a skittles alley on site today (albeit a modern version.)
6. National Gallery Scotland
I highly recommend visiting the National Royal Scottish Academy, especially if you’re in Edinburgh in January and enjoy Turner’s artworks!
Thanks to the generosity of Henry Vaughan, the Gallery has a very impressive collection of 38 Turner watercolours which are only displayed in January, to prevent light damage and keep the artworks looking as new as possible.
Besides Turner, you can also see works by Gauguin, Botticelli, Raphael and Titian here.
And, did I mention that entry is free?
Top tip: Visit in January, of course!
7. Portobello Beach
If the weather is good when you’re in Edinburgh, why not check out Portobello Beach?
It has 2 miles of sand and people visit both to swim and sunbathe! If you’re feeling more adventurous, there is kayaking and sailing available. Those feeling more lazy can have a cup of coffee at 1 of the independent cafes along the promenade.
Tip: If you visit on the 1st Saturday of every month, there’s a farmer’s market at Brighton Park (nearby.)
If you’re saying Edinburgh Castle is not on this list, it’s because I don’t recommend visiting on the weekend or school holidays. It gets really crowded and is better to visit at other times.
I hope these suggestions have helped you plan your weekend in Edinburgh, and that you love the city as much as I do! Alternatively, if you ever decide to travel to Korea and Singapore, do stop by my blog for travel tips and itinerary suggestions!
Bio: Zhen of a Love Letter to Asia
Asian female who loves food (too much) and travel but am too old for backpacking or staying in hostels. Blogging about how to travel comfortably in Asia as I try to fall back in love with it after spending 11 years in Europe. Follow A Love Letter to Asia on Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest.
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