Rediscovering Your City’s Magic: A Tourist’s Guide for the Edinburgh Local

Last night my flatmate twirled into our living room, flung herself onto the couch, and exclaimed with pure glee, “I hope my honeymoon phase with Edinburgh never ends!” She was simply arriving home from work, a walk that takes her past the Edinburgh Castle and through streets of New Town’s neoclassical suburbs. But these views are far from everyday in our typical routes back home in South Carolina.

The two of us, along with a dozen other students from our uni, moved to Edinburgh in early January for a semester of studying at Napier and interning around the city—an exciting opportunity to plant our roots in fresh soil. We are blossoming, bursting with energy to explore our new city. I completely share my flatmate’s sentiments; I am smitten with Edinburgh’s history, architecture, people, culture, and scenery.

Still, though Edinburgh dazzles me, I know the novelty of my experiences intensifies their sparkle. I know locals inevitably lose sight, at least a little, of their city’s wonder. At the same time, though, I know just a gentle nudge will reawaken their love all over again. With a weekend guide from me, an Edinburgh newbie who sees exciting, glittering beauty throughout her new home, you can rediscover Edinburgh’s magic like a wide-eyed tourist.


-Climb Arthur’s Seat after dark. The view of city lights is surreal, and the wind whipping through your hair is invigorating.

Tourist pro tip: Keep your camera strapped around your neck at all times!


-At 9:30, make your way down to Ghilie Dhu for a lively night of ceilidh, like the bonnie lass you are.

-Unwind after your active evening with a glass of whisky at a cosy pub. I love the ambiance at Wally Dug in New Town and the music at Whistlebinkies in Old Town.


Surely this curly-horned coo is proof that Edinburgh pulses with magic.

-Start your day with a trip to the castle. A guided tour is free after the cost of admission, and you are sure to feel connected to hundreds of years of fascinating Scottish royal history.

-Grab coffee and a bite to eat from The Elephant House, and let J.K.’s lingering magic cast a spell on you.

-Hop on a bus to Pentland Hills to search for the grazing Hairy Coos. They’re tame enough to approach, though they maintain distinct personalities and hairdos. (Tourist pro tip: On the way home, sit in the top front corner of the bus and you’ll feel like your bus driver is just about to hit every sign, building, and person on the street.)

-Indian food is a must. Gather a group for tapas at Mother India’s Café, so you get a full, diverse taste of the menu.

-Get spooked on an Auld Reekie ghost tour through the South Bridge Vaults and Greyfriar’s Kirk, where the ghouls come out to play.


-Wake up with the Scottish sunrise and go for a jog down the Water of Leith Walkway, to Dean Village. Every step offers a new view of an arched bridge or a row of old homes. Make a pit stop at the Stockbridge market and mix-and-match your brunch with foods from different stands.

-Have a laugh at Stu and Garry’s free lunchtime improv show at The Stand. Order food and bev from the bar while you enjoy 90 minutes of hilarious (and affordable) entertainment. (Tourist pro tip: Take a moment to stand on the street corner and gaze down Dublin Street. Though it’s a view we see often in Edinburgh, taking in the sea, the mountains, and the architecture all at once is magnificent.)

-Soak up city views while you watch the sunset from Calton Hill. Make sure to take lots of pictures to fit in with the tourists.

A Calton Hill sunset is pure, enlivening, and, of course, windy. 

-Wander over to Leith for seafood by the water’s edge. The Ship on the Shore, Fishers, and Loch Fyne serve fresh fish, and they’re right on the water, so you can go for a picturesque stroll after dinner.

-End the night with a sweet treat. Go for a float from Mary’s Milk Bar or a battered Mars bar. Chocolate is just better here, I promise.

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