Looking for a perfectly Christmassy shorttrip, there were three options: Dublin, Oslo and Edinburgh. We picked Edinburgh because of Hogmanay: three days of festivities to celebrate the upcoming New Year! It includes free concerts, a torchlight procession with over 30 000 participants and a huge street party to kick-off the new year in style! The torchlight procession fell right into our getaway gap so Edinburgh it was!
I guess it is safe to say I visited all there is to visit in Edinburgh. I especially loved the fact that we were there between Christmas and New Year’s Eve (flew home the 31st). The whole city is covered in tiny little lights and there are multiple Christmas markets all over. The only downside might be the weather of course (cloudy, rainy and cold) but it was not that rainy so we were actually lucky.
Arrived at Edinburgh airport, you can take a bus that drives you directly to the city center. You can stay at the Piries hotel, located only 5 mins walk from the bus station. The city center was a little further away (about 15 mins walking) but there were many taverns and restaurants close by. The hotel is quiet, spacious and the beds are comfortable. The hygienic side of our room could have been a bit better but I would not call it dirty.
On to the major topic: what to do in Edinburgh. Well actually, everything there is to do according to guidebooks. We’ve visited Edinburgh castle and its surroundings (the Old Town) which was great. The views you get are amazing. You should account a full day for this visit (or at least about 6 to 7 hours). Buy your tickets beforehand as the lines got really long! The Old Town is near the Castle and is home to a bunch of cute shops and lunch places. We had lunch at Hula’s juice bar, where the food is really good but the juices itself disappoint a little. We also stopped at Oink to get a pulled pork sandwich. There’s a full-size pig (head to tail) in the window staring at you where they pull the meat from when you ask for a sandwich. It opens around 12 and only sells one pig per day so they sell out around 2 pm every day. We expected amazing food but ended up disappointed. I think it depends greatly on which piece of the pig you end up with but unfortunately this is not in your own hands… We went up Calton Hill in the evening, right before dark such that we could capture the change in lighting. I would really advise you do the same, the view changes tremendously!
The second day we decided to visit Holyrood Abbey and it’s surroundings. Holyrood Abbey belongs to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. This Palace is a remnant from the time when Scotland had its own Kings and Queens. You have to pay to get in, but it’s really worth it. You get an audio guide for free such that you can keep up with the history. Although the palace was stunning, Holyrood Abbey remains the pearl of this visit to me. Although in ruins, it’s so mystical and impressing! It’s a great venue to take pictures and practice your photography skills. Holyrood Abbey is located in a hilly area. Do yourself a favor and climb the hills to get to Arthur’s seat (the highest point). The climb is not necessarily a walk in the park (it’s quite steep at some points and you might want to schedule about an hour to get to the top) but once you are up there, you forgot the effort it took. The view is incredibly beautiful and the landscapes you went through to get there are evenly impressive.
In the evening we returned to the city to do a very touristy thing: visit the Real Mary Kings’s Close. Edinburgh used to be made up of tiny streets (about a meter wide) with tall buildings (three floors and up). These streets ran at an angle since Edinburgh is built on hills, so when they decided to create a large building, many of these streets disappeared underground. The guides at the Real Mary King’s Close are extraordinary, they are experts in raising your interest for history (you can thrust me on this one as I’m usually not intrigued by history tours). For more information you can check their website: http://www.realmarykingsclose.com/. Afterwards we went for dinner at Jamie’s Italian. Avoid at all cost please ;).
With one day left we went for brunch at Papii. Do yourself a favor and have breakfast/brunch here! They have (listen carefully now) BREAKFAST VANILLA WAFFLES WITH STRAWBERRIES AND MAPLE SYRUP. You read that right: the best breakfast waffles ever for a very reasonable price in a cutesie spot downtown Edinburgh. When I think of it, I wish Papii was located in my backyard… My bf had poached eggs on a sandwich and did not complain either ;). We spent the rest of the day strolling around and shopping a bit on the Christmas markets to end it with a typical Scottish dinner at the Doric. The Doric being a typical Scottish tavern did not disappoint. The meatpie is to die for, as well as the atmosphere.
The only thing that was left to do on our trip was the Hogmanay torch procession! Don’t doubt about it, just do it! It is incredibly impressive to watch 30 000 people walking the same route with torches. The procession end is celebrated with fireworks. Although I can understand time management is hard with so many people, it was a bit unfortunate that we were only 3/4 through the procession when the fireworks started… All in all, I really recommend going to Edinburgh between Christmas and New Year’s (and maybe you should consider staying for New Year’s Eve to enjoy a huge street party).