When you study abroad, you certainly want to make the most out of your time in a new country. Therefore, whenever you have some spare time, you try to take a chance and explore some new interesting places. When you are lucky enough to study in the capital of Scotland, you don’t need to travel far. All you need is to set off and discover the numerous beauties of the city of Edinburgh. As the blog about the nice places to visit in Edinburgh would probably be 20 pages long, I’ll try to summarize how I think that a day in Edinburgh can be spent most efficiently, and what are the places I take my friends to, when they come for a visit!
As the city is built on seven hills, among which the most famous is certainly the Arthur’s Seat, it’s always a good idea to start a day with a hike up to this 250m high extinct volcano. Although it might seem like a tough hike looking from distance, the peak is actually quite reachable with a lot of different paths approaching it from all sides. From the bottom to the top, in no more than 25-30 minutes you will find yourself having some spectacular panoramic views of the whole city and overlooking the region of Lothian. These views will certainly help you in comprehending the city structure better, and planning your day easier.
As you get down from the hill at the northern side, you will come upon the famous Holyrood Palace standing next to the Queen’s Gallery. A lavish summer residence of her Majesty and the Gallery are open to the public for a “bargain” – £16.60, so me, as well as, I assume, many students, prefer admiring their exteriors (them from the outside). Luckily, right across the street from the palace stands the new Scottish Parliament building. Apart from admiring this impressive building from the outside, you can actually enter it for free. What’s even more interesting, also for free and without booking in advance, the public is allowed to attend the parliament sessions held in the debating hall. This can end up being really engaging, as the only time I went for a debate, a turbulent discussion about the Scottish Fire Safety Regulations was held, with reflections on the terrible Grenfell Tower fire that happened in June this year in London.
After you’re done with the parliament, and you probably already start to miss climbing a hill, don’t worry any further, and head towards the Calton Hill! Although way smaller than the Arthur’s seat, this lovely hill in the heart of the city is equally impressive. Many great monuments can be found on this Hill, but that’s not what it’s the most famous for. This hill is actually called “The Birthplace of The Panorama”. Namely, Irish painter and a master of perspective from the late 18th century, Robert Barker, visiting the Calton Hill one day came up with the idea of the panorama. Using some self-designed apparatus, the artist managed to sketch out a 360-degree view of Edinburgh from the hilltop which happened to be the creation of one of the most popular painting forms at the time.
After you get down from the hill, you will find yourself at the beginning of Edinburgh’s most famous shopping street – the Princess street. Even if you’re not into shopping, this lively street is always a nice place to walk through, especially when you add the magnificent views of the castle. If you happen to be in Edinburgh during the Christmas time, you will be lucky to experience the Christmas street at its finest – all immersed in the Christmas market.
Just a small detour from the west end of the Princess street will take you to another “must visit” place – the picturesque area – the Dean Village.
After you’ve seen all of this, a small circle below the Castle hill will get you to the Grass Market which is located next to several important “Harry Potter” related places. First of all – The Elephant House bar where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book, then the Victoria street which served as the inspiration for the Diagon Alley, and finally the Greyfriars graveyard where grave of the notorious Thomas Riddell (Lord Voldemort) can be found.
If you still have some time and energy, in no time you can get to the Edinburgh’s attraction #1 – the Castle of Edinburgh. Although the entrance fee is £17, personally I’d say it’s worth it, and if like me you plan on staying a bit longer and visiting some more Scottish castles, than a £42 yearly pass to all the Scottish castles is absolutely the best option.
Finally, as the night comes you can head to some of the various gin/whisky bars or just the regular Scottish pubs, and in the later hours make sure to end up in the famous Cowgate where all the nightlife secrets are kept!