Planning a trip to Edinburgh? Whether you’re headed there for work, fun, or a little bit of both, here are our tips for making the most of your time in the Scottish capital.
Where to fly in
Edinburgh metro area is served by Edinburgh Airport (EDI), located just eight miles from the city center. Scotland’s busiest airport with 14.3 million passengers in 2018, EDI operates with one main terminal and one runway.
Once on the ground, travelers can catch the Edinburgh Trams to head into the city center. One-way fare into the city costs £6.00; round-trip tickets cost £8.50 and are open-ended to be used whenever needed. Not heading to central Edinburgh? You can also catch a variety of buses to reach your final destination. The Airlink, Skylink, and Night Bus deliver passengers to much of Edinburgh and its surrounding areas. Consult the transit map to determine which bus route suits you best.
Alternatively, black cabs and ride shares are also available from EDI.
Where to stay
If this is your first time visiting Edinburgh, stay in the city center. Doing so will enable you to explore the city on foot from its best angle: up close and personal. There are a number of centrally-located, luxury hotels, like The Balmoral Hotel and Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian, to satisfy your five-star taste. Nearby, the cozy four-star Grassmarket Hotel is just a few minutes’ walk to Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens, the Royal Mile, and more.
In Edinburgh on business? Here are our picks for where to stay:
- If you’re attending an event at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, you can’t beat the convenience of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. The hotel is located just 0.1 miles from the conference center, and offers business travel-friendly amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi, a 24-hour business center, and express check-out.
- If a hotel in the city center of Edinburgh is what you’re after, look no further than the DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre. Travelers are just a few minutes’ walk to city attractions such as Usher Hall, the Grassmarket, and the shops of Princes Street.
- Looking to leverage your Concur Hipmunk membership? Book a stay at the Haymarket Hub Hotel. You’ll be just 10 minutes’ walk from the city center and steps away from major transit stops. Plus, you’ll receive special perks such as a discount off your stay and we’ll automatically add your plans to TripIt.
How to get around
Part of Edinburgh’s charm is its easy walkability. Plan accordingly by packing comfortable shoes for walking from place to place. When walking isn’t feasible, Edinburgh’s Lothian Buses can be your go-to for getting around. A single-ride fare costs £1.70 or a day-pass costs £4. Travelers can purchase tickets on the bus with exact change or ahead of time on the m-tickets app. You can also download the Transport for Edinburgh app to plan your journey, check real-time departure times, and more.
Edinburgh Trams span 16 stops—starting at Edinburgh Airport and terminating at York Place—and offer eco-friendly transport to city attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, Murrayfield Stadium, and Princes Street. Similar to Lothian Buses, tram tickets can be bought via the m-tickets app and displayed in the Transport for Edinburgh app upon boarding. Ticket vending machines are also available at every tram stop. Adult fares start at £1.70 for the city zone and £6.00 for getting to/from the airport.
Alternatively, if you’d rather get to your destination in a jiffy, hail a black cab—they’re everywhere in the city center and offer free Wi-Fi (look for the code on the back of the driver’s seat). Plus, cab drivers are helpful guides to learn about the city. Uber is also available in Edinburgh and if you manage your travel and expenses with Concur or Concur Hipmunk, your Uber trip receipt will automatically populate into your expense report.
Pro tip: Use TripIt’s Navigator feature to search transportation options available to you. It will show you the estimated costs and travel times for each option, so you can decide which works best. You can find Navigator within your flight, hotel and rental car details screens. Plus, if you add a restaurant reservation to your itinerary (more on where to eat below), Navigator also helps you find the best transportation options for getting to your table.
Where to eat
If you only have time for one meal during your trip to Edinburgh, try the haggis. You should try it in its traditional form—haggis, neeps, and tatties (that’s haggis served with mashed turnips and potatoes and topped with brown gravy)—but you’ll also see it served in a variety of ways. For instance, I’ve had it in spring rolls at The Whiski Rooms or as a burger topping at Holyrood 9A.
Haggis aside, there are lots of options for meat-eaters and vegans alike in Edinburgh. For casual dining, check out The West Room for locally-inspired bites or Holyrood 9A (as mentioned above) for great burgers and local beers. If you’re in the Bruntsfield neighborhood, definitely stop in to Meltmongers—home of the UK’s #1 cheese toastie (AKA grilled cheese). Order The Big Cheese, an oozing combination of three cheeses and chili chutney on plump sourdough, with a side of sweet potato fries. Yum.
For upscale dining, venture to Leith to visit the Michelin stars: Martin Wishart and The Kitchin. Looking for a high-end spot that’s more centrally-located? Head to Angels with Bagpipes located right on the Royal Mile or Twenty Princes Street located on, you guessed it, Princes Street.
In pursuit of wine and cheese? Whighams Wine Cellars is the ideal after-work spot for a glass of wine and a cheese board.
What to do
If you’re visiting Edinburgh during soccer—nay, football—season, be sure to catch one of the local clubs in action. A fierce rivalry exists between the Hibernian FC and Hearts FC, so be sure to choose your allegiance carefully. More of a rugby fan? Head to Murrayfield Stadium, the largest stadium in Scotland and home of Scottish Rugby.
If your family tagged along on your business trip, there are plenty of kid-friendly things to do in Edinburgh. Start your day atop Castle Rock at Edinburgh Castle. You’ll not only enjoy the views, the castle itself is a series of buildings filled with the history of Scotland. Be sure to arrive well before 1 PM; the kids will get a kick out of the daily one o’clock gun. From the castle runs the Royal Mile, a stretch of shops, restaurants and pubs; some are a bit touristy but otherwise a great place to check out local street performers and vendors. If you’re looking for something outdoorsy—and you catch a nice, sunny day—hike up Arthur’s Seat. It’s located just past Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament building (both worth a visit) in Holyrood Park. The hike takes about an hour and, again, offers incredible views of the city.
Adults-only? By day, visit the Scotch Whisky Experience to sample and learn about Scotch whisky. While Scotland is best known for its whisky, there’s another local liquor that’s worth sipping: gin. In fact, Edinburgh Gin is distilled right in the heart of the city, meaning you can visit the distillery, learn about the production process and sample some of the good stuff. If you’re looking for a structured way to see the city, book a walking tour like Iconic Edinburgh Tours. Or, if you prefer to explore with a little more flexibility (and maybe a little less in the budget), Edinburgh World Heritage has created a self-guided list of 101 Objects so you can explore the city’s literary, military, culinary—and sometimes colorful—past. More than 75 percent of the 101 Objects are free to visit and the EWH website offers a few suggested itineraries to get you started.
By night, head to The Forth Floor at Harvey Nichols for fancy drinks with great views. Juniper Bar is another great option for fancy drinks and cityscape views. Alternatively, both the Grassmarket and Rose Street have charming pubs and restaurants that are ideal for sitting outside in pleasant weather.
Pro tip: Speaking of pleasant weather, the weather in Scotland is notoriously unpredictable. Locals say that you’ll experience all four seasons in one day—and they’re not exaggerating! If you have any sort of rain jacket, pack one, or if not, buy one. Sure, you could buy an umbrella in any number of shops, but it won’t stand a chance against the strong winds Edinburgh often experiences. Skip the umbrella and sport the rain jacket; you can’t blow a hooded rain parka inside-out, and this will leave you hands-free for snapping photos.