A couple of weekends ago, Stefan and I headed up to Edinburgh on a little road trip. It was the first weekend of the Christmas Markets which I’ve been desperate to visit for the longest time. We both actually visited Edinburgh back in August for my Birthday but I was really unwell and didn’t really see a lot so we thought we would re-book for the Christmas Markets. Alongside seeing all of the beautiful decorations around the Scottish Capital, we did a little bit of sightseeing thanks to our Marco Polo Edinburgh City Guide.
Whilst in Edinburgh, we stayed at the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel which we managed to get a great deal with Expedia using the rewards scheme. As we had driven up to Scotland, the hotel was really convenient as it had a private garage. The hotel wasn’t too far away from a lot of the main sights such as Holyrood Palace and it was also just off the Royal Mile. Overall, really impressed with our choice of hotel.
Whenever I use the Marco Polo Guides, we always try and tick off as many of the Top 10 Highlights but the guides are also brilliant for finding hidden gems. Our hotel was located in the shadow of Holyrood Park which is where you will find Arthur’s Seat right at the top. Although I’m very determined to one day hike up Arthurs Seat, a chilly morning in November was not the time. Instead, we decided to check out Holyrood Palace and the Scottish Parliament. The Palace is the Queen’s official residence in Edinburgh and is open to visitors to have a look at the historical staterooms. Across the road is also the Scottish Parliament which the modern exterior is quite the contrast within the Old Town surroundings.
The Palace is right at the bottom of the Royal Mile in the Old Town. This mile-long street runs all the way up to Edinburgh Castle, we did have a little explore along the Royal Mile, there are some lovely little Souvenir Shops. A lot of them selling locally made scarves and tartan products. You’ll also find The Real Mary King’s Close on the Royal Mile, which we didn’t visit on this trip but I’ve been before and it’s well worth booking in for a tour. At The Real Mary King’s Close, you’ll explore the old underground streets of Edinburgh and discover life back in the 17th century.
We decided to head to the New Town to do a spot of shopping. Around George Street, there are some well-known high street stores with beautiful Georgian architecture. As we’re going into the Christmas period, a lot of places had their amazing Christmas decorations up including The Dome which is a gorgeous restaurant known for their outstanding decorations.
As we were visiting on a Sunday, we obviously had to hunt down the best Roast Dinner in the area and oh wow, we found it alright. We had booked a table at the Hawksmoor which you may have heard of as they have branches also in Manchester and across London. The Hawksmoor claims to have the best steak and it’s not wrong. At £20pp for the Sunday Roast, it was worth every penny! It’s also worth mentioning a place called Tigerlily which we’ve previously visited and the food is amazing there too!
The main reason we chose to visit Edinburgh was to see the Christmas Markets. It always looks so magical in photographs although as the Christmas lights switch one was that evening, everywhere was heaving. Everywhere was a little bit chaotic but we managed to get around everywhere and enjoy a hot chocolate. There were so many different stalls, rides and a huge big wheel spanning across half of the Princess Street Gardens. After an hour or so, we decided to come back the next day when things were a little calmer.
Before heading back to our hotel, we did walk up to the Castle as they were running a special Castle of Light event. Even at the market, you could see the lights on the castle. The event was running on select dates in the run-up to Christmas for around £20 per ticket but as we walked up to the castle, you could stand at a barrier and see some of the show. I’m not sure if there was more happening within the castle but we saw quite a lot of the illuminations!
The next day, we got up early for another day of exploring the Scottish Captial. We headed right up to the top of the Royal Mile back to the Castle to get some photos in the daylight. It really is a gorgeous castle and in the courtyard, you’ve got wonderful views across the city out as far as Leith. Even if you aren’t planning in going inside of the castle, I’d recommend just going up to the courtyard for beautiful views.
Not too far away is the Museum of Scotland which I’d previously never visited but I came across it in my Marco Polo Guide. The museum is free entry and I found it fascinating with lots of interactive elements. You had so much to see from a room filled with every animal you can think of to Dolly the Sheep. There was also a room dedicated to famous fashion items hailed from Scottish roots. My favourite part was stepping on the scales and been told I weigh the same as a Chimpanzee!
No trip to Edinburgh is complete without hunting down some of the famous Harry Potter hotspots. I always love seeing Harry Potter filming locations but Edinburgh is actually where JK Rowling spent some time writing the books. The Elephant House is a cafe where JK Rowling is known for writing the first book and this cafe has attracted thousands of Harry Potter fans. We stopped off here for a Hot Chocolate break whilst checking out the toilets which are literally a shrine to the books.
Another location for Harry Potter fans to visit is Greyfriars Kirk graveyard. Sounds a bit grim but there are quite a few tombstones which inspired some of the characters including Tom Riddle (aka Voldemort) and you’ll also see familiar names such as McGonagall and Moodie. JK Rowling may have penned the first book at the Elephant Cafe, she finished the final book in The Balmoral Hotel. The hotel sits by the Edinburgh Waverly Train Station and you can stay in the very suite which is now named the JK Rowling Suite but it will set you back £1,000 per night.
Greyfriars Bobby dog is certainly the most famous dog in Edinburgh, if not Scotland. A dog so famous that many tourists flock to his statue. The dog is famous for being loyal with his owner where he stayed guarding at his graveside for 12 whole years! It’s a lovely story and I think it just a cute thing to see.
Hoping that the Edinburgh Christmas markets would be slightly calmer during the day, we had another explore. I love a good Christmas Market but this one in Edinburgh is up there with the best that I have visited. There were some lovely stalls and you just felt very festive in beautiful surroundings. As I said before the market takes up half of Princess Street Gardens, but we decided to have a wander around the vacant side. In all my visits to Edinburgh, I’ve never really taken a stroll through the gardens properly but it was worth it for the stunning views of the castle, especially at the Ross Fountain.
Our final stop was for food which we went to a burger place called Bread Meats Bread. I had previously visited the Glasgow branch and was keen to go back. They have the most amazing burgers and also have the Canadian speciality Poutine. We then headed back to our hotel on foot through Grassmarket which also has some amazing views of the castle.
I’m so glad I finally managed to visit Edinburgh at Christmas, it’s been on my list for the longest time. We really did have such a lovely break exploring all the sights and seeing the gorgeous Christmas decorations. We’ve left a few things to do if we visit again, I’d love to go back to Edinburgh Zoo which I visited a few years ago to see the pandas. Also, to actually go inside Holyrood Palace and finally get myself up Arthur’s Seat!
Have you ever visited Edinburgh? What’s your favourite place to visit?
*This is a collaborative post with Marco Polo Guides