Edinburgh is a city which has an endless list of fantastic attractions and tourist hotspots, but where do you go if you want to delve deeper into the historical city and see the Edinburgh beyond the highlights? There are many lesser known places worth a visit in Scotland’s capital and loads of secret hidden gems you won’t have visited yet. Whether you are studying in the city or staying for a long weekend, here are 10 of the best hidden gems in Edinburgh, which are all worth a visit.
Grassmarket’s Historically Gruesome Pubs
Different to the other pubs in Edinburgh, those that line the Grassmarket hide a rather gruesome history. Both The Last Drop and Maggie Dickson’s take their names from the fact that the Grassmarket was Edinburgh’s primary site for public executions. The gallows are still visible, and there is now a monument which lists many of those who were hanged. The White Hart Inn, one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh has an entire history of its own; frequented by murderers Burke and Hare in the 1820s as well as being bombed by German Zeppelin Airship L14 in 1916 this tiny pub has been at the heart of Grassmarket’s dark history since it’s establishment in 1516.
Five minutes from Edinburgh’s Princes’ Street you’ll find Dean Village, a calm and tranquil oasis amidst one of the busiest parts of the city. The old buildings emanate the Edinburgh of years past; lookout for old millstones and the stone plaques with carvings of bread and pie. The recently restored Well Court as well as the two galleries are worthwhile a visit or simply just walk along the Water of Leith till you reach the Dean Bridge for a picnic.
Open every Sunday year-round is the wonderful Stockbridge Market. The first of a family of three outdoor markets in Edinburgh, between 10 and 4 this area turns into a bustling and busy hotspot for locals and tourists alike. There are stalls selling everything; bread, vegetables, cheese, jams, crafts, and gifts, all being sold by local business owners. A staple part of any visit to Stockbridge.
Morningside’s Wild West
Tucked away in an alleyway behind Springvalley Gardens in the quiet suburb of Morningside
there is a Wild West Street. Built-in the 1990s it is complete with a saloon, jail, cantina, stables and a Native American mural on one wall. The two artists who worked on the project went on to help with the design of Euro Disney, so take time to appreciate the expertise and handiwork. Once used as an advertisement for a furniture business, the site nowadays is exclusively used for stetson style selfies. The cantina door, however, is used as the emergency fire door for the Morningside Library!
Climb Calton Hill, not Arthurs Seat
Known often as Edinburgh’s very own acropolis, a stroll up Calton Hill is guaranteed to astonish and wow visitors. Considerably more accessible compared to Arthur’s Seat, the panoramic views over the city from the top are especially beautiful during sunrise and sunset. The hill also is famously home to some of Edinburgh’s historical landmarks such as the Nelson Monument, city observatory and the National Monument inspired by the Parthenon in Athens. A favourite spot also for watching fireworks on Hogmanay and Burns Night.
Day Trip to North Berwick
A short bus or train journey out of Edinburgh lies North Berwick, a picturesque seaside town perfect for a sunny day out to the beach. As well as being home to the Scottish Seabird Centre, North Berwick boasts an eclectic mix of different shops, lovely cafes as well as world-renowned gold courses. While you’re there have a look over to Bass Rock while trying some of the best fish and chips and ice cream in the capital.
The Edinburgh Botanics are lovely but if you fancy something a little more special venture to the Kyoto Friendship Gardens in the grounds of Lauriston Castle. With bamboo shelters, walkways lined with blossom trees and stunning views over to Cramond Island, this Japanese garden is one of the highest-rated in Britain.
Union Canal and Waters of Leith
The Union Canal is one of the most beautiful quiet parts of Edinburgh, and it is more than just a walkway along the water. While you’re there, checkout Zazou which is tethered to the towpath near to Harrison’s Park, the only narrowboat cafe in Edinburgh and perfect for duck spotting.
Make sure you visit this one in the evening! The Vennel, otherwise known as the ‘Jean Brodie Steps’ is a stairway down towards Edinburgh’s Grassmarket with one of the best views of the castle in town. While stunning during the day, this spot becomes magical at twilight when the street lanterns come on, and the sunset sky turns shades of purple.
This abandoned railway tunnel recently was given a new lease of life after becoming a project to celebrate local history, culture and heritage. Wander in to see one of the only murals of it’s kind in Britain. Started originally by Chris Rutherford, every section of the 140-metre tunnel has been painted, each piece commemorating a different part of history and culture in Edinburgh. See if you can find the illustrations of Robert L Stevenson’s poem ‘From a Railway Carriage’.