Until I moved to Norwich, I never appreciated the amazing city I was born in. It was normal to stroll through the cobbled streets and gothic alleyways, blissfully unaware of how lucky I am to call this place home. But having now left and not been into the city centre in almost a year now (thanks COVID), I miss it dearly.
Having lived on the outskirts of Edinburgh for 18 years, I’d like to think I am a seasoned veteran when it comes to recommending the best spots. However, I don’t believe anything I write could ever do it justice. The best thing about Edinburgh without a doubt, is that the city becomes three completely different places at various times of the year. Although the city itself never changes, the atmosphere shifts with the seasons and the city comes alive in what I’m coining as the “three phases” of Edinburgh.
The first of the phases I’m describing is the “off-season”, when nothing particularly noteworthy is happening. Edinburgh, on its own, is spectacular. This is the perfect time to explore the sights such as Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace and more. It is perfect for any Harry Potter fans, with beautiful locations like Victoria Street inspiring fan-favourite places in the story, and The Elephant House café is the “home” of Harry Potter. Stop by to see where the books were written, and write a heartfelt message to the story on the bathroom walls (this is allowed, I’m not encouraging vandalism).
My favourite thing to do in Edinburgh is to walk the entire length of the Royal Mile (fun fact: it isn’t actually a mile as we know it, it’s a Scots Mile, a slightly longer measurement, unused for hundreds of years) from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat. It is the best way to see some sights, soak up the architecture and the atmosphere, and explore some unique shops. Plus, if you are in Edinburgh during the Fringe Festival in August, the Mile is bustling with street performers and people selling their shows, making it an interesting experience.
The mention of the Fringe Festival leads me perfectly into the second “phase” of Edinburgh, the Fringe! Throughout the whole month of August, the city comes alive with the best in theatre, acrobatics, comedy, music, dance and more from across the world. It is simply bedazzling. Painfully, I didn’t explore the Fringe until I was 16, despite it being on my doorstep all my life. Not only are the performances incredible, the city truly blossoms and thrives. People are everywhere having the best time and it is amazing to see everyone simply fall in love with my home.
The final “phase” is December, when Edinburgh becomes a winter wonderland. Although the chances of snow in the city centre are slim, the city is still magical. ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’, comprising a fairground and a German Market on Princes Street, is the epitome of the cosiest Christmas time. Luckily because of when my birthday falls, it is a family tradition to explore the market on my birthday, Bailey’s and hot chocolate in hand, sampling all the food and finishing the last of our shopping. The winter festivities however do not end there. Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) is the biggest day of the year in Edinburgh, notably because of the Street Party. Music acts play on stages set up in the streets, the beer flows non-stop, and everyone sees in the New Year with an electric atmosphere and fireworks booming over the castle.
Most travel guides or recommendations end with a statement along the lines of “you HAVE to visit this place”, but this time, I am encouraging you to visit at least three times. Without sounding elitist, I firmly believe you cannot say you have experienced Edinburgh fully until you have been during all the periods I’ve discussed. All are too impressive and mesmerising to be missed. When travel is safe again, Edinburgh needs to be on your list.