Home City Guides Edinburgh – City Guide
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Edinburgh – City Guide

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 The City

A firm favourite with students and tourists alike, there’s always plenty going on in Edinburgh. Impressive architecture, stunning natural beauty and a rich history all combine to make Edinburgh a really exciting place to be.

It’s a city steeped in history yet has a modern edge that compacts all the perks of capital city living with none of the downsides.

Things to do

There are tons of things to and see in Edinburgh, beyond the usual bars and restaurant set up (although there is plenty of that too).

  • For new comers to the city, a visit to the castle is a must, at £16.50 per entry though, it might be preferable to just make do with the stunning views of Edinburgh afforded from just outside the castle gates.
  • Anyone interested in discovering the darker side to the city should definitely consider a tour of the Vaults, a series of underground catacombs beneath Edinburgh. Home to Druidic cults and terrified tourists alike, it’s certain to thrill and entertain.
  • A trip to the Botanical Gardens in Stockbridge, a mere bus ride from the city centre, is an easy, and more importantly, cheap way to get away from the hustle and bustle. Entry to the gardens is free but entry to the Glasshouses (the best bit) costs around £4.
  • If you’re feeling active a climb up Arthur’s Seat is a must – it’s a student rite of passage and has the best views of Edinburgh.
  • If you’ve still got energy to burn after that, Edinburgh is home to  3 major golf courses, an Olympic size swimming pool plus Europe’s largest artificial ski slope – perfect for sports enthusiasts.
  • Camera Obscura is a fun and different way to see the city. Home to weird and wonderful optical illusions, this one is definitely best avoided on a hangover, but will no doubt leave you with a whole new perspective on life.
  • Fountain Park leisure facility houses everything: restaurants, a cinema, a casino and bowling (where you can £2.60 pints with your student ID)

And for when the tropical Scottish climate gets too much, there’s always the chance to escape to Portobello or Mussselburgh beach, both easily accessible by bus.

Arts & Culture

As you’d expect, the home of the Fringe festival is extremely culturally endowed, boasting many galleries and art spaces across the city.

  • There’s the National Museum on Chambers street which is free to enter, as well as the more niche Museum of Childhood.
  • In the city centre you can find both the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland, admission to both of which is free.
  • Summer Hall is an exciting space that offers everything from gigs, to exhibitions to shows, just check out their website to see what’s on.
  • The Stand is where you can catch the comedy that Edinburgh has become so famous for. Monday night is typically for new comers but for just £1 it’s worth a watch – you might just get to see the next Kevin Bridges (equally you might luck out and end up watching Scotland’s answer to the chuckle brothers…)
  • Grassroots at Teviot Underground is equally cheap and cheerful as student comics take to the stage to bemoan 9am lectures and the other strains of student life* (*read: socially sanctioned unemployment)
  • Edinburgh Playhouse, Festival Theatre, Kings TheatreRoyal Lyceum, Traverse TheatreEdinburgh CastleEICCUsher HallQueen’s Hall, … the list of Edinburgh’s theatres goes on and on. From classic West End musicals to new and contemporary theatre, there are endless possibilities in Edinburgh for a cultural night out.

Music & Nightlife

Live Music:

  • The face of music in Edinburgh is currently undergoing big change with a burgeoning house and techno scene. Nights organised by Nightvision and Odyssey are the place to be and typically take place at Cabaret Voltaire, La Belle Angele and The Caves.
  • Live music is all over the city, with gigs in clubs and pubs across Edinburgh, but for bigger gigs Usher Hall and the Corn Exchange are usually where larger artists tend to play.
  • Sneaky Pete’s deserves a category all unto itself. Essentially a pimped-out version of your living room, Sneaky’s is a firm favourite thanks to its eclectic mix of events and gigs. Weeknight’s are free entry unless there is a gig on.
  • For any alternative/rock fans, Opium on Cowgate often hosts a range of artists as well as a karaoke night.

Clubs and Events:

Clubbing in Edinburgh is mainly split into two areas: Cowgate and George Street

  • Cowgate is home to an eclectic mix of clubs and bars such as Sneaky’sBongo Club, Cab Vol and The Mash House. Each has its own vibe and range of regular nights that ensures there’s something for everyone.
  • For those looking to sing along to some classic chart bangers on a budget, Hive is a must. True nobody knows exactly why the walls are so slimy (Is it sweat? Alcopops? A new form of STI?), but it’s an undeniably fun evening (if you’re suitably inebriated) and an Edinburgh rite of passage.
  • Hive’s slightly classier cousin can be found over on Hanover Street in the form of Garibaldi’s, an absolutely absurd club that boasts a stripper pole and the most lethal Long Island Ice Tea known to man.
  • On nearby George Street you’ll also find Why Not? A firm favourite with students on a Monday night, OpalLulu and Lola Lo over on Frederick Street.

Where you end up will mainly be dictated by whatever night it is and how close to loan day you are, but you’re sure to find something to suit you in amongst Edinburgh’s vibrant nightlife.

  • Brass Monkey has a massive sofa room where they screen cult movies every day.
  • Finally, the Dog House sells £3 cocktails and slices of pepperoni pizza while the in-house (overfed) English Bulldog walks around for people to stroke.

Places to Eat

  • For a quick lunch, the hearty soups from Union of Genius, either from their café or the cart that’s stationed on George Square, provide much needed relief from the chill of an Edinburgh winter.
  • For something a bit more substantial, Ting Thai Caravan as its name suggests, does delicious Thai cuisine. A sun-up/sun-down menu provides plenty of variety and the restaurant’s almost communal set up means that your eating experience is never likely to be the same twice.
  • For a loan day treat or if your relatives are visiting (and more importantly buying) there’s Mother India Café, an award-winning tapas-style Indian restaurant. Sharing is encouraged but ultimately optional and with food this good it’s worth remembering that.
  • If burgers are more your thing, the Holyrood 9A make incredible ones. Interesting and well thought out flavours come together with huge portion sizes to make for extremely tasty food. Vegetarians need not worry either, there are some great veggie alternatives.
  • If you are vegetarian or vegan, a trip to Henderson’s is a must but even if you aren’t, the food is so tasty in its own right you’d be mad to dismiss it. Now with two locations, one on Hanover Street and one near Holyrood, there’s even more veggie goodness to go around.

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Top Discounts in Edinburgh

  • One of the best ways to get discounts across the city is with a Snapfax, a little book of vouchers that you will inevitably purchase on your first few intrepid days as a fresher. If you’re really smart though, you’ll wait until around October/November time when they’re pretty much handed out free.
  • Biblos at the bottom of Chambers Street offers a year-round discount for students on a range of drinks in a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
  • Palmyra is a hidden gem not far from Edinburgh University’s George Square campus that does some of the best and cheapest falafel around. Their student discount is applicable across all food.
  • For all your uni needs, Ryman’s stationers are on hand. The 15% discount means that you won’t need to feel bad about buying those unnecessary scented gel pens.
  • Get £10 standby tickets for shows at Festival & Kings Theatres on the day. Just turn up at the box office with your student card.
  • Membership for Cameo Picture House for just £15 (regular price £45)

What’s On?

  • Edinburgh’s Christmas takes up residence from 18th November, boasting stalls, rides and festive food sure to get you in the Christmas spirit.
  • Light Night on 20th November will mark the switching on of Edinburgh’s Christmas lights and is completely free
  • Previously – the Scottish history festival – has various events running from 11th-22nd November across the city.
  • St Andrew’s day is 30th November and to mark the patron saint’s day, entry to the castle is free
  • If you’re feeling nostalgic, The Museum of Childhood Bedtime Stories event will be running throughout November and December, celebrating the bed time story and its power to inspire. This event is free.
  • Snap up some one-of-a-kind clothing and homeware bargains at Edinburgh’s Affordable Vintage Fair on 11th December.
  • If it wasn’t difficult enough to resist all the festive food this time of year, The Scottish Chocolate Festival is also coming to town from 17th-18th December.
  • Finally, nobody does New Year’s quite like Edinburgh and this year Edinburgh’s Hogmanay promises to deliver with Paolo Nutini already secured and further announcements about the line up to come.
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Holly Smith Editor

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