A Weekend Guide to Edinburgh

It’s been awhile since I’ve traveled abroad (insert laughter as people remind me it’s only been three months), so as I’m in the midst of planning my New Years Eve trip to London, I thought why not make another guide? Edinburgh is one of those places that I have been to a fair amount of times and each time, I discover another extraordinary place. It’s like any city that way, but instead of all the hustle and bustle you feel from a city like London, New York, Paris, and Rome, it feels more relaxed, laid back, more Scottish. While I am no expert when it comes to Edinburgh, I’ve had friends let me in on their dirty little Edinburgh secrets that I’ll share with you.

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Where To Stay

Hotel Indigo
Located right on Princes Street, literally across the road from the Edinburgh train station, Hotel Indigo is a gorgeous hotel that has a rustic and charming look that you want in your Scottish hotel. With images lining the walls of the staircases to the smoking chairs on each floor to the wonderful views of the castles from the rooms, Hotel Indigo is the spot to lay your head at night when you’re in the city built on top of a city.

Airbnb
The past couple times I’ve visited Edinburgh, I did Airbnb. I stayed in a room in a house where other people were living and it was one of the best times I’ve ever had. I’ve met so many interesting people who’ve given me insight into the city, and have also cooked me some really great food.

Castle Rock Hostel
If you’re on a budget, I recommend Castle Rock Hostel. The location seriously could not be better. It’s around a 10 minute walk from the train station and a one minute walk from Edinburgh Castle, could anything be better?

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What To Do

Arthur’s Seat
Yes, yes a cliche, but seriously it’s an incredible hike with views that are worth sweating quite a lot to get to the top (or is that just me?).

Edinburgh Castle
While I don’t think you need to necessarily pay money to go inside, I do think you should head to the top of the Royal Mile and see the castle up close and personal. The views from the top are spectacular and, in my opinion, worth mixing with the crowd.

Red Door Gallery
I can’t rave about this spot enough. Every time I go to Edinburgh, I immediately head here for some new cards to send to people in the post, new posters to hang in my non-existent house, and pins to add all over my denim jacket. If you’re a lover of all things Star Wars and Doctor Who, trust me when I say that this place is the one for you.

Diagon House
Victoria Street is a treasure trove of amazing little shops, including this one. If you’re a Harry Potter nerd (how could you not be?), you need to head inside. Diagon House is home to all things Harry Potter and looks like a shop you might find if you went to Diagon Alley before catching the train to Hogwarts. The winding staircase, the Deathly Hallows jewelry, and Hogwarts house scarves will leave you with very little money when you exit hours later.

Hannah Zakari
Tucked on a side street before you enter Grassmarket is Hannah Zakari, a gorgeous quaint shop that has jewelry, clothing, cards, and a plethora of other little odds and ends from independent artists. Whenever I want to grab a souvenir my friends will actually like, I head here for funky rings, cat t-shirts, and cards with boobs on them.

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Where To Eat

Mary’s Milk Bar
I think this little secret isn’t so little anymore. Mary’s Milk Bar in the Grassmarket is a gorgeous little ice cream and hot chocolate spot that I’ve frequented more often than I’d care to admit. The selection of flavors are ones you can’t find anywhere else (Mince Pie, anyone?) that will make you want to sample every one of them. Plus, the inside and outside are Instagram-worthy.

Lovecrumbs
Thanks to the wonderful What Olivia Did, I stumbled upon this place on the way back to my Airbnb in February. While it was blistering outside, I snuck inside for some warmth, brownies, and delicious peppermint tea that made me one of the happiest people on Earth.

Montpelier
I needed a place to sit and work for awhile and Montpelier was the perfect setting for me to do that. With amazing wifi, delicious tea and coffee, and a phenomenal brekky, I was hooked (might have gone here quite a few times. Don’t mind me.). Also, if you’re looking for somewhere to get a fancy cocktail and some locals, this is also the place to be.

The Elephant House
If you haven’t guessed, I’m a massive Harry Potter fan which is why The Elephant House is on this list. The “birth place of Harry Potter,” as the sign boasts outside the door, has some of the most delicious sweets I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend grabbing a warm brownie with ice cream on top with a side of tea and resting for the afternoon with a book or great company.

Karen’s Unicorn
This is a little pricier but I think it’s so worth it. Karen’s Unicorn was some of the best Asian food that I’ve eaten (plus, had a really great house red wine that I downed). With some fantastic mood lighting and very personable staff, if you’re in need of Asian dishes, Karen’s Unicorn should top the list.

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Paris in the Rain


Paris in the rain is not like the Paris that Owen Wilson describes in Midnight in Paris. What Woody Allen was thinking, I’ll never know. Unlike most Americans, I love Paris. It was the first city I traveled abroad to when I was 17. I spent my 18th birthday on top of the Eiffel Tower, floating along the Seine in a river boat and eating my weight in Nutella crêpes.


Yet, this wasn’t the time that the rain came. When I went back to Paris two years later, it rained hard and heavy. Maybe it was because it was mad at me for experiencing London for the first time and falling hopelessly in love with London. Paris, I still liked, but there wasn’t that longing feeling I felt when I thought about London. Paris in the rain is dreary and cold. She’s bitter and her friends look at you with disdain when you huddle under a canopy trying to stay dry and figure out where the hell you’re going. Paris is a cold shoulder in the rain. She doesn’t help guide you along to your next destination. Instead, she puts distractions and annoyances in your way as you try to navigate her narrow streets. Paris is congestion in the rain. Everyone moves in the same direction and hides in the same areas as you, all thinking that they’ll avoid the raindrops too. Paris is a slippery step, a stolen phone and an inappropriate hand gesture in the rain. She drenches her stone steps with puddles that you need to look out for. She sends out people to distract you with flyers and things to sign while digging in your pockets for the phone you just bought weeks earlier. But, you’re stronger and tougher and more determined than Paris. Sometimes. Sometimes you look her friends in the eyes and tell them to give your phone back right now, “Mon téléphone, maintenant.” No pleases, just a hand out to grab the phone back at a middle finger pointed squarely in your face that you have to force yourself not to bend backwards. Paris can be rolled eyes when you struggle with the language. A hard sigh and frustration when the Americans immediately start asking where the toilets are in English.


Paris is beautiful and wonderful and kind and sweet. Or she can be a massive bitch. A venomous creature that will try to sink her claws into your flesh. She’s beautiful in summer and horrible in the spring rain. I hope you meet her lovely side and that you try to speak her language.

For anyone who doesn’t speak French, there is an app for you! “Yes, I Speak Touriste !” is an app that lets you know restaurants, shops, hotels and many more that speak your language! So, if you’re afraid Paris is going to look at you in disdain, try downloading this before you go and she may forgive you.

Friendly Advice // Emma

Before I leave for a new place, I usually check in with friends who either a) live in the location I am traveling or b) have visited said location. A lot of my friends, hell most of them, are far more experienced when it comes to traveling, more than I will ever be. With all this in mind, I have come up with a small list of questions that I have sent to a number of my friends to answer for a monthly post (possibly more than monthly) of “Friendly Advice.” The first set of questions were answered by my best friend, Emma.

Name: Emma DiPasquale

Where do you rest your head at night? Cleveland, Ohio.

Is that where you’re originally from? Nope. I was born and raised in Pittsford, a town right outside of Rochester, New York.

Best thing about the city you live? The best thing about Cleveland is that you’re always discovering new things to do. It’s a very underrated city – we have a lot going on. There’s an awesome food and music scene which is always fun to explore.

If you’re not originally from the city you currently reside, what is the best thing about your hometown? One of my favorite reggae bands, Giant Panda Guerilla Dub Squad, originated in Rochester.

What’s one thing that tourists do that you wish they didn’t? I wish they didn’t feel the need to do “touristy” things. Find your own spots to explore and enjoy. That’s what makes traveling fun.

Best places to eat? This is a tough one. Cleveland is known as a “foodie” city so we have awesome spots all over. Some of my favorites are Greenhouse Tavern on East 4th St. and Great Lakes Brewery on Market Ave.

Where all have you traveled? A few states here and there. I’ve lived in London. Over there I traveled to Scotland, Ireland, Italy, France, Switzerland, and The Netherlands. I just recently got back from West Virginia, which was absolutely beautiful.

What is your favorite place that you have traveled? Another tough one. I’d have to go with Switzerland.

List five places you want to travel to: Germany, South Africa, Australia, Colorado and The Pacific Northwest

Insert one of your favorite photos you’ve taken on your travels: Photo taken in Interlaken, Switzerland)

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Emma is an undergrad at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio. She is studying English and hopes to hike around in Alaska, similar to Christopher McCandless, whose real life adventures are documented in Emma’s favorite novel “Into the Wild.”