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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A Weekend in St. James, MO

As much as I love the good ol’ STL, it’s nice to pack up a few things and get away for the weekend. Whether you’re wanting to drive to another city for a different kind of nightlife or escape to the countryside for stargazing and quiet, there are many places to travel for a great weekend outside the ‘Lou. This month I bring you the quiet, small town of St. James, Missouri.

Where To Stay

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The Painted Lady
Located right off the highway, The Painted Lady is a cute and unique bed and breakfast that accommodates all guests. The house is beautifully decorated with interesting antiques, comfortable beds and deep Jacuzzi tubs (with incredibly strong jets!). Innkeepers Sandy and Wanda Zinn keep the five rooms (Melanie, Little Tara, Scarlett, Prissy and the Guest House) immaculate and you might never want to leave.

Greenstay Hotels and Suites
For those of you who want an easy check-in and a quiet night, Greenstay Hotels is the place for you. Not only is the St. James Winery located right across the road, but it’s conveniently located off the highway and close to all major restaurants. This is the perfect stop for that weekend getaway.

Where To Eat

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Just a Taste
Recently opened and located right in the heart of town, Just a Taste is the wine and coffee bar of our dreams. The building, originally built in 1907 in the spirit of the St. Louis World’s Fair, accommodates the menu’s range of wine, whiskey, beer and cocktails. The owners, Eric Taylor and Casey Stuck, merged their two talents and passions–Taylor’s love for wine and Stuck’s passion for beer–into one fantastic location. Even though they don’t identify as a wine bar, coffee shop or pub, we can confirm their wine, espresso and beer on tap are pretty excellent.

Sybill’s
Friendly is an understatement when it comes to describing the staff at Sybill’s Restaurant and Gift Shop. Their fresh, flavorful menu–we recommend the Caprese– and large array of wine make this restaurant an oasis in this small town. One of the best parts about Sybill’s? The restaurant is committed to the environment and is a community leader in waste diversion and recycling efforts.

Country Bob’s
You can’t miss Country Bob’s Diner when you pass through St. James. The food is some of the best Southern comfort food you can get your hands on. Get up early for their Saturday and Sunday Breakfast Buffet to try the biscuits, gravy, bacon and pancakes. You won’t regret it.

What To Do

St. James Winery
With more than 160 acres of vineyard growing more than a dozen types of grapes, award-winning St. James Winery is a great place to get away to for the weekend. Start early and sample a wide selection of wines, ranging from very sweet to extremely dry. Our favorite thing at the moment is the Cranberry Sweet Wine–perfect for those family gatherings around the holidays.

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Public House Brewing Company
This recently opened brewing company has already had a successful run in Rolla and has brought good brews to St. James. Situated next to the winery, this is the perfect spot to grab dinner after spending the day at the winery. And all you have to do is walk on over–no driving needed! Head on over on a Saturday for a night of local (and not-so-local) artists in their taproom and try the award-winning Rod’s Cream Ale. Cheers!

Vacuum Cleaner Museum
Definitely an odd stop along the way, but still very interesting. If you’re not intrigued by their billboard on the side of the highway, you’ll be intrigued by their collection. There are more than 600 vacuum cleaners (all in working condition) including novelty cleaners such as the Hoover Constellation–a vacuum that is built to float like a hovercraft. No, really.

Meramec Caverns
One of our favorite places for a weekend getaway is Meramec Caverns. Whether your thing is camping and canoeing or delving into the depths of an old cave, Meramec is sure to have something for you. Feeling daring? We recommend taking an adventure along the tree tops on a zip line or embarking on a nightly lantern tour of the caverns.

Originally on my weekend guide on ALIVEMag.com. Check them out.