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 Louisville, KY

As much as I love 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 Louisville, Kentucky.

Where To Stay

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21c Museum Hotel
This gorgeous and modern hotel is high on the list of places to stay in Louisville, KY. The award-winning hotel is smack dab in the center of everything you’d want to see and do in the city. Walking distance from the Muhammad Ali Center and Louisville Slugger Museum–yes, these are places you’ll want to see–and a delicious breakfast spread that will make you question eating outside the hotel. And if you feel like missing local art museums, explore the hotel because it’s an art museum! The pieces displayed in both rooms and around the hotel lobby are drool-worthy.

The Brown Hotel
Not the best name, but you’ll feel like royalty as soon as you step into this hotel. The lobby alone is enough to have you awestruck with their dramatic archways and chandeliers. The Brown Hotel is right in the heart of downtown and less than a mile away from the KFC Yum Center–you read that right, the Yum Center.

Where To Eat

Wild Eggs
There is a reason this restaurant has been named “Best Breakfast” spot by Louisville Magazine, they have the best breakfast and be prepared to wait for it as there is always a line out the door. Need some recommendations? Try the Breakfast Nachos, the Kelsey “KY” Brown or the Sweet Home Apple Bourbon pancakes. Actually, try them all. You can’t possibly go wrong.

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Havana Rumba
If you love Cuban food, Havana Rumba is calling your name. Even if you don’t like Cuban food, this place is still calling your name. Try one of the three locations in downtown Louisville and get your stomach prepared for all the delicious food. Whether you want to stop in for lunch or dinner, there will be a slight wait as Havana Rumba is always busy. Vegetarian? They have many options for you, including my personal favorite Coca Vegetariana–Spanish style flat bread with caramelized onions, peppers, tomatoes, Monterrey Jack and goat cheese. Can you say, “yum?” YUM.

Toast On Market
The atmosphere plus the food make Toast on Market the perfect place for you to stop by for breakfast or lunch. Open only until 2pm, the sandwiches are spectacular as is their grilled cheese–I’m still dreaming of the Garlic Cheddar Grilled Cheese. Stop in for a quick bite to eat before roaming around the rest of Louisville.

What To Do

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Copper & Kings American Brandy Distillery
Sample smooth and warm Brandy that will turn a Brandy enthusiast into an obsessive and a Brandy hater into a lover. Discover the architecture and the philosophy of why the distillery and the grounds were built the way they were. Travel through their stills, rickets, event spaces, and my favorite part, the rooftop.

Old Louisville
Take a walk along Old Louisville where a unique collection of houses and streets built in the 1800’s that will make you stop and wonder, “who in the world lives in these beauties?” Wander around Central Park which was once the sight of a world’s fair when Thomas Edison introduced the electric light as the main exhibit. I recommend taking the Haunted Ghost Tour of Old Louisville. It’s one of the best ways to experience the city.

This post was originally published on my weekend guide on ALIVEMag.com. Check them out.