Edinburgh // Places and Things To Do

Thanks to the trimester schedule of English uni, Easter break is a 4 week break in late March -early April. This means 4 weeks for travel, sleep, and exam prep. And after the chaos that was spring term,  its a much needed break before exams and revision take over our lives.

I started break with a trip a few hours north to Edinburgh, Scotland. A family friend studying abroad in Spain was headed to the UK, and it was a good excuse to visit a city I have heard amazing things about. This trip is split in two posts, Places and Things To Do, and Food, because Food is a priority.

A “To-Do” List for Edinburgh is not hard to come across, and I think we hit the highlights of most. Not in any particular order, here are the highlights! 

Scotland National Gallery of Contemporary Art

The gallery is in the middle of a neighborhood, about a 30 minute walk from the Royal Mile. If you like contemporary art, its a go to for sure. There were a number of beautiful pieces by Picasso and Matisse in Modern One, and some eye catching Dali in Modern Two.

   
  

Scottish National Library

The library isn’t going to be on that many must do lists, and I can’t say it would really make mine. It depends on the exhibits they have going, how long you have in the city, and if you have the time to get a library card and check out the reading rooms. I know if I go back, that would be very worth it, but mostly because I love libraries. However, if you have a Library of Congress card, this could add nicely to your collection

The Royal Mile

The Royal Mile is on the top of every website’s list, and it sounds like a lot more than it is. Its essentially a long road with the castle on the top of the hill and a number of old buildings, churches (St. Giles Cathedral is here) and an incredible number of tourist shops. Its a good starting point for the city, but its nothing incredibly unique. You can grab some wonderfully classic Scotland photos along the way though.

  

Edinburgh Castle

On the top of the tallest hill you can find Edinburgh Castle (this is how you find all castles). Its actually incredibly pretty, though from the outside it looks like the fortress it was built to be. It is “the most besieged place in Great Britain and one of the most attacked in the world” being a sight of interest in a number of Scottish revolutionary movements. Its also £16 to tour, with no student discount, so we skipped the details and just looked at it. Also, Castle Rock gives you a great view of the city!

  
Calton Hill

Speaking of great views of the city, on the other side of the ‘Old Town’ all the way down Princes Street (don’t get that confused with the Royal Mile) is Calton Hill. Look for a small Athenian acropolis peaking above the skyline, and walk towards that. Built as the beginning of a memorial for those who died in the Napoleonic wars, and started the year after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo, the acropolis was never completed. However, the steps are quite fun to climb on, and the views from the hill top are gorgeous. There are two observatories on the hill as well, and I imagine at night it must be a beautiful place to stargaze.

  
Arthur’s Seat

If you’re looking for more great sights of the city, Arthur’s Seat is for you. Unless you have the joints of an 80 year old woman like me, who’s knees don’t like to hike after a few days of traipsing through the hilly city. Its not an incredibly long hike, but its not an easy one. Suggestions are Sunrise or Sunset, as its supposed to be stunning over the city.

National Gallery

If you’re in the mood for some more classic art, the National Gallery is a good start. Its at the bottom of the hill, not far from Waverly Station and Scott’s Monument. Its pretty, and the plaid worn by the staff are entertaining even if the paintings aren’t.

Free Ghost Tour

While there are a number of expensive ghost tours, including some that explore the underground tunnels, the free tour we took was actually incredible. More informative than scary, I would suggest doing it one of your first nights. Also, if you’re visiting in the spring, or honestly anytime, dress warm, the city is cold after dark!

Parliament

The Scottish parliament was dissolved in the early 18th century when Scotland ‘joined’ England and became Great Britain. (Whales is in there somewhere as well). However, in 1997 the UK parliament voted for devolution and the creation of a Scottish parliament (Whales and Northern Ireland also have their own governments) its essentially the UK version of states. Part of what makes visiting the parliament interesting to those who aren’t just huge government nerds is the building. While one would guess it would be housed in an incredibly old, important building,  the Scottish Parliament Building was only completed in 2004. Designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles, it is a stunning piece of modern art filled with meaning. To tour the building, you do have to go on an official tour that should be booked ahead of time. We got incredibly lucky on a Saturday and were able to take the places of some people who didn’t show up. The tour lasts about and hour, and is free. I would absolutely say it is worth it. One really unique thing about the tour is that you actually get to walk on the floor of the debating chamber, not something you can do at even the state legislature in the US.

A food post will be going up, because there were some stand out places on this trip! 

Alex 

 

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