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Edinburgh – City Guide

Edinburgh skyline

New student? Here are the places we think you shouldn’t miss in Edinburgh.



72-74 West Port, EH1 2LE

This place can only have been read into existence from the pages of a Pratchett novel. A whimsical labyrinth of a bookstore, full of classic collections and antiquarian treasures. Dimly lit, with friendly and helpful staff, this is a wonderland of bound knowledge and stories. Be prepared to lose yourself.

2 Market St, EH1 1DE

The collection includes works by prominent Scottish artists from the 17th century to the present day. It contains over 4,500 works ranging from civic portraiture to contemporary abstraction. The collection continues to grow, adding to a generous bequest left to the City in the 1960s, with a focus on acquiring contemporary work as well as filling historic gaps. You can catch the first major survey devoted to the work of Victoria Crowe at their 50 Years of Painting exhibition till 13th October.

19 Blair St, EH1 1QR

Popular haunt on Blair St, just off the Royal Mile. American diner-style food, classic bar drinks and coffees. It hasn’t changed much over the years, because it doesn’t have to. Everything is dependably dependable: from the burgers and hotdogs, to the huge range of all day (and late into the night) breakfasts, they’ve long found their formula and stuck to it. The vegan menu is a bit dinky but, hey, they’re making the effort. Extra points for avoiding tired old Linda McCartney sausages in the veggie breakfast. thecitycafe.co.uk

4 Grassmarket, EH1 2JU

Beer brewed on the premises serves three floors of bar and restaurant space. A scenic roof garden with spectacular view of Edinburgh castle, a buzzing restaurant with a view of the brewery and your pizza being freshly made in their searing hot clay oven. A lively bar serving up a massive range of craft beers and regular live music. coldtownhouse.co.uk

9 Advocate’s Cl, EH1 1ND

A must visit in Edinburgh and especially so if you are a whisky lover as the selection is huge. Just like the whisky selection, the outside terrace is massive. Don’t worry if you don’t like whisky, the cocktail selection here is on point too. Foodwise, its a mixture of sharing platters, burgers, steaks and more gourmet pub grub. devilsadvocateedinburgh.co.uk

1 Chambers St, EH1 1HR

Edinburgh’s longest standing jazz venue. This atmospheric basement bar, complete with polished wood floor, candlelit tables and comfy alcove seating, showcases live jazz 7 nights a week. It’s populated with folks from all walks of life: locals, tourists, musicians, students, parents, grandparents, and people just looking for a Good Ole Night Out. Open till 3am. thejazzbar.co.uk

45 Market St, Edinburgh, EH1 1DF

The Fruitmarket is a contemporary art gem right in the middle of the city. Unfortunately, the gallery is closed until 2020 for refurbishment and extension. They will however be moving their award winning bookshop round the corner to Waverley Mall and are organising talks, events and workshops at the bookshop and across the city. Best keep an eye on their social media for details. Top tip: check out their zine making project this autumn, it’s free for 16-25 year olds.

48 Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QB
An awesome indie store full of great handmade jewellery from Edinburgh and all over the world. Ranging from elegant to costume, cartoon to tribal; you name it, they have it. They also stock interesting and obscure t-shirts and prints, retro artwork, funky stationery, and a great selection of greeting cards.

19 Grassmarket, EH1 2HS

An Instagram phenomenon; the queue in summer
often spills out onto the pavement. Mary’s Milk Bar itself is modelled on a traditional 1940s milk bar, The Harbour Bar in Scarborough. There’s 1940s music, vintage furniture and the most amazing array of ice cream you’ll find. Flavours change all the time but can include salted caramel, liquorice and maybe even whisky and ginger. marysmilkbar.com

4A Forrest Rd, EH1 2QN

Traditional hearty food served surrounded by retro decor. Here you’ll find a selection of sausages and types of mash as well as stews and cottage pies. Don’t worry if you need just a burger that’s here too, it’s not all 1970s Britain! Save room for the treacle pudding or their old school Banana Split.

41 Lothian St, EH1 1HB

A popular hangout with food provided by Lucky Pig, which is indeed lucky for the cruelty conscious (and the animals) as all the food is vegetarian or vegan! There are 2 for 1 burger deals and more throughout the week. They’re on Deliveroo and provide Edinburgh’s first veggie/vegan munchy box for delivery. Drinks are slightly above the going rate but the interesting cocktails, in house record shop and free parties soften the blow considerably.

38 South Bridge, EH1 1LL

Much better than the more well-known high street bakery up the road. Prices are reasonable starting at £1.10, with over 30 different pies on offer including vegetarian and vegan options. Their Macaroni and Cheese pie is a crusty dream. thepiemaker.co.uk

73 Cowgate, EH1 1JW

This tiny 100 capacity sweatbox has a reputation that dwarfs the physical. They won UK Grassroots Music Venue of the Year 2019 on the back of their diverse booking policy and support for the broader local night time industry. Legendary is the word most commonly associated with nights here – best pick a night and find out for yourself. sneakypetes.co.uk

43-45 High St, EH1 1SR

A wee oasis of calm on the Royal Mile. This bustling arts centre focuses on the stories that made us who we are, through a seasonal programme of live storytelling, theatre, music, exhibitions, workshops, family events and festivals. They’ve always something new on the go so if storytelling is your thing (it’s kind of everybody’s thing, right?) nip back regularly to see what’s on. scottishstorytellingcentre.com

8 Forrest Rd, EH1 2QN

Just next to Mum’s Comfort Food, plenty of soup varieties and baked goods, sandwiches catering to most dietary requirements. Also look out for their mobile unit, an antique van named Dumbo, usually found around the Edinburgh University campus. Perhaps the best thing about here is that you’ll never get bored, even if you visit regularly, they tend to have 6 soup varieties in the shop and 4 from the van that they pull from a bank of over 100 recipes.

5 Cowgatehead, EH1 1JY

This bustling wee Grassmarket shop is the perfect place to pick up unusual gifts. They’ve ammonites, trilobites, fish and dinosaur fossils, all hand-picked by shop owner, Matt. Fancy a meteorite for your trinket shelf? They’ve got them too. Now and then they select high-quality stones and send them away to be set in silver. This allows them to provide something a little different to high street jewellers, perfect for an unusual gift or post-exam treat.


23-25 St Leonard’s St, EH8 9QN

It’s a beer and whisky bar with an eclectic jukebox. The portions here are massive and rightly legendary. Prime amongst all plates is the 5.9lbs portion of nachos, designed for 4 – 6 people. These come topped with gut busting heap of cheese, kidney beans, jalapenos, sour cream, guacamole and beef. They do cracking vegetarian and vegan versions too. Breakfast is served until 3pm and students get 10% off all food (20% during September). theauldhoose.co.uk

38 Home Street, EH3 9LZ

Edinburgh’s oldest cinema (it’s been there since 1949) sits just up the road from the Filmhouse.. If you’re looking for new independent films, the Cameo tries like a bear to screen all of them. It has an old school cinema style that speaks of 1950’s Hollywood. Furnished in red and dark wood, with a lovely little cafe bar and a nostalgic popcorn counter, it’s a place of magical atmosphere. Much like the Filmhouse, screen one is pretty large and comfortable, while screens two and three are more compact.

3-5A Sciennes, Edinburgh EH9 1NH

This dinky, family owned, plant based dessert shop, just across the road from Summerhall, specialises in fresh baked vegan doughnuts, artisan chocolates and crafted ice cream. They’re committed to moving things forward towards a plant-based future without compromising on taste. The team are constantly inventing new styles and flavours, so you’ll never need get stuck in a rut and spoil an old favourite for yourself. consideritchocolate.com

129 Lauriston Pl, EH3 9JN

This inspirational trove of art supplies is great for exploring and definitely the best of its kind in the city. The shop is packed with everything you need whether you’re seriously into creating or an occasional dabbler. The staff are super friendly, approachable and, most importantly, very knowledgeable. It’s a 2 minute walk from Edinburgh College of Art and they offer a decent student discount too.

Newbattle Terrace, EH10 4RT

If you’re long of leg or just fancy a bit of space between you and that couple eating their smuggled KFC, Edinburgh’s most lush cinema is a decent shout. It has loads of room between seats, plus recliners and tables. They’ll even spring you a free small tube of pringles in First Class evening shows; making the experience the absolute pinnacle of cinema decadence. They tend to focus on mainstream blockbusters and live showings of opera and ballet.

118 Buccleuch Street, EH8 9NQ and 15 W Register Street, EH2 2AA

A proper greasy spoon. Great value breakfast rolls and café meals for takeaway, delivery or sit in. Hangover cure in a nutshell! Fresh, cheap and fast. Simple as that!

Nicolson Street, EH8 9DW

Originally developed as a teaching museum for medical students, the collections grew after ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ were publicly sought via an ad in a local paper. Its focus is on the history of surgery and how surgical practice has developed over the years. It’s a bit on the grisly side; including bone and tissue specimens, along with medical artefacts and a pocket book made from Burke, of Burke & Hare infamy’s, skin. If you’re planning on visiting on a weekend their Blood and Guts tour is an interesting hour of macabre fun around the old town and includes your ticket to the museum.

22 Marchmont Cres, EH9 1HG

You’ll find a mixed crowd here of students, the after-work crowd and local regulars. A mixture of cocktails, wines, whiskies and ales. An excellent people-watching spot. Best to head here for a beer as the food can be a bit hit and miss. Ideal for a hide out when rain arrives at The Meadows.

31-33 Nicolson Square, EH8 9BX

If you want a good solid curry but without the fuss then Mosque Kitchen is where to go. They usually have eight curries available with good veggie and vegan options every day. Big portions and budget prices. The only minus here is the lack of eco-friendliness – disposable plates and cutlery spoil the experience a little! Best solution is to take your own.

22 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DH

Good deals for students on properly comforting pizzas and kebabs. Their falafel is also pretty decent and they’re open late for when the pubs spill out for sit in or take away and drop down your clothes. Sold unflashy dependable grub. palmyrapizza.co.uk


40 Bernard St, EH6 6PR

At over 200 years old, friendly and welcoming Carriers delivers a proper taste of old school Leith. It’s one of the last non-gentrified bars in the area and offers your classic beers and spirits, regular live music and a popular quiz. They do decent large nachos for a fiver and it’s dog-friendly to boot.

93 Broughton Street, EH1 3RZ

Two magical little stores full of beautiful gifts, local art and bespoke framing, cool prints, homeware, jewellery, and handbags. Great place for finding rare and obscure artists and ranges, and thankfully the local owners appreciate the importance of Moomin memorabilia. curiouserandcuriouser.com

72 N Fort St, EH6 4HL

This small and fiercely independent pub at the less hip end of Leith towards Newhaven has bags of character. They’ve a great range of local craft beers with Pilot being the mainstay. It’s dog- friendly too, with pups generally welcome to wander around as they please. They’ve no on-site food but they’ll be happy to order you an Origano pizza to munch with your drink. Regular music events make this an ideal place to grab a good pint and forget about the outside world. CAMRA City of Edinburgh Pub of the Year 2018 & 2019.

32 Crighton Pl, EH7 4NY

Their main business is takeaways, but there is some seating inside and out, so grab a seat if you can as it does get busy! The food is Sicilian and they have daily pasta specials, soup of the day, salads and antipasti platters. They also have a big selection of freshly made paninis, mainly for those eating on the go. But don’t leave without perusing their selection of Italian cheese, meat and drinks. gaiadeliedinburgh.co.uk

23 Elm Row, EH7 4AA

This bar is a bit of a landmark in Edinburgh having been open since 1898. It’s popular with the after- work crowd as well as wanderers, shoppers and, well, everyone else. The bar has themed food and drink nights, such as their famous Swedish crayfish parties. A sun trap of a terrace outside when the weather is good, with lots of places to snuggle inside when the weather isn’t so good. bodabar.com/joseph-pearces

37 Broughton St, EH1 3JU and 8 Brougham St, EH3 9JH

Real Foods are old hands at the ethically aware shopping game; they’ve been selling natural, organic wholefoods in the city for over 40 years. They’ve also a great range of household supplies and health and beauty products, much of which is plastic free, to help you avoid putting tiny bits of micro-plastic down your drain and into our oceans.

75 Belford Rd, EH4 3DR

SNGMA might seem a wee bit out the way but with work from David Hockney, Picasso, Andy Warhol and Tracey Emin, it’s well worth making the effort. There’s a free hourly shuttle bus from outside the National Gallery (they suggest you donate £1 to help with costs). If you miss the bus or are up for the exercise, it’s a 15-20 min walk from Princes Street. The gallery is made up of two exhibition spaces, one on either side of Belford Road, and a sculpture park. Both buildings date to the 19th century, while the monumental lawn was landscaped by the architect, Charles Jencks. Upcoming exhibitions include Beyond Realism: Dada and Surrealism and Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage.

10a-12a Broughton St, EH1 3RH

Mexican themed bar with an innovative menu, a wide range of beers but famed for their tequilas (22 varieties at the last count) and tequila-based cocktails. Service is quick and the food is pretty lively and fun. The cocktails are the thing. basement-bar-edinburgh.co.uk

16A Queen St, EH2 1JE

Take the steps down and look for the little golden plaque next to the door. Here is your entrance to the basement of cocktail nirvana. The drinks list is extensive and the cocktail menu is well worth exploring. They’ve some brilliantly creative drinks; their Whisky & Weet is a clarified milk punch with Maker’s Mark bourbon, Loch Lomond whisky, washed with dates, vanilla, and Weetabix. Price-wise, it’s maybe outside most regular student budgets, but worth a look if you’re pushing the boat out.

1 Queen St, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD

Designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland’s heroes and heroines, it opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery. Worth a visit to see the building itself; its elaborate arts and crafts decoration, its glittering friezes, murals and extensive sculptural adornments, all make for a memorable experience. Displays at the gallery include painting, photography, sculpture and film and explore different aspects of Scotland’s story through portraits of Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and Robert Burns, through to more recent pioneers in science, sports and the arts.

279 Leith Walk, EH6 8PD

Looking for an early morning feed, something to fill your stomach before a night out or something to stave off the impending hangover when you leave the pub or, er, club? Well if you’re in Leith then you’re in luck, cause Storries is open 24 hours for all your mega cheap bakery needs. They now do vegan pies and sausage rolls too!

7 Croall Pl, EH7 4LT

The little bistro could easily be missed, as it’s so unassuming from the exterior. This is classic restaurant cuisine executed beautifully in a cosy, family-run bistro. It’s bring-your-own-bottle, so although it might be a stretch on a student budget it’s maybe just about doable for the occasional splash out evening. They work with fresh seasonal ingredients, so the menu changes often, but expect to see dishes such as scallops, chicken livers, fish stew, pork belly and a roast on Sundays. facebook.com/TheWalnutEdinburgh



88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ

An absolute Scottish institution and hub of the longest continually-running Film Festival in the world, the Filmhouse is probably the best Independent cinema in Scotland. From new releases to classics, from cult to the cream of international cinema; their programme is a continually morphing beast that is sure to satiate anyone’s passion. Screen one is well-sized, with large comfortable seats while screens two and three are a lot smaller and homely. Student (See You Next) Tuesday allows members to see a film for £2.

53 Lothian Road, EH1 2DJ

For all our lovely international students, this is where you buy your Scottish gifts and souvenirs to send home or take home, or what have you. It can be difficult to find a reasonably priced Scottish gift store without the tat, and this is it. From Edinburgh-themed colouring books, to highland cow teddies, to whisky souvenirs, to tartan stationery, it is just oozing with Scottish pride. It’s not all Scottish themed, there’s plenty else going on too.

11 St Vincent St, EH3 6SW

The food at The Vinnie is of the bar variety – hot buffalo wings, burgers, ribs, that sort of thing; done well and with no pretension. A great selection of real ale is available and a warm friendly atmosphere awaits. Choose your seats wisely so you can play name the album from the vinyl sleeves on the wall.

2B Jamaica St EH3 6HH

Find your zen in this wee casual joint and fill up with Asian fusion noodles and small plates. It’s playful dining with an encouragement to share dishes with your friends. Craft beers and cocktails with a little Asian influence. Their stir fry veg with bean curd & steamed rice in chilli bean sauce is lovely.

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