Edinburgh: City Centre

Explore the centre of our great city with Ray Philp.

Feature by Ray Philp | 15 Sep 2009


Despite the city centre’s ongoing construction currently subduing Princes Street’s busy stream of plodding tourists, the spectacular view of Edinburgh Castle overlooking the lush green expanses of Princes Street Gardens is worth braving the jack-hammers for. Your quest for retail therapy, however, is better served by a turn to the adjacent George Street; be prepared to dig deep into your pockets if you want to come away with more than a pair of socks, though. A short walk from the east end of Princes Street will take you to the cobbled wynds of the Royal Mile, which traces a path from the Scottish Parliament right up to Edinburgh Castle itself, with a host of great traditional pubs and cosy eateries in between. Halfway up the Royal Mile, the bazaar of goods to be found in Cockburn Street are not to be missed, taking in indie record stores, tattoo parlours and kitschy bric-a-brac.


There’s a scene near the end of Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark that fits the city centre’s restaurant scene like a glove – if you look beyond the gaudy glitz and glamour of George Street, you’ll find some great eateries that, although spartan in appearance, refuse to compromise on quality. The Dogs (110 Hanover Street) is something of a shrine to the east end of London, with a robustly estuary flavoured menu that takes in jellied fish and liver casserole. A couple of doors down takes you to Henderson’s (94 Hanover Street), a basement vegetarian restaurant that is an established favourite for good reason, boasting an excellent selection of wines and locally sourced ingredients. Relative newcomer Urban Angel (121 Hanover Street & 1 Forth Street) has designs on rivalling Henderson’s; the clean, informal decor betrays its generous portions of organic produce, including breads, dips, vegetables and lager (!). Nearby tea boutique Eteaket (41A Frederick Street) hass a quaint blend of baroque zest, with gorgeous cakes and scones that complement an understated menu incorporating Scottish and Mediterranean flavours.


Edinburgh’s reinvigorated bar scene is no small thanks to a groundswell of inventive venues; Voodoo Rooms (19A West Register Street) is one such beast, providing an ornate black and gold setting to delights as eclectic as burlesque cabaret and live jazz. Bramble (16A Queen Street), another new kid on the block, has quickly gathered a highly enviable reputation as a top cocktail bar. The giant leather Chesterfield augments the impression that Bramble is a whisky den at heart, though this cosy bar has countless other strings to its bow. 99 Hanover Street's (99 Hanover Street) more opulent settings are equally effective, with a relaxed ‘living room’ vibe and student friendly prices thrown into the bargain. Cabaret Voltaire’s (36 Blair Street) cavernously intimate interior and up-for-it crowd accompany its status as a vanguard for the ‘Burgh’s club scene, and The Bongo Club (37 Holyrood Road), a crimson walled bohemia that hosts a range of nights, including our very own ‘Skinny Dip’, lays claim to a similar reputation.