One of a Kind: Unique Experiences in Edinburgh

Edinburgh celebrates its 900th anniversary this year, and the city still has plenty of unique experiences to discover and surprises up its sleeve

Advertorial by The Skinny | 01 Mar 2024
  • Forever Edinburgh
Forever Edinburgh
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Unique food and drink

Edinburgh is one of the finest food and drink cities in the UK, with a mixture of history and modernity offering something for everyone. If you’re looking for a sense of mystery, head to one of the New Town’s hidden, speakeasy-style bars. A trip to Panda & Sons starts at what looks like a barbershop, while Bramble is a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it spot with brilliant bartenders. The Voodoo Rooms is a one-of-a-kind venue – the main bar is a gilded-age throwback with cosy booths and a truly incredible roof.

For a spot of entertainment, head to NQ64 on Lothian Road and try your hand at classic arcade games, or visit Flight Club at the St James Quarter for a revamped take on darts. The decor is equal parts Edwardian pub and eccentric fairground carousel, and the computerised dartboards help out with the maths. For an activity you won’t find anywhere else, head to the Sheep Heid Inn. It’s one of the oldest pubs in Scotland in a scenic location behind Arthur’s Seat, and it also features a skittles alley which dates back to the 1800s.

Edinburgh is also packed with unique restaurants where the sights are as much of a draw as the flavours. You’ll find a magical afternoon tea at the Colonnades at the Signet Library, an oasis of calm in the heart of the Old Town, while the Lookout by Gardener’s Cottage on Calton Hill offers panoramic views over the city. A seaward view can be found in the ninth floor bar at the new Port of Leith Distillery – enjoy amazing views across Granton and the Firth of Forth.

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Green Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s leafiest cities, with parks and green spaces making up nearly half of the city’s footprint. Edinburgh's green spaces can also kickstart your exploring – head to Stockbridge and hop onto the Water of Leith path. One route leads to the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the waterfront at Leith, the other towards National Galleries of Scotland: Modern on the way to Murrayfield and Edinburgh Zoo. A lighter walk can be found on the Union Canal, starting in Fountainbridge on a leafy, flat trail through the southwest of the city.

More committed adventurers should explore in the Pentland Hills, with reservoirs at Harlaw and Threipmuir a highlight. Out of the city, head southeast for Dalkeith Country Park with its vast adventure playground, excellent cafe and sprawling grounds. Go west and you’ll find a world-class contemporary art collection at the Jupiter Artland outdoor sculpture park. Both are easily reached by public transport.

But Edinburgh’s green tinge doesn’t just come from the great outdoors. Many of Edinburgh’s hotels have been lauded for their green credentials – Ten Hill Place in the Southside, The Balmoral on Princes Street, The Scott next to Holyrood Park and the Sheraton at Festival Square all hold Gold Green Tourism Awards. The city’s bars and restaurants are also leading a wave of local and sustainable food and drink. In Leith, Nauticus is a lovingly restored pub with excellent cocktails, where 90% of the products sold are Scottish or have a Scottish link. Over in Abbeyhill, the Gardener’s Cottage is an excellent restaurant which regularly features produce grown on-site.

The Festival City

No city embraces festivals quite like Edinburgh, with dozens of events on the calendar across 2024. Spring offers a range of unique festival experiences, including the return of Eat Out Edinburgh, a month-long festival featuring 40 venues in the Old and New Towns. Want to run off some of those meals? Check out the Edinburgh Marathon Festival from 25-26 May – the marathon and half-marathon are closed to entries, but there’s still time to sign up for a 5k or 10k in Holyrood Park.

Edinburgh Science Festival returns this month (30 Mar-14 Apr) with a bumper 35th anniversary programme for inquisitive minds of all ages. Another festival celebrating a big anniversary is Hidden Door, the grassroots pop-up art and culture festival; they host a pair of 10th birthday parties at a secret location on 10 and 11 May. And if you’re longing for the return of summer, the Beltane Fire Festival welcomes the sun with a wave of fire, dance and drumming. Join the crowds on Calton Hill on 30 Apr, and wave goodbye to winter with a bang.

Learn more about Edinburgh's festivals at

Accessible Edinburgh

While Edinburgh's historic and hilly nature can present issues, the city is committed to being as accessible as possible. Edinburgh's tram network is 100% step-free at all stations, while Lothian Buses have a range of provisions including wheelchair access and audio announcements on board as well as via the Transport for Edinburgh app. 

The city's attractions also take accessibility seriously. The National Museum of Scotland has lift access to all floors with accessible toilets throughout the building, and National Galleries Scotland offer regular audio described and British Sign Language (BSL) tours. BSL and audio described events are also available at this month's Edinburgh Science Festival along with a host of relaxed sessions. In August, the Edinburgh International Festival offer a wide range of accessible ways to enjoy the festival, from touch tours to captioned performances, while sensory backpacks are provided by the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with a host of products to help those who may become overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of the festival.

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