Alternative Edinburgh: What To Do In Scotland’s Capital City

As the northernmost capital city in the United Kingdom, Edinburgh sits a world away from the bright lights of London town, opening its doors instead upon a world of ancient tales and wild nights. The Scottish capital is so renowned for its ingrained culture that each year it hosts the world famous Edinburgh Festival, bringing together some of the most disparate groups of creatives. And yet, away from the festival buzz, Edinburgh is a city that has even more going for it, showing off how the Scottish really like to spend their time. A fascinating mix of wild and cultured, Edinburgh is a gem of the north; to truly understand the extent of its allure, you simply need to explore it for yourself.

If you really want to get to know the city, try visiting during the off season, when the reams of travelers attracted by the lights of its annual festival have long made their way home. As its true inhabitants reclaim their territory, the Scottish city really comes to life; it is in moments like these when you can really begin to scratch beneath its surface.

In terms of music, Edinburgh showcases an eclectic mix of groups and artists that would be welcome in any music lover’s collection. Venues like Sneaky Pete’s are renowned for keeping the city’s underground scene alive and well, presenting a diverse range of different acts on its stage. Don’t be worried about the welcome, either; Sneaky Pete’s is warm and friendly, and even if you’re an outsider here, you’ll be more than at home.

If cozier evenings are more your thing, however, you need to try hitting up the local jazz scene. When it comes to candlelit tables and smooth solos, local venue The Jazz Bar should be your port of call. The aptly named location is always hosting some kind of new act, surprising even the most weathered of music fans with its selection. All you need to do is turn up, order yourself a whiskey, and let the night play itself away.

Speaking of drinks, Edinburgh has more than a few of them that need to be tried. Local brews are a specialty, so make sure you source out a place that is pushing something produced within the surrounding region. If you’re a beer kind of person, try swinging by Salt Horse. A twelve-tap craft beer house, the bar is practically swimming in the stuff and is unlike any other place you might have tried. If you’re on the hunt for a stronger concoction, cocktail bar Bramble is always worth a shout. Up there with the world’s best, the bar is renowned for its own creations, made using some of the best local ingredients. Not sure what to try? Let the bar staff guide the way for you; they never seem to get it wrong.

Of course, all that drinking requires a little food to soak it all up. Luckily, Edinburgh has foodie spots by the multitudes. Timberyard takes a more industrial approach to the dining experience, serving up what is widely rumored to be some of Edinburgh’s most exciting dishes. The minimal, industrial space is always high up on the locals’ lists, so make sure you book a table to avoid disappointment. Street food is very much alive and well in Scotland’s capital, too, and is always worth a try. If you want to get your money’s worth, try making a beeline for the Ting Thai Caravan. Serving up Thai food like you’ve never seen it, the street food kitchen is fast paced and always popular.

Diversified and eclectic, Edinburgh is a city that begs to be explored from every angle and once you’ve truly made your way through the labyrinthine streets, you might never want to leave them.

Hannah Lamarque
Hannah is a freelance writer and copy editor living in Europe. She writes about travel, art, design and culture and loves discovering hidden places in the cities that she visits.