A local’s guide to alternative Edinburgh: fashionable, foodie, fun and free things to do in Scotland’s capital city

A local’s guide to alternative Edinburgh: fashionable, foodie, fun and free things to do in Scotland’s capital city

It’s no secret I love the city of Edinburgh. Scotland’s capital city will always be dear to my heart, and it’s a firm favourite with tourists too. There is so much to see, do (and eat!), therefore I’m not surprised nearly 4 million visitors flock to Edinburgh each year. And with hotels in Edinburgh for all budgets, this is a city ready to welcome everyone.

OK, so I take it you’re convinced to come to my home city by now? Great! Now let me share my local’s tips for the best places to visit that you won’t find in any other guide. My suggestions have been made with other stylish twenty-somethings in mind, so if that’s you then read on!

Start the day with a healthy breakfast or brunch

Blogger Twenty-Something City brunch at Checkpoint Edinburgh

Brunch at Checkpoint, Edinburgh

You’ll have a long day of exploring ahead of you, so you’ll need a good feed before you start. Edinburgh has an array of healthy brunch spots that are perfectly located for city centre sightseeing. You’ll find eggs hundreds of ways, the perfect avocado toast, and veggie and vegan full cooked breakfasts galore.

Here’s some of my top suggestions:

Hula Juice Bar – delicious smoothie bowls and other colourful goodies in the heart of Edinburgh’s bustling Grassmarket.

Urban Angel – Close to fashionable George St, Urban Angel provides some seriously Instagram-worthy avocado toast and French toast.

Checkpoint – A quiet, cool and affordable brunch spot with bucks fizz close to the National Museum of Scotland.

Bloggeer Twenty-Something City poached eggs brunch at Checkpoint Edinburgh

Winter squash, cavolo nero and poached eggs at Checkpont.

Loudons – A local’s favourite, located in the Fountainbridge area which is close to Princes Street. Some of the best eggs Benedict and gluten free/ vegan cake options in the city!

The Pantry – This family-friendly option is located close to the galleries and luxury, independent shops of Stockbridge. A must-visit if you’re in the area.

Montpeliers – Montpeliers is an Edinburgh institution, and is located in the quiet and sophisticated neighbourhood of Bruntsfield. Plus it offers a ‘liquid brunch’, where certain cocktails are £5 when bought with a main. Who doesn’t love cocktails in the morning?!


Check out the independent gift shops and fashion boutiques in the Grassmarket

Independent fashion jewellery and gift shops Edinburgh Grassmarket

L-R clockwise: Vintage and indie brand boutique Godiva; Yoshi bookworm bags at Swish; The Boy Wizard Harry Potter gift shop; unique jewellery from Hannah Zakari.

Edinburgh’s Grassmarket is one of the city’s most historic areas, connecting The Royal Mile and Cowgate, and stretching from West Port to Candlemaker Row. The area is known for its old pubs and stunning view of the castle, but the Grassmarket also offers some of the best independent shops you’ll find anywhere, and serves as the perfect alternative to the main shopping district incorporating Princes Street and George Street.

The area is a vintage fashion lover’s dream! There’s Carnivale, Herman Brown, and Godiva at the West Port end, and the famous Armstrongs Vintage flagship store in the heart of the Grassmarket. You’ll also find Armchair Books, Peter Bell and Edinburgh Books here, which offer second-hand and rare literary finds.

Victora Street Edinburgh independent shops

Victoria Street in the Grassmarket is a hub for unique shops.

The colourful uphill Victoria Street was the inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter, and it is definitely worth a visit. There’s Walker Slater, which offers luxury tweed goods and high-quality tailoring; the delightfully scented Isle of Skye Candle Company; independent fashion boutique Swish, perfect for ethically-conscious fashionistas; movie replica sword shop (yep, you read that right) The Knights Vault; and Harry Potter souvenir stockist, The Boy Wizard.

Buried Diamond purple eye necklace at Hannah Zakari Edinburgh

A necklace by Buried Diamond available at Hannah Zakari.

Some of the area’s best shops are the most secret. Head up Candlemaker Row for the brilliant Hannah Zakari, which stocks quirky and affordable jewellery and other accessories from independent designers. This is a must-visit for any fashionista visiting Edinburgh (and the staff are lovely too)!


Enjoy global street food (without being outside)

Lucky Pig Paradise Palms Edinburgh vegan street food

Paradise Palms serves delicious veggie and vegan soul food-inspired dishes and amazing cocktails, such as its signature Buckfast daiquiri.

One of the best parts about visiting anywhere must surely be exploring its street food offerings. But in Scotland? Well… it’s kinda cold most of the year. Thankfully the city’s foodies have found a solution, and you’ll find lots of street food and market-inspired places to eat with the luxury of four walls and heating.

If you are in the vicinity of Princes Street or George Street, head to the Pakora Bar. This is a delicious and really affordable choice for veggies and meat eaters alike. The haggis pakora is a must if you are visiting the city, and the staff are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. If Indian streetfood is your bag then Tuk Tuk in Tollcross is also a great choice (and still within walking distance of Princes Street and the West End).

Paradise Palms Edinburgh vegan vegetarian food

Paradise Palms is as photogenic as its veggie food is delicious.

If you are exploring the Edinburgh University area or the National Museum of Scotland then the incredibly trendy Paradise Palms is worth a visit. The Lucky Pig food menu is entirely vegetarian and vegan, and is inspired by American soul food. The ‘wee plates’ section includes pick n’ mix dishes such as chipotle mac n’ cheese, buffalo cauliflower, and jerk jackfruit fries. Even herbivores need to enjoy comfort food sometimes! Also worth visiting in the area is Civerinos Slice, serving some of the best pizza you’ll find in Edinburgh sold by the slice.


Find your fashion moment at the National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh fashion exhibition

L-R: dress by Edinburgh designer Holly Fulton; exploring the interactive exhibits in the style gallery.

Edinburgh is blessed with several wonderful museums and art galleries, most of which are free to visit. My ultimate favourite is the National Museum of Scotland. As well as its stunning atrium, several floors to explore and brilliant interactive exhibits, the museum features a Fashion and Style gallery. The exhibition showcases the evolution of garment creation, as well as clothes from some of Scotland’s most famous designers, and items that bring centuries of style to life.

National Museum of Scotland Edinburgh fashion exhibition

I could happily stare at pretty clothes for hours!

Edinburgh’s museums are great to spend hours in or for a quick visit as there is always something new to see. Also worth checking out are the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which sprawls across two huge buildings in the picturesque West End, The Scottish National Gallery in the heart of Princes Street, and the architecturally striking Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street. A £1 shuttle bus runs between the three galleries if you really want to make a day of it.


Have a laugh at some of the world’s leading comedy clubs

Inside The Stand Edinburgh

The Stand is Edinburgh’s most famous comedy club.

Edinburgh is arguably best known for the mammoth arts festival The Fringe, which runs throughout August and features comedians and other performers from around the world. But us Scots don’t just enjoy a laugh during the summer: you’ll find the capital’s comedy clubs open all year round.

The most famous is The Stand, located on Queen Street. Here Scotland’s up-and-coming and most famous comedians alike showcase their material in shows running seven days a week. You’ll even find a free improv show running every Sunday afternoon, which is the perfect place to laugh off your hangover.

Also popular with both visitors and locals is Monkey Barrel Comedy Club, located near the tourist hotspot of The Royal Mile. From new acts showcasing on a Wednesday, to the Big Shows on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, this is a bustling venue worth checking out. The Couples’ VIP package is particularly enticing, which includes reserved seats, a bottle of prosecco, and canapes.

Blogger Twenty-Something City Paradise Palms Edinburgh

And there you have it! Whether you are looking to spend a busy 24 hours or take your time to explore this marvellous city, I hope you find these suggestions of what to do in Edinburgh useful.

What are your absolute must-visits in the capital? I’d love for you to share them with me so I can add them to my list!



This is a sponsored post with Hotels.com, however all views are my own.