Monday, 18 February 2019

A LOCAL'S GUIDE
TO EDINBURGH

Gifted post: Spending money was gifted by Hotels.com but all views are my own.  

Edinburgh Scratched map - Fruitmarket Gallery shop
I'm pretty lucky to live in Edinburgh, a city that is frequently lauded for being such an all-rounder of culture, history and good times (in 2018 Auld Reekie was voted the best city to visit in the UK for the fifth time running AND named the best city in the world to live in! Go Edinburgh). It's a city famous for its festivals, and there's an abundance of interesting spaces, places, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and hotels in Edinburgh to choose from. Phew!

But like any local, I can get a bit lazy about actually making an effort to get out and explore my city! So it was much appreciated to get a prompt challenging me to go on a day out and find Edinburgh's best spots and hidden gems. 

Buff Nails | Bada Budan
I started off my day by heading to the Arches at New Waverley - a super cute street of renovated Victorian arches, that's tucked away just between Waverley Railway Station and the Royal Mile (a perfect antidote to the tartan shops that crowd the Old Town). It's packed with independent businesses and hipster delights to eat, drink and shop.

I headed to my favourite nail salon, the Scandi-inspired Buff Nails for a shellac manicure, opting for a grey/neon yellow fade which felt fairly appropriate for the is-it-winter/is-it-spring weather we've got going on. I couldn't recommend Buff more - they do classic manicures alongside cool, custom nail art, and it's such a nice way to treat yourself!

After Buff, I wandered along to independent doughnut and coffee shop, Bada Budan. They offer an ace looking brunch menu, but I couldn't resist going for a salted caramel chocolate doughnut (playing tourist is a good excuse to eat doughnuts for lunch, right?). It's a really cute little coffee shop - I cosied in with my book for a while, but they also have a nice outdoor spot, perfect for sunnier days.

Other ideas to treat yourself: the Lush SpaOne Spa (they have a rooftop pool!)

Creative Connections - Fruitmarket Gallery
Next up, it was time for some culture! I have been dying to go see the National Museum of Scotland's new Egyptian exhibit, but I probably don't need to tell you to go there - the Museum is the most visited attraction in Scotland (but it is amazing, and you should absolutely go).

Instead I popped into Edinburgh's Fruitmarket Gallery - a contemporary art gallery based right next to the train station, to look at their current exhibition, Creative Connections, a programme showcasing the work of groups working with diverse communities from across the city. I'm a sucker for bold, bright installations, so loved this piece by Scottish artist Juliana Capes.

The Fruitmarket Gallery also houses a cute cafe and an excellent book and gift shop!

Calton Hill
It's fair to say Edinburgh doesn't always have the greatest weather, but I was lucky today as the sun was shining as I made my way up Calton Hill - the home of the Nelson Monument, the City Observatory, Edinburgh's half-finished acropolis (aka Edinburgh's disgrace!) and the very best views in the city.

I was headed that way to check out the newly-opened Collective Gallery (who moved to their new home on Calton Hill at the end of last year), but was completely distracted by the view. I've lived in this city for years, and even though I've been up here many times, I realised I've actually never walked up on a clear day (instead it's been a destination for firework-watching or Beltane-partying - all fun, but not quite the same!). It's only a 10 minute walk from Princes St, and it's just incredible. You can see Edinburgh's Old and New Towns, the Castle, Arthur's Seat, the Palace at Holyroodhouse, down to Leith and over the Forth to Fife. If you're visiting Edinburgh, it's worth doing this on day one to take in the whole city and get your bearings.

The Gallery was also good though! They have restored the City Observatory, creating a new space for people to engage and think about contemporary art. They also have an amazing gift shop (I'm such a sucker for nice art gifts). 

Want more suggestions? Edinburgh's packed with amazing cultural spots. Watch arthouse films at Filmhouse Cinema, explore the beautiful National Gallery of Modern Art and its amazing grounds, venture out to Jupiter Artland, or discover Edinburgh's creepy medical history at Surgeon's Hall

Aurora
One of Edinburgh's best neighbourhoods is Leith, a historic port district that houses creatives and colourful characters, ace bars and cafes and quirky shops. In recent years, loads of amazing restaurants have popped up, as Leith develops a reputation for being home to some of the best restaurants in the city. It also houses me, so yeah, you could say I'm biased, but it is a brilliant place to live and I love it so.

Nestled on the otherwise-uninspiring Great Junction Street, is Aurora, a tiny restaurant that's been getting rave reviews on trip advisor. Aurora aims to create delicious and genuine food with great respect for the ingredients they use, using locally sourced, seasonal and unprocessed produce.

I'd guessed this was going to be good, but holy moly. The menu is made up of smallish-plates so you can try many things - we had the braised pork cheeks with langoustine bisque and scampi, wild mushrooms with smoked almonds and confit yolk (this was so good, take me back), pan fried sea trout with lobster cappelletti, pigeon breast with pear, and honey pannacotta to finish. It was a delight and all very reasonably priced (between £8-12 a dish), given how beautifully prepared and delicious it all was! 

If you're travelling to Aurora, make sure you make a booking in advance. It'll take about 10 minutes to travel there in a taxi from the city centre.

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