We spent a lot of time in Edinburgh taking part in semi-organized activities but we also spent a lot of time venturing around the city, taking in the beautiful architecture and unique atmosphere. Some of my favorite times in the city were simply wandering through interesting nooks and visiting quaint shops.
In my previously posted itinerary, we were very ambitious about what we were going to do in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, we simply didn't have time to visit every little place in the city that I wanted to go to - it is much larger than I had anticipated! - but what we did see was perfect.
I was smiling so hard when we strolled unexpectedly upon Victoria Street. Located in the heart of the old town and not far from the Royal Mile, Victoria Street is home to rows of colorful buildings winding down a curved, cobblestone street. There are many quirky stores, coffee shops, restaurants, & bars located on the street and also connects to the quirky Grassmarket area.
What made me so crazy about Victoria Street, besides its adorable appearance, is its attachment to JK Rowling and the Harry Potter series. According to many sources, Victoria Street is what Rowling based Diagon Alley upon, and when I saw it, it made sense. The winding streets, the tall buildings, the colorful shops - it all screamed Diagon Alley. There was even a little joke shop that reminded me so much of Fred and George's Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes (you can see a bit of it in the second photo below, behind Michael). Unfortunately, this street is super popular with tourists because of its Potter connection, so I wasn't able to get many great photographs - I almost got hit by a car taking the one above! The good news is that this is a place I will never forget in my mind's eye, so the photographs I have are only a bonus. :)
Located opposite the Edinburgh Castle at the end of the Royal Mile, and situated below Arthur's Seat, Holyrood Palace is a gorgeous structure meant for royalty. The home for the British monarchy when they visit Edinburgh, Holyrood is also the convening place for the Scottish Parliament. In other words, lots of interesting stuff goes on here.
We were planning to visit the palace for a tour during our visit to the city, but didn't have enough time as it closed before we made it down the Royal Mile. We still got several great photos of the structures from the outside before hiking Arthur's Seat, though.
The Royal Mile
I heard mixed reviews about the Royal Mile before visiting myself, some saying they loved the area and some advising to steer clear of the most touristy region of Edinburgh completely. I now understand where the mixed reviews come from - the area is indeed touristy as all get out with gift shops and little restaurants, but it's also super lively & fun.
It probably had something to do with the fact that we were experiencing the Royal Mile during the renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival that we loved the Royal Mile so much, but I do have to say that many stores in the area were geared towards tourists and not so much locals. But during the Fringe, the area was alive and the life of the party so we spent a lot of time venturing up & down the street, viewing different performers and stopping in at shops to get an ice cream or coffee.
The Grassmarket is an area in the Old Town of Edinburgh that is known as a less-touristy version of the Royal Mile. It's at the bottom of the hill if you walk down Victoria Street (kill two birds with one stone!), and that's exactly how we found it. We stumbled upon Victoria Street and subsequently found the Grassmarket.
This area is known for its interesting & unique stores, vendors, and performers. I love the uniqueness of the Grassmarket and the openness of its square where several performers played folk music and locals listened on benches. We sat for a while and enjoyed the music, the scenery, some coffee, and the Grassmarket as a whole before climbing back up to the Royal Mile.
Calton Hill was the very first place we wandered to during our stint in Edinburgh. We climbed to the top and started our trip with amazing views of the city skyline. This enabled us to find some interesting points of interest that we had seen during our research, but also to spend some time away from the crowds that awaited us on the Royal Mile. Calton Hill is a relaxing area of town, and necessary for any visit to Edinburgh. I wish we had spent more time here, but alas, we didn't have a ton of time and had to move on. The time we did spend here, though, gave me some of my favorite photographs I took in the city, like the ones directly above and directly below.
What we learned...
Edinburgh is a big city and we didn't get to visit everything that we wish we could have. If I were to visit Edinburgh again, I would stay for at least four days; this time we had only two. Because we had limited time, and spent more time hiking Arthur's Seat and touring Edinburgh Castle than we had planned, we didn't get to visit Elephant House Coffee Shop, Circus Lane, or Dean Village. We did, however, get to see things we hadn't planned on doing like attending the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo and listening to music in the Grassmarket.
Travel isn't always going to go exactly as planned, but that's what makes it so fun and exciting! We knew we wouldn't see everything we wanted in such a short time but greatly enjoyed our visit, nonetheless. This is what I want other travelers to understand, too; although you may not see everything, spontaneity is more fun and less stressful than a super strict schedule. We took our time eating brunch every day, were able to wander leisurely through some really awesome areas, ate dinner when we ran across a place that looked good, took time to take artsy photos, and had a near perfect trip even though we deterred from our itinerary. Spontaneity for the win!
Hi, I'm Madeline
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