With a thriving food scene, there is no reason to go hungry when visiting Edinburgh. With restaurants to suit all tastes and pockets, hungry travellers need not survive only on traditional Scottish fare such as Haggis, salmon and Aberdeen Angus beef, despite being widely enjoyed. A broad range of international cuisine is readily available in Edinburgh, along with numerous modern cafes, bistros and gastropubs feeding the city's growing gourmand culture. Quality seafood is also a highlight, sourced locally and served deliciously fresh.
There are a number of Michelin-starred restaurants with famous chefs in Edinburgh; in fact, the city is second only to London for Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK. These renowned establishments include The Kitchin, 21212, Castle Terrace and Number One in Balmoral hotel.
When eating out in Edinburgh, the best local cuisine, including good old fish and chips, can be found in and around the Royal Mile or the historic port of Leith. For French, Italian and Indian cuisine, diners should try the area around the castle, Ocean Drive (also in Leith), George Street and Lothian Road. Those on a budget will find many familiar international fast food chains in the city. Edinburgh has many popular restaurants serving tasty vegetarian and vegan fare.
Most restaurants are open daily and reservations are recommended. A 10 percent tip is customarily given to the waiter if the service is good.
Shopping in Edinburgh provides something for everyone; from high-end boutiques and luxury brands to vintage treasure troves and unique speciality stores, it's easy to come away with a quality buy.
Princes Street, the main street of the New Town of Edinburgh, is by far the most well-known and popular strip to do a spot of shopping. Here most people manoeuvre their way through the bustling crowds to get to some of the major UK chain stores, as well as a few independent shops. The slightly calmer and more exclusive George Street runs parallel to Princes Street but is somewhat pricier. At the east end of the street, Princes Mall contains plenty of specialist shops and boutiques.
The Royal Mile, which forms the spine of the atmospheric Old Town, is a slightly more off-beat shopping destination with loads of quirky independent stores. Popular buys in Edinburgh include tartan scarves and kilts, whisky, Edinburgh Crystal and tweeds. The many shops along this stretch clearly cater primarily to tourists, with plenty of souvenirs on offer. The Stockbridge Sunday Market is also worth a visit to browse the stalls selling fresh local produce and handcrafted wares including jewellery, ceramics and soap.
Shops in Edinburgh are generally open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm, with late-night shopping on Thursday until roughly 8pm. Some larger stores open on Sundays. Many shops (especially those frequented by tourists) are part of the Tax-Free scheme and shoppers are advised to keep their receipts and fill out a claim form to have the 17.5 percent VAT refunded.
Edinburgh's nightlife comes alive during its many festivals, but outside of these energetic periods a more subdued, trendy bar, pub and nightclub scene can be enjoyed by visitors. There is no central nightlife district in Edinburgh and instead a few different neighbourhoods offer slightly different atmospheres after dark.
Despite the Old Town's name, the district has new and trendy areas such as Cowgate and Grassmarket. Both of these are popular bar-hopping destinations. Great live bands and folk music is best heard in both these areas and the surrounding small alleys and walkways. The Royal Mile is also home to a few atmospheric traditional pubs.
The seafront area of Leith has a contemporary feel, but like many areas in Edinburgh, the trendy bars and clubs compete with charming old pubs. After-work watering holes dot the Edinburgh streets of most neighbourhoods as they have done for centuries. These popular local haunts are a great place to begin an evening or end a day.
Edinburgh enjoys a relaxed nightlife atmosphere, which is complemented by lax rules and drinking hours. Most bars stay open until one to three in the morning, and much later for festivals. The city parties hard during the Edinburgh Festival and the New Year's celebrations of Hogmanay.