Edinburgh is known for its annual summer Fringe festival, but a visit any time of the year offers a weekend full of wacky activities. From climbing a volcano to visiting the fanciest Wetherspoons you’ll ever see, Edinburgh is a great choice for a few days away. Just a heads up – get equipped with a hat, gloves and lots of layers!
Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in the UK. Streets lined with colourful, painted houses and shops full of tartans lead up to the ancient castle that sits atop the Royal Mile. Being quite small for a capital city, it is possible to walk almost everywhere in Edinburgh, meaning you can save a lot of money from not using taxis or public transport in the daytime. We managed to get trains from Manchester for under £30 each – look out for train routes that change at Preston and run at odd times of the day (such as early morning or after 8pm) as these tend to be cheaper.
We started our first day in Edinburgh by climbing Arthur’s Seat – the dormant volcano that towers above the university accommodation. There is a clearly marked path (which we didn’t discover until after scrambling up the rock face and reaching the top) and in total the climb to the top and back down can be done in less than two hours. The wind at the top is overwhelmingly strong, but the view is definitely worth it and something I highly recommend. Some students climb up on Bonfire Night to catch great views of fireworks from the top, although if you are planning to climb when it is getting dark, make sure you don’t go alone and that someone knows where you are.
When in Edinburgh, make sure to check out the many coffee shops dotted around the university campus area. We loved Black Medicine and Kilimanjaro Coffee, both of which had incredible coffee and vegan cakes on offer. Edinburgh also has its own dog café, Chihuahua Cafe, and it sounds amazing. We wandered up Nicholson street to the city centre which has lots of charity and independent shops to explore.
The National Museum of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery are both free to visit. You can easily spend a couple of hours in the museum which has some great collections ranging from ancient China to outer space and the building in itself is worth a visit as the central hallway is beautiful. After walking up the Royal Mile towards the castle we visited Camera Obscura, Edinburgh’s museum of illusions. Tickets are quite pricey at £14.50, but there is an impressive view from the top. The illusions museum itself is fun, especially for getting some weird photos of you and your friends distorted by optical illusions.
We spent an afternoon in a board game café, ‘Noughts & Coffees’, where for £3.50 you can choose from a large collection of games. This is a great way to spend a few hours without spending too much money – plus the hot chocolate is really good. Our favourite food place was Ting Thai Caravan, which is a street food style restaurant located on Teviot Street. Delicious curries and noodles are served in cardboard boxes at affordable prices – definitely try out the bao buns if you get the chance.
In the evenings we explored Edinburgh’s eclectic mix of bars and music venues. As there is an alcohol tax in Scotland which makes drinks more expensive, knowing where to find a good student deal is a big help. Brass Monkey offers £3 cocktails with a student card and has a nice, laid back atmosphere with bed-like sofas rather than just chairs and tables. Of course, a trip to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without experiencing the fancy Spoons on George Street, which is aesthetic AND cheap! For a good bar, visit the Three Sisters in Cowgate, or if sticky floors and cheesy music is your thing, try the underground club ‘Hive’. Just make sure to look out for your friends and their drinks, as it gets very crowded.
As it’s a capital city, Edinburgh can be expensive but a weekend away can definitely be done on a student budget, you just need to know where to look!