Tourist-Free Spots in Edinburgh

It's almost August in Edinburgh and you know what that means... 25 days of celebration (and madness) is about to commence. People from all over the world come to Edinburgh to experience the Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo, a month-long festival of performance, music, comedy, food, drinks, and so much more.

For those of us who would like to experience the quiet bits of Edinburgh, here is a list of places away from the crowds.


Blackford hill

I'm such a sucker for this hill. It's easy to climb and gives you the most beautiful view of the city. I know everyone's all about Arthur's Seat but, not only will it be swarmed during August, it leaves out the best view: Arthur's Seat itself! 

Blackford Hill has a beautiful lake, a playground for children, and many trails to take you around the hill or to the very top. It's in Morningside, south of the city centre and after your walk, you can enjoy the cute restaurants and shops in Morningside.

 
 
 

Blackford Hill, 104 Cluny Gardens

Best bus routes there: 5, 11, 15, 16, 23 (to Morningside + 5 min walk) 38, 41 (right to Blackford Hill). 

 

Dominion Cinema

This cinema is tucked away in Morningside on Newbattle Terrace, an area most tourists wouldn't go to if they can see a movie closer to the city centre. But what they don't know is that the Dominion has leather couches, ottomans, free Pringles, and serves alcohol. The ticket prices are not extortionate and, I mean, you're literally lounging on a leather couch!

 
 
 

Dominion Cinema, 18 Newbattle Terrace

Best bus routes there: 5, 11, 15, 16, 23

 

union canal

Tourists won't know about the Union Canal that starts off in Fountainbridge behind the Swedish restaurant Akva and travels west. It's a beautiful path for walking and cycling, allowing you to see parts of Edinburgh you wouldn't normally see. If you want to stray from the Canal for a drink or a bite to eat, you can't get lost as long as you follow the signs back to the Canal. It's gorgeous to walk by day and by night. I just don't recommend walking the Canal in the dark by yourself. Luckily sunset isn't until 10 pm in August. 

You can also ride on the Canal by paddling or renting a boat, perfect for those unseemly warm August days when you're in need of a cool breeze. As you can see, it's not always sunny in Edinburgh. I just took these pictures in mid-July. 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Start of the Canal, Akva, 129 Fountainbridge

Best bus routes there: 1, 34, 35, or any that travel on Lothian Road (get off at Fountainbridge)

 

the roof terrace, national museum of scotland

After living in Scotland for a year, I only just discovered this spot. My boyfriend and I went to check it out and, although it's not a complete secret, it's secret enough that the majority of residents don't know about it. This terrace gives you a 360˚ view of Edinburgh, covered in gorgeous flora from different parts of the world. 

When you get into the museum (free-entry) go to the Scotland section which is the entire right side of the museum. In the back corner of any of the floors you'll find signs to an elevator to the 7th Floor. This is a separate elevator. Alternatively, you can take stairs on the 5th Floor. 

 
 

If you're feeling fancy, you can book a table at the award-winning restaurant Tower Restaurant. Owned by Scotland’s best-known restaurateur, James Thomson, this restaurant holds the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence. (I'll have to bring my wine-connoisseur American friends here when they visit.)

 

National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, 7th Floor

Best bus routes there: 2, 23, 27, 35, 41, 42, 45, 47, 67  

 

leith

Leith is a beautiful waterfront area of Edinburgh with restaurants, lively pubs, and shopping. It's Scotland's central port for exporting goods to the rest of the world. The further you walk down Leith Walk from Princes Street, the more you'll feel like you're no longer in Edinburgh but in a tight-knit community all of its own. Leith only became part of Edinburgh in 1920 and those who live in Leith are very proud of their home.  

You can check out the Ocean Terminal Shopping Center and see a movie at the cinema. Or explore the Queen Elizabeth's Royal Yacht Britannia docked in the Port of Leith. The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is nearby, free admission. You can also take the Water of Leith Walkway, a terrain path that leads along the canal for 12 miles, all the way to Balerno. 

Stroll over to Commercial Street for the Leith Market on every Saturday from 10 am - 5 pm, a cup of tea and baked goods at Cafe Tartine, or dinner at the Michelin starred restaurant The Kitchin

 
 
 
 photos courtesy of Francesca. Please check out her blog  NineteenTwentyfour

photos courtesy of Francesca. Please check out her blog NineteenTwentyfour

 
 

Leith, North of New Town

Best bus routes there: 11, 16, 22, 34, 35, 36

 

 

fireworks from bruntsfield links

My favorite part of the Fringe Festival is the nightly fireworks from the castle at around 10 or 10:30. One of the best places to view these fireworks is from the Bruntsfield Links. It's just south of the Meadows and a quick walk from George Square (the hub of Festival activity). Keep walking up the slope to the golf course and find a nice spot in the grass. You'll see the backside of the castle and the fireworks exploding into the sky. 

But at any time of year, the Links is a beautiful spot to play golf, people-watch, and relax at. It also offers a panoramic view of the south side of Edinburgh.

 
 
 
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Bruntsfield Links, Melville Drive

Best bus routes: 11, 15, 16, 23, 24, 45

 

the arches

This up-and-coming street of shops on East Market Street is tucked just underneath North Bridge and not easily stumbled upon, which means you won't find many tourists here—just locals like me!

    What's there, from East to West:

     
     
     
     
     

    The Arches, East Market Street

    How to get there:

    - Walk down Cranston Street off the Royal Mile, turn left

    - Turn left out of the Market Street exit of Edinburgh Waverley

    - Walk down Jeffrey Street off the Royal Mile, turn right


    Please comment below with your favorite quiet spot. I know there's got to be a ton more that I'm not aware of. thanks!