9am: Start your day with a caffeine kick at Contini on George Street. It’s a bustling family owned Italian / Scottish restaurant and coffee house and is in a grand old Georgian building which used to be a bank. The coffee is strong, the service is great and the breakfast focaccia (crispy bacon and tomato with a side of black pudding is a good choice) will set you up for the day ahead. (NB Contini also operate the award-winning Scottish Cafe & Resaturant at the Scottish National Gallery.)
10am: To add a touch of culture to your day head to The National Portrait Gallery which is just a short walk from Contini. The gallery opens at 10am and admission is free (although for some exhibitions an admission fee is charged). Before you enter the building ensure to take it its exterior glory. It’s a very impressive building with a neo-gothic palace design and is one of the key standouts on the city’s skyline.
The building is just as beautiful inside and is home to some amazingly detailed portraits which help tell the story of Scotland – right from Prince Charles Edward Stuart in 1745 through to Calvin Harris in 2015.
It’s worth checking the website before you visit as exhibitions and events do regularly change. Another useful point to note is that there are dedicated tours and events dedicated to a whole host of audiences for example family friendly and autism friendly.
Fact for the day: The Gallery was designed by Sir Robert Rowand Anderson as a shrine for Scotland’s heroes and heroines. It opened to the public in 1889 as the world’s first purpose-built portrait gallery.
12.30pm: Time to refuel and you can do so at the Portrait Café. From sandwiches, soups and main dishes there is something to satisfy every appetite and the scones and tray-bakes are hard to resist!
2pm After lunch enjoy a bit of retail therapy with a mosey along Rose Street and Thistle Street. There are some lovely independent boutiques to give you a fashion fix. Broughton Street is also a great place to dig out unusual gifts and wares from Scottish designers.
Or if shopping isn’t your thing but the great outdoors is then take a walk up to Calton Hill. It’s not as high (or as muddy) as Arthur’s Seat and boasts some spectacular views across the city with some interesting and ancient artefacts up there too – such as a 500-year-old cannon!
4.30pm Whilst on Broughton Street call in to Pickles for an early evening drink. It’s quirky and full of charm with a bustling vibe. The owners know their stuff when it comes to wine and the platters of cheese, meat, and you guessed it, Pickles are substantial enough if you’ve made yourself comfortable here for the night and don’t want to move on elsewhere for dinner.
6pm: If you do want a special dinner there is no need to venture far from Pickles as just above sits L’Escargot Bleu – a small and upbeat French bistro serving a delicious menu with the finest quality Scottish ingredients. The menu changes regularly, however if you see the Escargot, Venison and Crème Brule presented then you’re in for a treat.
After Dark: Take in the view of Princes Street, the Castle, the mound and Arthur’s Seat from North Bridge – a sure fast way to confirm that Edinburgh IS as beautiful as everyone says it is.