Edinburgh is a wonderful Scottish city and one of our favorite weekend trips. While the group activities will include a tour of Edinburgh Castle, a ghost tour, a literary pub tour, and -weather permitting- a hike up Arthur's Seat, you should also venture out on your own to explore the city. Here are some tips to get the most out of the weekend.
There is a chance of rain, so bring an umbrella or poncho.
Edinburgh can get pretty cool at night, so you might want a sweatshirt or fleece jacket.
If you are going to hike Arthur's Seat, bring a pair of sneakers. This is not something that can be comfortably done in sandals, flats, or flip-flops. However, you should bring flip-flops for the hostel shower.
The hostel and the surrounding area can get quite loud, so light sleepers might want ear-plugs.
Bring some homework or readings. It's a long train ride to Edinburgh, and you can get some work out of the way.
The Trip There
The train to Scotland is the perfect time to catch up on readings, homework, or sleep. Make sure you stick with your group during ticket collection, and that someone is awake to show the conductor your ticket.
There will be some food and drinks available to buy on the train, but you can also bring your own or pick up something from the station beforehand.
We depart from King's Cross Station, so Harry Potter fans can get a picture at Platform 9 3/4.
In the world of hostels, Smart City is a pretty good one. Everyone will have a bunk bed and a cubby, along with an in-room bathroom and shower. It's very conveniently located off of the Royal Mile, and the staff are friendly. If you choose to bring a laptop or other device with internet capabilities, you can get free Wi-Fi in the café, though you can also buy time on the computer inexpensively (you might want to talk to other Xavier students about contributing for a 24-hour pass.)
The free breakfast is fairly decent, though you should look elsewhere for dinner (if you eat at the hostel you'll be paying for convenience, but not particularly great food.)
There are tons of restaurants around, but here are some of our favorites
PieMaker- a savory pie shop five minutes from the hostel. You can get a delicious pie and a shortbread cookie for under 5 pounds. The food is definitely greasy, but it is an easy meal or snack.
Mum's Great Comfort Food- If you are looking for a nicer pie and a sit-down meal, head to Mum's. The restaurant has a selection of savory pies (we recommend the pumpkin sage!) and sausages and mashed potatoes, in addition to other comfort foods. Definitely try Cranachan (a mound of whipped cream, raspberries, and cookies) for dessert! It's 10-15 minutes from the hostel.
Hemma- This Swedish café is filled with hearty foods, healthy salads, and nice drinks. It's about a 10 minute walk towards Arthur's Seat.
Circus- Very close to the hostel (within 3 minutes), a mix of cuisines, including Mediterranean.
There are also some grocery stores around (including a Sainsbury's) and several corner shops where you can get snacks and lunch items.
Things to Do
Shopping- The Royal Mile is full of gift-shops where you can get a kilt in your family colors, jewelry, bagpipes, flasks, Loch Ness memorabilia, and everything in between. You should also check out the gift shops of some of the museums if you are looking for fun (and more unique) souvenirs.
National Museum of Scotland- This is a spectacular (and free!) museum. You can learn about the history of Scotland, from the formation of its volcano to the late Industrial Revolution, you can see llamas and polar bears in its Natural History Museum, and you can spin a Buddhist prayer wheel or play with an Inuit doll at the World Cultures section. Great gift shop.
Our Dynamic Earth- This might be the closest you'll get to traveling via TARDIS! First, a time machine takes you to before our planet was even born. After witnessing the Big Bang, you'll learn about how the Earth changed over billions of years, how humans evolved, and about some of the major biomes (oceans, rain forests, polar extremes). It's very close to Arthur's Seat.
Writer's Museum- Scotland, and Edinburgh in particular, has been home to many great writers, such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott, and J.K. Rowling. Learn about their lives and writings here.
You can find more ideas of things to do in Edinburghhere.