Explore Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a beautiful city, full of gorgeous old buildings, cosy pubs, high-class restaurants, trendy bars and interesting shops. It has the vibe of a capital city, while still being easy to explore on foot. It has a lot to offer visitors, whether their interests lie in history, shopping, night life, fine dining or the outdoors. It is also the perfect place to start when exploring other parts of Scotland, such as the gorgeous Highlands.

Few people can resist the charms of this exceptional city, and all of my visitors so far have left with a promise to return. Join me as I explore everything the Scottish capital has to offer, from cosy pubs and restaurants off the beaten track, to famous tourist attractions and activities not to be missed. I love discovering new things about my favourite city, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it, too!

Explore Chiquito

This is a sponsored post.

  • What: Mexican-themed chain restaurant
  • Where: sadly the city centre restaurant has closed, so the closest one is at Fort Kinnaird Shopping Centre
  • When: Mon–Sat 9am–11pm, Sun 9am–10:30pm
  • Website here

A while back I was contacted by Fort Kinnaird, asking if I’d like to go and try out the new menu at Chiquito. As both my partner and I love Mexican food, I was very quick to say ¡sí Señora!

At the beginning of September we finally made it there. I’d never been to Fort Kinnaird before, and it was quite a trek from Leith on the bus, but as it turns out, it was definitely worth it.

The new Chiquito menu contains several different sections, including the usual Mexican and tex mex favourites, but what immediately caught our eye was the new street food section, where you could sample several tapas-style dishes. As we were keen to try as many things as possible, this was the perfect choice.

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We started out by ordering nachos to share as a starter. As you may know if you’ve read my previous posts, I have a thing for nachos, and we have had them in many, many places around Edinburgh (and skipped just as many as they have failed to meet our standards by swapping or missing ingredients). Luckily the nachos at Chiquito contained all the required ingredients, and they didn’t try to swap the beef chilli for pulled pork like so many places seem to do these days (and it shouldn’t be allowed!). We were both really pleased with the nachos; the beef chilli was really tasty, and there was a good dollop of all the sauces. To quote my other half, “definitely in the upper echelon of nachos we have had”, so we were very happy with how the meal started.

Having finished the quite sizable plate of nachos (and almost regretting ordering such a large starter) the six street food dishes arrived – we were both very excited at this point! We ordered:

  • Quesadilla bites with chicken, chorizo and sweetcorn
  • Empanadas with spicy chicken (we wanted beef but sadly they’d run out)
  • Patatas bravas
  • Mini classic burrito (chicken)
  • Halloumi bites with cranberry salsa
  • Tortilla stack with beef chilli

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All in all, we both agreed that all the food was very tasty. We were, however, quite disappointed about not being able to get the empanadas with beef, as it became quite a chicken-heavy selection, and the chicken dishes didn’t quite live up to the lovely beef chilli – there was just that something missing. To quote my partner again: “basically their chilli beef is the best thing ever and really tasty, but the chicken wasn’t quite as good”. The patatas bravas were nice – my other half really enjoyed the habanero sauce, and said he’d buy a bottle of it if he could. He was originally slightly suspicious about the halloumi bites, but they turned out to be the high point of the meal for both of us!

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As you can see from the picture, we ended up with clean plates. By this point I was so stuffed that I worried I’d have to be rolled onto the bus later, so (very uncharacteristically for both of us) I skipped dessert and chose a frozen passion fruit margarita instead, while my partner ordered chilli pineapple thins, i.e. pineapple slices coated with cinnamon and chili, served with raspberries and ice cream. This was a lighter, slightly different dessert, and a very nice end to a lovely meal.

We have to say that Chiquito exceeded expectations, especially for a chain, and, as my partner puts it, “their food was a tasty alternative to all those hipster street food burrito places”. I’d happily eat there again if I ever find myself hungry at Fort Kinnaird, and it is also a much more exciting option than many of the other restaurants at the shopping centre. So if you’re out at Fort Kinnaird and feel like a bite to eat after all your shopping, I’d definitely recommend a trip to Chiquito.

Explore Fortitude Coffee

  • What: Coffee shop focusing on high quality coffee
  • Where: 3C York Place, EH1 3EB
  • When: Mon–Fri 8–18, Sat 10–18, Sun closed
  • Website is here.

Often when walking home from town I cross St Andrew Square and walk down along York Place. On a recent walk home I remember spotting a nice looking café called Fortitude Coffee, but somehow it came on so suddenly that I just had time to think “Oh! That looks nice!”, and then we’d already passed. Last time I walked past, I had the same reaction, but as I was on the hunt for cake, I decided to give it a go.

Fortitude Coffee Edinburgh

Unfortunately I have to admit that I’m not exactly part of their target clientele as I don’t drink coffee. Here’s how they describe themselves on their website:

Fortitude is a specialty Coffee Merchant and Espresso bar serving the best coffee possible to the people of Edinburgh.

We are proud to have Workshop coffee in our grinders. Workshop is committed to roasting the sweetest, cleanest and freshest coffee. It makes the perfect cup.

Our shop also stocks coffee beans from some of the best small-batch roasters in the UK. We will help you choose the right beans for the right brew and supply all the tools and advice you need to brew at home. Splendid for a lazy Sunday.

So yeah, not quite my cup of tea, literally. Luckily they do also serve tea and cold beverages, and go on to say:

Fortitude has free Wi-Fi, books, newspapers and delicious cakes from Lovecrumbs.

Now that sounds like my kind of place! So I entered the tastefully and quite minimalistically decorated coffee shop and ordered an elderflower presse and a fudge brownie. Originally I wasn’t massively impressed by the selection of cakes, as I was more in a chocolate cupcake sort of mood (my own fault – this is definitely not a cupcake sort of place), but my choice of brownie turned out to be spot on – it was hands down the best brownie I have ever had, and I think you should all go out and get one right now.

Fortitude Coffee Edinburgh

The service was friendly, and there are newspapers, books and wifi to keep you busy if you need it. I was very happy sitting around for a while, enjoying my brownie and my book. The location – between the Stand comedy club and the National Portrait Gallery – is great for anyone working or living north or north-east of Princes street, and hopefully it won’t get as incredibly busy as some places a block or two closer to all the shops.

Fortitude Coffee Edinburgh

So if you’re really into your coffees, I’m sure you’ll like this place, and if you’re not – remember what I said about those brownies!

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Explore Maison de Moggy

  • What: Cat café with 10 resident cats
  • Where: 26 Hamilton Place, Stockbridge, EH3 5AU
  • When: Mon–Sun, 1-hour slots between 10.45–14.15 & 15–18.30
  • Charge: £7/person/hour
  • Bookings to be done ahead of time on the website
  • Website here.

Ever since the cat café in London opened last year we’ve been hoping to be able to visit – especially my boyfriend who absolutely loves cats. We were very excited to hear that one would open in Edinburgh as well, and I decided to finally book us in for a visit for Valentine’s Day.

Edinburgh cat cafe
We were a bit worried that the place would be full of kids running around and monopolising all the cats, but were pleased to find out that they don’t allow children under the age of 10 in the café (don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with children in general, but lots of them in a small space…). As expected on that particular day, all the other guests also seemed to be couples on a date, and I definitely think this would be a great idea for a date, even when it’s not Valentine’s Day (just make sure your date actually likes cats first).
When you arrive at Maison de Moggy, you are greeted by a cat nanny who explains everything to you, and you are then given a number that you can use when ordering food and drinks. After taking off your shoes and sanitising your hands you’re free to go off and find a furry friend!
Most of the cats were of the sleepy kind, who were quite happy to sit around and be stroked. A couple were a bit more active, and there are plenty of toys around for you to play with the kitties.
 
Edinburgh cat cafe
We particularly liked cute little Alain and Amelie, a pair of rag doll kittens. Alain made it known that he was very keen to get through to the kitchen for some cupcakes by meowing loudly, but sadly he had to make do with cat treats. He’s just the cutest little kitten with a tiny moustache!
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Downstairs, away from the main café area, there is a “relaxation room” where they only let in a few people at a time. Downstairs there were two cats – a black one that slept through our entire visit, and Alain’s little sister Amelie, who walked over to us and plonked herself down in my boyfriend’s lap, stretched out and fell asleep. After about 15 minutes, when some other people came downstairs into the room, we decided we couldn’t keep monopolising the cat, and had to pry her away. Such a cute little kitten!
We then sat down to have something to drink – one drink was included in the entrance fee – and had a cupcake suited to the theme of the day. One of the cats decided he deserved a taste as well, but he was well-trained enough to stay on the chair rather than jump up on the table, so there’s no need to worry about cat hairs in your tea.
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Before visiting Maison de Moggy it is worth visiting their website to find out the etiquette – for example, you shouldn’t bring your own toys or sweets for the cats, but there are plenty of toys available, and you can buy treats for the cats in the café as well. You’re also not allowed to pick up the cats, but as we found, some of them are very friendly and might decide they’d like to sit on your lap, which is absolutely fine.
All over we had a very nice experience. Because of the price, we won’t be going very often, but I’d definitely be happy to go back for another visit!

Explore Frederick’s

  • What: Pretty coffee house serving coffe, cakes, food, wine…
  • Where: Frederick Street, just off Princes Street
  • When: Mon–Fri 9am–10pm, Sat & Sun 10am–10pm
  • Prices: Coffees from £2.20, cakes ~£3, food £6–£8, wine £3.95–£5.25/glass
  • Score: Do it!
  • Website here.

I don’t often embark on day-long shopping trips covering the entirety of Princes Street, but when I do, I have often felt that there is nowhere near enough nice places to stop for a coffee close to the shops – it’s either one of the soulless chain places, or you have to lug all your shopping bags over the hill to find somewhere. Then one day I discovered Frederick’s, and it changed my life (well, sort of).

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Frederick’s is a little haven from all the hustle and bustle of Princes Street, hidden from view above a wine shop on Frederick Street. A narrow staircase and a couple of doors lead you to one of the loveliest cafes in Edinburgh, and the counter with all its cakes is enough to lure you in. If you’re lucky, you might get a seat in one of the comfy sofas by the window, overlooking all the stressed shoppers who have no idea that there is an oasis of calm right above their heads.

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Another good thing about Frederick’s is that it doesn’t close at 6pm – I have often found it impossible to go for after work coffees with friends in Edinburgh, as the only option seems to be the pub. But if the party can’t agree on the beverage of choice, those preferring the more traditional after work pint are also catered for, as Frederick’s does not only serve tea and cakes, but also mains, nibbles, wine and beer.

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There is a large selection of teas, and the aforementioned counter with its cakes makes life very difficult – how can one choose? Luckily nothing makes me happier than a slice of chocolate fudge cake, and Frederick’s doesn’t let me down in this respect either.

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As you’d expect, it does get very busy here, especially at weekends, but the staff is efficient, and even if you have to wait a few minutes for a seat, it’s definitely worth it. There is even a little bench to sit on while you wait, and it’s a good opportunity to try to get ahead by deciding which of all those cakes you’re going to order.

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I often meet up with my boyfriend for a coffee in town on a Saturday afternoon once he’s finished work, and recently he’s often suggested Frederick’s “as you seem to like it so much”. I can definitely say that it has become a strong favourite of mine, and I expect I will continue dragging him there for a long time to come.

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Explore the Caledonian Hotel

  • What: Luxury hotel in central Edinburgh
  • Where: West End, Princes Street, Edinburgh EH1 2AB
  • Website here.

At the west end of Princes street sits what used to be one of Edinburgh’s old train stations. Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian has been a hotel since 1903, and became the UK’s only Waldorf Astoria a few years ago. Elements of the old train station can still be seen in Peacock Alley, the beautiful tearooms in the middle of the building that used to house the train tracks, and with the original station clock providing guests with the time – 5 minutes fast, as is often the way with old station clocks.

Caledonian Edinburgh
I was given a tour of the hotel by Sales Executive Chris Logan, who showed me the restaurants, the function room and the bar, as well as a beautiful one bedroom suite. The hotel also has a Guerlain spa, an underground car park and free wifi all over the hotel – a bonus that is still surprisingly rare in hotels.
The suite I got to see was gorgeous, with fantastic views over Edinburgh castle – perfect for watching the fireworks at Hogmanay or the end of the Edinburgh festival in August. It has lots of great little details, and both the bedroom and the sitting room had something I had never come across before – a mirror that turned out to be a TV!
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I remembered the Pompadour restaurant from having afternoon tea there in 2011 (since then afternoon tea has been moved to Peacock Alley), and the restaurant was even more beautiful than I remembered it. The windows provide a gorgeous view of the castle, and I’m not surprised that the window tables tend to be popular for proposals, as Chris told me.
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The function room is of a very similar style to the Pompadour, while the restaurant Galvin Brasserie de Luxe and the Caley bar downstairs have a different look altogether, but are still very stylish. Chris told me it’s a shame that more people who aren’t staying in the hotel don’t come in for a drink, as they expect it to be very expensive, whereas the prices are actually similar to other bars in the same area. I will definitely keep this in mind for any Friday or Saturday night drinks in the West End, when it’s usually impossible to get a seat anywhere.
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The Caledonian is a lovely hotel with a very impressive decor, and the location is also excellent, with everything within walking distance, and lots of buses running right outside for those who want to go a bit further outside the city centre. I would definitely love to try that gorgeous suite out for myself at some point (but an average price of £1000/night isn’t quite within my budget just yet). For those not needing quite as much space, standard rooms start from £160/night.
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