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Guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh has always been a popular place for a bit of down-time, whether you come from north of south of the border. It's a genteel town, refined and cultured, the seat of the Scottish parliament and steeped in myth, history and some fantastic ghost walks. The other side to the city is the mischief and mayhem of the annual Fringe Festival and the party atmosphere at Hogmanay. The Edinburgh crowd really knows how to let its hair down.

If a little bit of culture is on the menu, a visit to the great city should include a stop off at Edinburgh Castle, atop a volcanic rock, where you can stop and take a look at Scotland's own Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny (where Scotland's monarchs were crowned). If you've got a little more exploring time, take in a few more of the city's historic attractions, like the Camera Obscura and Royal Yacht Britannia.

For wide open spaces, you're also spoiled for choice and the views from some of the hillier parts of the city and around are to-die-for.

Shopping is well catered for, with a few larger malls and plenty of upmarket shops just waiting to tempt your credit card out of your pocket. Fashionistas will love the designer and vintage clothes shops...and there's somewhere for everyone to at least window-shop in.

Right at the heart of the city is the UNESCO World Heritage Site which combines the charm of the medieval Old Town with the Georgian New Town and some more recent award-winning architecture. The city is full of winding little terraces, elegant shops and places to kick back and relax a while; perfect for a chilled out spa break.



Spa Breaks in Edinburgh

  • If you like your spa breaks to come with photo opportunities, this place is spot on. Rising from the shadows of Edinburgh Castle, the Sheraton Edinburgh Hotel is a five star establishment with style and class, which is also ideally located for sightseeing. The award-winning One Spa at the Sheraton Edinburgh Hotel is totally conducive to a relaxing spa stay, set in a light-filled area of the hotel with an indoor swimming pool and gorgeous rooftop Hydrotherapy pool, a state of the art thermal suite and sumptuous spa treatments inspired by Ayurveda and the Australian Li'Yta spa products.

  • If you don't want to stay right in the heart of Edinburgh but at the same time, don't want to be too far away from the action, the Macdonald Houstoun House Hotel and Spa could be the spa hotel for you! Just 12 miles away from the city, it's full of character and history, the building dates back to the time of Mary Queen of Scots and the gardens are amazing. The spa is heavenly, and alongside all the modern facilities you'd expect in an upmarket hotel, like the beautiful pool and fully equipped gym, there are some beautiful walled gardens to wander, and a spa that combines on-trend relaxing beauty treatments with ancient healing techniques from Hopi ear candling to reflexology. All the facilities are free to hotel guests, too.

  • It's easy to see why the Balmoral Spa was voted Scotland's top Day Spa in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Spa Awards 2008. It's one of the famous Rocco Forte Hotels and it oozes luxury, both in-spa and out. Marketed as the 'ultimate urban spa experience' the spa is a real retreat, with spa ranges by ESPA and Sundari along with an invigorating Finnish sauna and Turkish steam room to relax in after or between treatments. As well as the pool, there's a separate aromatherapy relaxation area complete with refreshments, magazines and comfy loungers. Blissful!

  • The Crowne Plaza Edinburgh - The Roxburghe was designed by Architect Robert Adam and boasts some of the world's finest Georgian architecture, as well as a gorgeous spa. The Roxburghe is perfect for making the most of a few days in Edinburgh as it's situated right in the heart of the city, close to the west end of Princes Street. There's plenty to see nearby the great Castle views which overlook the park on Charlotte Square, Scotland's Downing Street. The spa has everything you'd expect from such a top class hotel, from Decleor beauty to reflexology on your sore feet after dancing all night on one of Edinburgh's largest dance floors. What's more, all the facilities are free to guests, so make the most of them...


Restaurants

  • 21212 is a fine dining restaurant set in a grade A Listed building in Edinburgh's New Town. Michelin Star Chef Paul Kitching offers an adventurous menu for anyone who wants to try something a little different including a five course gourmet menu with a choice of two dishes at the main stages, which inspired the name of the restaurant.
    Address: 3 Royal Terrace, Edinburgh EH7 5AB
    Tel: 0845 22 21212

  • Another Michelin starred establishment is Number One - thought of as one of Scotland's best restaurants. The menu is creative, uses ingredients that are designed to give you a taste of Scotland, and prides itself on using the best, freshest local seasonal produce. The approach clearly works, as Number One won the 'Fine Dining Experience' Award at the inaugural Scottish Restaurant Awards in 2008.
    Address: The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2EQ
    Tel: +44 (0) 131 557 6727

  • You can't fail to love this place, even if it's just for the great name. Angels with Bagpipes is a relatively new restaurant on the Royal Mile, with a romantic ambience that makes it ideal for couples. The menu is an intriguing blend of traditional Scottish and classic Italian, which creates a selection of elegant dishes that can be hard to choose from. The menu also features an individual take on some hearty Scottish favourites and has an enviable wine list, too.
    Address: 343 High St, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 1PW
    Tel: 0131 220 1111

  • Oluroso on Castle Street offers a great menu along with some stunning panoramic views from its veranda, from which you can spot Edinburgh Castle. It's a modern, contemporary style restaurant, with a relaxed feel even though it always seems to be bustling. The menu features local Scottish produce and a great choice of dishes.
    Address: 33 Castle Street, Edinburgh EH2 3DN
    Tel: 0131 226 7614

  • For a real taste of Scotland, try the Amber Restaurant in the city centre. You'll find the restaurant inside the Scotch Whisky Experience which is beside Edinburgh Castle, and as you can imagine, as well as the best in Scottish cuisine, they serve up a stunning selection of malt whiskies.
    Address: 354-358 Castlehill, Edimburgh, Midlothian EH1 2NE
    Tel: 0131 477 8477

  • For something a bit different and non Scottish, you could taste a bit of the exotic at Khublai Khans Mongolian BBQ, on Assembly Street, Leith. The informal-style eaterie is Mongolian themed with traditional style decor and a great atmosphere. If you feel like trying something you won't get on a traditional Scottish menu, there's zebra, ostrich, kangaroo and wild boar to sample; but if you're not so adventurous don't worry, you can stick to beef, lamb, chicken and seafood.
    Address: 43 Assembly Street, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 7 BQ
    Tel: 0131 555 0005

  • If you're a whisky lover, the name of this place gives away its selling point. WHISKI Bar and Restaurant is an award winning whisky bar and restaurant on the Royal Mile which specialises, unsurprisingly, in Scotch whisky. The menu features freshly prepared Scottish dishes, and there's live music to accompany your food. There are more than 300 malt whiskies to choose from and food is served all day it's a really fun bar and restaurant.
    Address: 119 High Street, Edinburgh, Scotland EH1 1SG
    Tel: 0131 556 3095

  • There's a taste of Italy awaiting you at La Lanterna on Hanover Street. It's a lovely friendly, family run Italian restaurant that's hidden away in a cosy basement and has all the atmosphere and charm you'd expect to find in an authentic Italian Ristorante. The dishes are all freshly prepared and cooked to order, and ingredients are locally sourced, making the menu , which features some all-time favourites, absolutely scrumptious.
    Address: 83 Hanover Street, Edinburgh EH2 1EE
    Tel: 0131 226 3090

  • The Mussel and Steak Bar, in the Grassmarket, is a great place to go if you want a lively night out on the town. It's vibrant, friendly and informal, but the menu is a serious issue, featuring produce that's been sourced from world renowned shellfish farms on Scotland's west coast. The restaurant proudly specialises in steak and shellfish dishes, and the signature surf and turf is always popular. For a nice touch, you can even watch your meal being prepared on a huge plasma screen.
    Address: 110 West Bow, Edinburgh, Midlothian EH1 2HH
    Tel: 0131 225 5028


Nightlife

Edinburgh is a lively mix of bars, clubs and venues as well as world famous theatres like the Playhouse and Festival Theatre.

  • Music lovers should seek out the The Jam House on Queen Street for an 'unplugged' intimate feel. The venue is raw and there are no light shows or special effects here, it's definitely all about the music. Live music was once broadcast and recorded from the stage area, from where the old BBC Broadcasting House once broadcast.

  • The Stand Comedy Club is Edinburgh's only full-time comedy venue, and has its very own purpose built premises five minutes away from Princes Street. Already one of the leading UK comedy venues it's also a firm favourite with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

  • Clubbers won't be disappointed with a trip to Edinburgh. The Liquid Room on Victoria Street is both a club and a live music venue, found in an underground vault in the old town. Boasting a list of past debuts that includes Smashing Pumpkins, Stereophonics, Travis and Coldplay, it's also an Edge Festival venue in August. Club nights include indie mix, Evol and pop-orientated Bump.

  • Cabaret Voltaire is a club with a rock vibe, with live music and club nights that embrace techno, underground dance, and drum 'n' bass. The famous 'disco for the discombobulated' happens every other Saturday at the Ultragroove club night.

  • A bit of everything, the bar, club, music venue and restaurant they call the Voodoo Rooms is to be found above Cafe Royal, off the east end of Princes Street. Cocktails, a Caribbean-themed menu from Devil's Kitchen, plus cabaret and club nights abound in the venue's five rooms and three bars.

  • If jazz is your cup of tea, you'll find a laid-back vibe at the Jazz Bar. Jazz and jazz-inspired music like funk rock and reggae is always on offer and the basement bar is purpose-built as a music venue. There are two gigs every week from local or touring artists, a Saturday afternoon jazz session and even an eclectic mix of poetry and DJs to mix things up a bit.

  • The Jolly Judge sits at the foot of a vennel (a passageway between the gables of two buildings) just two minutes from the castle. It features atmospheric low-beamed ceilings, a cosy fire and a chilled out atmosphere. You can try out one of the vast selection of malt whiskies , real ales and ciders or opt for a warming homemade soup on a cold night. The pub also offers a menu of filling toasted sandwiches and traditional Scottish stovies. The pub quiz on a Monday night is not to be missed!


Shopping

In a city as cosmopolitan and well-visited as Edinburgh, you'd expect the shopping opportunities to be pretty impressive. The main shopping streets are Princes Street where you'll find the big names – and the smaller boutiques and one-off treasures are more likely to be found in the New Town and West End. The centre won't disappoint; a Harvey Nichols never does!

Multrees Walk is the designer mall, and if you're shopping here be prepared to call your bank manager in the morning as there's everything from established heavyweights like Armani and Mulberry to upstarts like Replay, Firetrap, Oscar, Fitch and Azendi. The Walk combines fabulous designer shopping, with stylish eating and it's the place to be seen if you're in Edinburgh.

For high street aficionados, the choice is great if you wander over to St James Shopping right in the city centre. Everything from an excellent John Lewis store to Wallis, River Island and Next is there, as well as places to stop for coffee or a bite to eat. The centre is also close to some of the best restaurants and bars in the city, so you'll be spoiled for choice.

One of  Europe's largest shopping and leisure centres, Ocean Terminal,  is over on the waterfront with over 70 high street favourite stores, a great selection of bars and restaurants, a cinema and an urban freesports facility. Right next to Ocean Terminal you can also find the multi-award winning Royal Yacht Britannia.

Jenners is Edinburgh's oldest department store, and has been in its current position on Princes Street since 1838. The magnificent building houses an amazing 100 departments, and you really can find pretty much anything here, whether it's designer brands you're looking for or locally crafted Scottish products.

Another well-established  Edinburgh favourite, Armstrong's has been in the city since 1840 and is now the city's best-loved vintage emporium. A fabulous place even just to browse, you can find  traditional Scottish wear, evening dresses from the 1920s,  authentic 1950s prom dresses, even Victorian capes and 1970s hippie chic. It's so popular there are now three branches, one in the Grassmarket, one on Clerk Street and one on Teviot Place.



EDINBURGH'S TOP THREE SPAS

  1. Ideally located in the historic old town, the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel manages to be quiet and convenient at the same time. Facing the Crags and Arthur's Seat, the hotel couldn't be in a better place if you want to visit Holyrood Park, the Scottish Parliament, or Dynamic Earth; but if you just want to relax in the hotel, all the leisure facilities are free to hotel guests. The health club has a resident personal trainer, and there's a pool and a sauna, plus a relaxation room to unwind in after an indulgent Decleor treatment or two...
  2. If you're not stopping long, or just want to sample the spa and gym facilities, head to the Bannatyne Spa in Edinburgh Newcraighall, part of the Bannatyne Health and Fitness Club. The spa is a sensory retreat in an urban setting, with beauty, spa rituals and complementary therapies hand-in-hand with a state of the art gym and fantastic pool. Set into a Listed Building in the heart of Edinburgh's business and shopping centre, it's ideal to drop into or to book a pamper day in if you have the time.
  3. The famous Edinburgh Floatarium and Spa has been made-over for the 21st century and now it's very much a spa as well as the place to go for a relaxing, therapeutic float. There are two great floatation rooms in the spa, the only floatation experience available in Edinburgh. The spa also has some hi-tech offerings like micro-dermabrasion alongside traditional massage and beauty, and the products include celeb-favourite Dermalogica. One great feature is the 20/20/20 taster session; three different 20-minute massages for face and body.

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