A local’s guide to Edinburgh: the best bookshops, restaurants and bars

A food writer picks her favourite spots away from the usual touristy suspects, including parks, walks and inspiring galleries

Caroline Eden has made Edinburgh her home since 2014


Bacco is an Italian deli and wine bar on Dundas Street that’s popular with New Town locals but off the tourist trail. It’s run by young Italians, who offer a simple but pleasing menu of good wines, cured meats and cheeses, in a friendly and attentive atmosphere – much appreciated on long, cold Edinburgh nights.

On the south side of town is another utterly charming spot, Elliott’s – a small “kitchen” open for breakfast and lunch that serves the best cakes in town (the flourless chocolate cake is a must). A few doors down is the Elliott’s workshop, which will soon be starting supper clubs and other events.

For a memorable dinner, the innovative menu at Noto on Thistle Street is a great bet. The must-order here is the North Sea crab served in its shell with warm butter, sourdough bread for dipping.


The City Art Centre, by Waverley railway station, showcases both historic and contemporary Scottish art, but what it does best is offer heaps of inspiration to get you out in to Scotland’s Highlands and islands to see the places depicted for yourself. Recent exhibitions have included Scottish poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay (1925–2006), who, with his wife, Sue, is known for Little Sparta, a wild and mind-blowing literary garden of sculptures and stone artworks in the nearby Pentland Hills.

The Water of Leith, flowing through Dean Village in Edinburgh.
The Water of Leith, flowing through Dean Village, close to Stockbridge. Photograph: K Neville/Getty Images


Photogenic Stockbridge, on the Water of Leith, is often recommended as a place to shop and eat, but it’s always worth revisiting, as new places open regularly. The bookshop scene in particular keeps getting stronger. I have been banging the drum for brilliant independent bookshop Golden Hare since I moved to Edinburgh, but since then Ginger and Pickles, a delightful new children’s bookshop has opened right opposite, and a five-minute walk away is the new and exciting Rare Birds bookshop, opened by the cult online book club Rare Birds Books, which is dedicated to women’s writing.

On the same street, there are creative hot sandwiches on offer at newly opened Earls Sandwich Co – the big mackerel (£11) is a meal in itself, coming with hot sauce, pickled onions and dukkah. And given that Edinburgh is such a dog-friendly destination it would be remiss of me not to mention Just Dogs, a super little shop filled with treats, coats, travel kit and wonderful staff who always go the extra mile.

Green space

Locals guide to Edinburgh for Travel herb garden spot on page
The Secret Herb Garden. Illustration: Hennie Haworth Illustration: Hennie Haworth

The Secret Herb Garden is edged by peaceful farmland close to the Pentland Hills, and it’s an ideal place to spend a relaxing morning. I often stock up on potted herbs here, as there are hundreds to choose from, then have a coffee in the vine-filled glasshouse cafe before a meander around the grounds. It’s an easy 25-minute drive out of town. In the city, I visit Inverleith Park – one of Scotland’s largest and loveliest urban parks – most days, to jog, think or walk the dog, and to daydream that one of the allotments there will one day be mine.

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The Lucky Liquor Co (sister to one of my other favourites, the Last Word in Stockbridge) is a serious cocktail bar with a regularly changing menu and a broad, well-chosen vinyl selection. It’s on traffic-clogged Queen Street but away from the boozier lanes in town, which makes bagging a table a possibility. The Scottish SeaWolf white rum is excellent with a grapefruit soda.


I enjoyed a couple of nights at the Raeburn boutique hotel (doubles from £165 B&B) in Stockbridge a few years back and still regularly pop in for a pint of Hollyrood pale ale in its stylish bar. Right by Inverleith Park, the Raeburn has a warm ambience and is just a stone’s throw from great cafes and independent shops on Raeburn Place.


Caroline Eden

The GuardianTramp

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