It’s easy to be seduced by Edinburgh with its picturesque closes, cobbled streets and historic architecture all overlooked by its iconic castle.
Little wonder the city is the perfect location for a romantic mini break for couples, who can get enjoyably lost exploring the old town stopping only to seek sustenance in the bars and restaurants for which the city is also renowned.
A mixture of boutique, quirky and world class hotels, fantastic places to eat and great shopping also make it a memorable destination if you’re trying to woo someone – or be wooed – and many romantic films and books have been set in Edinurgh, so make your own love story in Scotland’s capital.
This year also sees the opening of several new hotels, bars, restaurants and shops taking Edinburgh to the top of everyone’s must-visit wishlist and the perfect time to go.
where to stay
Gleneagles’ highly anticipated Townhouse opens this year – its first ever expansion outside its home in Perthshire in its 96-year history. The new 33-room hotel is in an iconic building which once housed the British Linen Company and is set to become home to one of the most vibrant eating and drinking experiences in the city.
The capital is also welcoming a new Virgin Hotel, as well as the new W Edinburgh hotel which is aready a landmark with its unique ‘orange peel’ design. But there are a few old favorites that always top romantic guides including The Balmoral, where the four Grand Suites come with open fires and turreted alcoves with windowseats offering views across the city.
Tigerlily is also a popular boutique hotel for couples, especially if you want fun, frolics, cocktails and a party atmosphere.
There’s The Witchery by the Castle, the ultimate romantic bolthole and a pure unmitigated pleasure palace, which has nine theatrical suites, all lavishly decorated, which scream romance with a capital R! Or cling to each other when you book a few nights in a haunted hotel (if you’re brave enough).
Dramatic dates: House of Gods is billed as not so much a hotel but a heodonistic hideout, and cocktail bar with rooms. Expect mood lighting, four-poster beds, velvet and loads of fake fur in this opulent hideaway in the historic Cowgate area.
Once the street where cattle were herded on market days, the Cowgate is one of the oldest thoroughfares of the city and the extent of modern development along it disguises centuries of history. Today it is better known for buzzing nightspots but it has always been an area that has served the rich and poor, from the market stalls of old to the fashionable homes known as the ‘Palaces of The Cowgate’.
where to eat
The city’s food scene is thriving and you’ll be spoiled for choice. Choose from four Michelin star restaurants, casual cafe-style restaurants or street food served in shipping containers!
Edinburgh is a historic city so many ancient buildings have been repurposed and given a new lease of life, including many of the restaurants. Some of the best include: Cannonball Restaurant, a 17th Century three storey building at the foot of Edinburgh castle, serving delicious Italian food. There’s also The Dome, one of the city’s most famous landmarks and now an award-winning restaurant and bar which was originally the site of the old Physicians’ Hall dating back to 1775. And for somthing really special you can dine (and stay) on Fingal, a former Northern Lighthouse supply ship now docked in Leith Harbour, which has been transformed into a 23 cabin floating hotel and The Lighthouse Restaurant.
Take time to explore the genteel suburbs of Morningside and Bruntsfield, which are also home to an array or artisan cafes and cosy, contemporary bars and restaurants while Leith, South Queensferry and Portobello all offer alfresco dining options.
Dining date with a difference:The Voodoo Rooms, for glamorous surroundings, lush cocktails and an eclectic menu, with live music and burlesque cabaret rooms.
Cocktails, whiskey and a nightcap
There are plenty of chic bars, cozy pubs and clubs in Edinburgh, it’s not just spirits of the liquid kind that you’ll find in the city’s pubs and bars – some are reputedly the home of spirits of the other kind as well.
Other popular haunts include Lady Libertine, a cafe and wine bar in the New Town with an incredible array of cocktails and wines plus some of the best DJs and live music in town. Make sure you visit Whighams Wine Cellars, which is a local institution. This basement wine and seafood bar at the end of Rose Street and close to many shops has regular jazz performers is a lovely even if you just stop by for a glass of wine to refuel.
If love is in the air, you may get distracted by the Heart of Midlothian, a granite cobbled mosaic crafted into a poignant heart shape just outside the entrance to St Giles’ Cathedral on the High Street.
But this is not a symbol of ardour but in fact the position of a 15th century Tolbooth which was a prison as well as a site of public execution before it was demolished in 1917.
Tradition dictates that people spit on the heart, which was originally done as a sign of contempt for the former prison but is now said to be good-luck. Usually spitting in public is discouraged, but in Edinburgh on this spot it is a tradition!
For a dram Teuchters is very popular with locals sampling local craft beers, malt whiskeys and world wines and for a nightcap it has to be, well, Nightcap, serving delicious different cocktails in a beautiful bar with a great atmosphere.
Drinks with a difference:Boteco Do Brasil will inject a bit of carnival spirit into your night out at this Latin-inspired party hub with a reputation for wild weekend antics and an impressive selection of rum-infused sips.
Get some color in your cheeks with a walk up Arthur’s Seat. Located in Holyrood Park, this is a popular destination for hikers and most visitors take a morning or afternoon to walk up to the famed peak to see 360-degree views of both Edinburgh and the Lothians. It’s a great way to experience Scotland’s natural beauty without leaving the city.
The site itself is actually part of a volcano which, thankfully, has been extinct for millions of years. Depending on whichever legend you believe the peaks that form Arthur’s Seat are either a sleeping dragon or the site of the legendary Camelot from the adventures of King Arthur.
Dip into some culture at the Scottish National Gallery, with works of art including pieces from El Greco, Titian, Raphael, Vermeer, Rembrandt, Rubens, Gauguin, and Constable. This is a wonderful place for a quiet wander for an hour or longer.
Art lovers visiting Edinburgh between March and July this year can also experience Van Gogh Alive, the internationally acclaimed multi-sensory experience which is coming to Festival Square.
If you fancy making a love potion with your other half head to The Cauldron, a cocktail making masterclass where you get to brew your own molecular concoctions which each have different properties and effects.
But Edinburgh has a dark side to its history and is renowned as one of the most haunted places in Europe. There are certainly some spine-chilling tales from the darker corners of the city’s underbelly.
Sadly, hundreds of men and women were persecuted as perceived witches in Edinburgh during the 16 th and 17 th centuries and if you want to explore this troubled backstory there are some fantastic tours where you’ll learn much more.
Choose from one of the many walking tours or you could opt for a theatrical ghost tour around the city, on a 1960’s black double-decker bus.
Grab on tightly to your partner if you’re brave enough visit Edinburgh Dungeons, or see if you can book an entry to either the Vaults beneath the surface of the South Bridge or The Real Mary King’s Close, a perfectly preserved 17th-century street underneath the Royal Mile.
It’s thought that hundreds of those convicted of witchcraft were strangled and burned at the stake on Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade. As you enter, make sure to look for The Witches’ Well, a cast iron drinking fountain, which pays tribute to those who perished during this terrible time in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
If you’re fans of a certain famous boy wizard there’s no shortage of places to visit that inspired JK Rowling when she wrote much of her first Harry Potter book, including West Bow and Victoria Street – the ‘real’ Diagon Alley – and the city is a Potter fans’ pilgrimage. You can discover more spooky attractions here.
Edinburgh is steeped in history and heritage and the Medieval Old Town is perfectly preserved to this day. This area forms part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and has numerous landmarks, such as Riddles Court, which is one of the Royal Mile’s oldest surviving buildings.
And for a real story about unconditional love, visit the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the diminutive Skye Terrier, who refused to leave his master John’s grave when he died of tuberculosis in 1858. For fourteen years the faithful dog kept constant watch and guard over the severe until his own death.
Date with a difference: Impress each other with your valor and bravery when you join forces to escape from the Dark Lord in an escape room at the Department of Magic.
• Need more inspiration then visit Forever Edinburgh’s Official Guide to Edinburgh at edinburgh.org for more ideas about what to do in the city.