24 Hours in Edinburgh with Eloise Leeson

by Sabrina Smelko


Eloise Leeson is a CrossFit-oholic, food enthusiast, skilled barista, blogger, bad joke connoisseur and lover of all things shiny. She was born on the south coast of England, but moved to Edinburgh when she was just five, growing up in and around the borders of Scotland. On top of the wonderfully rich culture, when I asked her what her favorite thing about Edinburgh was, she answered, “the light on the golden buildings and the feeling of possibility early in the morning!” Eloise wrote the original Edinburgh City Guide over four years ago, and she’s back today to eagerly share an update on this great city! –Sabrina

7 am: If you’re anything like me, then you’ll aspire to the idea of being a morning person without actually being able to get yourself out of bed at a sensible time! Artisan Roast is my roundhouse kick of wakefulness to the face – their double shot latte gives me both life and purpose. Depending on the day ahead, I’ll either grab something to go – flaky almond croissants that leave me so covered in icing sugar that I look like I’ve been in a snowstorm – or I’ll head up to Hanover Street for breakfast with some favorite chums.

9 am: Papii’s vanilla buttermilk waffles are glory in breakfast form (my buddy Graeme insists on his with extra bacon and an iced mocha) if you’re in the mood for something sweet, but Urban Angel’s all-day brunch is also heavenly. Eggs Benedict with locally sourced smoked haddock sets me up ’til lunch. If I’m hungover (a frequent occurrence: cocktails in Edinburgh are lush and plentiful) then only a Huntsman’s fry with venison sausages and poached duck eggs from the Pantry will save my soul.


10:30 am: Leg-stretching time! Edinburgh is a fabulous city to wander around. Our cobbled streets are hell on stilettos yet so beautiful to look at, but if it’s raining (as it so often does) then a wander around the National Galleries never fails to delight. The Turner exhibition every January is a lovely reminder that color does exist, and the permanent portraits are always a treat to ponder.

A brisk walk up North Bridge toward Chamber Street will lead you to the Scotland’s National Museum – one of my favorite haunts. Their current “Game Masters” exhibition will thrill your inner child and surprise even the most hardcore arcade addicts.

Noon: Lunch spots seem to depend, at least for me, on the weather. Sunny, but a little too chilly to be outside? Peters Yard is perfect for open smoked-salmon sandwiches, smeared with crème fraîche, stacked with lemon slices and tangled green leaves. Their blue cheese and pear salad will also blow your mind. Be sure to grab a sticky cardamom bun to take away, with (you guessed it) Artisan Roast coffee.

Freezing cold, damp and dreich? I need the triple-soup taster from Union of Genius. Three wee bowls of soup on a slate with paired breads is the best way to brave the famous Scottish drizzle.

And if I have no idea what I want for lunch, I fall back on my old favorite – sushi from Bonsai. Available to take away or sit in (the décor is insane, you’ve been warned) – the unagi nigiri-zushi is amazing and the prawn tempura avocado hand rolls are nothing short of a religious experience.

1 pm: A foodie at heart, no lazy day would be complete without a trip to the Edinburgh Farmers’ Market. It’s the perfect spot for purchasing locally sourced meat, fish and seasonal veggies. Trips here will often shape what I have for supper on a weekend, and I rarely leave uninspired.


Once I’ve had my wander through the stalls, my magpie eye will usually lead me to the Grassmarket, and consequently, Victoria Street. Godiva for vintage, Walker Slater for tweed jackets of perfect cut and color (ladies, there’s a discount room upstairs – a seemingly well-kept secret!) and, of course, the inimitable Armstrong’s for a good bit of dressing up.

3:30 pm: Afternoon tea is held in various establishments across the Capital…


Lovecrumbs – all about the cake. Meringue mushrooms? Lemon thyme drizzle? Violet and bramble sponge? Bacon chocolate? Lavender tarts? Rose and pistachio buttercream? These guys have your back.

Eteaket – all about the tea. Loose leaf, black, white, green, oolong – this is tea done properly, by experts themselves. Their Genmaicha is gorgeous, and if you need to take a little bit of Eteaket home with you, I can heartily recommend their Bollywood Dreams Chai – particularly good for inducing armchair fantasies about Bengal.

Brew Lab – all about the coffee. A self-professed artisan coffee bar, this is a caffeine addict’s dream intersected with a mad scientist’s lab. Their custom espresso blend, roasted by Has Bean, is rocket fuel in innocuous form. A pastry from Le Petit Français, munched whilst you’re there, will stave off the worst of the shakes. Promise.


6 pm: The perfect time for an ice-cold glass of wine and elegant, early-evening pizza at Valvona and Crolla’s Ristorante. V&C are a real Edinburgh institution – my grandma used to pick up her groceries from the same deli I now visit when she was a little girl.

9 pm: With so much to do in this city, it’s hard to whittle it down to just one evening pastime, but I do know that every fantastic evening I’ve had here has been kicked off with a cocktail or two.

Bramble has a sexy, gritty, underground vibe that will have you sipping until the wee hours. Try their signature drink, the Bramble, or my favorite: the Mint 500.

The Voodoo Rooms: outrageously OTT – the baroque ceilings, curved booths and slightly sleazy burlesque vibe make this place hands down my favorite spot for a glitzy tipple. If you like your liquor with a side of whimsy, try “From Tusk Til Dawn.”

Dragonfly – award-winning libations in Art Deco surrounds. If you get peckish during your night, these darlings will have pizza delivered to your table. Yes, really.


Extra Goodness

There just aren’t enough hours in the day to do Edinburgh justice – so I do hope you’ll forgive a few follow-up suggestions…


Posh nosh: Restaurant Martin Wishart

Scottish deli delight: Edinburgh Larder

Steak and seafood: Wildfire

Vegan/vegetarian: Kalpna



Pricey but worth it: The Castle

Electrifying energy: The Festival

Bring your boots: The Seat

Royally eponymous: The Mile



Chocolate: Coco Chocolatier

Shortbread: Pinnies and Poppy Seeds

Sparkles: Bebaroque

Stationery: Paper Tiger

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  • Fabulous to have my home town featured and your comments and recommendations are spot on. Nice one.

    Thanks Design Sponge!

  • I loved Edinburgh so much when I stayed there this past summer. Something about the morning fog and the city’s commitment to maintaining its old charm really got me! Hiking up The Seat and The Crags were my favorite activities (besides sipping on Scotch, of course)!

  • OHMY. I’ve been to Edimburgh twice and I’m currently planning my third trip. I am printing this out and taking it with me. Thank you so much! It’s my favorite city in the world. :D

  • Excellent, some new places to add to my list for a future Edinburgh trip! I took a printed copy of the previous D*S Edinburgh guide with me on a visit there a couple of years ago, and found it both useful and inspiring.

    I would second the recommendation for cardamom buns at Peter’s Yard. I also loved the Scottish National Portrait Gallery – the main hall as you enter has gothic archways, and a mural around the ceiling featuring figures from Scottish history. It gives the impression of being in some kind of fantastical Medieval hall.

  • This was a great list. I will definitely save for later for when I get to Edinburgh. Three breakfast recommends! I like the way she thinks.