Sixteen years ago this August, I arrived in Edinburgh for a semester-long study abroad program.
Until now, friends who were traveling to Edinburgh could only get recommendations of what 20-year old Bailey enjoyed. This includes Pizza Hut, which this week I discovered is still alive and well and offering unlimited free refills of Diet Coke to thirsty American study abroad students (I coined the term “freerillable” on my first trip abroad, where I was horrified to learn that not all restaurants give you additional Diet Cokes for free like they do in America).
I am now happy to report that I can give recommendations that either 20 or 36-year olds will enjoy, or perhaps you want a mix of both?
Edinburgh for 36-year olds
The Outsider - beautiful space, fantastic steak, good bottles of wine for less than 20 pounds (and since you can get good bottles of wine for less than 20 pounds, you might drink enough that you do, in fact, want to hit up some of the places on my Edinburgh for 20-year olds list)
Mussel Inn - wonderful seafood place on Rose St. We lucked out that a table in the front section opened, otherwise we would have been turned away as countless others were. So, get a reservation. The half pot of mussels is plenty of food if you want to try some of the other starters or sides. The fried goat cheese is a must. As a bonus, they also have a Glasgow location.
The Witchery by the Castle - first, incredible name. We had afternoon tea in the “secret garden” and for 40 pounds you got a three-tiered tray of sandwiches, scones, sweet, and haggis bonbons. They had an excellent tea selection and served either champagne or rose champagne. You can do lunch or dinner as well, and everything that people around us ordered looked and smelled great.
Bailie Bar - I did not pick this place just because we share a name, but it was a factor. Very quaint pub in the newer part of town, Stockbridge. We watched the American US Women’s match here and also participated in American-themed pub quiz (and came in 4th even though we were the only team of Americans). Our waitress raved about the lasagna and it was as good as promised.
Edinburgh for 20-year olds
There are a number of bars near the University of Edinburgh’s campus, but these are all focused in the Cowgate area.
Finnegan’s Wake - live Irish music every night of the week. We went almost nightly (ok, that may be an exaggeration, but it also may not be) and never had a bad time.
Frankenstein’s - this is a weird place that should be experienced at least once. Shortly after midnight the monster himself descends from the ceiling. I don’t know why, but it’s awesome. I can also vouch for this being an entertaining experience at 36 and after a few bottles of wine.
Bannerman’s - they showed American football here but have a good setup for any sports you’re interested in catching.
Brass Monkey - a little further from the Cowgate and towards campus.
As you can see, I only have bars to recommend because I ate most of my meals at Pizza Hut off the Royal Mile or other non-memorable spots.
Edinburgh at any age
The hop-on, hop-off bus tour is a fun and easy way to see the city. If you pick the option that gives you access to three buses, you can also get a ride out to the Royal Yacht Britannia and imagine what it would have been like to sail the high seas as a royal.
Edinburgh is an incredibly beautiful city to walk around as well - be sure to look for crazy hidden staircases leading to different street levels around the city.