50 Edinburgh secrets only a local will know
Calton Hill

You can flip through guide books and scour the internet as much as you like, but there are always some special city secrets that you’ll miss out on unless you’ve really spent time living in Edinburgh.

Whether you’re visiting, or you’re a local who just needs some fresh insider inspiration, we’ve got 50 ultimate Edinburgh secrets up our sleeves about eating, drinking, shopping and so much more.

Eating and drinking:

1. Taquito have got an offer you can’t refuse

Legendary Tollcross Mexican Taquito have got a delicious all day deal on at the moment – a small burrito or fajitas and a drink for a fiver, or a larger version for £7. Often hailed as one of Edinburgh’s best ever burritos, this is an offer that will make both your tummy and your wallet happy.

32 Home Street, EH3 9LZ – taquito.co.uk

2. We can give you the password to a secret bar

It’s been around for a while, but cocktail bar Liquor Library is one of Edinburgh’s most magical hidden gems – probably because it’s a secret bar with a constantly changing password. Want in on the action? Just follow the bar’s Facebook page and you’ll see the weekly password pop up on your timeline.

1 Barony Street, EH1 3SB – facebook.com/liquorlibrary

3. You need to check out the naked cafe

Don’t be too disappointed – it’s the food here that’s naked, not the people. Grams serves raw, vegan, clean, dairy free, gluten free and refined sugar free cakes that are super healthy, as well as being absolutely delicious. Their signature treats include a raw take on a Snickers bar and dairy free cheesecakes in every flavour from chocolate orange to vanilla and Nutella fudge. Glorious treats without (quite as much) guilt.

16 Haymarket Terrace, EH12 5JZ – gramsedinburgh.com

4. ‘Sky high’ drinks aren’t always expensive

Located in the penthouse of the Hilton Doubletree Hotel, the little-known SKYBar is only open to the public on the first Thursday of every month. This chic cocktail bar has stunning Castle views and is a date night venue to remember, so you’d better put that date in your diary.

Doubletree by Hilton Hotel, 34 Bread Street, EH3 9AF – doubletree3.hilton.com

5. You can get bubbles with your (Japanese) brunch

Although you might not expect it from a sushi restaurant, Harajuku Kitchen in Bruntsfield are now serving up a brand new and exciting set brunch menu every Saturday and Sunday. For less than £30 you’ll get a carafe of prosecco or mimosa, two sides and your choice of main, from a sushi platter to noodles. It has to be the most adventurous brunch in town.

10 Gillespie Place, EH10 4HS – harajukukitchen.co.uk

6. There’s a deal a day at Burger Meats Bun

If gourmet burgers make your soul happy but your bank balance sad, we’ve got the answer. Burger Meats Bun now offer a few great foodie deals throughout the week, from burger, chips and a soft drink for a tenner mid-week, to free chicken wings when you buy two burgers. Tasty.

1 Forth Street, EH1 3JX – burger-meats-bun.co.uk

7. There is such a thing as a free drink

Cheap cocktails are something of a mythical creature in Edinburgh, but Italian restaurant Croma (next to the Odeon) are offering two for one cocktails between Tuesdays and Thursdays, working out at just £4 per drink.

3 Morrison Street, EH3 8BQ – cromapizza.co.uk

8. You can have your hangover fry-up delivered

Feeling a tad tender after a wild one last night? Never fear, you can get one of Edinburgh’s most loved cooked brekkies delivered straight to your hangover bed. Via Just Eat, Snax Cafe, Quick & Plenty Cafe and Meltmongers will all deliver a full breakfast, filled rolls, breakfast burritos and even coffees with a smile, so you can get on the road to recovery without having to leave the house.

9. Edinburgh Uni library has a ‘souper’ secret

If you’re anywhere near George Square – where Edinburgh Uni’s main library is located – and it’s a week day, you’ll be able to buy some tasty soup from the Union of Genius retro soup van, affectionately named Dumbo. Perfect if you’re in a rush and can’t make it to their Forrest Road cafe.

10. We know where you can get bottomless coffee

Free coffee refills aren’t just for diners in American movies – you can find them right here in Edinburgh if you look hard enough. The City Cafe (which is in fact a diner) will fill you up with all the filter coffee you can manage for the price of one cup, and the breakfasts are great too.

19 Blair Street, EH1 1QR – citycafeedinburgh.co.uk

11. There’s such a thing as a donut delivery

Deliveroo has changed our lives in many ways (and not all of them for the better) but one of the positives is that you can now have freshly made donuts delivered to your house. Believe it or not, local shop Deadly Donuts are ready and waiting to deliver sweet treats to you as we speak. Dangerous.

21 Argyle Place, EH9 1JJ – facebook.com/deadlydonuts

12. Fridays are for lobster and champagne

Obviously Stockbridge restaurant Kilted Lobster serve up some amazing seafood, but did you know they offer a lobster and champagne special to rival some of Edinburgh’s most upmarket establishments every Friday night? Treat yourself to a whole lobster and a glass of champers for £28, or opt for a half lobster and pay £16. Either way, you’re guaranteed to feel posh while saving some dosh.

112 St Stephen Street, EH3 5AD – kiltedlobster.com

13. The best beer gardens are hidden

The Canny Man’s, The Royal Dick and Maxies Bistro & Wine Bar are just three of Edinburgh’s lesser-known beer gardens. Head to one of these hidden gems when the sun comes out and you’ve got a much better chance of getting a seat than in the usual haunts.

Six hidden Edinburgh beer gardens you might not know exist

14. There’s a tempting monthly tasting at Cafe Grande

Off licence Oddbins have stepped up their game in recent years, and the one in Bruntsfield is keeping up with its coolest independent competitors. The management run a monthly tasting session at the nearby Cafe Grande, with wine galore and some interesting info about what you’re drinking to boot. Tickets are £12 per person, and you have to buy in advance so they know how much wine to bring, of course.

176 Bruntsfield Place, EH10 4DF – oddbins.com/bruntsfield

15. The coolest street food market is off the beaten track

Pitt Market February
Alex Watson

Taking place every weekend until the end of July, the pitt street food market is usually monthly and always a great way to spend an afternoon, evening or whole day. Running from 12pm until 10:30pm in Inverleith, the pitt is always bustling – despite its somewhat hidden location – and you can sample some of Scotland’s best street food and drinks in a pleasantly party-like atmosphere.

125 Pitt Street, EH6 4DE –  facebook.com/pittstmarket

16. Boozy milkshakes are better

Milkshakes aren’t just for kids around these parts, as the brains behind The Boozy Cow well know. The bar and restaurant have an unexpected but impressive number of alcoholic milkshakes on their menu, from a play on a white russian (featuring Malteasers) to a boozy pina colada-esque drink with Irn-Bru.

17 Frederick Street, EH2 2EY – boozycow.com/edinburgh

17. We’ve got cupcakes on call

Whether you’ve left it very late to plan a loved one’s birthday party, or you’ve just had a bad day and really need some good cake, Edinburgh’s own Cuckoo’s Bakery have got you covered. They can deliver cupcakes on the same day as ordering within the city, or they can rustle up a beautiful celebration cake with a little more warning.

150 Dundas Street, EH3 5DQ / 116 Bruntsfield Place, EH10 4ES – cuckoosbakery.co.uk

18. Gin is way bigger than whisky here

You’ve probably heard of Edinburgh Gin by now, but did you know there’s also Pickering’s, Daffy’s and the Electric Spirit Co all distilling gin in our fair city? It’s time to ditch the tourist whisky trails and embark on your own gin tour instead.

19. Get draft beer delivered

Growler Beers UK gives customers the ability to enjoy draft beer in the comfort of their own home, simply by filling up a bottle (or ‘growler’) with beer or cider in either their Leith or Morningside premises. Even better – for those times when you’re super busy, they do an online delivery service. Weekend sorted.

229 Morningside Road, EH10 4QT / 38 Bernard Street, EH6 6PR – growlerbeersuk.com

Activities:

20. There are skiing opportunities all year round in Edinburgh

Regardless of the season, you can always don your salopettes at Hillend artificial ski slope to the south of the city. There are skiing and snowboarding classes on offer for all ages and abilities, as well as general slope time that can be paid for by the hour.

Midlothian Snowsports Centre, Biggar Road, Hillend, EH10 7DU – midlothian.gov.uk/snowsports_centre

21. Ping pong is more popular than you might think

A photo posted by Sygn (@sygnbarsees) on

Consider yourself a bit of a whizz with a ping pong paddle? You can put your skills to the test by booking the table at Sygn, or heading along to The Bongo Club‘s monthly ‘Rock & Roll Ping Pong’ Sunday night social, where you can enter an amateur tournament for just a quid – if you’ve got the (ping pong) balls. Winner takes all.

22. You can learn to be (even more) awesome

The unusual exercise class known as Project Awesome is a fantastic way to get fit for free and make great new friends at the same time. Well worth dragging yourself out of bed at 6:30am for, this hour-long workout will get raring to go for the rest of the day with their enthusiasm and energy – as well as plenty of hugs and high fives. There’s a different session every Wednesday, utilising the outdoor terrain for a challenging workout, and they’re held at Calton Hill.

23. There’s always time for a Turkish bath

Only three Turkish baths are still in operation in Scotland, and one can be found hidden inside Portobello Swim Centre. Designed to relax and refresh you after a hard workout or just a stressful day, the idea is to take a dip in pools of various temperatures as many times as you like before cooling down in the suitably grand-sounding Frigidarium.

Portobello Swim Centre, 57 Promenade, EH15 2BS – edinburghleisure.co.uk/turkish-baths

24. There are endless ways to escape

Hands on escape games are all the rage these days, for friends, families or as team building exercises. Locked In Edinburgh, Dr Knox’s Enigma and Can You Escape? are just half of the live action escape room games Edinburgh has to offer

25. We have a secret rooftop spa

A dip in One Spa’s super secret rooftop hydro or swimming pools kills two birds with one stone. You’ll get a unique view of Edinburgh and a relaxing soak at the same time, and although it’s pricey for a day pass we’d say it’s worth the cost for a special one-off treat. Just don’t tell everyone.

8 Conference Square, EH3 8AN – onespa.com

26. You don’t have to ‘cue’ to play pool

Sick of busy pubs with one solitary pool table that everyone knows you’re never going to get a game on? Diane’s Pool Hall in Dalry and The Ball Room in Morningside and Meadowbank have heaps of tables, and they serve beer too – score.

27. You can take up trampolining

If you ever had dreams of running away to join the circus to become an acrobat, now’s the time to bring that fantasy to life. Or, you know, get a bit fitter in a fun way, at least. RYZE Edinburgh is a huge, indoor trampoline park just outside of the city centre (in Dalkeith) where you can take classes or just go for some fun, whether you’ve got kids or you’re just a big kid yourself.

23 Mayfield Industrial Estate, EH22 4AD – ryzeedinburgh.com

28. Boot camp is better than the gym

Not much of a secret, you might say, but if you love fitness yet loathe being confined to the gym, outdoor boot camp could be just the ticket. Links Fitness is one of Edinburgh’s fun and social boot camps – a women-only class, held three times a week on Leith Links. The friendly instructor, Marianne, couldn’t be less intimidating.

Arts and events:

29. We have the world’s comfiest cinema

You may have to pay a little more for your ticket at the family-run Dominion cinema in Morningside, but you’ll be made to feel right at home in a cosy seat on a leather sofa or reclining armchair and a foot stool as you watch your chosen movie. Now and again you’ll even be offered complimentary crisps here – when was the last time the multiplex treated you so well?

18 Newbattle Terrace, EH10 4RT – dominioncinemas.net

30. You can have fun for half the price at the Fringe

If you love the Fringe but hate shelling out for the big name shows, head to the Half Price Hut. The Hut offers discounted tickets for performances happening on that day and following morning, so it keeps things spontaneous and exciting, as well as saving you money.

31. Edinburgh theatres will give you a backstage pass

Ever wondered what it’s like behind the scenes at the Festival Theatre or the King’s? You can find out on one of the regular Edinburgh Theatres backstage tours, where you’ll learn some fascinating facts about the venue and see some secret places the public usually aren’t allowed.

32. Film fans can test their knowledge every month

Think you love movies? Then try the infamously difficult Filmhouse quiz in their cafe bar on the second Sunday of each month. It’s not widely advertised, but always busy with regular teams – and they know their stuff.

88 Lothian Road, EH3 9BZ – filmhousecinema.com

33. You can plan a private film screening… for free

Whether you’ve made a film, or simply want to watch your favourite flick with 50 of your friends in tow, The Banshee Labyrinth pub has an amazing private cinema room that you can hire for absolutely nothing.

29-35 Niddry Street, EH1 1LG – thebansheelabyrinth.com

34. You can see new movies for less money

Of course there are off-peak times for cinemas when they lower their prices to encourage more visitors. In Edinburgh the Filmhouse have cheap Friday matinees, while the Cameo have designated Monday as their money-off day.

Out and about:

35. The Museum’s roof terrace has a stunning view

Museum roof terrace
Alex Watson

Head up to the National Museum of Scotland’s free rooftop terrace on a clear day for breathtaking panoramic views of the entire city and beyond – perfect for both sketchers and sun-worshippers.

Chambers Street, EH1 1JF – nms.ac.uk

36. There’s a desert island to be discovered

You’ll have to keep an eye on the time and the tide, but the mile long walk from the mainland to Cramond Island at low tide has to be done – especially if you live closer to the city centre and rarely get to enjoy beautiful Cramond. 

37. It makes sense to go mobile on the bus

If you always end up spending a fortune on crisps and chewing gum trying to get exactly £1.60 in change for the bus you’re not alone. Save your money by buying mobile tickets (or m-tickets) in bulk on your phone through the Lothian Buses app and simply show your phone to the driver as you board.

38. Some barbers give out free beer

Gentlemen, get the best value out of your next trip to the barber by choosing one of the Edinburgh establishments who not only cut hair and sculpt beards to an expert level, but also hand out a complimentary beer to each customer. Sink & Anchor, Ruffians and Rag & Bone are among the wise ones who know the power of a free drink.

39. You’re allowed to go behind the scenes at the museum

The National Museum of Scotland and Edinburgh Zoo both regularly host night time events for grown ups, where you can enjoy exhibitions and mingle with mammals to your heart’s content, drink in hand. There’s always some great music and live entertainment on offer too.

40. Freelancers can break free from home offices

If you’re a student, freelancer or just work from home you’ll know how easy it is to get distracted. You can sign up (for free) as a library member and bask in the warmth, light and free wifi at one of Edinburgh’s many stunning libraries – from Central Library on George IV Bridge to Stockbridge Library. If you’re feeling peckish, Fredericks Coffee House, Owl & Deer and Brew Lab are just some of the local cafes ideally set up for study and remote working.

Five of the best cafes for freelancers in Edinburgh

41. Adore Edinburgh coffee? There’s an app for that

If you’re a coffee addict you’ve probably stumbled across the Edinburgh Coffee Lovers blog before, but did you know they now have a handy app? For just 79 pence you can see which best independent coffee shops are near your current location and access all of the review on Edinburgh Coffee Lovers, even without internet access.

42. You’ll never run out of cycle routes

Google the slightly odd phrase ‘Edinburgh Innertube’ and you’ll find a colourful map (in the same vein as the London Underground map) highlighting around 75km of off-street paths all over the city that are suitable for cyclists. Mostly made up of disused railway lines, the route stretches from Cramond in the north west to Musselburgh in the south east, with plenty of locations in between.

43. Free entry isn’t a figment of your imagination

Edinburgh might be a notoriously expensive night out, but it’s still possible to go clubbing here without paying an extortionate entry fee. Cab Vol, Hive and Sneaky Pete’s are among those who won’t charge you to come inside on certain nights during the week.

Shopping secrets:

44. Shopping independent is easy

From records and craft beer to handbags and musical instruments, Edinburgh is full of flourishing independent businesses that need and appreciate your support. Give Princes Street a swerve, and instead head for the Grassmarket, Stockbridge and Marchmont – just for starters, anyway – to see what else is on offer.

10 of the best independent boutiques in Edinburgh

45. Parking doesn’t have to be a total pain

Parking your car in Edinburgh is no picnic. In moments of need you can always turn to Edinburgh’s Parkopedia – a comprehensive online guide to all of the car parking facilities in the city, ranked by cost. Simply tell the website where you are and in return it will let you know where you can park up and for how much.

46. You can reduce your packaging waste to zero

Reduce your carbon footprint by a mile by doing your food shop at Marchmont’s vegetarian wholefood shop, The New Leaf Co-Op. Instead of buying already packaged groceries, customers here bring their own storage receptacles (from bags and baskets to glass jars) and buy as much or as little of the produce as they need.

23 Argyle Place, EH9 1JJ – newleafcoop.co.uk

47. There are gems to be found in Edinburgh charity shops

If you browse charity shops in Stockbridge and Morningside carefully, you’ll be rewarded with top quality second hand clothing and accessories, even if they aren’t designer. You never know, though – the Mary Portas charity shop (for Save the Children) in Stockbridge might have a few high end pieces up its sleeve.

34 Raeburn Place, EH4 1HN – savethechildren.org.uk//marys-living-and-giving/edinburgh

48. Let Edinburgh’s vintage experts do the hard work

If you don’t fancy sweating over racks of charity shop donations on the hunt for a retro gem, you should pay a visit to one of Edinburgh’s vintage boutiques, like Those Were The Days in Stockbridge or Armstrong’s.

49. It’s worth leaving the city centre

Leith, Stockbridge, Newington, Bruntsfield… The areas just outside of Edinburgh’s main drag have so much character – they’re like little villages in themselves. And what do villages have? Quirky, unique shops that you won’t find anywhere else.

50. There’s a record shop hidden inside a bar

The first of its kind in Edinburgh, eccentric but charming pub and nightclub Paradise Palms actually has a small record shop in the corner of the bar, where you can shop and listen to music with a drink in hand – ideal for fans of both vinyl and booze.

41 Lothian Street, EH1 1HB – theparadisepalms.com

Know of any more Edinburgh secrets we’ve missed? Share them with us on Facebook or Twitter

Like this? Try these:

20 bizarre facts every local should know about Edinburgh
Eight excellent microadventures you can take across Edinburgh

20 things you (probably) didn’t know about Princes Street

Main image: Strevo / Flickr / CC