Life in Edinburgh: Why You Should Move

Graphic Life in Edinburgh Article featuring the Meadows and Royal Mile

Despite my constant city-hopping, Edinburgh remains to be one of my favourite cities in the world! Life in Edinburgh is special, read all about it here!

I am so excited to write about the wonderful city of Edinburgh and what it’s like to live there.

It is, of course, my home and where I went to University, and despite my constant city-hopping, Edinburgh remains to be one of my favourite cities in the world and somewhere I am always happy to return to.

It is a rare place that balances a rich, historical culture and tradition with a vibrant mix of international, worldly people. Life in Edinburgh is truly top notch, that’s why I highly recommend this wonderful city as an awesome place to live.

Retro Photograph of Prince's Street Gardens, Edinburgh
"Edinburgh" by kentclark333 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.03

Jump to any specific topic below:

Life Passion, Life Purpose logo with two open hands facing up below three symbols of a globe, heart and bow & arrowThis the first post in my ‘Edinburgh Blog Series‘ which you can check out in full here.

CITY STATSEdinburgh is the 7th largest city in the UK with over 500,000 inhabitants, and is home to the highest percentage of non-British Europeans and Americans in the whole of the UK (besides London). With a fantastic University and a fresh, diverse, friendly crowd it is definitely a great place to study, either as a native or foreigner.

Recreation

Summer view taken from the luscious Prince's Street Gardens looking up at Edinburgh Castle.

GREEN SPACE: One of the best things about Edinburgh is the perfect balance of nature and urban life. It is not unknown that the city is built around the rocky cliff of Edinburgh castle with the impressive 650-acre, Holyrood Park nearby. There is no lack of beautiful parks and green spaces throughout the city.

 

HILLS/MOUNTAINS: . Arthur’s Seat is the name of the famous extinct volcano within the city centre in Holyrood Park. It is one of seven sizeable hills in Edinburgh city which together provide ample walking routes and a fun annual race/challenge event (see The Seven Hills of Edinburgh Race & Challenge here). Check out the seven hills themselves here.

Student's at the top of Arthur's Seat with a view of Edinburgh
Afternoon hike up Arthur’s Seat
View from the bottom of the piste at Midlothian Snowsports Centre
Midlothian Snowsports Centre (“ChairLift-18011411” by Lee Live: Photographer (Personal) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Not only are there great hilly areas in and around the city, you can also go further North to spend a weekend or short break hiking in the Highlands of Scotland. Additionally this offers the potential for going ski-ing in Winter, with Glenshee Ski Centre only a couple hours drive away. Otherwise you have a decent dry slope option less than half an hour away; Midlothian Snowsports Centre will allow you to get your slope practice in all year round.

WATERSPORTS: Being on the East coast, there are great sailing opportunities on the Firth of Forth at Port Edgar Marina, a 20 minute train ride away.

Sailing on the River Forth, South Queensferry

Within the city centre you can enjoy the Union Canal through canoeing, the Forth Canoe Club is a great sociable paddling club that makes the most of this. As a student, all these kind of hobbies are best enjoyed through your University clubs. I wrote a whole post on the Universities in Edinburgh here.

 

CLASSICS: If you are keen to get involved in some more typical Scottish sports, of course Golf is a go-to! With 67 courses in and around Edinburgh, there’s plenty of choice. Look through the Edinburgh city golf courses here.

Panoramic of Bruntsfield Golf Course, Edinburgh
“Bruntsfield Links Golf” by Kit Carruthers is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Rugby and football are the next big ones, obviously not with Scottish origins but still at the top of the list for popular Scottish sports. Whether you are keen to get on the field yourself or join the supportive fans at local matches and pubs, just like the rest of the country, there is no end to the rugby and football hype in Edinburgh.

 
Ballroom full of couples Scottish dancing at a ceilidh in Edinburgh
“Guests letting loose on the dancefloor at the 2013 EIFF Ceilidh” by Edinburgh International Film Festival is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

ART: If you only discover one thing about Edinburgh then it’s got to be the city’s love for art! It’s a major hub for artists of all kinds, from casual art/drawing classes, to cooking schools, dance lessons and theatre groups – a quick google search will get you whatever you’re looking for. Trying a bit of Scottish dancing is an absolute MUST! 

And of course, if you’re a student look no further than your University’s own societies and clubs which I’ve written all about in my University post here.

 

SHOPPING & DINING: Naturally, Scotland’s capital has an abundance of shopping and dining opportunities. Especially if you’re into thrifting and bargain-hunting there’s quite a trendy scene for vintage, retro and second hand stores (called ‘Charity Shops’ in the UK which are dotted all across the city). An absolute must-see is one of the UK’s oldest vintage clothing stores on Grassmarket, ‘W.Armstrong & Son’ – see below:

Inside W.Armstrong & Son's vintage clothing emporium.
“Armstrong’s Vintage Emporium 01” by byronv2 is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

On the other side of the coin you’ve got the best of luxury shopping in the around St Andrew’s Square in the New Town, including a 5 storey Harvey Nicols and a designer precinct called ‘Multrees Walk’. All the other popular high street brands are lined up along Prince’s Street and George Street as well as in several sheltered malls around the city. Go to my post on Edinburgh Nightlife to view my restaurant, bar and nightclub picks!

Nightlife & Attractions

Night view of Market Street and Edinburgh Castle with all their beautiful lights.
Market Street and Edinburgh Castle at Night

If you’re more of a party person, Edinburgh has a fantastic, vibrant social scene and nightlife. From traditional pubs in the Old Town to luxury night clubs in the New Town and everything in between, Edinburgh really has it all when it comes to having a great night out. I have a mini series on Nightlife in Edinburgh you can check out here.

Every year is packed with amazing events, festivals and holidays that are unique to Edinburgh and featured on many travel must-see lists. A few of these being:

  • The Military Tattoo
  • The Fringe Festival (biggest arts/comedy festival in the world)
  • The Hogmanay Street Party

Other incredible things to do in Edinburgh include:

  • Visiting all the spots used in the Harry Potter films and where JK Rowling started writing it.
  • Discovering all the historical castles and landmarks.
  • Experiencing a traditional Scottish ceilidh.
  • Trying the traditional and cuisine: featuring haggis and whiskey.
  • Taking a night tour and discovering Edinburgh’s dark and haunted history.
  • Visiting the Firth of Forth and the famous Three Bridges.

Weather

You may already know how much British people love talking about the weather and this is especially true in Scotland. Edinburgh is known to be one of the sunnier cities of Scotland with a nice comfortable Summer of 17-25℃ (in recent years it has been getting hotter) and a chilly Winter of 0-7℃ which usually brings a significant fall of snow (enough to close schools for a couple days each year). The beauties of Spring and Autumn can also be fully appreciated here.

Photo collage of: mother and daughter on Scott's Monument, friends enjoying the Meadows festival, boarding the Jacobite Express, and eating ice cream on Royal Mile
Summer memories, Edinburgh
friends smiling with view of Forth rail bridge, at Hogmanay Prince's Street party, and Christmas market in Edinburgh
Winter memories, Edinburgh

If you are coming from a hotter country, you may find it quite funny to see how Scots react to temperatures above 15℃. This is considered as sun-bathing weather in Scotland so don’t be too shocked to see people walking around in short sleeves and sandals as soon as the temperatures start rising!

Getting Around

Two double decker buses crossing Waverly Bridge in Edinburgh
Double-decker buses in Edinburgh

The public transport in Edinburgh is fantastic, from the city centre to the suburbs and farther out there are plenty of transport options for you. As a university student, you will mostly be using the bus network which will most likely have a bus stop on your street. It costs £51/month for a ‘Ridacard‘ which gives unlimited use of the buses for students and includes the tram line that runs from the airport to the city centre. Get it here.

CYCLISTS → Unfortunately Edinburgh is a bit behind when it comes to cycling and electric cars. The cycling scene isn’t big by any means probably due to the steep streets and angry drivers.

PEDESTRIANS As a pedestrian, you’ll notice a lot of ‘jay-walking’ (crossing the road when the sign is red). It is totally legal to do this in the UK, but don’t let this influence you to do the same if you are unsure of where the traffic is coming from. I have actually seen one unlucky girl try this only to get hit by an unexpected bus turning into the junction!

Black taxi cabs wait in the taxi rank on George Street
Classic Edinburgh Cabs on George Street

TAXIS → After midnight, you’ll use one of the classic black cabs or an app like Uber. However I don’t find this too much of a problem, as, if you are living in the centre, it shouldn’t cost any more than £10 to get home. Just remember if the ‘TAXI’ light is ON then the taxi is available.

 

TOURISTS → For a day of sightseeing, I recommend buying a ‘day ticket’ for £4.50 (or £9.50 for 2 adults & 3 kids) which give you unlimited use of the buses and trams for the whole day.

As for going further afield you should consider an organised group tour. There are countless routes to choose from which suit all interests. I did a 1 day tour with Timberbush Tours with some friends which took us to a couple of historical castles, to the famous fairy glen and around some fishing villages. Otherwise train links and coaches are generally well-priced and easy to use, so not having a car should never stop you from checking out something out of the city.

Scottish People

Scottish people are known for being super friendly and chatty. Even in Edinburgh with the large amount of tourists every year, a local will still happily help out a lost foreigner or anyone who looks confused with a map.

SMALL TALKIt isn’t uncommon for strangers to make polite small talk on the bus or while waiting in a queue. Actually, as a rule, you should expect staff in the service sector; that’s cashiers, waiters, taxi drivers, hairdressers etc, to initiate small talk with you by saying things like,

“Nice day today, huh?”,

“Good day so far?”

“The rain still on?”,

to which you are expected to make a reply. They may or may not continue the conversation from there. Good luck! 

two redhead girls sitting on a bench with a view of the wharf canal
Red hair is called 'ginger' in the UK

REDHEADS → One very special thing about Scotland is that it is home to the largest amount of redheads in the world! Yes, indeed NOT Ireland (as many people think) it is. 13% of the population have red hair with the highest concentration being here in Edinburgh making it redhead capital of the world! 

ACCENT → As for the the Scottish accent. Like most countries, the accent does vary across the country. And the kind you are probably most familiar with is actually a Northern Scottish accent due to the big Hollywood and Disney movies mostly using this to represent Scottish characters. However the Edinburgh accent is different, so have a listen in this YouTube video if you’re interested.

Ewan McGregor
“Ewan McGregor Chef , Star ‘Perfect Sense'” by sweetonsigmafilms is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sean Connery, Ewan McGregor and David Tennant all grew up in and around Edinburgh, whereas James McAvoy has a more Glaswegian accent.

One thing to note, is how often Scottish people swear, especially with the F word! This word can be added into any sentence at any point and is not something to worry about too much. 

As a final note, I want to debunk a couple myths about the famous KILTS you’ve no doubt heard about!

via MEME

“Do the men wear no underwear under their kilt?”

Yes, ‘true’ Scotsmen often wear nothing underneath it. However this is generally only done on special occasions (which is really the only time men wear kilts anyway). The younger generation tend not to due to the probability of some annoying person lifting their kilt up.

Do they wear them as general day-to-day wear?

No, they don’t wear them everyday! The full outfit is equivalent to a tuxedo in terms of formality. There are some Scotsmen who may wear the kilt with a casual top to a Scottish festival or traditional event so that is when you are also likely to see it.

So when are you planning to go to Edinburgh? I’d love to hear if you are planning to move there, leave a comment and tell me why you chose Edinburgh!

This is the first post on my Edinburgh blog series you can check out here. I have written about nightlife, universities, people etc – enjoy!

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Hi! I'm Robyn, a Scottish girl who has been embracing and enjoying life abroad since 2014 through work, study and volunteering opportunities!

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