Whether you're after cosy pubs with roaring fires or a bracing walk up to Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh is a brilliant place to explore in autumn. From awesome street-food markets to the city's annual anime festival, you won't be short of things to do. Read on for our pick of the best.
11 incredible things to do in Edinburgh this autumn
Can’t decide between a night on the dancefloor or an evening at a street-food market? Now you don’t have to. Meats & Beats does exactly what it says on the tin, bringing together meaty fare and banging tunes. Chow down on food from The Pitt, Rib-Aye Steakhouse, The Mac Shack, Bruadair and Wild & Smoky and sip on cocktails, craft beer and prosecco from a selection of pop-up bars. The event at Assembly Roxy will be blasting out pop bangers from the last five decades, starting at the '70s and changing decade every hour. It’ll also have retro TV game shows inspired by ‘Blind Date’, ‘Catchphrase’ and ‘Blankety Blank’. Get ready to feel nostalgic (and full). Fri Oct 20-Sun Oct 22.
Find out more about Meats & Beats.
The wondrous food and drink at this sublime New Town restaurant would be reason enough to stop by for a warming pad Thai and signature Yok Lor vodka cocktail this autumn. But in addition to all that deliciousness, Chaophraya’s got one thing most other Edinburgh restaurants don’t: a stunning fourth-floor view of the castle and surrounding skyline. Book a table in the conservatory, indulge in a couple of aperitifs and let the fragrant flavours of south-east Asia melt in your mouth as dusk falls and the city lights sparkle to life.
Sure, autumn typically means wet and windy weather in this part of the world, but let's think positively for a moment. Picture a crisp, dry afternoon walk, wrapped up in cosy knitwear with orange leaves crunching underfoot, followed by a hearty meal and a pint in one of Edinburgh’s oldest pubs. OK, we can’t make any promises about the weather, but we do know there are few better ways to top off a walk round Arthur’s Seat than with a Sunday roast at The Sheep Heid (established 1360), followed by a friendly (ie super-competitive) game in its in-house skittle alley.
Situated in the ever-so-swanky Signet Library round the side of St Giles' Cathedral on the Royal Mile, Colonnades is a tastefully glamorous tearoom and lunch venue that everyone should visit at least once. The afternoon tea is the main attraction, with seasonal sandwiches, savouries, sweets and a variety of teas served on silver stands by diligent waiting staff. There’s also a sumptuous two- or three-course lunch menu and cocktails to sample amid the opulent neoclassical surroundings.
It sometimes feels like Scotland’s national poet is regarded as untouchable. The likes of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, ‘A Man’s a Man for a’ That’ and ‘A Red, Red Rose’ have so firmly cemented his popular legacy that his drinking, womanising and the fact he was nearly employed on a Jamaican slave plantation are often overlooked. Two installations finishing up their Edinburgh Art Festival residencies explore that darker side at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery until October 29: Douglas Gordon’s ‘Black Burns’, which presents a shattered counterpoint to John Flaxman’s original marble statue of oor Rabbie, and Graham Fagen’s ‘The Slave's Lament’, a video of Burns’ abolitionist song as performed by the Scottish Ensemble and reggae artist Ghetto Priest.
Edinburgh’s not exactly short on whisky bars – in fact, you can barely swing a cat in the Old Town without knocking a dram out of someone’s hand – but the Bow Bar, nestled among the vibrant independent boutiques on Victoria Street, is something special. The cosy pub stocks over 300 single malts and, for anyone less enamoured with the water of life, around 60 beers and ales (in the fridge and on tap). As it happens, the AA just named it the best pub in Scotland for 2017, so pop in and raise a toast.
Since arriving on Edinburgh’s eating scene in 2012, this homely little restaurant in a B-listed historic cottage has built up a stellar reputation among capital foodies. The core concept is, as with many a successful eatery, strikingly simple. Diners sit at a single, shared table and are served from a set menu of dishes created from seasonal ingredients either grown or produced on-site, or sourced locally – making the autumnal harvest season a particularly good time to visit. Given its popularity (and the ‘cosiness’ of the venue), getting reservations can be tricky. If you can’t wait, its brand new venture in Leith, Quay Commons, should satisfy your craving.
Returning to Edinburgh’s Filmhouse cinema for the eighth year, the Scotland Loves Anime festival boasts yet another programme of vibrant animated movie treats from Japan. Highlights this year include a special screening of 2003 comedy-drama ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ (to be followed with a post-film Q&A by Studio Madhouse co-founder Masao Maruyama), two CG ‘Resident Evil’ adaptations (‘Degeneration’ and ‘Vendetta’) and the widely acclaimed 2016 drama ‘Your Name’, which ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ helmer JJ Abrams is set to remake. Head along and be one of those cultured and/or snobby people who prefers the original. Mon Oct 16-Thu Oct 26.
Get your creative juices flowing at this boozy art class, where you're encouraged to enjoy a nice glass of vino while you work on your masterpiece. Whether you’re an old hand looking to sharpen your old skills, or so new you don’t know which end of the brush to hold, it promises to be a relaxed, convivial evening, with all materials (and, more importantly, wine) supplied as part of the event. Fri Oct 20 and Fri Nov 10.
Find out more about Wine & Painting.
Everyone knows that good things come in threes – and that’s definitely the case with lunchtime format A Play, a Pie and a Pint at the Traverse Theatre, which guarantees to keep you entertained, fed and watered. This October, it has teamed up with the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival to present 'Hysteria!', a darkly comic political cabaret that explores how sexism has impacted mental health treatment over the years – from the archaic 'wandering womb' theory to the more recent phenomena of 'gaslighting'. Theatre-maker Julia Taudevin takes inspiration from interviews with more than 100 people, as well as the 2016 US election and the global women’s marches that followed. Tue Oct 17-Sat Oct 21.
Celebrate Lauryn Hill’s much-admired debut album ‘The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill’ with a live rendition by a group of London-based session musicians and vocalists at Summerhall. It’s been a sellout in London and a second date has already been added in Edinburgh, so snap up a ticket and get ready to feel nostalgic singing along to classic tunes including ‘Doo Wop (That Thing)’ and ‘Everything Is Everything’. Thu Oct 19 and Fri Oct 20.