To prove that you don’t have to plan every second of your next trip away ages in advance, we sent London-based food blogger Coralie Grassin off on a wing-it weekend to Edinburgh. Except that she didn’t know where she was going until she was handed the travel documents.
So, with only a packed bag and the Booking.com app on her mobile, off she set to discover the delights of dining and drinking in Scotland’s first city. We think she’ll inspire you to wing-it next weekend!
Read on to find ten fabulous hotels and things to do in Edinburgh. And don't forget to enter our fabulous wing-it weekend competition.
Introducing Coralie Grassin
Teatime in Wonderland is a London-based blog written by French-born Coralie Grassin. It’s nearly ten years since Coralie started the blog and her serious passions – travel, food, family life in London – shine through her inspiring blogs and picture galleries. Time Out and Booking.com sent Coralie on a wing-it trip to Edinburgh.
Where she booked
The destination was kept secret till the last moment. Suspense… My tickets are for Edinburgh!
My hotel, Motel One, was a mere 5 mins walk from the station, ideal. The rooms are modern – super comfy bed, tea kit on the side, free wifi and a touch of turquoise blue adding to the elegance. The lounge near reception mixes Victorian and Renaissance inspiration, tweed and vibrant colours. A great place to sip on a cup of tea on a rainy day.I found the hotel on the Booking.com app. I’m used to the website but the mobile version allowed me to multitask. I decided to time the operation, out of curiosity. Enter that day’s date, the area, filter to narrow down the list.
My personal priorities: designer deco, free wifi, reviews above 8.5/10, a max of £225 for two nights. I read through the descriptions (detailed but easy to absorb in one glance) and even on my phone the process was fluid, even from one picture to another.
I select one, add the payment details (although there is a special filter should you prefer to not give your credit card number just yet).
In a few seconds, I get my confirmation, both by email and on the app (where I can check it without wifi, no need to print!) as well as cool tips on my destination. In total? All done in 7 minutes.
The spirit of adventure
The secret of a spontaneous week-end? The right balance with a little organisation and feeling free. Follow your heart. Be Alice-crazy.
The mission? Being a foodie reporter for a few days, finding quirky, under the radar delicious or fun addresses. Exciting!
Let’s talk food. I wanted to ‘eat local’ and have my radar on for the unusual. I started on the Royal Mile to have a look at St Giles Cathedral (there’s a café in its crypt – a good start in my search for the extraordinary). My request for tips on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram connected me with locals and this sent me to Oink on Victoria Street. They do a fantastic hog roast, super juicy and tasty. The pulled pork is served in a bun and you can add apple sauce stuffing… and haggis!
On my way back to the hotel, I noticed a diner, The Lucky Liquor. It looked closed but the opening times indicated otherwise. I pushed the door and hooray, what a cool place! Only vinyl records are played here – full album, not a playlist of mixed artists. On Sundays, you can bring your own.
Seek out new flavours
I head to a nearby farmer’s market, a Slow Food special. A few chefs belonging to the movement had designed cute little dishes for a mere £3 each. Haybales had been turned into benches and tables (complete with a tartan tablecloth), musicians in kilts were playing folklore music, the sun was shining: Edinburgh is indeed a rather cool city.
Blue sky and full strength sunshine, hooray! This called for a drink. On my way to the Royal Mile, I noticed Makar’s Rest has a lovely little terrace, shaded by trees. The nearby table tells me the National Scottish Museum has a rooftop. Off we go!
Last stop of the day was the excellent Aizle restaurant, a must-go-to for all gourmets. There is no menu here, only a list of ingredients. Just cross off the ones you are not inspired by and the chef will add their magic, creating something just for you. £45 for 5 dishes is quite a deal too, you will not regret a single penny!
I never expected so many interesting gourmet and fun places in Edinburgh. As I headed back to my hotel, I pondered how much there was to do in so little time. Luckily I’d been able to search by location on Booking.com and sorted a boutique hotel by the station had been easy, so there was less walking and more time to dine.
Find a breakfast with a view
It was drizzling when I got up but surprisingly, rain suits the city. I recalled the National Scottish Museum from the day before. Very few people know their fifth floor Tower Restaurant serves breakfast too. Order the Scottish wild mushroom omelette.
There was still a little time so I walked up Calton Hill. You will find the tiniest café, Milk, near the Collective art gallery. Nothing concludes a good trip like a slice of cake with an espresso and a view!
Time to get my suitcase back from Motel One. The reservation via Booking.com was a complete success. If finding a hotel was a nightmare that stopped you going on last minute week-ends, rejoice, life has just got so much easier…
The hub of Edinburgh’s current arts scene, Summerhall is a great space to just rock up to and see what’s going on. From political talks to art to gigs (big and small) to dance, film and theatre, there’s plenty going on. The Royal Dick Bar and the café here are great, too.
Top-rated hotels on Booking.com
Get five-star hotel lux with the freedom of self-catering in these gorgeous apartments. Free parking is available and the centre of Edinburgh is 10 minutes’ drive away.
Book with Booking.com
This place is great so simple modern comfort in the elegant setting of a Georgian townhouse located close to Haymarket railway station. Each suite has a kitchen and luxury bathroom.
Book with Booking.com
An easy stroll from the Medieval City, the Albyn Townhouse is a four-star, family-run B&B with king-size beds and full Scottish breakfasts. Its four-storey, 19th-century town house setting adds to the charm.Book with Booking.com
Angels Share Hotel
This is a modern, funky boutique hotel which lands you right at the heart of Edinburgh’s West End. Each room is themed to a famous Scot – will you stay in the Sean Connery or the Ewan McGregor room?
Book with Booking.com
Set in the historic Old Town, this Hotel du Vin mixes a heritage setting with modern comfort and style, including plasma TVs, luxury bathrooms and pretty rolltop baths. The bistro serves a regional menu and is popular with locals as well as hotel residents.Book with Booking.com
If you’re looking for good, affordable places to stay this could be a good option for you. Located at the foot of the royal Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat, the Pollock Halls campus offers bed and breakfast accommodation during the University of Edinburgh's summer vacation.Book with Booking.com
The Baxter Hostel
This is beautifully presented hostel accommodation in the bustling New Town part of Edinburgh. The dormitories feature bunk beds and secure lockers and there’s a shared self-catering kitchen. Just 200 yards from Edinburgh Waverley station.Book with Booking.com