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Be spontaneous in Edinburgh

Time Out and Booking.com sent the intrepid food, travel and lifestyle blogger Teatime in Wonderland to Edinburgh on a mission to taste her way around town. Here’s what she found…

Be spontaneous in Edinburgh
By Time Out in association with booking.com |
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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.
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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!

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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!

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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!

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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…

National Gallery

This wonderful home of art includes modern and classic works in its collection, and has a café that the locals swear by, too.

Our Dynamic Earth

Get closer to science and nature at this state of the art museum with fab interactive features and a ‘360 degree immersive Show Dome’. 

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Camera Obscura, exhibitions
Tony Marsh

Camera Obscura And World Of Illusions

In Victorian times the Camera Obscura was a marvel of modern study. Now it’s more a novelty but just as fun – it uses optical illusion to give you a panorama view of the city. Nowadays there’s more modern optical wonders to enjoy too.
[Pic: Tony Marsh]

Walk up to Arthur's Seat

A city where nature is never far away, Edinburgh is spoilt for breathtaking views, not least from Arthur’s Seat – the 823 foot hill (and extinct volcano) which looms over it and is a short walk from the Royal Mile.
[Pic: theleastweasel on Flickr]

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Cameo Picturehouse

This art house cinema is over 100 years old but don’t worry, the programming isn’t all silent movies… It’s worth checking to see if there are any special events on here while you’re in Edinburgh, or just turn up a enjoy a drink in their lovely bar.

Craft beer at Hanging Bat

This light and airy bar is one of the finest places in the city to try craft beers, including its own brews. No spit and sawdust joint, this place serves its drinks in schooners not pints, though the menu is more hefty: hot dogs and meatloaf burgers.

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The Stand comedy club
James McLeman

Comedy at The Stand

In Festival season, Edinburgh is not short of stand-ups, but all year round, this venue is regarded as one of the city’s comedy pioneers. It’s got a tiny stage but it hosts some big stars as well as upcoming talent. The bar’s great, too.

Clubbing at Sneaky Pete's

This 150-capacity venue is a great place to check out the local live music scene and is well-regarded for its DJ nights. Grungy and gritty, this is no place to arrive dressed in your best ballgown, but you can expect to hear good sounds.

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Summerhall, theatre
Peter Dibdin

Get a culture fix at Summerhall

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.

Cocktails at The Bon Vivant

You’ll really feel you’ve stumbled on a hidden gem when you get here. A dimly lit but excellent cocktail bar, the Bon Vivant knows its mixes and serves a well-priced tapas style menu of small bites.

Top-rated hotels on Booking.com

Oakhill Apartments, Edinburgh

Oakhill Apartments

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

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Palmerstone Suites, Edinburgh

Palmerstone Suites

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

The Howard

Many hotels claim to be boutique but this one really lives up to that promise – three elegant Georgian townhouses have been converted with period elegance into a comfortable and luxurious retreat.

Book with Booking.com
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Albyn Townhouse, Edinburgh

Albyn Townhouse

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
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Angels Share, Edinburgh

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

Hotel du Vin

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
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Pollock Halls, Edinburgh

Pollock Halls

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
Baxter Hostel, Edinburgh

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
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