Indeed, this blog post is not a typical Edinburgh travel guide.
I don’t mean to offend any Edinburgh fan out there, but my first trip to Edinburgh last June quite fell short of my expectations. Don’t get me wrong: The city looks beautiful! But if you’re planning to travel to Edinburgh soon, I believe there are things you should know that might NOT be commonly mentioned in flattering blog posts and gorgeous photos of Edinburgh.
So here they are: 6 reasons why I don’t like Edinburgh and How you can avoid feeling the same.
1. It’s extremely awfully scarily CROWDED!
As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the UK, Edinburgh surely attracts lots of visitors. Yet when the city greeted me with its super massive crowds of tourists, I felt at once unbreathable.
High Street – the main street running along Edinburgh’s Old Town – was to my memory nothing but a cacophony of tourists shouting, traffic braking to a halt and street music of all styles (whether good or bad) mixing. It was already difficult to move around without banging into someone. And even more difficult not to spoil somebody’s selfie moment by accidentally photobombing them.
This overcrowdedness unfortunately quite ruined Edinburgh’s authentic old charm. I constantly wondered where all the locals had gone? Did they all come hiding after Edinburgh Old Town got invaded by tourists and selfie sticks?
How to avoid Edinburgh’s overcrowdedness
I returned to Edinburgh on a Tuesday afternoon and (surprise!) found the city amazingly less crowded. There were still hoards of tourists flocking into Edinburgh Old Town, but compared to my first arrival, it was much less noisy, jam-packed or chaotic. So, my first advice is naturally to visit Edinburgh on weekdays rather than the weekends!
But what if you become fed up with those noisy tourists in Edinburgh’s Old Town and think you might need some fresh air? Taking a day trip (or even half day trip) from Edinburgh is the perfect solution!
Despite my scheduled departure from Edinburgh at 2pm on my last day there, I decided that very morning to escape the hustles and bustles of Edinburgh by taking a 30-minute train to South Queensferry – a nice little seaside town lying to the west of Edinburgh. South Queensferry boasts many houses with beautiful garden, green areas and scenic hills overlooking the harbour. Upon arriving at Dalmeny train station (the main train station in South Queensferry), I struggled a bit to find my way to the old town, but received tremendous help from the friendly locals who cheerfully welcomed visitors to their town. Check out my blog post on things to do in South Queensferry here.
Other than that, you can also take a day trip from Edinburgh to North Berwick, St. Andrews, Loch Ness, etc. Note that these destinations are not equally close to Edinburgh. If you only have half a day to spare (like me), make sure to check the train timetables and the transportation options at those places as well.
2. Food is overpriced
I’ve read from some Edinburgh travel guide that this city has the highest rate of restaurants per head in the UK. On the one hand, this is absolutely great news for foodies! But on the other hand, this makes it harder to go through all the restaurant reviews and choose a suitable place (not only good, but suitable!) to eat in Edinburgh.
I’ve noticed that most places to eat in Edinburgh Old Town are quite overpriced. For example, Oink – a popular pulled pork sandwich eatery in Edinburgh – charges £3.10 for a sandwich with 80g of pork. That little sandwich, which is just equal to the size of a fist, offers a good taste, but really not that good to make it worth the money it’s priced at. I did not have time to venture to many restaurants and cafes outside Edinburgh Old Town, but I reckon they could be better in both quality and value for money.
Cheap eats in Edinburgh
If you’re travelling to Edinburgh on a budget, find a hostel with a kitchen where you can cook your own food bought from Tesco or Lidl. I stayed at Edinburgh Castle Rock Hostel and Edinburgh Backpackers Hostel, both of which offered spacious and well-equipped kitchens and dining areas.
Also, try a tasty Scottish pie from Pie Maker at 38 South Bridge. Their portion is also not too big, yet their pies are much cheaper than the tiny sandwich at Oink.
3. Souvenirs are overpriced
Dozens of souvenir shops in Edinburgh Old Town will surely tickle your shopping mood, no matter how tight your budget is. But similar to food in Edinburgh, most souvenirs here are either overpriced or low value for money.
What is worse, many sales staff in those shops have very little knowledge about the products they sell. There are many cashmere and wool products with different prices to choose from in each shop. Yet when I asked a sales staff (who looked like an international student having been on this job just for a few days) to explain the differences between a £150 scarf and a £20 one, she had no idea. Seriously, how can you expect me to pay £150 for a scarf if I don’t understand what premium features make it so expensive? After all, as large groups of Chinese tourists dominate these shops just to find souvenirs with a Scottish brand name, perhaps the need to explain the products’ values also dwindles?
Where to buy Scottish souvenirs / Caledonian gifts
If you have the chance to visit the Scottish highlands, stop by Inverness or Portree on the Isle of Skye for Scottish souvenirs and Caledonian gifts. I’ve noticed they come cheaper than those sold in Edinburgh. Also, the shop owners there can offer much better local insights about these products as well!
4. Edinburgh weather can REALLY ruin your trip
I had thought an umbrella and a thin waterproof jacket would suffice for the infamous Edinburgh weather. I was wrong.
Check Edinburgh weather and build your itinerary around it
Just think about it. Raining means no good photo, no outdoor sightseeing, wet shoes and bulky extra stuff (like umbrella) to carry around. This might sound quite cliched, but seriously, checking the weather forecast beforehand can really save you from enduring a bad day in Edinburgh.
You can also change your Edinburgh itinerary to make the most of the weather. For example, visit the museums and other indoor attractions when it rains and save the outdoor garden cafes for another sunny day.
5. The Elephant House is overrated
The Elephant House Edinburgh became famous as the place where J.K.Rowling wrote her Harry Potter series. (Well in fact, she did NOT write most parts of Harry Potter here). If you’re also a Harry Potter fan, here are things you should know before visiting this Elephant House cafe:
- There’s no wifi. If you’re a solo traveler (like me) with no one to talk to while visiting the Elephant House, make sure to bring a book or something like that. (Or a notebook and a pen to write your next best selling series!)
- Like many other attractions in Edinburgh, the Elephant House is often jam-packed with noisy tourists. This might not be an ideal place to have some peaceful and relaxing moments though.
- That’s why if you come in just to skim through the menu or have a look, you’ll be turned away. This is also written on a small board at the order counter.
6. Grassmarket is much smaller than expected
Before visiting Grassmarket in Edinburgh, I’d imagined it to be similar in scope to Portobello Road Market or Brick Lane Market in London. In fact, this marketplace is much smaller with only around 20 stalls selling food, souvenirs and other bric-a-brac. I tried a (pricey) Latin-American sandwich and was a bit disappointed as to how simple it was compared to the price.
Fortunately, the macarons sold there were one of the best I’d ever had.
If you’re also planning to visit Grassmarket in Edinburgh, I suggest lowering your expectations a bit. There is also a number of restaurants, cafes and eateries around the open marketplace for you to choose from if nothing at the stalls looks delicious enough.
Something more for your Edinburgh travel guide?
I hope this blog post has offered you some useful honest information to complete your Edinburgh travel guide. If you have been to Edinburgh and loved it (like most people do), please share your opinions below!
21 thoughts on “6 Reasons I Don’t Like Edinburgh”
I love not only that you gave the realities of Edinburgh (which I believe are pretty valid reasons), but you gave this post a positive spin by giving others advice! P.S. those macarons do look delicious and pretty!
I have been to Edinburgh once but only to visit a church so unfortunately I haven’t seen anything else. What I really liked about ur post is that although u made a few bad experiences u came up with a solution for each 🙂
I’m so sorry your experience what not ideal, Fiona! A series of unfortunate events can totally ruin one’s perception towards a country/city when traveling. Its happened to me before! Sharing honest information about your experience is what makes you reliable 🙂 right? Safe travels. – Mariella
It’s interesting. I check in tourists from the USA all the time who adored Edinburgh. I can’t really comment as I visited at the height of the festival so I was running from show to show. I think I’m also used to London. That oink sandwich would easily set you back £6 in london lol. I plan to visit again outside of festival season to see it just as a city, I’ll definitely beat your pointers in mind.
I just visited Edinburgh in May and I loved it! I definitely agree about the weather. It’s very unpredictable and can ruin your day. Souvenirs were expensive, but I find that everywhere.
I’m sorry you didn’t have the best time at Edinburgh 🙁 I’ll remember these if I ever travel to the UK and plan on visiting. So bummed that the JK Rowling cafe is a tourist trap now. 🙁 but ofc.
I haven’t been to Edinburgh yet but I plan to, soon. Your post didn’t discouraged me, it just made me aware on what to pay attention to. I guess there is nothing to do about the weather but all the others can be avoided 🙂
I have not been to Edinburgh! This post of yours gave me some idea about the city. I loved your honest opinion.
I have never been to Edinburgh, but these are some amazing tips; especially on how to eat for cheap. When I travel, I always try to look for places that have a kitchen so that I can cook. Thanks for sharing this cool info 🙂
I totally get this. I quite like Edinburgh as it’s only a 40 minute train ride from Glasgow, so if I get sick of it I can just go home. I always try to bring food with me if I’m going there becasue everything is SO EXPENSIVE! haa. Still a beautiful city though 🙂
Ah, I definitely see your points, although I like it a lot. I had a wonderful time there the first time I visited and have felt very fondly of it every since (and true to your point, visited mid-week). It’s just SO beautiful and I’m a die-hard Potterhead. However, there are definitely other Scottish towns and cities that are worth visiting.
I think you could write a piece like this for most cities you visit. Every city has positive and negatives. I am not a fan of crowded places and I tend to stay away unless forced to go. I do fancy a macaron so I will add the market to to my list.
Dear Fiona. You mentioned all the annoying realities of my town in its most touristic spot during probably one of the most busy months of the year. You are talking about old town. The truth is that locals ,unless they work in the area, are avoiding old town as it is occupied by tourists. But Fiona old town is part of Edinburgh. Have you heard about Old Town or Leith? These are only a couple of other parts of edinburgh where your grievances would be way less and you could have the experience of the real life in edinburgh . Old Town is spectacular and can be enjoyed if someone plans a smart visit during an odd day and not duting the most touristic months days or hours. As for weather… yeah sorry….welcome in uk. Even throughout edinburgh there are microcilmates. Sunny in newhaven and rainy in portobello. By the way these are two more places that you probably don’t know. Well, had you known them you could have suggested nice promenades and food in these areas to the audience that you are trying to enlight in your posts. Also there’s a lovely idea. You can make similar posts for every historic town in Europe. Athens, Rome, Vienna etc. In the wrong time and in their most touristic season and area they are packed with tourists , the food and services are overpriced. They may have better weather……
Thank you very much for your comment!
As I already mentioned in the article, Edinburg is a beautiful city. By listing down the things I didn’t like during my visit, I did not attempt to turn potential visitors away from the city, but rather trying to inform them of what to expect when they arrive there. It’s never a bad thing to read about someone else’s experience beforehand so that you can avoid annoying encounters and have a much more pleasant trip, right? 🙂
It’s a pity that most of my experiences took place in the Old Town, where tourists might outnumber locals during peak seasons and thus project a distorted image of the city. That’s why I also mentioned in my article that visiting Edinburg would be a much better experience on a weekday rather than on the weekend. If I have the chance to visit Edinburg again, I’ll definitely try to discover areas that are located further away from the touristy center. Could you recommend some places that are more authentic from a local’s point of view?
As for the weather, I am sure it’s an uncontrollable factor that can ruin your trip anywhere, not just in Edinburg and in the UK. Nonetheless, I met during my time in the UK many fellow travellers who said “I’m not gonna bother checking the weather forecast because I’ve got the perfect travel plan already” and then ended up feeling so disappointed. That’s why I always want to remind other travellers to take the weather into consideration when planning their itinerary (e.g. moving all indoor attractions to a day when it rains cats and dogs – as I again already mentioned in the article). That reminder was NOT meant to be “Don’t come to Edinburg! The weather there is horrible!”. I just thought it’d be helpful in countries like this where the weather’s less predictable than, for example, in some Asian countries.
Thank you once again for leaving me a comment! 🙂 I’d certainly love to hear more from your local insights about Edinburg. If you have time, could you email to me at firstname.lastname@example.org? We can discuss about the city and about what makes it one of the most beautiful destinations in Europe 🙂
You forgot reason number 7: It’s full of stuck-up pretentious pricks. If you want a taste of the real Scotland go to the highlands or Glasgow.
ha ha ha Glasgow is more stuck up and gentrified then Edinburgh hippster high price hair dressers and five pound coffee bars the norm in Glasgow . Hardly the peoples city .
Most Glaswegans I know like the people in Edinburgh have been moved out of the city . I mean priced out .
I find it quite normal for a capital city which is considered to be the second most visited city in the UK. Souvenirs are overpriced everywhere, food in the Old Town won’t be cheap just because you cannot go any further and tourist places will be full of tourists.
Anyway, hope this didn’t really ruin your trip/you might change your opinion.
Hi Manuel, thank you for commenting on my Edinburgh post. I wrote this post several years ago on my first trip there and now as I’m reading it again, I guess you’re right. In hindsight, it was perhaps due to my high expectations that I became quite disappointed when facing hurdles after hurdles during the trip. Thus I just wanted to share my own experiences and personal feelings about the trip in this post, so that others would know about travelling to Edinburgh from a different perspective, rather than only through the various beautifully-photoshopped Instagram pics or blog posts with cliched compliments out there.
Hi I live in Edinburgh I’m from Italy I don’t like it here the weather is mostly suck up I’m not interested with this city at all I love the city yeah…….. But is small and boring spend here 5 years nothing good I rather move to Spain than coming to Scotland Edinburgh is not a good place I understand tourist like it but for me no big no.
Hi I love Edinburgh is a beautiful city! From what I heard from your article I agree 100% I don’t like Edinburgh is too crowded I agree I’m not a big fans to be in the crowd
Edinburgh would be a great place if we could decrease the amount of long stay tourists and had a decent council. It’s turned into 24 7 ARBNB city. New builds are almost all luxary , flat complexes which many will buy to let out to Johnny Foreigner to party hard in. The council have a real hatred for community. It’s now the norm to go into a shop and the staff don’t speak English , lots of these pretentious. food markets where most of the food is foreign sold by, foreigners trying to rip people off. I have no idea why so many British people still like to holiday in Edinburgh , must of the business’s you will encounter and people you’ll be served by are from , places far beyond the British isles. Most of the shops are the same chain and then there are the entitled rich kid playing at service ones. You can’t even enjoy the historic. parts of the city , because it’s been congested by an influx of people and the council have allowed far too many tat shops and cheap quality but high charging food outlets . Which look like an ugly eyesore amidst the cities historic artefacts. You can see a few locals from time to time passing in between the tourist madness most are resentful insular types. If you wanted to see locals you should have gone to the Grapes pub , or down to watch one of the local teams.
The English Middle class for some reason have always believed Edinburgh. is their own middle class playground , since the vacuous age of social media . That sense of civic entitlement has gotten worse. I’m glad you spoke out about the rip off aspect of my city and I would say although we have several restaurants and this fake foodie rep. What ever food you try out in Edinburgh you’ll more often be ripped off then not. Edinburgh of course will never be Barcelona. Most locals will nip into Gregs or eat the majority of the time at home. The only people I know who eat out all the time are well paid Australians or American migrant’s most of the time it’s more for the Instagram ethos then quality food.