Edinburgh stands as a cultural and economic powerhouse, showcasing the best Scotland has to offer to over one million overseas visitors each year. Second only to London in terms of tourist numbers and financial clout in the United Kingdom, dozens of historic and internationally renowned institutions can be found in this hilly city.
From the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, to the sixth-oldest university in the English-speaking world, the University of Edinburgh, and the imposing Edinburgh Castle sitting on Castle Rock, Scotland’s capital city is brimming with cultural delights.
The profile of modern Edinburgh has been lifted by the annual Edinburgh Festival Fringe. The “Fringe” is now the world’s largest arts festival and takes over the city throughout the month of August, featuring artists, comedians and performers who display their work in over 3,000 shows at more than 300 venues.
The Scottish capital’s literary tradition is alive and well, with a rich group of famed writers calling Edinburgh their home over the years. From crime writer Ian Rankin to acclaimed novelist Sir Walter Scott and Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the city’s role in forming leading literary greats has been pivotal.
Of course, Harry Potter author J. K. Rowling is probably the most well-known Scottish writer for the majority of the younger generation who grew up reading her 500-million-selling series. Rowling wrote her first book at The Elephant House Café on George IV Bridge, and finished penning Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in room 552 at The Balmoral Hotel.
Between old and new
Few historic properties have endured as elegantly as Edinburgh’s grand dame, the five-star Balmoral. Located at the end of prestigious shopping thoroughfare Princes Street, mere steps from Edinburgh’s Waverley train station, Balmoral has retained its old-world glamour and style, without looking dated or out-of-touch.
Since opening in 1902, the hotel has welcomed the great and the good, including Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and Paul McCartney, as well as the Queen Mother, who would pop in for lunch from time to time. The rooms and suites are perfectly adorned and easy to settle into, but the simply stunning views over Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat and Princes Street turn any stay into an experience.
Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux is a recent addition to the Balmoral, after father-and-son team Michel Roux OBE and Alain Roux opened the classic French dining destination in June 2018. As can be expected, fare consists of traditional French favourites including the likes of sautéed frogs’ legs Provençal with garlic and parsley, and Parisian gnocchi gratin made with cheese pâte à choux and béchamel sauce, all made with the finest Scottish produce.
Nestled down nearby Thistle Street in the New Town, Braid Apartments is on the doorstep of diverse independent cafés, clothing boutiques and casual dining restaurants. Braid offers visitors spacious and contemporary serviced studios, one-bedroom and two-room apartments, all replete with fully equipped kitchens. Corporate travellers who are staying in the Scottish capital for longer than a week would do well to consider taking up residence at Braid, especially because of the central location, and easy access to an array of eateries and coffee shops to grab a quick bite before work.
A short walk from Braid sits The Ivy on the Square, which offers a relaxed and casual dining experience, with views over St Andrew Square in the heart of the city. Modern British cuisine is available from breakfast to dinner, with standout dishes from the à la carte menu including wasabi prawns with salt-and-pepper squid, grilled whole lobster and melting chocolate bombe. An extremely reasonably priced set menu runs on weekdays from 11:30am to 6:30pm, which is a great time to visit for a quick business lunch or informal after-work dinner.
An outpost of Knightsbridge shopping haven Harvey Nichols is found opposite The Ivy, as well as luxury shopping area Multrees Walk. A wide range of international designers, including Louis Vuitton, Burberry and Mulberry, can be found along Multrees Walk, with Harvey Nichols offering five floors of high-end fashion, beauty and food delights.
Close to Brasserie Prince, and walkable even in hilly Edinburgh, sits the Museum on The Mound. Located in the Bank of Scotland Head Office building and owned by the banking group, the museum focuses on the history of banking in Britain and holds exhibits on the rise of building societies in the 19th century, the advent of life assurance, and how work has changed over the years.
The Mound itself was created in around 1765 when more than 1,500,000 cartloads of excavated earth was dumped into Nor Loch. Today, the artificial hill links together Edinburgh’s New and Old Towns and houses a number of historical institutions, including the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy and the University of Edinburgh’s New College. Ever-popular Edinburgh Castle deserves a mention as one of the city’s preeminent landmarks, with time-poor business travellers needing to set a few hours aside to see all this fortress has to offer.
Located in the shadow of the castle is contemporary fine dining destination Castle Terrace. The restaurant underwent a complete makeover at a cost of £1m in 2016 to add modern hand-painted wallpapers and a mural illustrating Edinburgh’s iconic skyline to the walls to help establish a refined atmosphere. The decor may be impressive but the cuisine offered by chef patron Dominic Jack easily surpasses its surroundings, with the menu following a seasonal “from nature to plate” philosophy.
Simple, yet beautifully plated, seared hand-dived Orkney scallops are served with fennel and orange for starters, followed by tagliatelle of Scottish fish and shellfish with fresh peas, and finishing off with sweet Blacketyside Farm strawberries and cream with a Victoria sponge.
Well positioned in Edinburgh’s West End in a residential quarter full of cobbled streets and charm, The Chester Residence is ideal for medium- and long-stay business guests who want to experience five-star luxury, whilst also being close to the attractions the city has to offer. The key benefits of The Chester Residence are the spacious apartments that make guests feel as if they are truly at home, as well as the extensive amenities available during the entire stay. From chauffeur car services to grocery ordering and in-room spa treatments, any request is a phone call away.
Indian seafood restaurant Konkana puts forward a unique dining experience in a city with its fair share of Indian eateries. Named after India’s Konkan region, which is renowned for its seafood and fish dishes, Konkana pairs fresh local Scottish produce with rich Indian flavours.
Goan fish fry is a popular appetiser in Goa, seeing fish marinated with corn flour batter and exotic spices and then shallow fried, with locals and visitors alike now getting to sample this unique recipe in Edinburgh. A clear favourite is the prawn malabar, a recipe from the South Indian coastal region of Malabar, which consists of succulent prawns cooked in coconut milk, tamarind, mustard seeds and curry leaves.
Thanks to the compact nature of the city, even guests on a short business break in Edinburgh can experience some of the finest sights in Scotland, sample fine foods and visit truly historic museums only found in this singular city.