There are plenty of neighborhoods to look at when you’re booking accommodations for your trip to Edinburgh. You could stick close to city center and find a hotel in Old Town. There’s a chance you might find a great place near the University or in New Town. Maybe you’ll decide to stay in Bruntsfield or Stockbridge, both close enough to city center that you can walk easily. Don’t do any of those. When you’re looking for a place to stay, I think you should check out Leith first. You’ll probably fall in love with it and not need to look elsewhere.
Our neighborhood is my favorite place in the entire city of Edinburgh! There is so much to do here, and it’s a short bus ride away from both Old and New Town. You could stay in other areas of the city, but I think for everything that Leith offers, as well as how inexpensive it is, you’d be silly to stay elsewhere. It’s such a cool neighborhood, a prime location and home to some of the best food in the city! But those aren’t the only reasons why you should base yourself here. Keep on reading for more information about staying in Leith.
Getting to and from Old Town is quick and easy.
So let’s get the boring, logistical reasons out of the way first.
There are plenty of buses that come through Leith, making it the perfect spot for your home base. You can catch buses both from Princes Street and the Royal Mile/Bridges areas that will bring you down to the Foot of the Walk. It only takes about 15 minutes, and from the bus stop at the bottom of the hill you can explore the neighborhood on foot easily. A single bus ticket runs you £1.60, and a full day is £4.00. You can also get week-long bus passes, which we did. A four-week bus pass costs around £50, which is affordable due to saving money on rent.
Check out more information on buses to and from Leith at https://lothianbuses.co.uk/.
Staying in Leith is cheaper than Old Town.
It makes sense, doesn’t it? Taking the time to get a bit out of the tourist center of the city will save you a few precious pennies. When we were looking at rentals for our trip here, we ended up saving a couple hundred pounds a month by staying outside of Old Town! Over a course of three months it added up, and we were able to give ourselves more money for going out and taking trips.
We’ve been here for almost eight weeks, and I can say with some authority that food and drink are much cheaper here too. Pubs and restaurants aren’t serving mostly tourists, thus higher prices. The few times we’ve had dinner on the Royal Mile have set us back much more than dinner at our local pub, so we try to do it only every so often. Granted you won’t be able to find sixteen different shops selling the same things, but I think I’m OK with that.
Leith has a great past still celebrated today.
Now, let’s get on with the fun stuff!
The earliest mention of Leith dates all the way back to 1128, with the Foundation Charter for Holyrood Abbey; David I gave the harbor and land on the north side of the river to the Abbots of Holyrood to use. Leith was the principal port of Scotland, and was able to expand with money from Edinburgh. It continued to be the largest port in the country until trade routes with the Americas opened up and trade moved through Glasgow in the 18th century.
Leith was at one time it’s own Burgh, having earned it’There independence from Edinburgh following the Burgh Acts of 1833. By 1920 the two had joined again, and Leith has grown as a neighborhood of Edinburgh ever since. This fierce independence is still seen and felt all over the neighborhood, in the people, the buildings and the attitude.
The Shore area mixes history with delicious food.
Probably the most talked about area of Leith is the Shore. When you make it to the Shore area, you can still see in it’s footprint how it used to be the welcoming point for ships. In fact, for centuries it was here that ships would dock, visitors would depart and goods would be received. Called Kings Landing, it was here that many monarchs first alighted when they arrived in Edinburgh. A Signal Tower still stands from 1686, the bottom level now housing a restaurant. The King’s Wark, built in 1432, still stands and serves drinks today.
The food scene in Leith deserves it’s own recognition, but I have to make mention that most of my favorite restaurants are in this area. Mimi’s, Roseleaf, and Nobles are all within a few blocks of each other, which is super handy when you want to eat at each place as often as you can.
Staying in Leith helps you feel more like a local.
When I asked Ryan why he loved living in Leith, his response was that he felt like a local here. The only tourist attraction in Leith is the Royal Yacht, so the neighborhood isn’t overrun with tourists. Because you’re outside of city center, you have a chance to immerse yourself in local life, becoming a part of the fabric that is Leith. And to me that’s one of the best parts of travelling!
I’m starting to see some of the same people around on the street. I think it’s cool to think that they might be recognizing me. And we’ve gotten quite comfortable here, so comfortable that we’re often asked for directions. I’m happy to say we usually know what to tell people!
The food scene is incredible.
I wish I could take you to all of the amazing restaurants here, I really do. There are so many of them! One of the best parts about living in the heart of this neighborhood is that we can experience all of the different flavors and cuisines with just a short walk. Fancy an afternoon tea? No better place to go than Mimi’s Bakehouse. Looking for a place to get a decent burger and an inventive cocktail? Head to the Lioness of Leith. Need something a bit more fancy? There’s also a Michelin-starred restaurant to try out, The Kitchin. My favorite lunch spot is Nobles, but if we’re talking brunch I love going to Compass Bar. Roseleaf is perfect for any meal. Thai, Chinese, Indian or just a chippy for a late night snack. I’ve never lived in a neighborhood with quite so many choices.
Boy, I could keep going, but I’ll refrain. I’m getting hungry, and we only just had lunch.
You can grab a drink at a number of pubs.
Like the rest of the city, Leith has no shortage of great neighborhood pubs. We’ve tried out a few and have our favorites such as the Persevere, Bar Brig and Brass Monkey. It’s at these fine establishments that you can find locals who love to talk about their home. We’ve learned more about the history of Edinburgh in pubs than we have on tours!
One of my favorite things to do, not just in Leith but in Edinburgh, is stroll around the neighborhood and check out the pubs tucked away in more residential areas. I think it makes for a great evening!
If you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, head to the Links.
Edinburgh has plenty of green spaces. We live right across the street from Leith Links, and we don’t spend nearly as much time there as we should. There are paths to walk and run, a playground if you bring the kiddos, and nightly soccer games. A favorite activity of ours is to take a picnic out and watch all of the dogs run around, chasing toys and seagulls.
Another fun fact; the world’s first golf rules were drawn up and used at Leith Links in 1744, making it the home of golf!
You can also hop on the Water of Leith Walkway at many places in the neighborhood, and walk up the path into the city. We haven’t done this yet, but it’s on our calendar for next weekend as long as it isn’t pouring!
You could visit every day for your entire vacation and have a different experience each time.
My favorite thing about living here is the diversity of people I see everyday. True, I could walk the Royal Mile and see many different people from all over the world, but they don’t necessarily call Edinburgh home. I’ve been told we live on the “sketchy” side, but to me it has never felt anything except perfectly safe.
With such a diverse populations living and working in Leith and so many different kinds of pubs and restaurants to chose from, you’d be hard pressed to have the exact same experience every day.
Finally, you can check out the Royal Yacht Britannia and Ocean Terminal.
Because I suppose you should. It has been rated Edinburgh’s #1 visitor attraction. Spend the afternoon at Ocean Terminal and the Royal Yacht after you’ve explored the rest of the neighborhood.
Plus there is a local soccer team, the Hibernians. There’s good thrift shopping, on and off Leith Links. There’s also the really cool Dazzle ship to check out! But if my reasons don’t sway you, you still should check out Leith for yourself. Make your own impressions, get a feel for the neighborhood yourself. You owe it to yourself as well as this quirky and intense neighborhood.