The Dickins Insider Guide to Edinburgh’s West End
The West End of Edinburgh forms a large part of the city centre. However, despite being a few minutes walk from the hustle and bustle of Princes Street, it’s an area many visitors miss. It’s a real shame as the area has a lot to offer. There’s a wealth of fabulous places to eat dotted along Queensferry Street, an excellent selection of independent stores along the quaint William Street, and bountiful photo opportunities await you in the picturesque Dean Village.
Furthermore, the West End has been home to several famous residents such as Dr Joseph Bell, who provided the inspiration for Conan Doyle’s fictional character Sherlock Holmes and local colourful characters such as Mary Dunlop, who travelled the streets of the West End with her barrel organ on a small cart, pulled by her white horse Smoky. To help you experience (and enjoy) the West End as a local, we’ve put together an Insider’s Guide to the West End. Let’s begin!
9am: Tea and Coffee
You’ll be spoilt for choice with regards to your morning cuppa, as the West End has a great selection of cafés and coffee shops. If you’re a coffee drinker, there are two great coffee shops who specialise in artisan coffee, Cairngorm Coffee Co (1 Melville Place) and The Caffeine Drip (10 Melville Place). If you’d like something a little more substantial, head along to Soderberg (31 Queensferry Street) for a Swedish pastry and a quality cup of coffee roasted in Sweden. If you’re visiting Edinburgh by train, alight at Haymarket Station and head along to Cafe Noir (1 Palmerston Place) to enjoy a warming cup of hot chocolate, coffee, or tea.
10am: Morning Walk
After your morning cuppa you’ll be ready to get out there and start exploring the West End and where better to start than Dean Village – one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems which many tourists miss. In the past, the village was the centre of the milling of water mills and the remnants of the industry can still be seen today. It’s serene atmosphere and extremely picturesque scenery makes it the perfect location for a morning walk. Don’t forget to bring your phone or a camera to capture its beauty!
After you’ve enjoyed a leisurely stroll around Dean Village, we would recommend taking a short walk (less than 10 minutes) to visit Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. If you enjoy contemporary art The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is a must-visit. Even if you’re not a massive fan of art, the gallery itself is split over two grand neoclassical buildings: Modern One and Modern Two which are well worth seeing. The lawn in front of Modern One was landscaped to a design by Charles Jencks and is home to a fantastic sculpture park.
12pm: Ready for Lunch?
If you decide to visit The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, there is the option to have lunch at one of their lovely cafes. Modern One houses an informal contemporary cafe, while Modern Two offers table service and one of the more unusual backdrops to lunch – Paolozzi’s vast Vulcan sculpture.
In general, Edinburgh’s West End has a wonderful selection of eateries so you’ll be spoilt for choice. We’ve selected a few local favourites to help aid your choice. The trendy yet cosy restaurant, Forage and Chatter (1A Alva Street) is an excellent spot for both lunch and dinner, and places an emphasis on using fresh Scottish ingredients. Pâtisserie Maxime (6 Queensferry Street) is a sweet little cafe who specialises in French pastries as well as delicious French food such as Croque-monsieur. If you’re looking for a restaurant with a great cause behind it, look no further than Maison Bleue and Social Bite‘s restaurant ‘Home‘ ( 7-8 Queensferry Street). Home offers a unique dining experience serving Scottish/French cuisine with a social mission. Lastly, Ryan’s bar – which has been at the centre of Edinburgh’s West End for over 20 years – serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A perk of having lunch there is the wonderful view from their window of St John’s Church and Edinburgh Castle!
1pm: A Spot of Independent Shopping
The majority of the independent stores in the West End can be found along two picturesque cobbled streets, William Street and Stafford Street. What makes these streets so pleasant to shop on are their Georgian store fronts and recently restored street lamps. If you fancy a browse through a quirky gift shop, we would highly recommend Paper Tiger who sells stationary and Studio One. For a fashion fix, why not pop into Just g, Frontiers Woman and Frontiers Man, who stock luxury clothing and accessories. There are also a few jewellers including Jewellery by Liam Ross and Lily Luna who stock beautiful pieces. We could go on and on, but, we’ll leave some of the exploring to you.
3pm: Pause for a Treat
After a rather busy day exploring the West End, we’re sure you’ll be ready to relax and refuel with a sweet treat. If you’re in the vicinity of William Street, there’s a wonderfully quaint café, called Strumpets (35 William Street), which serves up quality coffee, a range of loose leaf teas, and home-baked goods. If you’re visiting Edinburgh in the summer, you may be in the mood for some ice cream and Affogato (36 Queensferry Street) is the place to go. They sell delicious gelato which is made fresh on the premises. Plus, if you’re visiting with your K-9 companion, they offer a special Dog-Only Gelato!
4pm: Take in a Show
If you enjoy a trip to the theatre, there are several fantastic theatres in the West End of Edinburgh. There are few places in Edinburgh as grand as the Usher Hall and the the Royal Lyceum Theatre. Both theatres sit directly next to each other and with a variety of different plays, concerts, and comedy shows, there’s bound to be something fun to see. The Traverse Theatre, which was founded in 1963 to extend the spirit of the Edinburgh festivals throughout the year, offers a range of thought-provoking plays which reflect the times. We’d recommend booking ahead of time for any shows.
6pm: Dinner, Drinks, and Live Music
If you’re staying at one of Dickins’ self catering properties, you have the option of heading home to cook up a lovely meal and enjoy a relaxing night in. However, if you’ve had a long day you may prefer to dine out and if that’s the case there are several fantastic options.
The Voyage of Buck (29-31 William Street) was created around the life of fictitious world Traveller William “Buck” Clarence, and the restaurant/bar exudes an eclectic yet slick Edwardian-era décor which includes antique memorabilia from Buck’s travels. For a relaxed dining experience, head along to Foundry 39 (39A Queensferry Street) and enjoy a gourmet burger or pizza, and creative cocktails. If you happen to visit Foundry 39 on a Friday evening, you’ll also enjoy live music. Lastly, L’Escargot Blanc (17 Queensferry Street) offers a contemporary and sophisticated dining experience, enjoy classic French cuisine using the finest Scottish seasonal larder.
Where to stay in the West End?
Considering visiting Edinburgh? We think Edinburgh’s West End is a beautiful location to be based, as it’s within walking distance from the city centre and you’ll be able to experience an area of Edinburgh most tourists miss. We have a lovely home away from home for you on 14/(1) Glencairn Crescent. With high ceilings, original detailing and spacious rooms, this two bedroom self-catering apartment in the West End is the perfect home for guests looking for comfort, whether they are staying for a week or a month.