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Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh That are not in Your Guidebook


16 February 2020
Unusual Things to do in Edinburgh That are not in Your Guidebook

By Stuart Berry, a passionate local who has been exploring the weird and wonderful Edinburgh for the past seven years.Edited by Matthew Wears

If you’re searching for a taste of something a bit unusual, maybe even something a bit weird, then you’ve come to the right place with Edinburgh. Even though it’s only small (or wee, as we say here), my city definitely packs a punch when it comes to finding things that are a bit different. There are more than enough unique things to do in Edinburgh, as well as an absolute boat load of activities that are bound to give you that unconventional experience that you’re so desperately looking for. I’ve lived here for seven years now but even a kid I was always visiting all of the time, so I’ve got a fair bit of experience when it comes to Edinburgh off the beaten track. I’ve probably walked down every medieval street and discovered every nook and cranny that there is to discover, so you can trust me to uncover some wee gems with you today. If you’ve already seen all of the major sights, then it should be time for you to really explore the city! This is my list of unusual things to do in Edinburgh that aren’t in your guidebook.


Pub Crawl Rose Street


In a city with so many famous streets, it’s sometimes pretty easy to forget about little old Rose Street, but you really shouldn’t! Nestled between iconic Princes Street and the grand George Street, this tiny alleyway is absolutely bursting with restaurants and shops, but it’s the pubs that make it one of the top things to do in Edinburgh at night! You’re never short of drinking dens in my city, but there’s just something special about this street in particular. Maybe it’s the old-world feel of the bars that look as though they’re lost in time, or maybe it’s because it’s just that little bit quieter than let’s say the Royal Mile or Grass Market. I do know one thing though, having a pub crawl along Rose Street is one of those unusual things to do in Edinburgh that everyone needs to experience, so if you’ve got a free afternoon, you know where to go.

Discover A City Beneath The City


There’s absolutely thousands of years’ worth of history all over Edinburgh, but if you really want to understand its dark past then you really need to see Edinburgh off the beaten path, or better still, underneath it. Hidden deep underground the city is a labyrinth of corridors, cellars and vaults, many of which you can actually now visit thanks to a selection of tours that will show you what life was like back in the Middle Ages and beyond. Some of them go for a more historical approach and cover things such as medieval architecture or the black death, but for the braver ones amongst you, there’s plenty of ghost tours that can show you some of the most haunted spots in the UK. Whatever you go for, it’s fascinating to head down underneath the city, and I think this is not just one of the most unusual things to do in Edinburgh, but probably the whole of Scotland! Just stick to the well-lit areas!

Go On A Gin Garden Tour


Gin distillery tours are awesome, but with so many places around the UK now making their own brand, it’s hardly something out of the ordinary anymore. It would need to be something completely different for me to put it on this unusual things to do in Edinburgh list. That’s where the Old Curiosity Distillery and Garden tour comes in, not only will you learn how to make it, but you’ll also be able to discover exactly what goes into making the perfect gin with a tour of their very own herb garden. With the help of passionate herbologist, Hamish Martin, you’ll get to see his entire process of gin making, from tenderly growing his garden, to swilling down a couple of glasses at the end. Walking around Hamish’s garden has fast become one of my favourite outdoor activities Edinburgh has to offer, so if you love gin like as much as I do, then you definitely don’t want to miss out on this. When you want a peace and quiet, his botanical gardens are worth a look too.

Watch The Penguin Parade At Edinburgh Zoo


I know Scotland is cold but to see penguins walking around seems a bit much? The penguin parade at Edinburgh zoo has been one of the most unique things to do in Edinburgh for years now, but I don’t think it’s lost its charm at all. The penguin march is an everyday event where the zookeepers open up the penguin enclosure and let them walk around the zoo for around ten minutes. The birds are never forced, which means that sometimes they simply don’t come out, but that’s obviously no bad thing! You can’t touch them, but it’s still pretty cool for anyone who ever wanted to get up close and personal to some Antarctic. But really, who doesn’t want to see some penguins? This alternative Edinburgh attraction starts at quarter past two, but my advice is to get there earlier to get a good spot!

Spot Harry Potter Names At Greyfriars Graveyard


This has to be one of my favourite Edinburgh hidden gems! It’s not really much of a secret that J.K. Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series in and around several cafes in Edinburgh. The city was to be an influence on her writing, but just how much of an influence would it have? Well, it seems quite a lot actually, so much so that you can actually trace character names to tombstone inside Greyfriars Graveyard! Walking around, you’ll find McGonagall, Moodie and of Course there’s a couple of Potters in there two. The most famous is the grave of Thomas Riddel, which for anyone who hasn’t watched Harry Potter, is the real name of the main villain; Voldemort. Greyfriars Graveyard is located just behind the famous dog statue, so pop in on your afternoon day out for all of this as well as amazing views of the castle right above you.

Go To A Beer Festival


Here in Edinburgh we love a good festival. We also love to have a drink too, so going to a beer festival is a great way to tick off two popular Scottish pass times all at once! There’s quite a few that happen in various places across the city, so you’ve got plenty of choice to find your perfect beverage. Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival is a really popular one and to be honest, it’s so much more than just a beer festival. It’s a real favourite of mine, and it’s definitely one of the non-touristy things to do in Edinburgh that’s going to get you mixing with the locals. There’s music from popular DJs, food from some amazing local pop-ups, and of course quite a fair bit of beer too! This awesome event takes place on the Friday and Saturday beginning on the 24th of May. But don’t worry, if you don’t think you can take that much beer and you just want to find some cool things to do in Edinburgh at night, you can get an evening pass too.

Eat An Amazing Paella


Paella probably isn’t what you had in mind when you thought of food in Scotland, but thanks to our top-class fresh fish all year round, you can! The best place in town is from a market down in one of my favourite secret parts of the city; Stockbridge. This little market takes place every Sunday and has an absolutely insane range of food on show, but it’s the Casa Roble Paella stand that keeps me coming back, time and time again. This place is a little gem and it’s always top of my list of places to go on a Sunday when I need a quick bite to eat, and the seafood paella is just so good. Stockbridge Market in general is one of the best hidden Edinburgh attractions, I don’t know why everyone’s not checking this place out! In fact, the really quirky places to eat in Edinburgh can nearly always be found in a couple of these markets around the city, so make sure to explore them all as much as you can!