The Insider’s Guide to Edinburgh*

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When it comes to visiting a city like Edinburgh, it’s all too easy to get distracted by the idea of tartan and castles, and miss out the capital’s real gems. From some of the country’s best hotels, to restaurants and even some of my favourite salons and spas – there’s always somewhere to add to your ‘must-visit’ list!

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First up, if you’re not a local, your first job is to find your favourite out of the many hotels in Edinburgh city centre. If you’re only staying a night or two, I’m always a fan of enjoying a little luxury, and Edinburgh’s Balmoral Hotel is one of the city’s finest. Originally built as a luxurious base for rail travellers, the hotel’s iconic clock keeps visitors and locals alike on time day and night, thanks to it being set 5 minutes fast so travellers don’t miss their trains (apart from New Year’s Eve when it’s bang on). The building’s exterior is absolutely glorious, and you can’t miss it when you’re exploring the city.

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With 187 rooms to choose from, guests can bring furry family along for the fun, as the hotel has a number of pet friendly options, and General Manager brings along his own dog, Lucy, who sometimes makes appearances in the Lobby.

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Not only does The Balmoral take the crown for Edinburgh’s most central location, but it might just be the foodiest spot to enjoy too! Home to Number One – which has held a Michelin Star for nearly 20 years, it’s a must-visit for those celebrating a special occasion (or who just fancy enjoying some top tier cuisine). If you’re after something a little more relaxed, Brasserie Prince is also a fantastic option, with fine French dishes served up daily.

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Just a short walk up to St Andrew Square, you’ll find my new favourite daytime spot – Lady Libertine. A spot with a bit of a split personality, during the day it feels like something out of Mad Men, with original dark wood panelling, sumptuous velvet booths and swathes of marble. They serve up some of the city’s best coffees, and it’s the perfect meeting spot, as you can sit and chat away for an hour or two without feeling too rushed or hurried. Once night hits, the space transforms into a bit of a speakeasy, with sharing plates to savour and a downstairs space which plays host to DJs on selected nights.

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Like most, I’m trying to incorporate a little more self-care into my weekly and monthly routines, which is where Zen Lifestyle comes in. With two locations in Edinburgh (Hanover Street is the most centrally located, whilst the Bruntsfield location is perfect for those exploring a little further out) Zen Lifestyle has become a bit of a go-to. Mixing relaxation with medical-grade treatments, a trip to Zen will leave you looking and feeling your very best. My most-booked treatment is the Diamondtome Facial – an incredibly effective exfoliation treatment which has absolutely transformed my skin in the year or so that I’ve been enjoying treatments. With no irritation or downtime, it’s perfect if you’ve got sensitive or reactive skin, but still want that natural glow. I love how easy it is to customise your treatments too – you can add massages or red-light therapy treatments onto facials, which leave you positively floating out the salon!

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If you’re in need of a bit of a nail-refresh when you’re visiting Edinburgh, Buff CS is a must-visit! Perched up on East Market Street, the salon is a converted railway arch, and it brings a whole lot of Skandi-cool to the capital. Whether you’re after detailed nail art, or a simple manicure, it’s the top spot to try.  I’ve been a regular for a good few years now, and I can’t believe the difference that having a regular manicure has made to my nails, not to mention that I’m in love with their curated selection of products – if you’re in the market for some very cool, hard to find L:A Bruket, this is the spot to pick it up.

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If you’re after a dose of culture during your trip, head to The Queen’s Gallery at Holyrood Palace. Smaller, and often quieter than the National Galleries (which are definitely worth a trip) it’s part of the Royal Collection, and often hosts some really marvellous exhibitions. Currently showing Leonardo da Vinci: A Life in Drawing, which marks the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death, you can often see less well known pieces, which is always such a thrill. The exhibitions change regularly, and include everything from old master paintings, rare furniture, decorative arts to photography.

The spending money used for this post was gifted by Hotels.com, but all views are my own.

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