eat

A Guide to Old Town Edinburgh

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If you hadn’t noticed, we often find ourselves in Edinburgh. We think Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city is a must see when planning a trip to Scotland (or Europe for that matter!). Not only is it Eve's “spirit city” but it is also a city rich in history and things to do! The great thing about Edinburgh is there are so many amazing parts of the city that have their own unique character yet they all still feel distinctly “Edinburgh”. This will be the first of several travel posts covering different areas of the city.

Today, we will focus on Old Town Edinburgh, where the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle reside. This area of the city is the oldest and has the most tourist traffic however we don’t mind one bit! To offset the number of tourists, you can always plan your visit during an off-season. The off-seasons typically run from September through November and Mid-January through April. Visiting during these times will dramatically lower the cost of your trip and the number of people wandering the streets and local attractions. We love Edinburgh In January, just after Hogmanay (New Years). The streets are empty and pubs are cozy with their fireplaces lit!

Here are some of our top places to eat, drink, stay, and play in Old Town Edinburgh….

xxx Ivy & Eve

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Eat

Civerinos- $$ Known as the Italian street food and pizza slice bar in Edinburgh. They have a casual dining area with shared tables. We always try and stop in here once each visit for a slice or two. In summer months we order their Frosé!

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The Halfway House- $ Looking for a traditional pub meal in one of the smallest pubs in Edinburgh? Look no further than The Halfway House! Located in the Fleshmarket Close between Market Street and Waverly Station entrance. It’s the perfect place to enjoy real ale and stovies (a potato, onion, and meat dish) while enjoying the atmosphere of locals (Mark the owner is usually at the bar nursing a pint and chatting with customers) tourists, and people waiting for their train.

Zizzi (Roxburgh Court)- $$ Probably the most cringeworthy place to include on a guide BUT Zizzi is truly a guilty pleasure of ours. Zizzi is a chain restaurant throughout the U.K. and we happen to LOVE their food! We recommend ordering their Primavera Rustic Pizza and a bottle of the Montepulciano #delish. They are also vegan, non-gluten, non-dairy, and vegetarian-friendly. If we haven’t convinced you we should mention they have one of the best views of New Town, Edinburgh.

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The Witchery- $$$$ Worthy of splurging a little or a lot, The Witchery, is downright magical. Located at the top of the Royal Mile (the same location as the hotel - see Stay section) this restaurant is famous locally and globally. The menu consists of local Scottish fare and an extensive wine list. We have graced this place only a few times but each time has been perfect. TIP- check out their lunch and dinner prix fixe menu (£22 and £40 respectably) to save a little money while dining BIG!

Oink- $ Perfect for a quick bite at any of their three locations in Edinburgh (two in Old Town and one in New Town). Order a Piglet, Oink, or Grunter size Scottish hog roast on a roll, add some stuffing, and your choice of sauces and you’ve got yourself the perfect meal or snack to keep you going till dinnertime. Eve’s go-to is an Oink with haggis and apple sauce!

Elephant House- $ The sacred location where J.K. Rowling allegedly wrote Harry Potter! Pop in here for a warming cup of tea or coffee before or after strolling through Greyfriars Kirkyard. Grab a window seat at the back for a great view overlooking Greyfriars Kirkyard and the Castle.

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Mussel and Steak Bar- $$ Stop in for lunch or dinner to eat your weight in mussels and steak (who would have guessed?!). This place has a relaxed but stylish atmosphere and a good wine list. We recommend getting a pot of mussels in their creamy whiskey bacon broth!

Marys Milkbar- $ The best ice cream in Edinburgh hands down! They make flavors like violet, brown bread, and passionfruit with lemongrass which are ALL to die for! As you exit, make sure to look up to admire their impressive view of Edinburgh Castle!

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Ecco Vino Enoteca- $$ We previously shared our love for this cozy wine bar and restaurant when we wrote for This is Edinburgh…you can see the full post HERE. Perfect for a leisurely glass of wine and some tasty seafood-centered dishes. On warmer days sit outside or by the open windows to Cockburn Street (pronounced “COE-BURN”).

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The Milkman- $ This specialty coffee shop is a perfect place to start your day. With bench window seating its also a great place to people watch!

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The White Hart Inn- $ Located in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, this pub is perfect for those seeking traditional Scottish fare and some not-so-traditional menu items. Get the Haggis Nachos…you won’t regret it! One of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh and home to more than a few eerie stories of the city’s dark past.

Drink

The Ensign Ewart- $ Need a break from the busy Royal Mile and maybe a place to warm up? The Ensign Ewart is the perfect place to go. Located on the Royal Mile just yards below the castle gates this pub is not to be missed. We frequent this pub on evenings to enjoy their live local musicians (Our favorite band to listen to is The Gorms). With four Scottish cask ales, a large whiskey list, and hearty pub food you can’t go wrong. If you visit for lunch they also have a great lunch special: any sandwich and their soup of the day for just £8.50.

The Jolly Judge- $ Another favorite of ours. Perfect for an afternoon drink or make it a late nighter. Tucked away right off the Royal Mile is this charming pub. Enjoy their nice warm fire which burns at most hours and a cool replica ceiling of the historic building, Gladstones Land, nearby. Ivy likes their selection of ciders and real ales while Eve always orders the “malt of the month” or a “tour is Scotland”whiskey flight. In warm(ish) weather, sit outside on the picnic benches and enjoy a pint or two!

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Stay

The Witchery by the Castle- $$$$ Located on Castlehill at the top of the Royal Mile. This hotel was described as one of the seven wonders of the hotel world by Cosmopolitan. Each room different and drowning in indulgence. This place is on our bucket list of hotels to stay at. For now, we can dream!

The Grassmarket Hotel- $$ Comfortable and with touches of quirky Scottish decor, this hotel is at the bottom of Victoria Street at the corner of Grassmarket which means it is in the ideal place for exploring! Seriously, they’ll even make you a packed lunch to take with you on our day's adventure!

Fraser Suites- $$$ Quiet and comfortable and just off the Royal Mile. This hotel is perfect for anyone who wants a comfortable place to decompress after a long day walking the streets of Edinburgh.

Play

The Royal Mile- (Free) The Royal Mile is actually a series of streets that run from Edinburgh Castle at the top of the hill all the way to Holyrood Palace at the bottom. The mile is chock full of “tartan tat” tourist shops as well as great restaurants, boutiques, and historic points of interest.

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Edinburgh Castle-$$ Definitely worth the money, Edinburgh Castle grounds hold several restaurants, a whiskey shop, and SO MUCH HISTORY! Our favorite spots are the Dog Cemetery and St Margaret’s Chapel. TIP: Book your tickets ahead to skip the long lines.

View of castle lit up at night

View of castle lit up at night

Dog cemetery found within the castle walls

Dog cemetery found within the castle walls

National Museum of Scotland- (Free, $ for special exhibition tickets) One of our all time favorite museums. Spend your time in the Scottish History and Archaeology galleries for some pretty spectacular stuff or head to the Art of Living gallery to see what Eve worked on during her internship in grad school! TIP: Head to the roof for spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle and surrounding areas.

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Victoria Street- This colorful street is home to some of our favorite shops. Including Walker Slater for traditional Scottish wear, I.J. Mellis Cheesemonger for the best cheeses around, Oink, and Museum Context which is a Harry Potter themed shop.

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Greyfriars Bobby statue & Greyfriars Kirkyard- (Free) Wander over to Candlemaker Row to see the famous Bobby statue before heading into the Kirkyard. Burials in the Kirkyard have been taking place here since the late 16th century and if you look, you might see some familiar Harry Potter names! Worth a visit if only to see a unique view of the Castle.

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Mercat Tours- $ If you enjoy going on ghost tours, Edinburgh is the city for you! We have been on almost every ghost tour available in Edinburgh and we like Mercat ghost tours the best. We have gone on EVERY single one they offer! Our favorite tour is the Evening of Ghost and Ghouls tour. We love this one because it’s super creepy but if you make it out alive (hehe) you get to enjoy a drink in their cozy candle-lit cellar.

The Real Mary King’s Close- $$ If you aren’t one for straight-up frightening but want a bit of creepy history, we suggest this tour for you! They also have a café and fun gift shop to peruse before and after your tour. Splurge on the photo-op picture for a fun souvenir (see ours below). TIP: Make a night out of it by heading to Zizzi which is right next door for dinner!

Ivy trying to look like a ghost during the tour

Ivy trying to look like a ghost during the tour

The Scotch Whisky Experience- $$ Planning on enjoying some of Scotland’s finest whiskey while in Edinburgh? Learn all about Scotland’s whiskey-making history here! Part educational experience, part Disney-esque amusement ride, the “tour” begins when you step into your own whiskey barrel and ride (yes, ride) through the production of whiskey. Afterward, you step into their seminar room and are lead through the basics of whiskey aromas and production regions. At the end of the tour, you are led into their whiskey collection room (photo below) and enjoy a dram while admiring the collection of rare and old whiskeys. Afterward, sample a few more drams at the bar. We recommend their whiskey and cheese pairing flights! YUM!

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Saint Giles’ Cathedral- (Free with suggested donation) St. Giles’ is one of our favorite places to take a breather from the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile. Founded over 900 years ago, this church was also the center of the Scottish Reformation. Take a guided tour or just discover it at your own pace. The Thistle Chapel is particularly stunning and looks out for the carving of an angel playing the bagpipes! They also have a small affordable cafe and little gift shop for unique souvenirs.

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The Best Of York, England

With summer quickly approaching, we have been reminiscing last summer's European adventures. We have great news that we will be back in the UK this summer for a Scotland/Northern England expedition! Between now and the end of July, we will also be posting travel blogs on the lovely cities of Chester and Liverpool. So stay tuned for more awesome UK cities!

Last summer we spent a day in York wandering the historic Shambles and cobblestone streets. The weather was so very "British" that day and we were so cold (and wet) that we actually bought hats! Besides the typical English weather, York was completely charming. This was not our first trip to York as we have thoroughly enjoyed visiting a few times before! We put together some of the best places to stay, eat, drink, and play for you all to check out!

xxx Ivy & Eve

Map of some of Yorks best from The Perky Peacock http://perkypeacockcoffee.co.uk

Map of some of Yorks best from The Perky Peacock http://perkypeacockcoffee.co.uk

Stay:

The Royal York Hotel - $$$$: This five-star hotel is the perfect place to enjoy a luxurious stay in York. Book a spa treatment for extra R&R time. 

Hotel du Vin & Bistro $$$: If you're looking for a great hotel, but not looking to completely splurge on a room, this is the place! Hotel du Vin is located down the street from the York train station and just out of the busy hustle and bustle of downtown York. We love the tasty smorgasbord breakfast buffet, beautiful bar, and in-room Nespresso machines!

The Old Rectory $$: This B&B is located just outside the city center of York in the rural village of Thormanby. The Old Rectory was built in 1737 and is a grade two former rectory. It has tastefully decorated rooms and with a scrumptious breakfast menu featuring local eggs and produce whenever possible.

The Trembling Madness Apartments $$-$$$: If you are looking for somewhere to stay in the city center and are up for a spooktacular night, we recommend trying one of the apartments at the Trembling Madness (not all rooms are claimed to be haunted). Bonus: they have a lovely pub and bottle shop attached to the building! See the Eat & Drink section below for more! 

Holiday Lets $-$$$$: There are some amazing deals for holiday rentals in York like this apartment with beautiful views of the Minster. These flats are perfect for families or groups traveling together. To get you started: Holiday Lettings, York Boutiquelets, Skyes Cottages, and Visit York.

Eat & Drink:

The Perky Peacock - $$: After our hour train ride from Manchester we wanted a little pick-me-up and stopped in this cute coffee shop. Situated right along the river in a tower, there are only a handful of cafe tables inside. If the weather is nice they have tables along the river to sip espresso and nibble on a toasted and buttered teacake (or more substantial breakfast items) before heading off for some York mayhem. They also have adorable logo mugs and totes available for sale!

Bettys Cafe Tea Room - $$$: Bettys is famous in York for your classic afternoon tea experience, however you have to make reservations in advance and it is very expensive. We opted for the Bettys Cafe Tea Room just down the street for a more casual, less crowded experience. We also ordered cream tea (this is tea, scone and clotted cream) since we wanted to go grab lunch later and a full afternoon tea leaves you stuffed for hours. Tip: We find a full afternoon tea is simply too much food. We suggest ordering cream tea and bubbly for the fancy effect of the afternoon tea without feeling overly stuffed. 

Trembling Madness $: For a late afternoon lunch, we stopped in this medieval pub. Also known as Delirium Tremens (DT's), this pub has been open since drinking became a thing, and it has seen its fair share of disaster and death within its walls. The rear end of the building was first built in 1180AD, people were drinking there 312 years before Columbus sailed over our way. We were pleasantly surprised with how cool this place was! On the first floor of the building is a bottle shop where they sell beer, scotch, cider and more. On the second floor is the pub. We hunkered down in an alcove off to the side of the main dining area. The interior of the pub was fun with mounted animal heads mounted all over the place, and other hidden preserved animals (a baby alligator) were around the room. The beams of the pub are from an ancient ship that last set sail over 800 years ago! We ordered some hardy medieval inspired fare of a classic cheese board (cheese, bread, and assorted accouterments), and a steak and ale pie, all washed down with real ale and some cider.

The Refectory - $$$$: Looking for the fanciest place to dine for dinner? Then look no further than the Refectory. They serve dishes made from delicious local ingredients and delightful cocktails made to order. They also serve a magical Champagne Afternoon Tea that includes a glass of our favorite bubbly...Lanson.

Love Cheese - $$: This cheese shop has a large selection of Yorkshire, British, and Continental cheeses for sale. In their shop they also have cheese boards available to pair with a glass or two of wine. 

No. 88 Walmgate - $$: Located in Hotel Indigo this bar serves up amazing York inspired dishes and some crazy cocktails. This bar is famous for its "Freakshakes" concoctions. These Freakshakes are loaded with anything from Kit Kats to gingerbread men.  

LICC (Luxury Ice Cream Company) - $$: For a bit of heaven, head to LICC for some divine "lux" ice cream. You won't be sorry!

Perky Peacock

Perky Peacock

Bettys

Bettys

Trembling Madness

Trembling Madness

Play:

York Jorvik Viking Center -$$ : This museum tells the story of York's rich Viking history. This is truly an immersive experience where you smell the odors (good and bad) of a Viking town, sample the food they ate, and even get to try your hand at blowing a Viking horn!

Shambles Market - free: Wander York's most famous street- the Shambles, and visit its market full of local produce, goods, and souvenirs. 

York Minster - $$: Visit the largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe. This place is visible from many points in the city, seemingly popping out from around each corner.

York Brewery - $: Not only is the York Brewery a place to sit and grab a pint and some pub food, they also have tours of the brewing magic. These are offered four times a day Monday through Saturday, and the cost includes 4 mini pint tasters (£8-Adult £6-Senior/Student £4-Child).

Antique Shopping - Free: There are a bunch of lovely shops to fix your antique needs. We really like the Red House Antique Center  right across from the Minster. 

W. Hamond - $$$-$$$$: If you're looking for a pretty souvenir, we suggest heading to W. Hamond. This jewelry shop on the Shambles is tiny but packed with lovely treasures. Whitby Jet is one of the local stones of Yorkshire (found on the coast) and W. Hamond has a great selection of the slightly Gothic yet completely chic stone jewelry. 

York Museum Gardens - free: If you like English gardens, then the York Museum Garden is the perfect place to visit. Surrounded by St. Mary's Abbey, these gardens are filled with botanical wonders and over 30 species of birds. Be sure to stop in the York Museum as well which is rich with some of England's most precious archaeological treasures. 

The Original Ghost Walk of York - $: This tour claims to be the first of its kind in the world! Held nightly, this tour will surely satisfy anyone's appetite for scary stories as York has been named the most haunted city in England, and possibly Europe! 

York Pass - $$-$$$: If you are planning to visit more than two of York's attractions in a day, then the York Pass is great bang for your buck. With this pass, you have complete access to over 30 fantastic attractions in York (York Minster, Clifford's Tower, Castle Museum, York Brewery, York Art Museum, or York Dungeon to name a few) and includes some great discounts on a number of other places. 

Seemingly, all roads lead to York Minster

Seemingly, all roads lead to York Minster

Eve wandering the Shambles

Eve wandering the Shambles

One of the Gatehouses of York

One of the Gatehouses of York

Exploring one of the many tiny passages

Exploring one of the many tiny passages

Part of the Roman Wall surrounding York City

Part of the Roman Wall surrounding York City

Eternal Summer in Santa Barbara, CA

A little while ago, Eve headed down south for a mid-week mini trip with her boyfriend P, her high school bestie K, and her boyfriend C. With P and C not being from the Golden State (P is English and C hails from the East Coast) K and Eve decided that they should all take the drive south to Santa Barbara for some quintessential California weather, wine, and culture.

K is a fellow foodie and wine lover so planning this trip was a piece of cake: eat all the food, drink all the wine, and enjoy as much sunshine as possible. Check her out on Instagram: @cooking_with_koko

Eve and the crew headed out for the two-night getaway early on Monday morning to make the most of the trip. Here are some of our SB favorites:

xxx Ivy & Eve

Stay:

  • Hotel Milo- This beachfront boutique hotel is the PERFECT basecamp for all of your Santa Barbara adventures. They host a daily happy hour (featuring local wines), have an amazing daily breakfast, a fleet of cruiser bikes which are free to use! We stayed in their Deluxe King room with a sleeper sofa, which was perfect as our cousin J stayed with Eve and P for a night.  

Eat:

  • Lucky Penny- Lucky Penny serves to-die-for pizzas, salads, and brownies (we would go as far as saying the best pizza in SB). You order at the counter and can take it to-go or do what we did - and sit out on their picnic patio and enjoy the warm Santa Barbara weather. 
  • Lark- Owned by the same people as Lucky Penny and located just next door, Lark is the older, more sophisticated sister. The menu is broken down into three categories: From the Farm, From the Ocean, and From the Ranch. They serve only the freshest ingredients and have an impressive wine list. Great for a date or special occasion!
  • Sandbar- Sandbar is a great spot for casual cocktails and tasty (and affordable) Mexican fare. Their Happy Hour lasts from 3-7pm Sunday-Friday. We recommend any of their margaritas!
  • State & Fig- Hands down the best spot for lunch. State & Fig is located in one of the quiet outdoor arcades just off of State Street. Each item on the menu looked better than the last. We finally chose our dishes - and we were not disappointed. We recommend having a glass (or two) of bubbles and trying anything on their daily specials list; or go for the Fig Burger which ended up being the group favorite!
  • Sambos- A true Santa Barbara classic and has been in business since 1957. Our Mom used to go here on the weekends when she was in college and it is pretty much exactly the same! Their Eggs Benedict is amazing. P got the Crab Benedict which was a special and Eve got the California Benedict with tomato, avocado, and spinach. They also serve up the biggest mimosas we have ever seen! Sit on the patio to soak up the sunshine and people watch. 
  • Backyard Bowl- This place creates the tastiest Acai bowls, smoothies, and hot breakfast bowls. We recommend Backyard Bowls for a quick, nutritious, and totally Instagram worthy breakfast!

Drink:

  • Joe's Cafe- Another true SB classic. Opened in 1928, Joe's serves classic steakhouse meals (order a French Dip if you're hungry) and some of the stiffest drinks in Santa Barbara. Order a drink and step back in time. 
  • Funkzone wine tasting- Santa Barbara's Funkzone is home to 13 different wine tasting rooms. You can easily spend a whole day exploring the Funkzone but if you can only stop at one Tasting room, we wouldn't miss Kunin Wines (see below). 
  • Kunin Wines- Our hands down favorite tasting room in Santa Barbara. Kunin is everything we like in a tasting room. We were greeted with a smiling and knowledgable host and chose from several tasting flights. We ended up having 2 red and 2 white flights so we could all share. Above the bar the sign reads "join the coolest wine club in town" (they know they're good but also don't take themselves too seriously). The atmosphere is fun and casual; like having a drink at a friend's house. We all left with several bottles (none lasted unopened very long). 

Do:

  • Mission Santa Barbara- The top cultural attraction in Santa Barbara and nicknamed the "Queen of the Missions". Simply stunning. 
  • Biking along the beach- We rented bikes (free at the hotel) for 2 hours and explored the coastline on the wonderful boardwalk trail. 
  • SBMA- The Santa Barbara Museum of Art is the perfect place to spend hours exploring over 5,000 years of human creativity. 
  • The Blue Door- A labyrinth of a shop spanning 3 floors filled with vintage and new items. We spent far too long in here for the boyfriend's liking. 
  • State Street- State Street has everything and anything you would want in a day of serious shopping. You'll find a mix of high street and boutique shops. There is something for everyone! 
The beautiful Hotel Milo...

The beautiful Hotel Milo...

Just outside our room

Just outside our room

The sunny breakfast patio

The sunny breakfast patio

Mission Santa Barbara 

Mission Santa Barbara 

NOM NOM NOM

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Eve and P

Eve and P

Kunin Wines

Kunin Wines

The Blue Door

The Blue Door

Sambo's

Sambo's

Crab Benedict

Crab Benedict

California Benedict

California Benedict

Giant mimosa

Giant mimosa

Besties outside State & Fig!

Besties outside State & Fig!

Biking along the waterfront

Biking along the waterfront

Happy riding!!!

Happy riding!!!