A Birthday in Edinburgh: Great Ways to Celebrate

We're sharing tips for the ultimate birthday celebration in the Athens of the North

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Edinburgh skyline

So, you're in Edinburgh for a birthday celebration and you're in need of some ideas? Well, as with most things travel and remarkable homes related, we here at Plum Guide have got you covered. From the best bars in town to the most memorable experiences, here we share our superior-than-the-rest birthday ideas in Edinburgh.

Where to eat

You’re spoilt for choice when it comes to enjoying a food-focused birthday in Edinburgh, with bistros and coffee houses popping up on every cobbled corner. But if you’ve only got a birthday weekend to sample the city’s culinary delights, we recommend hot-footing to Leith waterfront, where you’ll find award-winning dining at Borough, The Little Chartroom and The Kitchin. If you’d rather stick around the city centre, then opt for Levantine sharing plates at Baba or authentic Mexican dining at El Cartel (where you’ll find the best margaritas and carnitas this side of São Paulo).

You can find the best margaritas in El Cartel

Celebrating a milestone birthday? Place your reservation at The Lookout where the views (but thankfully not the prices) are sky high. Perched on top of Calton Hill, the restaurant enjoys unspoilt vistas across the spires, streets and Firth of Forth beyond. And, for that killer birthday cake, be sure to stop by Mimi’s Bakehouse (with several outposts across the city) for their notorious layered cookies; they’re guaranteed to put your same-old sunken sponge to shame. Speaking of a sweet tooth, don’t fall short on the all-important birthday breakfast in bed. Our advice? Pick up fresh tahini chocolate croissants and coffee from Twelve Triangles bakery, before returning to your Plum Guide apartment to savour a slow morning before another day sightseeing.

Where to drink

Feeling thirsty? You’ve come to the right place. There’s a whole host of worthy drinking holes across the city to celebrate a birthday, whether you’re looking for speakeasy-style bars like Panda & Sons or hidden hideouts like the Devil’s Advocate (where you’ll find a 400-strong whisky shelf, if that’s your poison). Not ready to call it a night just yet? We don’t blame you. The city’s latest opening, Lady Libertine, is a subterranean drinking den offering heady libations – including their dangerously drinkable ‘Curtain Call’ which combines Casamigos tequila with a tropical hit of mango and pineapple – and live music into the wee hours. Birthdays only come around once a year, after all.

What to experience

As the old saying goes, the best things in life are free. So, why not strap on your trainers and clamber up Arthur’s Seat in time for sunrise? You can see for over 60 miles on a clear day but, even in damper weather, the views will make this a memorable birthday in Edinburgh. Afterwards, loop back through Holyrood Park and wander up the Royal Mile towards the castle, where you’ll stumble across everything from tartan-clad bagpipers to tour guides convincing you to quaint stores selling shortbread and postcards. Yes, it’s cliché, but you’ll annoyingly love it all the same.

Victoria Street, just off Edinburgh's Royal Mile

Ready to get into the spirit of things? There’s lots of fun to be had at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, where you can take part in a tour which involves crafting your own bespoke bottle and, of course, the all-important tutored tasting of their award-winning range. If wine is your tipple of choice, an excellent idea for any birthday in Edinburgh is to sample the weekly flight at Smith & Gertrude, a laid back wine bar on Hamilton Place. Simply pull up a stool and ask the sommelier for their pick of the grapes; there’s no better way to spend an afternoon in the city, we can guarantee it.

Where to find the perfect gift

Sure, you’ll find all the big brands along Edinburgh’s main shopping drag, Princes Street, but the real birthday gift gems are to be found along the lesser-known backstreets. For first-rate vintage finds head to Armstrongs in the Grassmarket, whilst cashmere gifts are across the road at Hawico. Stock up on your favourite dram at The Whiskey Merchant – Edinburgh’s finest spirit merchant – before splurging on cheese and charcuterie at I. J. Mellis. Edible gifts make the best gifts, didn’t you know?

Where to stay

If it’s your first visit to the city, then it’s best to be part of the action with a rental near the Royal Mile. That said, Edinburgh is easily navigable by taxi or on foot (if you’re not afraid of a few steeper streets), so don’t be afraid to opt for rentals in the leafy suburbs of Marchmont, New Town and Leith. Yes, we know what you think you know everything you need to know from Sunshine on Leith, but today it’s one of Edinburgh’s trendiest neighbourhoods, with the restaurants, bars and galleries to prove it.

Tranquil streets of Edinburgh

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