Edinburgh Castle and the cobbled streets of Grassmarket make for a pretty postcard, but there’s more to Edinburgh than the Old Town. At Plum Guide, we’re here to guide you to the best of the city, whether that’s stylish homes or lesser-known areas worth exploring, which is why we’re sending you to Leith. Depending on the Scottish weather (a fickle thing at the best of times), you might not encounter the “sunshine on Leith” made famous by the Proclaimers; however, we can guarantee that you’ll find gourmet cuisine, modern art, and a host of exciting things to do in Leith.
The HMS Royal Yacht Britannia, Edinburgh
Discover Edinburgh’s port past on the Shore
Though its main trade now is tourism, Edinburgh was once a city that relied on the to-and-fro of ships passing through; today the docks of Leith are quieter than they once were, and you’re more likely to find small cargo ships and cruisers here than the shipbuilding yards and bustling merchant vessels of the past. One of the most interesting things to do in Leith is explore the harbour’s history; sign up for a historical walking tour or take a trip to the Trinity House Maritime Museum to discover artefacts like ship’s models and narwhal tusks. Finish up a day exploring the shore with a visit to arguably the most famous ship to ever pass through these waters; the Royal Yacht Britannia, which has hosted royalty and dignitaries from around the world. You can even enjoy tea and cake in the Queen’s favourite spot at the Royal Deck Tea Room. Afternoon tea here before returning to the majestic fireplaces and palatial four-poster beds of this Edinburgh Plum home sounds like a holiday fit for a queen to us.
Explore the most vibrant food scene in the city
In our opinion, what you eat can really make or break a holiday; there’s nothing worse than ending up in a bland chain restaurant or some over-hyped cafe with mediocre coffee. Luckily, Leith is home to Edinburgh’s most exciting culinary offerings, and the only dilemma you’ll face here is choosing where to dine. If you’re looking for ideas to celebrate a special birthday in Edinburgh, Michelin-starred restaurants The Kitchin or Restaurant Martin Wishart serve up modern Scottish cuisine you’ll still be thinking about by the time your next birthday comes along. For something more casual, stylish restaurant-bar Roseleaf is a favourite; menu highlights include their famous cullen skink (a traditional creamy Scottish fish soup) and their seasonal risotto. They’ve also got an excellent vegan menu, which is a treat for plant-based diners used to being treated as an afterthought. No meal would be complete without something sweet to finish; one of our favourite things to do in Leith is take a stroll along the shore to Crolla's Gelateria and choose a scoop or two from this 120-year-old, family owned ice cream shop.
Boats on water in front of terraced buildings in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Take in Leith’s art scene
This area of the city has a reputation as a home for the rebellious and counter-cultural, and so it’s fitting that one of the best things to do in Leith is explore the local arts scene. You may not find the polish and prestige of the Scottish National Gallery, but here you’ll discover the city’s brightest stars before they ascend. Coburg House provides studio space to over 80 artists and designers, with regular events where you can meet the artists and view their work. Similarly, The Out of the Blue Drill Hall is a beautiful Victorian building that hosts an array of creative exhibitions and events – and the community-run cafe here isn’t half bad, either. If your tastes run to the theatrical arts, the Leith Theatre is the place to see up-and-coming playwrights and performers. For those seeking high drama, we can’t think of anywhere better to stay than this brightly decorated, stylish Plum home – bonus, it’s perfectly placed to explore Leith.
Stop for a pint in one of the traditional Scottish pubs
With so many things to do in Leith, it’s no wonder it’s one of our favourite places to stay in Edinburgh. Sometimes, however, the best thing to do on holiday is nothing at all. We recommend you bookmark at least one afternoon to while away the hours exploring some of Leith’s cosy pubs. This idiosyncratic area of town is lacking in the chain bars that can make city centres so homogenous, so wander along the Waters of Leith and duck into whatever doorway catches your fancy. Some of our favourites include the dinky, green-fronted Malt & Hops, with a selection of real ales far vaster than the premises; Teuchters Landing, which is the best place in Leith to enjoy a dram or two of aged Scotch whisky; and the Lioness of Leith, a traditional building with modern interiors that’s as welcoming as it is achingly cool.
As well as we know our pubs here at Plum, we know even better how important it is to find the right home for your holiday. Our home critics are experts in sourcing the most stylish and comfortable places for you to stay in Edinburgh and beyond, from chic flats in the centre of town to grand Georgian apartments perfect for a city break.