Edinburgh, Dùn Èideann in Scottish Gaelic, is the capital city of Scotland and the biggest financial center in the UK after London. Against a backdrop of castles and green hills, this historic world capital of art and culture has nurtured the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and J.K. Rowling.
Historical and cultural attractions have made this the second most popular tourist destination in Britain. The Old Town, with a medieval street layout, and the 18th century Georgian New Town, including Dean Village and Calton Hill, are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with over 4,500 listed buildings. The famous Edinburgh Castle is perched atop a rocky crag (remnants of an extinct volcano), a Scottish royal residence during the 12-17th centuries. The Royal Mile runs between the castle and Holyrood Palace, the British monarch's official residence in Scotland.
Nearby are institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland (Chambers Street, in the Old Town), the National Library of Scotland (between the Old Town and the university quarter), and the National Galleries Scotland (on The Mound), with fine art collections, including Scottish and international works dating from the Renaissance to the 20th century.
In August the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival — the largest performing arts event in the world — are tourist magnets, especially the latter for gay travelers, when the city is crammed with edgy performers and hip audiences. If hairy rather than hippy is your cup of tea, come in October for Bear Scot Fest, when bears and their admirers take over Edinburgh for hair-raising fun. The main event on the gay calendar is Pride Edinburgh, the annual pride celebration held in early July, with a downtown parade; plus a December Winter Festival.
Edinburgh Airport, about 7 miles west of the city, doesn’t welcome many international flights. Trams offer frequent and reliable service from the airport to city center with connections to rail services at Edinburgh Park and Haymarket stations. Look for buses to Edinburgh and other local destinations in front of the main terminal entrance.
Glasgow Airport, about 50 miles west of Edinburgh, is the main gateway to Scotland. For a train from Glasgow Airport to Edinburgh take the McGill 757 bus or a taxi to the Paisley Gilmour Street station; or take the First 500 Glasgow Shuttle from the airport to Glasgow Central Train Stations. Taxis operate 24 hours a day from the main terminal.
See The Trainline, BritRail and Virgin Train websites for train schedules, fares and bookings from Glasgow, and other UK cities. National Express coach and bus lines can also get you to Edinburgh from most anywhere in Britain.
This is a city where you’ll most likely want to stroll whenever possible, but for information on public transportation see Lothian Buses. They have an iPhone app for schedule times. For sightseeing there are a host of open-top bus tours to take in the sights. The Edinburgh Tour is one option, and with an Edinburgh Pass you get around with one discount fare.
The city doesn't have a bike share program, but Leith Cycle on Leith Walk has a fleet of Dawes touring bikes for rent for as little as £12 per half day or £17 per day, along with helmets and locks.
Currency and Money
Scotland’s currency is the British pound (£). ATMs are available in the downtown area.
Media & Resources
For "independent cultural journalism" see The Skinny, with listings and reviews of music, clubs, art, film theater, food, travel, "deviance" and more.
For some good tips on eating out, shopping and local cultural events, see The Edinburgh Blog.
Edinburgh's LGBT Health and Well-Being Centre (9 Howe St) is the gay community meeting space and ersatz community center.
For what's going on with local bears see the BearScots website, particularly for their BearScotFest each October. MSC Scotland has socials and other events throughout the year for leather/rubber fetish community men.
The Order of Perpetual Indulgence, Convent of Dunn Eideann, are part of the world-wide order of queer men and women who aim to end prejudice and intolerance, eradicating guilt and promoting universal joy.
For map locations and website links to the businesses listed below and more, including restaurants, performance venues, museums and galleries, see our gay Edinburgh listings pages.
Alva House (45 Alva House; 44-845-257-1475), small guesthouse for gay men, range of modern rooms, TV, adjoining bathrooms, self-service kitchen, book ahead, especially for weekends.
Ardmor House (74 Pilrig St; 44-131-554-4944), gay-owned/straight-friendly luxury boutique b&b, central, varied breakfasts, rooms or self-catered apartments.
Garlands Guest House (48 Pilrig Street; 44-131-554-4205), on quiet street, short walk from center; large, comfy rooms, common lounge and breakfast room.
Village Apartments (5 Broughton Market; 44-131- 556-5094), quiet mews next to Steamworks sauna, bath, TV, CD/DVD, fridge stocked daily with yogurt, cheese, cookies, and juice. Guests get sauna discount, free off-street parking,
Valentine B&B (19 Gilmore Pl), at heart of Edinburgh, near restaurants, bars and theatres, Scottish service, widely acclaimed breakfast.
The Witchery (Castlehill, Royal Mile), nine "gothic and thoroughly theatrical" suites at world-famous restaurant with sensational food, in perfect setting by The Castle, with secret garden.
For more hotel and guesthouse options see our map & listings pages.
Bars, clubbing, and dining
Auld Hoose (25 St Leonard's St), relaxed locals' bar, for everybody, real ale, malt whisky, cider, home-style food, open daily.
Black Rose Tavern (49 Rose St), LGBT-friendly rock/metal/goth/alternative music bar, karaoke, open mic; food nibbles, soups, fish 'n chips, burgers, paninis, all-day breakfast.
Cabaret Voltaire (36 Blair St), women, men, all ages/ sexual prefs; electronic to classic dance DJ music, live bands, secluded sunken booths, bar and dancefloor. Daytime coffee and pizza hangout.
Café Nom de Plume (60 Broughton St), homely-casual LGBT-friendly cafe/bar, comfort foods in big portions, meat or veggie, beer/wine, WiFi access.
Chalky's Late Night Lounge (4 Picardy Pl), mixed gay-friendly dance club; gayest on Thursdays with drag shows.
Cumberland Bar (1-3 Cumberland St), New Town Victorian, beer garden, gourmet food, Sunday roasts.
Habana (22 Greenside Pl), friendly laid-back day or night gay bar/ drinking den; WiFi internet, quiz shows, karaoke, lively pre-club dancing, wide mix of ages.
Olive Branch Bistro (91 Broughton St), breakfast, lunch, and dinner, seating inside and out, big windows overlook passers-by, Sunday brunch.
Planet (6 Baxter's Pl), popular, busy gay party bar, men and women, karaoke, weekend DJ music, outside seating.
Regent (2 Montrose Terrace), mainly gay clientele, traditional ales, rustic wooden floors, historical artifacts, Wi-Fi; food from vegetarian to meat, "CAMRA Pub of the Year." In July, the owners will open a second venue on Broughton Street.
Street (2 Picardy Pl), intimate pub, large front window overlooks street, dance floor, glamorous toilets, cozy upstairs lounge with booths. Popular Sunday home-made roast beef at 4pm; Wednesday Pub Quiz games.
Wee Red Bar (ECA, 74 Lauriston Pl) young crowd, small club, live bands, DJ theme nights, " kick- ass band nights;" small club, cheap drink prices, at Edinburgh College Of Art campus.
The Witchery (Castle Hill, Royal Mile), romantic dining spot at the Castle, private dining suites, world-wide reputation for an exceptional dining experience. Scottish seafood, beef, lamb and game; lunch, breakfast for guests at one of the nine Witchery's suites.
Woodland Creatures (260-262 Leath Walk), gay-friendly music bar/cafe, 40 beers, cask ales, good food including vegan options; secret garden, dog-friendly.
CLOSED: Elbow Bar (133-135 E Claremont St), bar/ restaurant, brunch, open mic/ live music; New Town Bar (26b Dublin St), locals' pub food/drinks; men-only basement dance/cruise; Port of Siam (1 Barony St), Thai restaurant, basement bar.
Steamworks (5 Broughton Market), large, modern, fully-equipped sauna, massage, relaxation space, cruising maze, large private cabins. Wet area, communal shower, Jacuzzi, sauna, steamroom, TV lounge, internet access, snacks and drinks.
Bobbie's Bookshop (220 Morrison), wide international selection of gay magazines.
Q-Store (5 Barony Street), "only licensed sex shop in Scotland," international magazines, books, art, lubes, aromas, vibrators, DVDs, clothing, underwear, and party gags. Staff can assist with local information.
Word Power (43-45 W Nicolson), independent radical bookshop.