Living In Edinburgh: 16 Things You Need To Know

Get the facts about living in Edinburgh to decide whether the city really is the right choice for you. 

We think Edinburgh is one of the best places to live and we’re not alone. It was voted the best city in the world in 2022 by the Time Out Index beating strong contenders like Chicago.

Time Out’s annual survey involves thousands of people in the local community answering questions about their quality of life. Let’s dig in and find out why people love Edinburgh and whether it is the right place for you!

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What really stands out about living in Edinburgh is its broad appeal. The city beats its rivals on pretty much everything including scenic beauty, community spirit, food and drink, relaxed atmosphere, walkability and great public transport. 

So, if you are considering making Scotland’s capital your next home, read on to get the facts about living in Edinburgh to decide whether the city really is the right choice for you. 

1. Edinburgh is visually one of the most attractive cities in the UK

Edinburgh is a small city with an incredible architectural mix. The Old Town is all about medieval buildings and a turreted skyline, featuring eye-catching Gothic architecture and streets and alleys with a distinct Hogwarts feel to them.

Yes, this is the very city that inspired JK Rowling to create the boy wizard Harry Potter. The Potteriana fans find dozens of references to Edinburgh in the books: Victoria Street, with all its quirky shops and little colorful boutiques, is reminiscent of Diagon Alley; George Heriot’s School, a grand building with towers and turrets, is Hogwarts in all but name (and wizardry). 

And of course, the biggest attraction is the Greyfriars Kirkyard, where Rowling borrowed some of the names from the tombs to create her characters, including Thomas Riddle. The place is suitably eerie and will definitely tickle your imagination. 

Then there’s the New Town, a sign of a different era, with more spacious and elegant Georgian streets, graceful sweeping crescents, and private central gardens. 

It’s a city built on hills. You either be walking up or down winding streets, and there’s always some spectacular view waiting to surprise you the moment you turn another corner. Wherever you are, the castle and Arthur’s Seat always lean dominantly over you.

2. Slick internet connectivity and speedy mobile coverage

The city has the best fibre access in all of Scotland boasting a median broadband speed 31% higher than Scotland’s and 1.36% higher than the UK overall. 

Almost 90% of Edinburg residents can access Gigabit fiber or UltraFast 300+ Mbps, while SuperFast 30+ Mbps broadband is available to 98% of Edinburgh’s households.

Edinburgh has one of the best mobile coverages in Scotland, with 5G being available in many areas.

3. An international travel hub

Edinburgh Airport is a 30-minute bus or tram trip from the city center with flights heading all over the world. There are direct flights to New York JFK, Newark Airport, and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

Victoria Street at night, Edinburgh
Victoria Street at night, Edinburgh.

Low-cost airlines serve various European destinations, including Spain, France, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium, etc.

For domestic travel to Glasgow, Liverpool, Newcastle, or Manchester, the easiest and most comfortable way to travel is by train. 

If you need to travel a bit further, the choice gets more interesting as flying can often be a cheaper and much faster option. 

For example, a train journey to London takes four and a half hours and is not necessarily the cheapest. If you book well in advance and don’t mind arriving at midnight, you can get away with a one-way ticket for about £40. 

With some tactical booking, a round trip with EasyJet can cost you just over £50 for a one and half hour flight. 

For a truly budget experience, you can jump on a bus. Traveling by bus is 11 hours minimum, but it’s possible to get to London for just over £20.  And it is more realistic to get low prices when booking a bus ticket, even during peak times. 

4. Great public transport everywhere

The tram service runs every 7 minutes, between 7 am and 7 pm, and every 15 minutes outside these hours. It connects Edinburgh’s city center with the airport with an end-to-end journey of just over 30 minutes. 

Edinburgh’s main railway station, Waverley, and Edinburgh Bus Station are also just a short walk from the St Andrew Square stop in the city center.

You can get things done or chat with friends while traveling as Edinburgh’s Trams have Wi-Fi on board. 

Two bus companies operate in the city: Lothian Buses, which does mainly city routes, and First Group, which connects South East and Central Scotland. There’s also a regular 24-hour service to Edinburgh Airport by Airlink100.  

5. A walkable and cyclable city 

If you are fit and enthusiastic enough to brave the hills, you’ll love this feature. 

The city is just the right size so that you can walk pretty much everywhere. Because it’s such a beautiful scenic city, you’ll enjoy the pleasure of walking as well.

Get a bike. There are wonderful bike rides into the countryside or along the coast. Edinburgh really stands out because it doesn’t have an endless sprawl of suburbs outside the city. A short bike ride can transport you from the bustling city streets to the beautiful, serene countryside and nature. 

6. So much green space to enjoy

Edinburgh is the UK’s second greenest city. Apparently, there’s approximately 230 m2 of green space per city resident, so you won’t be short of parks and abundant greenery. 

Circus Lane, The New Town
Circus Lane, The New Town

Holyrood Park, Calton Hill, Blackford Hill, the Meadows, and Inverleith Park boast the most fantastic views and are also home to some of Edinburgh’s biggest festivals and sporting events.

If you’re passionate about foliage and flora, note down Princess Street Gardens at the foot of Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Botanical Gardens in northern Edinburgh; you won’t be disappointed. 

7. Walkers’ paradise – the Water of Leith walkway

Here’s another amazing feature of Edinburg – a 13-mile walking/cycling path along the river Leith. It’s not just a scenic walk: there are some cool things you can see on the way, including an old railway tunnel that has been transformed into a walk-through exhibition hosting  Scotland’s largest historical mural. 

If you are a modern art buff, you will be excited to know that 4 out of 6 Antony Gormley “6 Times” figures are on the walkway. Enjoy!

8. Edinburgh oozes culture with a buzzing, creative vibe 

Edinburgh has a full stock of museums, including the spectacular National Museum of Scotland, art venues, countless galleries, theatres, and concert halls where exciting events happen on an almost daily basis.

Are you into literature? Get ready to indulge yourself. Edinburgh’s various bookshops are a special feature of the city. Among them, you can find some rare jewels that passionately curate their book collections or have amazing second-hand collections of original editions.

Music is a big deal here, too. The city is famous for its live music scene. There are dozens of venues and clubs here that host small intimate gigs as well as big arenas for mass concerts. And, of course, there are festivals!

9. Festivals… so many of them

Edinburgh hosts 12 major festivals each year. They are among the biggest events in the world, and the Fringe Festival is now the largest annual international arts festival.

The Fringe is huge! In August, when it takes place, the population of the city doubles, and various city spaces are converted into festival venues, both indoor and outdoor. Shows start mid-morning and run right through past midnight, some of them completely free, so you’re bound to find something you’ll love even on a tight budget. 

It has to be said during the Fringe, traffic jams are horrendous, and locals can become somewhat grumpy and irritated. Walking through the city turns into a mission impossible. So if you need to be somewhere other than the Fringe, avoid taking shortcuts through the city center or get ready to wrestle your way through the endless crowds. 

10. The weather is very changeable 

Is it raining now? Never mind, it’ll probably stop in half an hour. 

Cobbled footpath at Leith Harbour.
Cobbled footpath at Leith Harbour.

It’s unlikely to snow, but you could have sun, wind, rain, fog, and everything in between in the space of one afternoon.

In summer, it can get hot when the sun comes out during the day, but it can be cold too. Occasionally all within the space of an hour.

The key is layers that you can quickly put on or shed off depending on the elements and accepting that no matter how well you plan, occasionally, you’ll find yourself having completely inappropriate clothing. 

11. Edinburgh’s food and drink scene scores high

There are some superb restaurants and cafes here, great food shops including excellent pan-Asian supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and countless shops with a huge range of wines, beers, and spirits.

Check out the Pitt Street food market, which is located in an industrial yard in Edinburgh’s Leith area and hosts a feast of street food vendors, drinks stalls, a beer garden, and live music.

Enrich your culinary vocabulary with some must-try Scottish dishes:

Neeps and tatties – a classic Scottish dish that usually accompanies haggis (another Scottish classic), neeps are swede or turnip and tatties are potatoes.

Cullen skink – a classic Scottish soup with smoked haddock, potatoes and leek.

Partan bree – crab broth with rice and cream.

Arbroath smokies – smoked haddock but not your usual one. A very specific process produces the most amazing smoked fish you have ever tried in your life!

Cranachan – a layered dish made from whipped cream, honey, whisky, fresh raspberries, and toasted oatmeal. 

12. Living in Edinburgh can be costly

Edinburgh’s appeal means it’s not cheap. In some aspects, London might appear cheaper than Edinburg, especially for fresh food markets and eating out. An average meal out in Edinburgh costs £42.80 for two people.

Property is also on the pricey side. A 3-bedroom flat for rent in the city center can be found for about £2,700 a month. A smaller 2-bed can be rented for about £1,700.

There aren’t many houses available for rent in the center; occasionally, some grand period properties pop up on the market. These 4-6 bedroom spectacular houses start from £4,000 a month. 

Moving away from the most costly parts of Edinburgh, it is possible to rent a 3-bed house for £1,200 per month or a flat for £700. With public transport being so good it’s worth exploring the less costly areas.

13. Swathes of tourist crowds can be frustrating at times

The narrow streets and pavements of Edinburgh are usually crowded with tourists. They wander about unhurriedly and without purpose taking pictures and goggling the sites. Prepare to be patient; they are a great source of income for the city. 

14. Edinburgh is an overall safe city to live in

It might be a small city, but it attracts a huge amount of different people, so like in any city, it pays to be aware and careful.

You will find that weekend nights on the Grassmarket, Lothian Road, and George Street can get quite edgy.

Some areas are deemed rougher than others, including Niddrie, Wester Hails, Pilton, Granton, and Muirhouse, but on the whole, Edinburgh is a safe city.

A word of caution: it’s a dense city with most residents living in apartments. Things can disappear from communal areas even if access to them is through the intercom. You won’t believe what stories shady individuals can make up to get access to your apartment entrance hall and leave with your bike or stroller. 

15. If you love golf, you’ll love Edinburgh

For a start, you can warm up at the free 36-hole pitch and putt golf course right in the middle of the city! 

Bruntsfield golf course is an Edinburgh Council-run short-hole golf course that is free for all and in a great location for residents and visitors alike. The course is open from late April until September, and a 9-hole winter course is mostly available the rest of the year.

When you’re ready for something more challenging, there’s something in the range of one hundred-plus golf courses within an hour’s drive of the city.

16. There are plenty of good neighborhoods to choose from, but they all come at a price

The New Town, Stockbridge, Marchmont, Bruntsfield, The Grange, and Inverleith/Warriston are all definitely very desirable and upmarket.

This is where tweed and designer dogs are a constant feature, all shops are independently owned,  and traditional pubs peacefully coexist with trendy wine bars and coffee houses all finding their share of clientele. 

If money is of no concern, then consider Regent Terrace, Carlton Terrace, and Royal Terrace. They are full of residential buildings, predominantly houses rather than flats.

They all have private access to The Regent, Royal, and Carlton Terrace Gardens – 12 acres of gardens for residents, which come with tennis courts and a small “pitch and putt” golf course. The gardens are only open to the public once a year on Doors Open Day.

Marchmont is quite a “studenty” area with a young vibe. It’s very pretty and full of independent shops and pubs.

Leith is trendy and lively, great if you like the idea of gentrified areas. It’s full of popular dockside restaurants, bars, and local shops. Property is a bit more affordable here and the transport links are good. 

Morningside in the south of Edinburgh is a great area for families with children. The area boasts good schools and James Gillespie’s High School is actually ranked as one of the top three state secondary schools in Edinburgh.

Colinton – a suburb of Edinburgh 3-4 miles southwest of the city center, is another popular family spot. It has good schools and lots of green places. With an overall average property price of £436,850, it’s not a cheap place, but you can find bigger properties for lower prices than in Edinburg center. 

Final thoughts on living in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is, without a doubt, a great place to live: it has all the things you would expect from a city while being compact and walkable. All the amenities are here, events are world-class, the entertainment is plentiful, and pubs and restaurants are beyond comparison. 

The slight downside is its costly nature. The weather and an occasional absence of summer should also be noted. 

Take time to train your ear to understand the vernacular and learn some local slang phrases, and your life in Edinburgh will be “pure dead brilliant” (very good).

You might find useful:

  • Living In The UK – the absolute relocation guide: where to live, how much it costs, the pros and cons, healthcare, and other facts that you need to know.
  • Learn about life in Scotland in our Living In Scotland Guide.
  • The Best Places To Live In Scotland – a detailed guide to Scotland’s most popular locations: from quiet and rural to vibrant and urban, discover the best places to live in this stunning country
  • The 15 Best Places To Live In England – find the best places to live, work, raise a family and retire in England.
  • The 15 Best Places To Live In Wales – discover the best locations Wales has to offer: from the wonderful coastal towns and villages to the unique destinations in the heart of Wales.
  • Haven’t found what you were looking for? Contact us or comment below with your question and we’ll do our best to help.
Expatra Team

Our most popular evergreen guides are kept fresh and up-to-date by our in-house research team. If you have any questions about our guides or the country discussed feel free to contact us or leave a comment below and we'll get back to you.

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