Who better to show us around the cobbled streets of Scotland’s age-old capital than Tania Dron of Mercat Tours? With seven years of tour-guiding experience to her name, Tania knows exactly what to see, eat, drink, and snap. From beaches and baths to views and vaults, here’s how to experience the best of Edinburgh.
What makes Edinburgh so special?
Edinburgh is a small city with a real bustling, energetic vibe. It’s easy to navigate, and regardless of the time of year you choose to visit, there is always something exciting happening. Edinburgh is made up of the Old Town and the New Town. Considering the New Town dates from the 18th century, you get an idea of just how much history the city holds.
What’s your favorite place in Edinburgh that tourists rarely visit?
Portobello Beach. Tourists always seem surprised when I suggest a day at the beach. It’s located in a very well connected suburb of the city, so you can easily get there with public transport. Once there, you can enjoy a stroll on the promenade, a dip in the sea (weather permitting), or a relaxing afternoon in the historic Victorian ‘baths.’ Finishing your trip with a bite to eat at a local restaurant or café and enjoying an ice cream cone is a must, regardless of the season.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Edinburgh?
The views and the walks! There are so many spots in Edinburgh to take in some magnificent views, and quite a few of them involve beautiful walks. For example, the view from Calton Hill as the sun is setting is really special. Just further afield, Blackford Hill provides you with a beautiful cityscape image. If hills aren’t your thing, the Water of Leith walkway is brilliant for an afternoon stroll, and it makes it hard to believe you’re still in the city center.
Where’s the best place to eat dinner in Edinburgh?
I love Cannonball House, which is situated right next to Edinburgh Castle. Their locally produced food is amazing. They have a great family business ethos, like Mercat Tours, and offer a really warm welcome. It’s the perfect location for wonderful food, traditional Scottish storytelling, and a nip of whisky. That’s why we created the Scottish Storytelling Supper with them.
Where’s the best place to shop in Edinburgh?
I like Stockbridge. It has some great independent craft shops mixed with charity thrift shops so you can pick up a unique bargain or two.
What gift should visitors take home?
Whisky – I’m always going to say whisky! As well as being world famous, it’s such an important part of Scottish culture and is a great way to bring people together. I introduce visitors to Scottish whisky on one of my tours, and there’s always so much interest and love for our national drink.
What are the most Instagram-worthy places in Edinburgh?
The Royal Mile has some real insta-worthy gems but not always where you expect. I recommend venturing down to the lower half of the Royal Mile, called the Canongate. I’ve taken some amazing photos of the Canongate while exploring locations for our Treasures of the Old Town tour. The views inspired the name of the tour!
Nobody should leave Edinburgh without having visited…
The National Museum of Scotland – it’s a treasure trove of artifacts, just choosing ten objects for our tour of the museum was a challenge – albeit a wonderful one!
What is the best activity to do on a rainy day?
Rainy days are perfect days to visit the Underground Vaults of Edinburgh. So few people, even locals, realize the warren of passageways and vaults that are right beneath their feet.
What should visitors say when greeting a local?
“Is this seat free?” The best place to say this and really get to know the locals is in a pub, preferably with live music!
What’s your favorite thing about being a tour guide?
Meeting people from all over the world and introducing them to the history of Edinburgh and Scotland. On any day, I meet people from different parts of the globe who are all on tours to find out about the city’s past.
Can you tell us more about Mercat Tours?
Mercat Tours was founded 33 years ago by a local history teacher, and we are very proud of our family heritage. Our tours are delivered by talented, accredited storytelling guides. Our history tours explore the Old Town of Edinburgh, from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the National Museum of Scotland. Our ghost tours appeal to all ages and uncover the city’s darker past in the Edinburgh Underground Vaults and The Canongate graveyard. We offer tours in English, German, French, Spanish, and Italian.