No trip to Edinburgh is complete without visiting the historic Grassmarket neighborhood of Edinburgh. Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town, below the castle, the neighborhood is a busy place to be. They also say the area inspired several mentions in the Harry Potter books, and there is even a Harry Potter museum.
Pubs and Restaurants
There is no shortage of pubs and popular restaurants, from the smallest pub to the oldest (they claim) pub. To name a few pubs, there is The Last Drop (got its name as the last place to get a drink before you were hung), Fiddlers Arms, Biddy Mulligans, Black Bull, and the White Hart Inn.
The White Hart Inn Pub claims to be haunted, and it is one of the oldest in Edinburgh. It opened in 1516 and they have many tales to tell. The famous author Robert Burns even went here in 1791.
If you like pub quizzes, you might check out the Black Bull. It has a Pub Quiz night every Thursday at 8 pm.
If you are looking for real ale, Scottish food, creepy stories, or live music, visit one or more of these pubs.
There are many restaurants, from Mexican and Pizza, to elegant. A few of the restaurants include – The Mussel and Steak Bar, Petit Paris, Mamma’s American Pizza, and El Toro Loco. There is no shortage of places to choose from. It is quoted to say some of the best restaurants in Edinburgh are in Grassmarket.
If you are looking for something more budget-friendly, you might try Oink on Victoria Street. They have very popular pulled pork sandwiches. We had lunch there and it was about half or even less than the other options in Grassmarket. And you get a lot of food for what you pay. They have three sizes, and I think everyone who ordered after we did, ordered the “oink” size. The piglet size is small, but for me was plenty.
Grassmarket was mentioned in the 14th century as a marketplace for trading corn, cattle, and horses. Other times it was said that pigs were sold there. The area was early on called the “new buildings – (Newbygging) under the castle” and was included in the “official book” (Registrum magni sigilli regum Scotorum) in 1363.
The market was famous from 1660 to 1784 as the place where those convicted of a crime were publicly executed by hanging. Between 1661 and 1668, over 100 were hanged here who were considered Covenanters (supporters of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland).
In 1724, Maggie Dickson was hanged and pronounced dead. But wait, a while later, she was knocking on the coffin wanting to get out. She actually lived another 40 years. You can find a pub in Grassmarket named after her – Maggie Dickson Pub.
Bow Street (which is the lower end of Victoria Street) is one of the most photographed streets in Edinburgh. With its colorfully painted storefronts and the curve of the street, it is magical.
At the other end of Grassmarket, you will find amazing views of the Castle above you on the hill. Just stop and take in the massive rock face in front of you. Then feel how impressive the castle is. Next to the Cold Town House, there is a grass area where you will find many people enjoying a respite or a picnic. The Cold Town House is also a place to eat and has a rooftop terrace.
To continue with the long history of having a market in this area, there is a market every Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. A great place to grab something to eat, fresh produce, many handcrafted local gifts, and more.
There are many unique, one-of-a-kind shops to take your time and explore. One of the more well-known is the Knight’s Vault. They have a selection of authentic, locally made Scottish medieval swords and weapons. They have the only license to recreate swords and jewelry from the TV show Outlander.
There are Harry Potter points of interest including a museum. On Bow Street, you will find the Harry Potter Museum and store. Up on the top floor, there is fun photo opportunity, especially for kids. Although, I did see several Adults getting their photos taken.
Not a pub or a place to buy souvenirs is the popular Mary’s Milk Bar. It is famous for amazing milkshakes with all the flavors and toppings you can imagine. The line outside was the longest line we saw in all of Grassmarket. The milkshakes must be delicious; we may need to go back and try one.
These are just three places to explore; there are many more, including shops to get custom-made kilts!
During the Fringe Festival, almost every place in Grassmarket has a venue for events in August. The Fringe Festival is a grand time to visit Edinburgh. You can not even begin to see a small portion, as it is such a sizable fantastic festival. If you haven’t heard of this festival, check it out. Even when it is not the festival, you will find music, pub nights, and more.
With the incredible views of the castle, the wide assortment of pubs to choose from, and the endless wandering into the small shops, you could spend hours here. When you are ready to return up to the Royal Mile, there are stairs in several places along the Grassmarket. It is hard to compete with all Grassmarket has to offer; it is one of the best places to include in any visit to Edinburgh.