Edinburgh’s historic centre, excellent conference facilities and abundant accommodation options make it a favourite for meetings and incentive packages. All the big brand hotels have properties there, ranging from Rocco Forte to Travelodge, and while there are some weeks of the year when business travel is inadvisable because of the city’s festivals and celebrations, Edinburgh remains a most attractive place in which to meet.
Getting To Edinburgh
Edinburgh Airport is eight miles (12km) from the city centre, with 130 air routes from Europe, North America and the Middle East, plus good connections with the rest of the world, making it easy for your delegates to travel to the Scottish capital.
The Airlink 100 airport bus is very frequent, takes about 30 minutes and terminates at South St David Street in the heart of the city’s (Georgian) New Town. An open return is £7.50.
The tram from the airport (open return £9), like the bus, will also take you to the main thoroughfare Princes Street before its terminus at York Place.
From London, the fastest trains to Edinburgh Waverley take four hours 20 minutes and puts you within walking distance of many good hotels.
Getting Around Edinburgh
The city centre is very walkable but note that steep hills and staircases in the medieval Old Town will cause problems for those with mobility issues.
Lothian Buses operate contactless payment, and a day ticket (not valid to the airport) is £4.40.
Black cab taxis are abundant at key points but tend to be non-existent late in the evening. Uber also operates in the city.
Edinburgh is technically a ‘Cycle Friendly’ city; cyclists are permitted to use bus lanes during peak time and there is an extensive network of cycle routes throughout the city and beyond. However, the hills will deter all but the hardiest.
If it’s summer, a sturdy waterproof anorak and sunglasses are best protection against the elements. At all other times of the year, forget the sunglasses. Don’t bother trying to manage with an umbrella as it won’t last long in the often-fierce winds.
Where to Stay in Edinburgh
Premier Inn, York Place: This purpose-built Premier Inn opened a few years ago and boasts Premier Plus rooms. It is ideally located a few paces from the tram’s city terminus near bistros, bars and cafes, yet away from the hubbub of Princes Street.
Point.A Hotel, Morrison Street: This hotel from the small ‘budget boutique’ chain is adjacent to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre (EICC) and close to the Haymarket transport interchange.
Doubletree by Hilton Edinburgh City Centre: This property is a few metres from the EICC but boasts its own conference facilities accommodating up to 200 delegates in theatre or reception-style layout.
Malmaison Edinburgh City: Opened in 2020, this property on St Andrew Square is a few metres from where the airport bus stops and right in the heart of town. Malmaison has another hotel a few miles out at Leith, but this is the preferred option.
The Scotsman Hotel: The former office of the Scotsman newspaper on North Bridge is an imposing castle-like structure at the entrance to Old Town. A recent refurbishment has brought the rooms bang up to date.
The Caledonian: Also known as the Waldorf Astoria, this landmark property has everything you would expect of the brand and is located at the west end of Princes Street.
Edinburgh’s International Festival and Fringe Festival take place throughout August when every available accommodation type is booked solid at premium rates, so it’s extremely unlikely you’ll find yourself on business in the city then. If you are lucky enough, select one of the more reliable venues like The Pleasance, Guilded Balloon or Underbelly where the more established acts will be found.
Here are some year-round attractions.
Captains Bar, South College Street: This tiny pub offers nightly performances from acoustic folk singers and musicians.
Café Royal, West Register Street: Don’t be confused by the name, this is a pub, albeit one with Victorian décor that’s absolutely spectacular and which boasts a restaurant-quality menu.
The Oxford Bar, Young Street: The polar opposite of the Café Royal, this tiny and very basic backstreet pub features in Ian Rankin’s Rebus novels. The author’s picture hangs above the bar and he is often to be seen there in person.
The Stand Comedy Club, York Place: This basement venue has acts seven nights a week and has been a right of passage for many household names.
The City Café, Blair Street: This fun American-style dinner serves hearty food and all-day breakfasts and is a lively bar in the evenings with entertainment.
Fhior, Broughton Street: This neighbourhood bistro is not to be underestimated, it offers serious Scottish food with seasonal produce.
Grand Café, Scotsman Hotel: Engineering works on North Bridge mean this beautiful marble-lined room is partially hidden by hoardings, but don’t let that put you off. An elegant yet relaxed choice for brunch or dinner.
Number One, The Balmoral Hotel: The Balmoral’s four AA Rosette restaurant offers dining of the highest standard showcased via a signature seven-course tasting menu.
Do’s and Don’ts in Edinburgh
✔️ Do pop into the National Museum of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery, both have something for everyone.
✔️ Do hunt down a specialist retailer away from the tourist traps if you want whisky.
✔️ Do climb Calton Hill, or if you’re more ambitious and have time, Arthur’s Seat; the views from both are worth the effort.
❌ Don’t head straight to the Royal Mile, it’s blighted by tacky shops selling shortbread and kilts and a magnet for cruise ship and coach parties.
❌ Don’t be tempted by deep-fried Mars Bars, deep-fried pizza, or any other local ‘delicacy’. You’ll regret it.