The Scottish capital is fast becoming one of the world’s most sought-after destinations, for a number of reasons. Whether you’ve come for the thriving art and music scene, the rows of eerily-beautiful buildings, or the striking natural beauty which surrounds it, Edinburgh quickly steals the hearts of everyone who visits. But there is one neighbourhood which is often sadly overlooked by visitors to the city: a neighbourhood nestled comfortably (and perhaps stubbornly) between the Old Town, the New Town, and the wide mouth of the Forth River. This little-known part of the city is called Leith.
Edinburgh residents will know and love Leith for its unique, unpretentious culture, which seamlessly combines authentic Scottish tradition with a sense of internationalism. It is here that you will find Edinburgh’s creative soul, with galleries, record shops, and live music venues spattered across the neighbourhood’s vast area. Some of Edinburgh’s most delicious and multicultural food can be found in Leith, too – as well as a handful of the city’s fanciest and most well-acclaimed restaurants. It is the way it marries all these contradictions that gives Leith its iconic personality, of which native Leithers are incredibly proud.
For a true taste of local life in Edinburgh, make sure to spend a day or two exploring the warren of streets which make up Leith. Wondering where to start? Here are ten of the best things to do and see in Leith, Edinburgh – from an ex-Leither.
10 Best Things to do in Letih, Edinburgh
1. Breakfast at Mimi’s Bakehouse
This small family-run chain of bakeries-slash-coffee houses is the city’s pride and joy when it comes to its vast range of cafés. Mimi’s Bakehouse is famous city-wide for its delicious sweet treats, which are all baked fresh each morning in their kitchen at The Shore, and taste just as good as they look. Start your day with breakfast at Mimi’s Bakehouse on the Water of Leith, and enjoy their cutesy décor, ample food menu, and expertly-brewed coffee. Those with a sweet tooth should try their French toast, whilst anyone with a more savoury palate will love their three-cheese macaroni.
2. Morning walk along The Shore
People are often taken aback by Leith’s tranquil Shore, which feels so far-removed from the vibrancy of Edinburgh itself. A morning walk along the banks of The Shore is a sure-fire way to dust off the cobwebs – especially with Scotland’s infamous breeze accompanying you along the water. Stop to admire the boats moored in the river before following the right bank down to the elegant-yet-industrial Victoria Swing Bridge and crossing to the other side.
3. Visit the Leith Farmer’s Market
If your trip to Leith happens to fall on a Saturday, make sure to head over to the Leith Farmers’ Market, which takes place every weekend just beside Commercial Quay. This is the perfect place to support Edinburgh’s thriving artisan scene, and pick up a few local and international delicacies, too. Whether you’re doing your weekly shop or hunting down mouth-watering street food, the Leith Farmer’s Market is the place to satisfy your cravings.
4. Have lunch at Gaia Deli
Wandering from The Shore up Leith Walk will lead you to Gaia Deli: a pint-sized, Sicilian-run café famous for its freshly made sandwiches and paninis. With its lemon-yellow storefront and collection of colourful cushions, it’s hard to walk past Gaia without being drawn in – and the scent of strong coffee alone is enough to convince you! Run by a family of friendly Italians, Gaia’s sandwiches are second-to-none, filled with fresh, authentic ingredients. Fuel up here for a long day of exploring.
5. Go boutique shopping on Leith Walk
Connecting Leith to the rest of Edinburgh, Leith Walk is probably the most famous street in the neighbourhood. With each pavement lined with independent boutiques, quirky galleries, second-hand bookstores, and traditional pubs, there really is something for everyone. Only here can you find record stores next to 24-hour bakeries, or modern art galleries beside timeworn Scottish pubs. The heart of Leith itself, a stroll along Leith Walk is a great way to truly understand the neighbourhood’s unique culture.
6. Afternoon stroll around Leith Links
During sunny afternoons, there is no better place than the Leith Links: a large expanse of greenery in the heart of Leith. Often populated by runners, dog walkers, and keen picnickers, the Links are an oasis amongst the hubbub of daily life. When the weather is nice, the entire neighbourhood flocks to the Links, armed with beers and snacks, to absorb the elusive Scottish sunshine; there is no other atmosphere quite like it. Grab a coffee to-go from nearby café Rocksalt and wander through the maze of pathways which slice through the park.
Evening drinks at Teuchter's Landing
After a full day of walking, you’re probably in desperate need of a nice, cold drink. The ideal place for this? Teuchter’s Landing. A hidden pub by the Water of Leith which overhangs the canal, Teuchter’s Landing makes up for its small size with its unbeatable dockside location. Try one of their many Scottish whiskies, or order a local beer; if you’re a little peckish, grab a snack from their plentiful menu, inspired by the fresh seafood of the area.
8. Taste the Mediterranean at La Casa
Bringing the iconic flavours of the Mediterranean to the streets of Edinburgh, La Casa is a tapas and mezze restaurant at the heart of Leith Walk. With intricately-patterned tiles decorating the walls and gnarled olive trees lining the windows, you’ll feel a million miles from the Scottish climate in this eatery. Expertly combining Spanish and Greek cuisines to create one all-encompassing Mediterranean menu, La Casa has fast become one of Leith’s most popular dinner spots – and the plentiful jugs of sangria are an added bonus.
9. Test yourself at The Brass Monkey's pub quiz
Something of a celebrity among Edinburgh locals, Dr Paul’s weekly pub quiz at The Brass Monkey is an unmissable event. A longstanding British tradition, pub quizzes are one of the quirkier and lesser-known aspects of UK culture, and often get competitive and boozy much quicker than expected. Every Monday at 7pm, The Brass Monkey on Leith Walk is home to a crowd of cheerful, tipsy locals who have all flocked in to enjoy Dr Paul’s quiz. Book a table for yourself and some friends, and test your general knowledge.
10. Try a cocktail at The Barologist
One of Leith’s swankier destinations, The Barologist is known and loved for its extensive cocktail menu. Like something from the pages of an old-fashioned book, this bar is decorated with a firm nod to the whimsical and fantastical, with four different cocktail menus – one for each season. In spring and summer, you’ll find tipples such as the Fo’ Drizzle and the Solar Flare, whilst autumn and winter will offer the Red Sky Delight and the Spicedberg.