Bath, England

Edinburgh

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We spent three nights in Edinburgh, but if you are fast travelers, you could easily do two full days. Since this was the start of our trip, it was nice to have an extra day to relax. To save money on our flight, we actually flew into Glasgow and took a train to Edinburgh. Google flights is a great tool to use to find opportunities to lower your flight cost. Here are the highlights of our trip!

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Hotel: Fraser Suites

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This hotel was right on the Royal Mile, making it an ideal location for sight seeing. Plus, it’s about a 10 minute walk from the train station so we didn’t need to take a taxi to our hotel.

Cost: including tax was $126 a night. This might be because it was during the off-season, but it was so spacious and clean! It included a living area with a couch and chair, large bathroom, small kitchen setup (without a stove) and a decent gym! I would definitely recommend staying here.

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Stroll & Shop the Royal Mile

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This strip is in the heart of Old Town and filled with restaurants, bars and shopping. We also paid for a short tour at Gladstone’s Land, a 17th century merchant’s residence.

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Edinburgh Castle

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It cost about $21 a person to enter, but if offers great views and history of the city. You’ll be able to see the crown jewels, great hall, one of the largest cannons used in Europe and receive a free Scotch whiskey tasting! This was a short walk from our hotel.

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Palace of Holyroodhouse

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This palace was the residence of the King and Queen of Scotland starting in the 16th century. They still use this palace for entertaining. We enjoyed strolling through the royal apartments, chambers, great hall and more. The gardens were unfortunately not open during our visit.

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Hike Up to Calton Hill

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Along with Arthur’s seat, these two short hikes offer some of the best views of the city. It’s opposite of the Edinburgh castle. We walked up here in the morning then headed straight to the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

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Stroll Down Victoria Street

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Especially if you are a Harry Potter fan, you will love this cute street! It’s filled with shops and restaurants, but I enjoyed the bright buildings. Since J.K. Rowling lived in Edinburgh during the time she was writing the first few books of Harry Potter, she used this street as inspiration for Diagon Alley. As you walk from the bottom of the street, it slightly curves up as you walk up. It also has a joke shop!

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Other good sights to see

National Museum of Scotland

St Giles’ Cathedral

Dean Village – this is a beautiful place to walk around!

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Memorable Meals

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La Locanda – this is located right off the Royal Mile. It’s a great family owned Italian restaurant and they served up the best lasagna I have ever eaten.

The Elephant House – great coffee and desserts. We split a salted caramel brownie (twice!). This is the cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first few books of Harry Potter. It’s a cute cafe with a great view of the Edinburgh castle from the back room!

Wildfire – a  Scottish steakhouse. Be sure to make a reservation. It’s a small restaurant and located in the New Town, about a 15 minute walk from our hotel.

The Devil’s Advocate – we enjoyed a great cocktail here. It’s tucked back in an alley off the Royal Mile, but the bartenders dress in fancy aprons and you feel like a local.

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Bruges

As far as small town charm, Bruges is just as great as Rothenburg, Germany. 

Two Nights

Enjoy the Market Square

From restaurant terraces, the Bell Tower and old buildings, this square is quite charming. There are even a few food vendor stands. We split an order of Belgian-style French fries and a hot dog and simply people watched. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, a farmer’s market is held in the Market Square. It was so fun to shop the stands and I only wished we would have rented an apartment so we could cook like a local.

Visit the Church of Our Lady

This holds the famous Michelangelo statue Madonna and Child. It’s the only statue that was able to leave Italy! The church was under construction during our visit and there is a fee to see the inside, but we enjoyed it.

Enjoy the local desserts

Ok, the moment you step into the square you can smell chocolate! There are chocolate shops everywhere! As as matter of fact, they have an entire “Chocolate Row” street dedicated to their famous Belgian chocolate. I bought chocolates from the well known Dumon shop and B&B. The Belgian waffles are also delicious! This one is from Chez Albert. Yum!

Take the De Halve Maan Brewery Tour

An 1856 brewery, we toured both the new and old areas of the brewery. They still kept the 150 year old beer casks and cooling rooms. Funny enough, the highlight of the tour was the viewpoint from the top of the brewery. It overlooked all of Bruges. It was a great tour and ended with a freshly brewed beer.

Rent a bike and ride the outer skirts of town

We peddled all over the place! We had 3 hours with the bikes and rode around the city moat viewing original windmills and stopping at a park to take a break and watch the lazy river make its way around. Locals here were picnicking, reading books and taking naps.

Wander the city and enjoy it’s beauty

Some locations are so pretty they are known as the Postcard Canal View or Picturesque bridge. We enjoyed walking to the Minnewater which is filled with weeping willows, swans and a peaceful lake. If you like ruins, be sure to check out the Crowne Plaza Hotel. In the basement rooms are lined with original stone walls and there are many display cases filled with what modern archaeologists found here.

Other highlights

The Basilica of Holy Blood : This double-decker church, built in 1150, holds the drops of Christ’s blood a Crusader brought back from Jerusalem. We were there to observe the relic itself. This church also has a pretty painting at the alter and it tells the story of how the blood arrived in Bruges.

For local cuisine, try the mussels! I’m not a big seafood person, but when I travel, I love to have as many local experiences as I can. No matter what restaurant you choose, it’s a good meal to split because the pot is huge!