Shopping in Edinburgh: credit cards at the ready

by Alison Craig

Designer boutiques and hidden gems, amongst your best-loved brands. Central Edinburgh laid bare.

Princes Street, the main street, is lined with shops on one side but rather unusually on the other side there are none. This is because the whole street is dominated by Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street Gardens below. So as you walk along, remember to gaze across the road at the castle, the Walter Scott monument and the National Gallery of Art. The shops here are all well-known brands including Zara, River Island, Frasers, Gap, H&M, Ann Summers, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, Top Shop, HMV, Game and every mobile phone company in the world - but this is the ideal place to get your bearings.

There is light at the end of the multi-national tunnel and a good start is heading up to George Street, which runs parallel to Princes Street and is known as the Bond Street of Scotland, offering more upmarket shops.

On George Street itself you will find Molton Brown, Space NK, Penhaligon, Jaegar, Whistles, Jigsaw, The White Company and Jo Malone, plus other familiar faces. Do try Assimi (www.assimi.co.uk) at 40 George Street, which sells great costume jewellery, or Cruise (www.cruisefashion.co.uk) a great shop that sells both men's and women's designer clothing favourites. There are also some great bars and restaurants such as Cent Otre, Tiger Lily and Oloroso.

Frederick Street, Hanover Street and Castle Street run from Princes Street over George Street and offer countless shops. Browsing is half the fun but on Frederick Street go out of your way to find wholesale jeweller MacIntyres of Edinburgh (www.macIntyres.co.uk). They don't have a shop frontage, being wholesalers, but look for number 26 Frederick Street (there is usually an A-board outside). Head up to the second floor where you will find a vast showroom displaying every kind of jewellery whether diamonds, gold, watches, chunky silver or a bespoke piece designed by your good self. The prices are amazing in comparison to the high street and, if you ask for Gaynor the glamorous gemologist boss, she will look after you brilliantly.

Back outside the, small road that runs parallel between Prince Street and George Street is called Rose Street (www.edinburgh-rosestreet.com). It's a much smaller street and has a good mix of shops - local and national - worth guddling around along as things here are slightly less expensive. Food and snacks again are on offer everywhere; The Abbotsford is a bit of a classic Edinburgh bar and The Mussel Inn or Seadogs are great for a snack.

Thistle Street (www.thistlest.com) runs parallel to Rose Street and is a great shopping street. Jane Davidson (www.janedavidson.co.uk) is a world class boutique. Joseph Bonnar Antique Jeweller at number 72 is a little further along the same side of the road. Joe himself is larger than life and a walking almanac of all things fabulous. Enter his magical glittering cave and you will be rapt by both the sparkling delights on display and by the lovely Joe himself, an Edinburgh original. If you love antiques and collectibles have a look here - Shopping in Edinburgh: a guide to art, antiques and auctions.

Between these two shops is 21st Century Kilts (see Shopping in Edinburgh: high quality Scottish goods) and Pam Jenkins, designer shoe emporium. This is a good street for great food too; Tex Mex 2 and Cafe Marlayne among them.
 
St Andrews Square marks the end of George Street to the east. Here you will see a large square building four floors high. This is the icon we know and love: Harvey Nichols (www.harveynichols.com). To the left of this is a small inconspicuous street called Multrees Walk (known locally as Maltesers walk), which is where Edinburgh gets hoiked up by its boot straps to international designer land (www.the-walk.co.uk);  see for yourself, though you may have to sell your house to run amok along here.

At the end of the walk the entrance to St. James Shopping Centre takes you inside to dozens of shops and is somewhere to bear in mind if the rain comes tumbling down (www.stjamesshopping.com).

A day spent wandering round these streets will keep all women and gay men happy and some blokes horrified so drop them off at any one of a dozen great bars  to read the paper  and meet the locals whilst you batter your credit card.

At the other end of George Street is Charlotte Square. There are no shops to speak of here, but if you need a refreshment head for Whighams - a wine bar bursting with history and character. Once you have regained your strength,  just a few minutes' walk away are a couple of quaint, busy wee streets lined with unique shops, which I cover in my forthcoming West End boutique shopping guide.

Hot Off The Press

Odyssey Boutique have just opened in October 2010 on William Street, a 2 minute walk from the west end of Princes Street selling designer lingerie, swimwear, beauty and various other things - ahem -   www.odysseyboutique.co.uk

Fifi Wilson who have 3 outlets in London opened their first Scottish shop on 28th October in Bruntsfield an area of Edinburgh which is an easy taxi ride and worth the trip to see their eclectic mix of designer clothes a favourite of Katy Perry, Kelly Osborne and all the groovy trend setters of the day. www.fifiwilson.com

Where to stay

You can see my full list of recommendations here – Edinburgh Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Edinburgh.

You can also read advice on Shopping in Edinburgh: high quality Scottish goods and Shopping in Edinburgh: a guide to art, antiques and auctions or visit Shopping in Edinburgh.

Alison Craig

I am a writer and broadcaster from Scotland. I have been lucky enough to live and work in Edinburgh for most of my adult life and I love it. Aesthetically I believe it to be the most beautiful city in Europe. Culturally rich, it is buzzing with great restaurants, bars and lively venues. Music, art, history and architecture are everywhere and, frankly, shopping is a joy. The choice is dazzling from the local cheesemonger, antique jewellery shop and hidden boutiques to the high-end world-renowned designer shops. It’s all here and what’s more I’ve made it my business and passion to know where you can find the Edinburgh that interests and excites you. You can enjoy Edinburgh on a shoestring or a Platinum card once you have the information...it’s entirely up to you. http://alisonsdiary.com is my daily blog, all about Edinburgh Scotland and life!

My Edinburgh

Where I always grab a hot drink: There are endless choices but for a top skinny latte with homemade cakes my favourite is Cent Otre on George Street. Situated in a converted bank building, it has a sense of grandeur as well as some remarkably tasty cupcakes and a zingy atmosphere thanks to the warm Italian hospitality that abounds.

My favourite stroll: If the weather allows, I love to walk along the Water of Leith, starting at Stockbridge and heading towards the Modern Art Gallery - you could be in the middle of the countryside. Keep an eye out for the Antony Gormley sculptures en route and the resident heron.

If it’s too darn cold and wet, The National Gallery on the mound in the centre of Princes Street has a permanent stunning collection of art with a top class coffee shop and gallery shop to browse too. When the weather clears, you are in the heart of everything.

Where to be seen: In Harvey Nichols' cocktail bar all year round. On warm days, on Oloroso roof terrace and dancing in Lulu.

The most breathtaking view: From Edinburgh Castle ramparts, the top of Calton Hill or Arthur's Seat. Both Calton Hill and Arthur's Seat take a bit of puff to get to and if time is tight then head for the Castle from where the city of Edinburgh is laid out at your feet.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: The Royal Botanic Gardens are stunning and are a lovely place to sit and watch the world go by. There are several vantage points from where you can look out over the city if gazing at your navel becomes tedious.

Shopaholics beware: So many shops, so little time! If you are restricted to one day, go along Thistle Street from end to end, back along George Street, along Rose Street and finish on Princes Street. Phew! End to end shops, all in a square mile - great.

Don’t leave without...walking top to bottom or bottom to top of The Royal Mile with Edinburgh Castle at one end and Holyrood Palace at the other. Right along this street you will find myriad treasures architecturally and culturally as well as some eccentric quirky little shops for this and that.