Once serving as Edinburgh’s medieval port, Leith has a strong maritime history. In the last thirty years, though, Leith has changed dramatically. The old shipping industries have died out, and a new, gentrified class have moved in, bringing with them artist studios, artisan coffee, and ultra cool hangouts.
So, whether you’re a visitor looking for an alternative to the usual tourist traps or a local looking for something new, check out my round up of the best spots to eat, drink, and wander in Leith:
If street food’s your thing, check out this latest offering just off Ferry Road. Serving a everything from craft beers to classic Jamaican dishes, Pitt Street Market has managed to cram an impressive selection of food and drink into a tiny industrial plot. On a warm summer’s evening, it’s easy to feel as though you’re in London rather than Edinburgh!
How can anyone blog about Leith without mentioning it’s star attraction, Mimi’s? Starting out in 2011 as a small bakery, the Mimi’s empire has now expanded to three sites across the city, and booking a table is a must. Whilst hardly underground – it’s become an Edinburgh institution – their cakes are definitely worth a taste. I would recommend something, but everything is good. So seriously – drop what you’re doing, go now, and put cake in your face. Nom.
A small, unassuming boozer tucked away on Henderson Street, bars like Sofi’s are pretty rare. Unlike many of its competitors, Sofi’s successfully pulls off the cosy, chilled vibe that so many Edinburgh bars try (and fail) to achieve, and has a genuine sense of community. Whether you’re with friends, or in to chill out with a good book, Sofi’s is more than a pub: it’s a home from home with a big heart. There’s something for everyone at Sofi’s; they run regular knitting clubs, film nights in their mini-cinema, and dog socialising days (though pooches are welcome any time – check out resident Boston Terrier and canine celebrity Janet, pictured below).
Boasting an impressive menu and drinks list, the Roseleaf is famous for its ‘pot-tails’: kitsch cocktails in a teapot. Whilst Leith isn’t short of cocktail bars, all I can say is that this place is by far the best! They also do excellent virgin cocktails for those looking for an exotic alcohol-free treat.
If you love exploring abandoned places, and want to immerse yourself in Leith’s rich maritime history, then you need to get yourself down the docks! Salamander Street is known for many things; few know that it’s home to Leith’s best kept secret. Crammed with a mishmash of vintage maritime items, this seemingly small 1950’s trawler is an absolute treasure trove. Go – even if boats aren’t your thing, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Be warned, though – this is not a polished visitor attraction; rather a charity heritage project run by some extremely talented and dedicated volunteers. As such, wear sensible clothes and shoes, and bring photo ID to get into the Port. Free tours are by appointment only (see the website for more information); donations are welcome.
You don’t have to go far from the city to experience a spot of nature. Following the route of Edinburgh’s historic railway network, the Water of Leith is great for cycling, running and dog walking. It’s also ideal for chilled Sunday walks, and spotting urban wildlife, including swans, herons, and kingfishers.
Running for one action-packed weekend every June, Leith Late is a visual arts festival-cum-Leith institution. With exhibitions; installations; on-street interventions; panel talks; tours; and an ultra-cool after party, there really is something for everyone. My personal favourite is the festival’s hugely popular Mural Tours, which maps the cultural history of some of Leith’s best known (and off-the-beaten-track) public artworks.
Have I missed anything? Comment below!
With thanks to Laura Curtis-Moss, the Roseleaf, Sofi’s Bar and Mimis Bakehouse for supplying some of the images.