I absolutely love living in Edinburgh. I’m writing this post from one of my favourite cafes in the city centre, it’s been almost 10 years since I first moved to Edinburgh and I’m still as enthralled by it as I was that first day.
Scotland’s capital city is full of character and history, with a great nightlife and arts scene, so it’s no wonder so many people want to move to Edinburgh. It’s why I did!
And I’ve been asked constantly what it’s like to live here ever since, so I figured it was about time I wrote a bit of a guide to moving to Edinburgh and what it’s like to live here.
We’ll start with some reasons to move and what to expect, then the cost of living in Edinburgh, neighbourhoods you might want to move to, and more!
There are so many reasons to choose to move to Edinburgh. It’s a romantic city at heart, with its beautiful historic buildings.
When I first moved here I loved all the opportunities for things to do, and now I have a family here I enjoy what Edinburgh has to offer for families.
But let’s get started!
Best things about living in Edinburgh:
- History and culture
- Green spaces
- Lots of free/low-cost things to do
- Walkable, easy to get around
- The people – Easy to meet people
- Food and drink
Edinburgh is a big city, although not the biggest in Scotland – that honour goes to Glasgow – it retains a cosy and intimate feel.
It’s a city of contrasts, retaining its historical roots and feels yet pushing ahead as a centre for the Scottish tech industry and as a leading centre for scientific research. It’s a wonderful place to feel like you’re in the thick of history while still pushing ahead with a modern society.
Moving to Edinburgh will mean you’ll always have something to do and get involved in, whether it’s experiencing one of the many arts festivals or finding someone interested in the same hobby as you.
Many of the museums are free to visit or low-cost, and there are lots of other free and low-cost events on offer throughout the year. This makes it easy to meet people and expand your network.
There’s plenty of green space in Edinburgh with copious amounts of parks, including Holyrood Park, which is home to Arthurs Seat and the Salisbury Crags, both giving amazing views across the city.
Not to mention Princes Street Gardens and The Meadows, both of which are teeming with beautiful pink blossom trees in the spring and become a hive of activity on sunny days.
You also have beaches and the Pentland Hills on the doorstep, with more mountains and epic scenery not far away.
The international airport means it’s easy to get to elsewhere in Europe, and you can be at Kings Cross Station in about 4 hours on the train from the centre of Edinburgh.
I love how easy it is to eat all different sorts of cuisines in Edinburgh, including plenty of locally sourced food and dishes too. More on that later!
Worst things about living in Edinburgh
Okay, so living in Edinburgh isn’t perfect. There are a few things that aren’t so great, including:
- Cost of living
- Small city feel
Yes, the weather can be a little grumpy and changeable, and is often a source of complaint for those who live here, particularly if we don’t get our nice spring days! More on that later…
The cost of living in Edinburgh is fairly high compared to the rest of Scotland, and on par with some other parts of the UK, and yet the average wage doesn’t always reflect this. It’s definitely something to consider when you’re making the move to the city.
Sometimes Edinburgh can feel quite insulated and suffers a bit from a small city feel. It can be easier to make friends with others who have moved here (luckily there are plenty of us!) than with those who have lived here their whole lives and have established friendship circles and extended family.
This isn’t saying it’s not possible and I have plenty of lovely friends who were both born and raised here and moved here! It just takes a bit more effort and the commitment of living here for a while.
August in Edinburgh is crazy. In a good way if you want to get out and about and involved in all the festivals and activities on that month, but not if you just want to go about your normal daily life without hoards of tourists in your way.
In fact, much of the summer Edinburgh can be tourist central, so it’s worth sticking to some of the more local areas, checking out Edinburgh’s “hidden gems“, or knowing you need to book things if you’re also wanting to head out in town.
While driving in the city is entirely possible it’s not the most fun, that’s for sure!
The road signs tend to be few or non-existent and there are often markings on the road instead, which you won’t see until they’re revealed by the car in front of you and you’re literally on top of them. Best to stick to the outer areas of the city if you’re driving and get on public transport instead.
The weather in Edinburgh
The weather in Edinburgh isn’t always the best, although I don’t think it’s as bad as people make out. Yes, the temperatures are usually lower than in London and it does tend to rain more.
There are fairly distinct seasons in Edinburgh, although they’re not always equally long! Summer may seem like it only lasts a few weeks at times!
While it can snow in the winter in Edinburgh it’s not guaranteed and it usually doesn’t settle, especially at lower levels closer to the sea. You can expect more sunny days and less rain when May rolls around, as the weather tends to be settled more in the spring in Edinburgh.
In late summer it starts to become more changeable again and the rain can be more frequent in September and October, but the autumn colours are lovely across the city.
The main thing is when it’s a good day in Edinburgh everyone makes the most of it! You’ll see plenty of people out and about taking in the sunshine.
And as a bonus, because of the positioning of the city, around the summer solstice, it can be light as late as 11 pm, so there’s plenty of time to make the most of it!
Food in Edinburgh
There’s lots of variation in the food on offer in Edinburgh. Alongside a reviving Scottish food scene, with Scottish produce on full display, you’ll find almost every other kind of cuisine available, and lots of vegan or vegetarian options too.
Transport in Edinburgh
Having a car isn’t essential to living in Edinburgh, but it can be useful if you’re in the outer suburbs or if you plan on taking a lot of day trips out of the city. These are possible on public transport too though of course!
Depending on where you come from, Edinburgh has great public transport or it’s just okay. We have an extensive bus network, stretching all the way out to destinations in the Lothians as well.
Then there are the trams that current run from the airport to St Andrew’s Square but are being extended down Leith Walk to Ocean Terminal.
The train network branches out from Waverley with regular trains to Glasgow and other destinations across Scotland and England.
Living Costs in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a pricey city but definitely cheaper than London if you want to make that comparison. Essential costs include:
The average rent for a one-bedroom in Edinburgh is £810 per month and for a three-bedroom would be around £1250 per month. These can be more or less depending on where in the city it is.
These rates don’t usually include bills so expect to pay around £150-£180 on top of that plus Council Tax.
This is money collected by the local council to pay for services like water sewerage, roads, rubbish collection etc.
In Edinburgh, each home is given a “Band” and this will determine the amount of council tax paid, with Band A being the cheapest and Band H the most expensive.
You can claim a 25% discount if you live alone and an exemption may apply to some students. The decision of the band of the house usually relates to the area it is in and the value of the house.
Averaging £15 at a cheaper restaurant for dinner but you can definitely find cheaper eats, or pay more of course!
The cost of a pint is how you measure the expensiveness of a place right? Well in Edinburgh it’ll set you back around £4 on average. And yes, despite the weather Edinburgh has beer gardens!
For a single trip on the bus, it’s £1.80 and a day pass is £4.50. Taxi’s are readily available (black cabs mostly in the centre) as well as Uber.
Salaries in Edinburgh
The average wage in Edinburgh is £31,672, compared to £39,716 in London, but of course, this can vary wildly depending on what industry you’re in.
My first job in administration in Edinburgh in 2013 was £18,600 a month, and this was higher than the average for that position at the time!
Jobs in Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a thriving city with lots of different industries to work in. I would recommend looking on Indeed to get an idea of what’s available and the salaries you could expect.
There are lots of local as well as multi-national companies to work for. Jobs in banking, financial services, and technology are popular, as Edinburgh has become somewhat of a hub for Startups in Scotland.
Studying in Edinburgh
I’ve heard Edinburgh is a brilliant place to be a student, and I can see why. There are plenty of things happening and you’re studying against the backdrop of a beautiful historic place with easy access to international destinations and the rest of Scotland.
As well as the University of Edinburgh there’s also Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University, Queen Margaret University, the Royal College of Surgeons, and Scotland’s Rural College.
Where to live in Edinburgh
When you’re looking for a place to stay in Edinburgh then Spareroom or Gumtree are best for a flat share or Zoopla and Rightmove for rentals of whole properties. The latter also work for buying, if you’re making a more permanent move.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular neighbourhoods for those looking at moving to Edinburgh.
This is just north of Princes Street. Expect to pay very high rents but it is amazing to have the city on your doorstep.
Living in the Old Town would be a dream for some of those looking to move to Edinburgh. This area is south of Princes Street/Princes Street Gardens and covers the parts around the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle. Again, rents are very high in this area.
North of Edinburgh covers everything from Stockbridge to Trinity/Granton at the sea and Leith to the Northeast.
Stockbridge is an affluent area and has lovely properties and lots of independent shops and cafes. The further north you go the lower rents will be. Trinity is popular with families and Granton is more up-and-coming.
Leith is a popular area for young professionals and there’s lots of development in the area, particularly as the trams are extended from the city centre to Ocean Terminal. It’s a vibrant part of the city with lots happening and plenty of bars and cafes for going out. I’m a little biased, as we used to live here!
Stretching from the city centre out to Portobello, which has changed a lot since I first moved here! Portobello has the beach, plus lots of great places to eat and independent shops. It’s a little further from town though so not as popular with those wanting easy access to the city centre.
This covers Southside, Marchmont, Bruntsfield, and Morningside as the closest suburbs to the city centre.
The latter two are very affluent areas popular with families, and the first two are popular with students as they’re close to the university and the city centre.
I also spent some time living in the Southside and loved the proximity to the city and the Meadows.
I lived in Morningside when I first moved to Edinburgh and it’s a great area, but definitely on the more expensive side.
Including Fountain Bridge, Polworth, Dalry, and Gorgie, as the places that are closest to the city. I would recommend looking here for cheaper rents than in some of the other areas close to the city centre.
There are still plenty of facilities and great access to town. Again, I’m biased as I lived in Polwarth!
And that’s a basic summary of the things you should know about moving to Edinburgh! In short, it’s an awesome city to live in and I highly recommend it.
Moving to Edinburgh from London or the rest of the UK is, of course, much easier than coming from abroad, but it’s well worth considering all the options if it’s something you want to do.
As someone who moved here for two years on a working holiday visa and has ended up staying for 8, I can look at living in Edinburgh through the lens of both an expat and a local, and while there are some things I don’t love, I can certainly say I don’t regret moving here for a second!