FESTIVE ATMOSPHERE: Maybe you’ve gone scotch hopping in Scotland. Maybe you’ve golfed there. But there’s another Scottish tradition you should add to your list: the Edinburgh Festivals. The world’s most massive arts and cultural fest takes place annually in Scotland’s second-largest city, which doubles in population during the peak of festival season. From late July through early September, the city’s streets teem with visitors and performers, especially during Festival Fringe (August 6 through 30). Known for its anything-goes attitude, this fest brings out the best (and, um, most interesting) in live entertainment. Other highlights include the Jazz & Blues Festival (July 30 through August 8), featuring local and world-renowned musicians, and the International Festival (August 14 through 30), which presents the finest in theater, opera, dance, and more. But the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (August 6 through 28), performed nightly against the backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, is the event most likely to flip your kilt. Now in its 61st year, the Tattoo is a spectacle of music, light, and international flair, featuring more than 1,000 military and civilian performers from around the globe who join together each evening for a rousing grand finale. The massed pipes and drums alone are worth the price of admission.
HOME BASE: With all the traipsing around Edinburgh you’ll be doing—festival venues are peppered throughout the city—you’ll need a place to call home during the between times. Hotel Missoni, on Edinburgh’s bustling Royal Mile and a short walk from the castle, offers a prime location for pre- and postshow respite. Missoni, the Italian fashion powerhouse, made its entrée into the hotel business last summer with the opening of the Edinburgh location (a property in Kuwait City is set to open this fall). As expected, style reigns throughout the design-minded hotel. A bold black-and-white motif complemented with bursts of bright color sets the tone for the space, and Missoni’s signature zigzag print can be found throughout, even on the plush robes provided in each guest room.
FARE THEE WELL: You’ll need sustenance to fuel your festival adventures. The Cafe Royal on West Register Street is a seafood lover’s paradise. Think fresh mussels in a sauce of white wine, shallots, parsley, and cream and oysters Kilpatrick, grilled bivalves wrapped in bacon then drizzled with balsamic. You can also test your palate with traditional Scottish dishes such as black pudding (aka blood sausage) and Cullen skink (a thick soup made with fish, onions, and potatoes). For the perfect pub lunch, try the Bailie Bar just outside the Centre of Edinburgh. This basement bar has low ceilings and plenty of dark wood, creating a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. Belly up to the bar—or settle into one of the padded leather booths—and order the fresh fillet of haddock. The generous portion of beer-battered fish comes with salad, tartar sauce, and a load of fries you’ll remember long after. When you’ve had your fill, stick around for the extensive list of malt whiskeys. If you need a day off from festival merriment and want to dine at a place that requires only an elevator ride, opt for Cucina Missoni, which is open from breakfast until late. The first-floor restaurant offers a wide range of Italian classics, all served, of course, on zippy dinnerware from Missoni Home, which is a festival in its
Because there’s no shortage of watering holes in Edinburgh, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to belt out, “Slainte mhath!” during your stay. (Pronounced “slanj va,” the traditional Scottish toast means “good health.”) Raise one of your first pints at the Jolly Judge, a popular pub not far from Hotel Missoni. From street level, where the Judge offers a few tables for outdoor imbibing, walk down a short flight of stairs into a small space that feels like a familiar living room. If you’re lucky enough to catch one of the Jazz & Blues Festival shows at the Voodoo Rooms, get there early and enjoy a drink or two at the venue’s main bar. The relatively new spot boasts ornate decor and a long list of specialty cocktails. Also make it a point to stop by Demijohn, a “liquid delicatessen” where you’re encouraged to sample before you buy. Large glass vats filled with spirits, liqueurs, wines, whiskeys, and more from small producers across the UK line the walls of the shop, allowing you to taste to your heart’s content. When you’ve found a drink you’d like to take home—an organic elderflower vodka, perhaps—personalize your purchase by choosing one of the handblown glass bottles on offer.