Edinburgh’s Portobello area is a unique neighbourhood perched on the North Sea coast, some 3 miles from the city centre. With a fiercely independent character, Portobello or ‘Porty’ as the locals know it, is a charming chunk of the Scottish capital.

Boasting a lively arts scene, monthly produce markets and one of Britain’s last fully functioning Turkish baths, the area is as quirky as it is quaint. Although somewhat rundown due to a lack of government and private investment in recent times, it retains much of its allure. 

Portobello is a popular destination with beachgoers in the summer months. Weekends, whatever the time of year, are a great time to visit when its many independent bars, cafes and boutiques are at their busiest and the communal atmosphere at its most palpable.

Portobello in Edinburgh - one of the highlights of 10 Most Popular Neighbourhoods in Edinburgh (Read all about Edinburgh here)

What are the highlights of Portobello?

Without question, the major highlight of a trip to Portobello is a chance to be beside the sea. Whilst the weather may not always be able to rival that of other great seaside hangouts, Portobello beach is a clean stretch of sand that can get busy on the hottest days of the year. The adjacent Victorian-era promenade makes for great people-watching in all seasons and offers every conceivable type of refreshment to visitors.

While the seafront is certainly the main draw of Portobello, the bustling main street offers its own set of attractions and sits just a short walk from the promenade. With independent cafes and shops, this area is certainly worth a look for those in the market for fashion or just a cup of top-notch coffee.

Another highlight of Portobello is the area’s quaint Victorian and Georgian architecture, particularly the buildings lining the seafront. You can also find several small parks that provide respite from the sand on a warm day.

Where to eat and drink in Portobello?

Along with its 2-mile-long beach, Portobello is a gastronomic haven for Edinburgers. One of the area’s most beloved spots is Forester’s Guild, where you can enjoy hearty Scottish fare and locally brewed ales in historic surroundings. Located on bustling Portobello High Street, this is far from the average gastropub, with all dishes homemade from freshly sourced local ingredients.

Elsewhere, The Beachside Cafe offers waterside dining outdoors and is a hugely popular spot for organic coffee, light lunches and cakes. Highlights include stacks of fluffy pancakes, smashed avocado on sourdough toast, delicious cakes with flavors like coffee, walnut, carrot, and decadent chocolate.

For drinking, Portobello’s best bar is The Epsy, a tiki-themed spot that does classic and original cocktails from Hawaii and beyond. There is something special about sipping tropical beverages on the shores of the North Sea on a freezing Edinburgh evening.

Good to know about Portobello

Every summer, Portobello plays host to Edinburgh’s Big Busk, a unique musical event featuring hundreds of musicians who come and sit on the promenade, simultaneously playing whatever music they like. A celebration of the city’s rich musical tradition, it has a festive atmosphere that often spills over into the evening as attendees take to the beach for a huge afterparty.

You can get to Portobello by hopping on the 15 or 26 bus from Princes Street. Get off when you catch a glimpse of the sea. For those looking to get closer to the area, spending the night at one of the Georgian-era B&Bs on the seafront is a cultural experience in itself.

Portobello in Edinburgh

James Connolly | Guest Writer