This historic Edinburgh hotel is a short walk from the train station exit and was originally purpose built. The Balmoral Hotel opened in 1902 to serve the growing number of rail travelers. The clock on the clock tower has been set 3 minutes in advance so that no one misses their train. This original detail has been preserved and the clock only displays the correct time on New Year’s Eve.
There is space and opulence everywhere you look at this luxury hotel, so it’s no wonder there has been an impressive guest list over the years.
If you are arriving in town by car, the hotel has its own car park, but this must be reserved in advance as the hotel cannot guarantee you a space otherwise. Valet parking is available so you just need to drive to the entrance and the porter will take care of your luggage and park your car. If you are flying to Edinburgh, the tram takes you directly from the airport to the hotel.
1. You are in good company
Almost as iconic as Edinburgh Castle, the Balmoral Hotel This is where Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor and the Queen Mother chose to stay when in town. This former railroad hotel was built with luxury in mind, and it’s easy to see why so many stars have registered. The 167 rooms and 20 suites are welcoming and even a little quirky – our room had pictures of Sean Connery displayed in the bathroom – but also very spacious and with an air of grandeur. We were greeted with free Balmoral Hotel Gin and tonics as the bell boy delivered our bags to our room. We really felt like we were something special, and while you aren’t guaranteed to spot famous faces while you stay, you know you are in great company as a guest here. Laurel and Hardy, Paul McCartney and JK Rowling have all stayed here.
2. The food is amazing
The restaurant, simply called Number One, is Michelin-starred and is named after the hotel’s position, Number 1 Princes Street, although it can easily refer to the restaurant’s status as the number one spot for having dinner. Oysters and champagne are a popular way to start the evening here and the Scottish rib eye steak with watercress and bearnaise sauce was popping up on many plates around us as we got comfortable and we were preparing to be thrilled. If you don’t want to dine in such a fancy setting, you can choose to sit in the bar where there is a separate menu of burgers and a few small plates. The breakfasts also deserve a mention, especially the deep fried Scottish full breakfast! The breakfast smoothies are also very good and the porridge is the best oatmeal you will taste. The staff are very knowledgeable about allergies and dietary requirements and will make any changes you need.
3. Relax at the spa
The Balmoral’s basement spa is small but quiet, and the staff go out of their way to make sure you have everything you need and are comfortable. You can book a treatment in one of the serene treatment rooms or enjoy the swimming pool, sauna and hammam free of charge as a hotel guest. If you want treatment you will need to book in advance as they are booked quickly and space is limited. During COVID restrictions, you must also reserve a slot for the pool. We only had a half hour window, but it was nice to have the area to ourselves. There are seating areas, lounge chairs, and plenty of fresh water available.
4. You are right in the center
There is more to the city than you can pack on one trip. Whiskey tasting, Edinburgh Gin Distillery tour, National Art Galleries, Museums and Holyrood Palace are just a few of the things that will keep you busy. You won’t be able to do it all in one trip, but it gives you even more reason to return to Balmoral, or “majestic abode” in Gaelic, over and over again. A former railway hotel, the Balmoral is right in the city center and perfectly placed for exploring the castle, the Royal Mile and all the shops and restaurants. For more on what to do in Edinburgh, take a look at The best things to discover in Edinburgh after seeing the castle.
If you are a Harry Potter fan you can stay in the room where JK Rowling finished writing. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. The Deluxe Suite has now been renamed The JK Rowling Suite and there is a bust in the bedroom that she signed while she was staying there.
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