This is why Leith really is the coolest place on the planet
Any Leither will tell you, Edinburgh's port has always been the coolest place on the planet. A vibrant melting-pot of culture and class, it's an exciting place where you never know just who, or what, you might encounter next.
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Right now, all roads lead to Leith after it was ranked fourth in world's 50 coolest neighbourhoods by travel magazine Time Out. Only fourth? Surely a typo.
So, just what is it that has allowed the port to trump the popular areas of ultra-cool cities such New York, London, Tokyo and Syndney? As a Leither born and bred, let me explain.
'Sunny Leith' is a description the port has long basked in and nowhere does the sun shine brighter than on The Shore, the heart of port. From the arrival of the Tall Ships in 1995, The Shore has been a popular gathering place for visitors and locals alike. Nothing beats sitting along the banks of the Water of Leith, a drink in hand, on a sunny day. European in appeal, lined by bars and restaurants you could almost be canal-side in Amsterdam - although, why would you want to be, that wouldn't be quite so cool.
Whether walking the dog, going for a cycle, or looking for a lazy day reading in the fresh air, Leith Links is a oasis of calm. Legend has it this is where the first game of golf was played and when ‘the shows’ come to town this is where they set up camp, lighting up Leith's parkland. The perfect location for a family picnic, it’s a free day out and its value to the port is incalculable, never more so than when it hosts the annual Gala Day.
The old Leith Town Hall, also known as Leith Theatre, was singled out for a special mention by Time Out. A venue that once welcomed bands as diverse as Kraftwerk and The Wombles fell on hard times until the Leith Theatre Trust stepped in to save the day and the venue. Now a thriving community and arts hubs, Leith Theatre is fast becoming the creative power-house of the port. Their Live in Leith series streamed gigs during lockdown while the venue was the location for recent videos by Teenage Fanclub and The Snuts.
From the acclaimed Fishers to equally popular Ship on The Shore, some of the best dining experiences in Edinburgh is to be found in the port. If you want to really splash out, Michelin starred Restaurant Martin Wishart is waiting for your booking, serving modern European cuisine with French techniques and only the finest Scottish ingredients. However, if it is something more homely you seek, let me recommend Domenico's, on Sandport Street. A cosy family run restaurant serving traditional Italian cuisine their pastas, such as truffle bruschetta and homemade meatball linguine, are to die for.
The Biscuit Factory
Built in 1947 by Crawfords Biscuits, The Biscuit Factory on Anderson Place is now home to 32 thriving creative businesses, all of who make a significant contribution to Leith’s cultural landscape. With most of its original fixtures and fittings, a visit to The Biscuit Factory is a unique experience to a venue with a historical legacy and colourful future.
Pubs, boozers, bars, there's more than a few in the port. Two watering holes in particular were highlighted by Time Out, Teuchters Landing and The Lioness of Leith.
A cosy dockside pub, the first serves a vast array of whiskies and beers and a warming menu also houses a stunning new mural by street artist Shona Hardie. The mural depicts the history of Leith and features some of the port's most recognisable faces including Cowboy Joe, pictured in a carriage driven by a headless horseman.
The Lioness of Leith meanwhile, on Duke Street, opened in 2013 and is noted for its real gourmet burger menu. To be honest, you're spoiled for choice pub-wise in Leith. From the King's Wark, a waterfront inn built in 1432, to The Port of Leith, which in a previous life was described as the nearest thing on Earth to the Star Wars Cantina, you'll never go thirsty in the port.
Look up or look down, there's history all around. From the spectacular architecture of Bernard Street, which boasts more styles than any other street in the port, to historic statues, Queen Victoria at the Fit o the Walk and Rabbie Burns on Constitution Street are the best known. A wander through Leith can be an unexpectedly enlightening experience.
Continental cafe culture came to Leith long before it was cool. Yes, sometimes all you need is a coffee, or a cuppa and a sandwich, maybe even a cake. In that case, the Hideout Cafe on Queen Charlotte Street, Relish Deli on Commercial Street, Rock Salt on Constitution Street, my own favourite, or Ostara, a neighbourhood cafe/bistro on Coburg Street are all waiting for you.
Markets are a thing in Leith, great for meeting people. You'll find Leith Market on Dock Place, every Saturday, from 10am to 4pm, with the first Saturday of the month playing host to Vegan Quarter as well as all the usual traders selling everything from dog treats to African street food, organic vegetables, pies, puddings and so much more. The Pitt Street Food Market, on Pitt Street, meanwhile is the home of award-winning street food, locally brewed craft beer, wine, desserts and live music. It's open Fridays 6pm-10pm, Saturdays noon-10pm and Sunday noon-8pm. Lastly, a shout out to The Leith Arches, a community hub for events, parties, food and drink with courtyard and garden areas.
Finally, and most importantly, what makes Leith so effortlessly cool is its people, the community. The port has been welcoming folk from around the world for centuries, as all port's do. You don't choose Leith, Leith chooses you. Being a Leither really is a state of mind.