If you’re after a city break, Edinburgh has it all. Not only is it home to some of the finest summer arts festivals, there’s loads to enjoy in Winter too. Historic architecture framed by snowcapped hills, world-class art galleries and Instagrammable streets straight out of a Harry Potter movie are just some of the highlights.

While history is obviously a massive part of Edinburgh’s appeal, this is a city that’s always evolving. The latest addition to the city centre is the ultra-modern W Hotel. Purpose-built in the St James Quarter, the five-star W Hotel is literally two minutes walk from central Waverley station. It rises 12 stories out of the recently opened St James’ shopping complex like a shimmering coil.

Lit in W’s iconic neon blues and pinks, a tartan-inspired installation overhangs the lobby and Champagne bar. Lifts whizz you through the heart of the building. Floors include a state-of-the-art sound suite for visiting musicians and spacious, spa suites themed around Air, Fire, Earth and Water. There’s a SushiSamba restaurant and bar complex and a genuinely breathtaking 360-degree viewing platform on the roof.

We visited the hotel just a couple of days after it opened. Snow was falling outside, and our 8th Floor ‘Fantastic’ suite came with a range of top-end features. A super-king-size bed, two, huge living areas, a balcony overlooking the city’s old town and volcanic-rock cocktail bar (a nod to the dormant Arthur’s Seat nearby) were just a few highlights.

The W Hotel Edinburgh is the 69th hotel in the group, Having originated on New York’s Lexington Avenue in 1998, it’s retained it focus on design and luxury ever since. Dyson hairdryers, hair care by Davines (in-the-know Italian B-Corp who make products for professionals), Illy coffee machines, and books on Scottish fashion make a cool, collective impact.

With features such as just-released movies available exclusively to hotel guests (somehow we found the time to watch Asteroid City and Oppenheimer), it was tempting to spend the whole time hanging out in the suite. However, Edinburgh is easily compact enough to explore on foot.

Nearby delights

Within a short walk, we managed to check out Kestin, Scottish-designed high quality menswear, made from regionally-inspired fabrics and colours in the cool Stockbridge district. Just around the corner is Lannan bakery, one of two local bakeries rated in the UK’s top 10. The Cardamon bun is a signature.

There are fabulous parks everywhere including the famous Botanical Gardens – and markets are a big thing too. We made it to the Christmas markets in Princes Street Gardens, as well as Stockbridge Market, a more local affair with bread, venison and hand-made kombucha and kimchi among the highlights. Pubs are another must, and the W is located just metres from two of Edinburgh’s finest, The Guildhall Arms and Café Royal.

We had dinner at Hawksmoor, just a few minutes walk away. Manc brands such as Tattu and The Alchemist are nearby too. If you’re into fine dining, options include Lyla created by the late former Manchester chef, Paul Kitching, the Michelin-starred Number One at the iconic Balmoral Hotel, with Matthew Sherry (alumni of Northcote) at the helm, and Dulse, a seafood  and cocktail restaurant from Masterchef finalist, Dean Banks.

Having not been to Edinburgh for over 20 years, I was really wowed by how the city has evolved. Sure, it’s undeniably touristy but there’s plenty to entertain those willing to look at little off the beaten track too. And the joy of stepping out of your ultra-modern hotel into the historic heart of one of the most celebrated cities in the world is incomparable.

W Edinburgh ,
1 St James Square, Edinburgh EH1 3AX
, Tel: 0131 388 8000
Ruth Allan
Published on:
Mon 13 Nov 2023