Nestled among the hills, Edinburgh is famed for its historic castles, the winding streets of Old Town and the Georgian splendour of New Town. Though Scotland’s capital city is picturesque, the city does have some downsides to go with its many upsides. Expats moving to Edinburgh will need to weigh these up before moving.
Below are some of our pros and cons of living in Edinburgh.
Accommodation in Edinburgh
+ PRO: Historic homes
Edinburgh’s rich history can be seen just about everywhere, houses included. Some of the city’s tenements date back to the 1700s. There are also plenty of modern apartments available though, for those who prefer a more contemporary style.
- CON: Expensive and often small apartments
With good accommodation options in constant demand, rental listings can come and go in the blink of an eye. Prices can be high in the best areas and expats may find that although there are many spacious, grand apartments and townhouses in Edinburgh’s New Town, the apartments within their budget may be a bit on the small side.
Lifestyle in Edinburgh
+ PRO: Beautiful city with a long history
While the exact year of Edinburgh’s founding isn’t known, historians estimate that it was around 600 AD. As a result, there are plenty of age-old cultural attractions in the city. The most prominent of these is Edinburgh Castle, a distinct feature of the city’s skyline, which began as a hill fortress during the Iron Age.
+ PRO: Stunning green spaces, hills and countryside
Edinburgh has over 100 parks and more than half a million trees. Naturally, this makes the city an excellent spot for outdoorsy expats. Even those who prefer to stay indoors are sure to appreciate how green and lush the city is year-round.
+ PRO: Lots of festivals
Edinburgh is a hub of activity, especially when it comes to arts and culture. The city is home to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, famous for being the largest arts festival in the world. There's also the Edinburgh International Festival, which sees performing artists from around the world converge on the city for three weeks.
Cost of living in Edinburgh
- CON: High cost of living
Living in Edinburgh is good value compared to living in London, but it is by no means a cheap place to live, especially if expats intend to live in central areas. Accommodation will take up the biggest portion of an expat’s budget although this can be mitigated by housesharing or living further out in the suburbs.
In comparison to other major Scottish cities, Edinburgh is generally cheaper than Aberdeen but slightly more expensive than Glasgow, especially when it comes to rental prices.
+ PRO: Free activities
Despite the high cost of living, there are all sorts of ways to enjoy the city on a budget. Almost all museums allow free entry with a donation being optional. There's also an abundance of free outdoor pursuits to enjoy, such as hiking up Arthur's Seat.
Weather in Edinburgh
- CON: Cold and rainy
Like much of the UK, Edinburgh's weather can be unpleasant. Rain is frequent throughout the year and the sun is rarely seen during the winter months.
Healthcare in Edinburgh
+ PRO: Access to the NHS
Expats can rest easy when it comes to accessing high-quality healthcare in Edinburgh. One of the major benefits of moving anywhere in the UK is gaining access to the National Health Service (NHS). In Scotland, all appointments, prescriptions and hospital visits are fully funded.
- CON: Long waiting times
As is the case throughout the UK, waiting times for appointments via the NHS can be long. This can be circumvented by opting for costly private treatment. Expats taking this route should invest in comprehensive health insurance.
Education in Edinburgh
+ PRO: Education highly valued
Home to three excellent universities, Edinburgh’s rich history of education is still very much evident today. There are plenty of good options for every stage of education from nursery school to doctorate.
- CON: Catchment areas for public schools
Public schooling in Edinburgh is based on catchment areas, meaning that children are given priority admission to a school within their area. While it's possible to attend a school outside their catchment zone, they will not have priority entry and therefore aren’t guaranteed a place.
Getting around in Edinburgh
+ PRO: Small, walkable and easy to navigate
Edinburgh is a compact city with a good public transport system, so most expats won’t need a car. Walking or cycling is a popular way of getting around, and the city’s plentiful landmarks and grid layout make navigation an easy task.
►Learn more about Moving to Edinburgh
Are you an expat living in Edinburgh?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Edinburgh. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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