A local's guide to Edinburgh
Tommy Perman grew up in Edinburgh and loves knocking about town – when he’s not touring the world as part of the arts collective and experimental pop band, FOUND, that is. Here he shares some of his favourite Embra spots
‘I love Edinburgh’s villageness. Places like the Stockbridge colonies or Dean Village are good for just walking around. I love Glasgow, but it’s definitely harder than Edinburgh. Edinburgh is the gentler, quieter city of the two, and a great place to create in. You can walk everywhere and always feel comfortable. I’ve got friends who moved here from Glasgow because they find Edinburgh people more accepting too.
Edinburgh’s music scene is definitely at its most vibrant just now, which is good if you’re into watching live bands. Glasgow has always had this art-school rock band reputation, with bands like Franz Ferdinand really drawing attention to that whole scene, but Edinburgh has a thriving art-rock and experimental scene too, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Limbo, at the Voodoo Rooms, is probably the best live music night in Scotland – there’s nothing else like it. Nights put on by Tracer Trails, Born to Be Wide and the Fife Kills collective are really good too. If you’re new in town, the blog Song, By Toad is worth checking for tips on the best local music.
As far as venues, The Bowery is one of my favourites. It has that off-the-wall, slightly hippie and ‘anything goes’ style but does it in a really palatable way – with no dreadlocks. Cabaret Voltaire is a cool, underground vault a bit like the Tunnel in Glasgow or Cargo in London, and they have lots of music and clubs on throughout the week.
For my favourite places to eat and drink (this is the most important section!) I recommend a trip to The Shore in Leith. There are loads of great bars, restaurants and cafes around that area. Roseleaf’s got a great relaxed atmosphere, nice 'old man pub' style decor, friendly staff and blackboards that you can draw on in the toilets. Genius. I'd also recommend any of the four very nice Swedish bars in Leith; Boda, Victoria, Sofi's and Pearce's (all run by the same Swedish couple), or a fry-up breakfast at the ‘Tic [Antiquary] in Stockbridge.
If you’re nearer the centre, the Basement on Broughton Street is a fun bar to check out – it’s where Kev from FOUND works. It’s got a good atmosphere and decent music. One of my old favourites though is Black Bo's on Blackfriars Street – I’ve been going for years. It's very small and always plays good music – there's this DJ called Dolphin Boy who's been playing there for easily 10 years and he's got loads of fine tunes. They also have a very good vegetarian restaurant next door. It’s a mellow place to hang out, with a lovely living room atmosphere.
Edinburgh's not the greatest city for shopping, although if you look hard there's some cool little boutiques. My recommendation is Victoria Street which winds down from George IV Bridge to the Grassmarket. My friend Sarah runs a cool little gallery/boutique called Red Door and further down, on the other side, is a fantastic design book store called Analogue, run by my good friends, Russell and Julie. They stock a lot of zines and handmade books by local artists. It's a cool shop to hang out in for half an hour as there's so much to look at. Also worthy of a mention is a newish clothing boutique for men, Pageant (it was about time). The best Record Shops are on Cockburn Street – Underground Solushn and Avalanche Records – both really nice independent record shops who have music by local artists.
If I feel like taking a walk, the Botanic Gardens are a stunning and very peaceful place to visit, and you can take picnics in. The walkway along the Water of Leith from Stockbridge to the Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery (one of my favourite places in Edinburgh) is beautiful too. Even though it's in the city centre it feels like you’re in the country. I once gave recommendations to a couple who were coming to Edinburgh on their honeymoon, and I told them to go up Arthur’s Seat. There’s this sheltered little valley where you can’t see the city anymore and you feel like you could be in the Highlands.
If I just want to do some people watching, and eat a bowl of soup, the Drill Hall just off Leith Walk always feels like an inspiring space, with its amazing high ceiling. It’s got the buzz of an artistic community around it and it feels like a cultural hub. The same goes for the Filmhouse and the Cameo cinemas – I live nearby so I’m in there a lot.’