Tourist treasure troves, arty gift stores, funky vintage markets, ethical urban enterprises, historic department stores and exclusive designer boutiques; Edinburgh is home to a cornucopia of innovative shops.
In the Scottish capital, independent, sustainable shopping is etiquette. There is every opportunity to sidestep the chains in favour of local makers, designers, artisans and producers. And it is a city that is a delightfully picturesque place to indulge in some retail therapy. Cobbled, winding streets provide a unique and quaint shopping experience.
Culture Trip lists where to spend, where to save and how to find the most inspiring souvenirs, clothing, gifts and food in Edinburgh.
Browse Scottish and Italian fine foods at Valvona and Crolla
Deli, Wine Bar, Cafe, Charcuterie, Restaurant, Wine, Italian, $$$
Courtesy of Valvona and Crolla
An emporium for edible treats, Valvona & Crolla is a local institution dating back to the 1930s. Found on Elm Row close to the Edinburgh Playhouse, the intimate deli store is run by the Crolla family – local culinary luminaries. It’s not the place for cheap ‘scran’ but offers a wide range of Scottish and international food and drink specialities. With a royal warrant for the supply of cheese to HM the Queen, you can be sure to find the best products and lip-smacking mementoes.
Famed as First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s go-to clothing brand, this all-Scottish fashion label boasts a notably individual style from designers Lynsey Blackburn and Holly Mitchell. The brand sells high-end garments from its boutique in the affluent area of Bruntsfield and has other celebrity fans including Kate Moss, Sandi Thom and Gok Wan. Its signature piece is the Totty Rocks Mac, made to measure in a variety of colours.
The vibe at Paper Tiger is cool and arty but very approachable. It’s been in business since 1981, established in the New Town (and later, with another shop on Lothian Road) by retail entrepreneur John Johnson. Showcasing Lothian-based artists and designers, the store stocks creative cards, stylish stationery, journals, imaginative gifts, toys, wrap and a full range of official Tintin merchandise.
One of the world’s oldest department stores, Jenners was founded by a linen draper in 1838 and dubbed the ‘Harrods of the North’. It gained a royal warrant in 1911 and is housed in a grand, A-listed building on Princes Street – the city’s epicentre for high-street shopping. Bought by House of Fraser in 2005, Jenners retains its original character and Scottish credentials. It’s worth visiting for its Victorian architecture, atrium gallery and top-floor views, as well as the huge range of quality named and locally designed products.
Purchase superior souvenirs at Cranachan and Crowdie
Avoid the tourist tat and purchase sustainable, original souvenirs at Cranachan and Crowdie on Canongate. An Aladdin’s cave for authentic gifts, the traditional shop is named after two delectable native dishes. There are products to suit all budgets, including popular shortbread boxes and elaborate homewares crafted from whisky barrels and porridge spurtles based on 15th-century cooking tools. The friendly staff offer a personal service with frequent food and drink tastings. There’s an adorable resident dog, too.
Help the local community by spending at The Edinburgh Remakery
Upcycled furniture and one-off handmade homewares can be found at the award-winning Edinburgh Remakery in the vibrant neighbourhood of Leith. Here, items dodge landfill to be remade and recycled, while disadvantaged members of the community have the opportunity to learn hands-on skills. Its hyperlocal ethical shopping meets social enterprise, with an array of unique and on-trend items available at affordable prices.
The city has a stellar literary history and is dotted with bohemian independent booksellers. This one, in a salubrious Stockbridge side street, was voted Independent Bookshop of the Year for the UK and Ireland at the British Book Awards 2019. It has an airy, boutique vibe, with an artistic, eye-catching gold and navy frontage. Expect one-on-one attention and tailored recommendations from the avid readers who work at Golden Hare.
Shop for vintage clothing and boho gifts at Pie in the Sky
Browse mid-priced vintage clothing, pop-culture cards, accessories, keyrings, fridge magnets, pins and patches at Pie in the Sky. It’s located on Cockburn Street, a serpentine link between Waverley Station and the Royal Mile that’s home to many interesting independent stores. The eclectic, hippy-style shop has been selling a wide selection of alternative goods since the 1970s. Look out for their funky bestselling dungarees.
Based in upmarket Broughton, this sophisticated little boutique has been in business for a decade. It’s run by Laura and Ian and is staffed with enthusiastic creatives (some of whom have designed in-store products). Curiouser and Curiouser solve the problem of finding a classy gift for the person who has everything – there’s sleek jewellery, imaginative homewares, arty stationery and unusual contemporary prints of the city skyline.
Sure to delight and surprise even the most ardent turophile (cheese lover), Mellis is a purveyor of the best Scottish artisan and farmhouse cheese. It was established in 1993, initially from this cave-like store just off the High Street. Full to bursting and very fragrant, it has a rustic luxury feel with affable young cheesemongers in vintage-style brown aprons offering tasters. Deli goods are attractively stacked from floor to ceiling, while fine wines are available in refillable bottles.