In our 5 Shops series, we’ll point you in the direction of our favorite independent shops across some of the world’s best cities. From food markets to bookshops, vintage and homespun designs, we’ve found a diverse and exciting mix of local retailers where you can pick up one-of-a-kind pieces.
For a long time, retailers in Edinburgh played second fiddle to Glasgow's much larger shopping hubs. While its neighboring city still has more high street options, the Scottish capital excels in independent shops that have become local institutions to loyal customers.
Edinburgh's main shopping area is the parallel Princes and George Streets but make sure to venture into both the Old and New Towns. That's where - on cobblestone lanes and in seaside suburbs - you'll find interesting independent shops selling unique, high-quality goods. Read on to discover some of the city's beloved shops.
Best for souvenirs
Red Door Gallery
Edinburgh is best known as the city which hosts the world's largest arts festival, the Fringe, every August. Outside of its busy summer of festivals, Edinburgh has a thriving arts scene year-round, with a community of local artists, performers and musicians making the city their creative playground.
Celebrate the city's artistic spirit by taking home an art print, painting or photograph to commemorate your trip. In the city's many boutique art shops, like the Red Door Gallery on Victoria Street or the Marchmont Gallery in the south, you'll find a range of work by local artists that embodies the spirit of Edinburgh in watercolor or ink.
Best for local design
A short walk from the bustling George Street is Homer, a furniture, lifestyle and miscellaneous store located on the ground floor of a Georgian townhouse. Organized by room – kitchen, library, living room, bathroom, bedroom – you'll find a meticulously curated selection of Scot-Scandi furniture (including elegant, Scottish tweed armchairs made exclusively for Homer), sustainable tableware, maps for framing and a range of Scottish and Scandinavian designed throws, rugs and cushions.
Don't forget to stop on the way into the shop to admire the bouquets of dried flowers that decorate the entrance and are for sale. With ever-changing stock, Homer rewards repeat visits and is the place to find a gift for someone or yourself.
Best for vintage
W. Armstrong & Son
Established in 1840, W. Armstrong & Son – or Armstrongs – is a vintage lover's dream. Across four different stores dotted around Edinburgh's Old Town, Armstrongs offers a selection of second-hand clothes that have been selected and repaired with care, from denim jackets and '60s dresses to leather backpacks and cozy woolly jumpers. The vintage emporium prioritizes quality over quantity – although you'll find plenty of clothing options – and the stock is reasonably priced making it a hit with students. Whether you're looking for a sturdy everyday coat or an eccentric party outfit, you'll find one among the racks in Armstrongs.
Best for food
For over 30 years, I.J. Mellis has been feeding Edinburgh only the finest artisan cheese. The original Mellis location can be found along the quaint, cobblestone-paved Victoria Street in the city's Old Town, but my favorite shop is in the equally picturesque Stockbridge neighborhood. There Mellis is nestled along a main street lined with charity shops, independent retailers and elegant cafes, and it's well worth spending a morning exploring what Stockbridge has to offer.
Mellis sells a great selection of cheeses and the helpful staff will guide you to find just the right cheddar or brie. It's also worth asking them what's new to the store, as you're likely to try a cheese you've never heard of before. Other goods on offer include chutneys, olives and bottles of wine; everything you need for the perfect cheese board. If the weather is nice, you can take your cheeseboard as a picnic in nearby Inverleith Park.
Best for books
Edinburgh has no shortage of bookshops, each with its unique character, like the quirky basement shop Typewronger or the community-centered Lighthouse Books. Located in the seaside suburb of Portobello, Portobello Bookshop (known locally as Porty Books) is well worth the short bus ride from the city center. Although the shop has only been open since 2019, it's quickly become vital to seaside Porty's creative community.
Porty Books is light and spacious and stocked with new books, independent magazines, adorable stationery and a brilliant children's section. The booksellers are always eager to give their recommendations, although the shop is so well curated you'll discover your new favorite book by exploring the shelves. And stick around for the evening when the bookshop reopens for cozy events with authors on tour with their latest releases, often serving drinks from the famous wine bar, Smith & Gertrude.