When visiting Edinburgh, this iconic landmark and historical 5* hotel can’t be missed! Even though The Balmoral was opened in 1902, this prime luxury hotel keeps up to being a modern place to stay in Edinburgh. In this review blog you can read all about my experiences.
When arriving into Edinburgh by train, The Balmoral Hotel is the first thing you see. In fact, this hotel was actually built and opened in 1902 as the North British Station Hotel. A traditional railway hotel for the North British Railway Company, right next to their then newly rebuilt Waverley Station.
Up to the present day, this is still the prime location of the Balmoral hotel. Making it very easily accessible when arriving to Edinburgh by train. St. Andrews Square tram station is only a 2-minute walk and provides a direct connection to Edinburgh Airport within only 40 minutes.
It’s location in the heart of the city makes it a perfect place to stay for your visit to Edinburgh. For all shoppers, the Balmoral is located at Princess Street, the main shopping street. It’s also the place where old town and new town meet, so you’re right in the middle of it all.
2. Warm welcome
After you’re greeted by the doormen, who are dressed in traditional Scottish clothing, and open the hotel’s front door for you, the first thing you’ll immediately notice is the flower arrangement right in the middle of the lobby. As I visited on Valentine’s Day, the flowers of this center piece display consisted mainly of red and white roses. A real warm welcome from the moment you step inside this hotel.
3. The Balmoral clock tower
The Balmoral clock tower rises above everything in Edinburgh. No matter where you are, you will always see this iconic landmark in Edinburgh’s skyline. Super easy as it tells you the time of day, at least, you think so. But does it actually tell the right time? When the hotel was completed in 1902, the time was set three minutes ahead, to ensure that the people of Edinburgh wouldn’t miss their trains. Today, this is still the case, the clock still runs 3 minutes ahead. There is just one day a year that this clock runs on time, which is on the 31st of December for the city’s New Year celebrations.
4. Harry Potter history
You’re probably thinking, what has the Balmoral Hotel got to do with Harry Potter? I had no clue either before staying at this amazing Edinburgh hotel to be honest. But it actually has a whole lot to do with Harry Potter.
Author J.K. Rowling completed the last book in her Harry Potter series right here at this hotel. She even left a signed statement written on a marble bust of Hermes in her room. It said: “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007”.
Since then, room 552 has been renamed the J.K. Rowling Suite, and the marble bust has been placed in a glass display case to protect it.
5. In the footsteps of famous people
Are you that true Harry Potter fan that wants to stay in this J.K. Rowling Suite? You can! Start saving though, as it is priced at nearly 1000 pounds per night.
You could also go for the Scone & Crombie Royal Suite, which is room 230. It’s the room where Oprah Winfrey interviewed J.K. Rowling back in 2010.
The Balmoral has had more famous visitors over the years. Back in 1932, when it was still the North British Station Hotel, the American comedy duo Laurel and Hardy visited the hotel as part of their visit to Edinburgh.
And in 2009 it was the Balmoral Bar which was the finishing point for the Top Gear 1949 themed race from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley.
6. Enjoy the luxury Balmoral Suite life
While checking in, I was granted room 320. After everything was sorted, I made my way up to the 3rd floor. As I was walking down the corridor, counting the room numbers, I was surprised that after 318, there was a door without number. Hang on, where is 320? The corridor turns to the left, and in the center of this turn was nr. 320, clearly saying ‘Bothwell Suite’.
Yes, I was given an actual Suite, a Castle View Suite. I was amazed and speechless when I opened the door to ‘my’ Bothwell Suite. A large entrance hall, connecting the bedroom, a large living room and the spacious bathroom all to each other.
The living room offers views of Edinburgh Castle and Arthurs Seat. Even if the weather is bad, there are binoculars and a map in your room, to enjoy these views. A fireplace, large smart tv, desk, sofa and a table and chairs making it a very warm, welcoming and enjoyable living room. There’s an Illy coffee machine and a kettle, so you can make your own afternoon tea in your room.
The spacious bathroom is filled with Italian marble and offers a bathtub and separate walk-in shower. You’ll also find luxurious Asprey toiletries and very comfortable bathrobes and slippers.
The bedroom also offers castle views, which is amazing to wake up to. It has a large and comfortable king size bed, a smart tv and a desk.
There are several international adapters and USB chargers throughout your room. Even in case you forget to bring your international travel plug, the Balmoral has it all sorted for you. Every day you’ll be provided with a complimentary bottle of still and sparkling water.
7. Amazing complimentary services
An extra service, I have never seen before in a hotel, is the shoe cleaning service. Inside your closet there is a basket. If you want your shoes to be cleaned, place your shoes in this basket and leave it outside your room before you go to sleep, and they will be cleaned for you.
An extra benefit of having a suite is the turn down service. I just love it! Housekeeping comes by to close all curtains and prepare your bed for the night. They leave you some extra still and sparkling water. And the best part, they place a mat right next to the bed, accompanied with your slippers, just for your convenience in the morning.
They also leave the weather forecast for the day after on a small piece of paper, so clever!
8. Restaurant and bars
There are several restaurants and bars to be found at the Balmoral. To start, the Balmoral has the Michelin star restaurant, Number One. Their world class service and modern Scottish cuisine makes this a very popular and one of the best restaurants in Edinburgh.
Breakfast is being served daily at Brasserie Prince. You can enjoy both buffet breakfast and hot breakfast items from the menu. Brasserie Prince is also open for lunch and dinner, offering a mix of classic French cuisine with sublime Scottish produce. All of this in a chic but also casual and relaxed restaurant.
Join Bar Prince, directly connected to the Brasserie, in the evening for your favorite cocktail.
The Palm Court is probably the most chic and classy part of the Balmoral. Venetian chandelier, a stunning glass dome and live piano and harp music, it’s the perfect setting for a British Afternoon Tea. Experience this British tradition in the most exclusive way possible.
Scotch Whisky Bar is located right next to the lobby, and across the elevators. Scotch offers one of the largest collections of Whisky’s in Edinburgh. Offering over 500 unique varieties of Scottish Whisky. Scotch Whisky Bar is one of Edinburgh’s best-kept secrets.
9. The Balmoral Wellness
Just in case the weather is too bad to go out exploring, the Balmoral has the perfect solution. In the basement you’ll find the Spa and Wellness. Book your treatment or go for a swim in the 15-meter indoor heated pool, with a constant 29-30 degrees water temperature. Next to these facilities there’s also a fully equipped gym.
10. Top Edinburgh attractions on walking distance
As the Balmoral is located right in the heart of the city, both old town and new town are very easily accessible. With this prime location, some of Edinburgh’s top attractions are just a few steps away.
Stretched over 1.6 km’s from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace is the famous Royal Mile. The Royal Mile is a range of streets connected to one another, forming the busiest tourist street in Old Town Edinburgh. Here you find many souvenir and cashmere shops, and of course on either end the famous Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.
Holyrood Palace is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Located at the bottom end of the famous Royal Mile. At the beginning of each summer, Queen Elizabeth spends one week at Holyrood Palace. It is open all year round and tours can be booked through the official website of the palace.
Right next to the Holyrood Palace you’ll find Holyrood Park, a royal park in central Edinburgh. This nearly 650 acres park provides an array of hills, ridges, cliffs and a wild piece of highland landscapes.
Arthurs Seat is the highest point of this park, and a very popular place to visit in Edinburgh. Throughout this park you get some amazing views of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle. It’s hard to believe you’re only a short 10-minute walk from downtown Edinburgh when hiking around Holyrood Park.
Edinburgh Castle can’t be missed when visiting Edinburgh. From everywhere in the city you see this castle towering above the city. Walking up the Royal Mile towards the castle is a great experience. The scenery from up there is definitely worth the hike up. The castle is opened daily (weather depending) for tours and visits.
I would surely recommend the Balmoral if you’re visiting Edinburgh and looking for a perfectly located hotel. Welcoming visitors for over a century, the Balmoral surely knows how to pamper their guests. Like the basket of fresh fruits, some cookies, Scottish Whisky fudge and some cocoa dusted truffles that were waiting for me in my room upon arrival.
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This article is written by travel writer and Traveltomtom team member Ashley. She also wrote about the world's most photographed hotel, and also be sure to check her FlyNYON doors off helicopter tour.