EDINBURGH, the home of Sir Walter Scott, is a city defined by its literary history, universities, and academia. With over 40,000 students, it’s no surprise that Edinburgh’s coffee shops and student centers are usually overflowing with homework-doers and young professionals. The popular haunts are great, but can leave you wishing for somewhere a little less crowded, and a bit more unique. Here are five places around the city where you can work without feeling claustrophobic, while still taking advantage of Edinburgh’s charm.

1. Empires Café

Empires is a Turkish café on St. Mary’s Street, between the Royal Mile and Cowgate. Crossing the threshold here is like arriving in Istanbul; Turkish paintings adorn the walls, along with traditional eastern lamps and tapestries. Calming Turkish music plays over the speakers, adding to the ambience. The tea options are great (I’d recommend the Turkish Green Apple), and the proprietors are more than happy to let you stay and work as long as you want.

2. Spoon

Photo: Spoon

Somewhat tucked away right across from the Old College, Spoon is a local brunch favorite. Climbing a flight of stairs will bring you to this bright, spacious café. Grab a table by the window for a great view of Nicolson Street and Old College, or take a more casual seat on one of the couches and chairs. With soft, creamy tones and a relaxing atmosphere, it resembles a big living room, ideal for those who crave a cozy workspace.

3. Holyrood Park

 Arthur’s SeatEdinburgh, United Kingdom#hiking #view #edinburgh #panorama #run #holyrood #arthursseat

At the foot of Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh’s famous mountain, Holyrood Park is a peaceful, picturesque common where entire days can be spent lying on the grass. On Edinburgh’s rare sunny days, you’ll find it difficult to stay indoors. Holyrood Park’s benches, grassy slopes, and stone terracing are perfect study spots; and if you don’t mind a bit of a trek, hike up into Arthur’s Seat itself (only about 15-20 mins), for a truly private nature site.

4. Dunbar’s Close Garden

If you want a secluded study spot outside, without having to hike a mountain, head to Dunbar’s Close Garden. Right off the Royal Mile, the secret garden is a convenient escape from the craziness of the thoroughfare. It’s easy to imagine that the place looked exactly the same when it was built in the 17th Century. Neatly-trimmed hedgerows wind around ancient trees, all enclosed by ivy-covered walls. Find a stone bench, bring a good book and pass the day in near-complete solitude.

5. The Devil’s Advocate

Even if the weather is cold and windy—as it often is—that doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to your flat, or an over-crowded coffee-shop. The Devil’s Advocate is a pub hidden on Advocate’s Close, an alleyway off the Royal Mile. A steep flight of steps leads through the alley to a bar nestled in the stone wall. Dim lighting and a dark aesthetic make the Devil’s Advocate a great winter hideaway, known for its extensive wine and whiskey lists. Rarely trafficked by tourists, you won’t find a more relaxing pub. Especially in the colder months, it’s a great place to work and warm up.

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