Portobello was once the place Edinburgh went to play. A seaside town with classic seaside attractions -- arcades, food, salt water tidal swimming pool, entertainment, etc. The stuff of movies. While most of those classic icons of seaside resorts have disappeared, Portobello's history can still be sensed in a leisurely stroll along its promenade. It's one of my favorite places in Edinburgh.
If you have limited time in the area, I'd recommend sticking to the city centre, but if you have time to explore the surrounding areas, then Portobello is a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours -- or grab lunch at the beach in a seaside cafe -- or maybe you want traditional fish and chips from the chippie on the promenade! It's an easy bus ride from the city centre -- just ask any bus driver on Princes Street for bus numbers and routes.
The promenade skirts the sand on one side and row houses on the other. Along the way you'll pass by a pub or two now housed in old homes along the shore, the wonderful old 19th century Portobello Swim Centre -- complete with its Victorian Turkish baths, a couple of seaside cafes, the requisite ice cream and fish & chip venues, and the remaining penny arcade (which isn't actually vintage -- or doesn't seem as if it is)... which, I believe is due to be torn down... but don't quote me on that.
Portobello is one of those places that the locals love to visit -- joggers, strollers, beach lovers -- it doesn't feel touristy at all. It's great if you want to get away on your own, or take the kids, or for a nice romantic sunset stroll. I love that about Portobello.
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