Edinburgh Guide for International Students

International Students

Edinburgh is a place full of culture, history and architecture. Famous for its internationally renowned festivals, the city is a perfect mix of bustling city life and natural beauty spots.

Scotland’s capital city is surprisingly compact, making it a popular destination for students from small towns and international students. Those who study here will get the best of both worlds with vibrant city living without being overwhelmed by its size and fast pace of life. 

Rated one of the best student cities in the UK, second only to London, Edinburgh is home to some of the most highly rated universities in the country. You can rest assured knowing you’re receiving the best education in the UK as Scotland’s universities are recognised worldwide for their excellence.

Settling into a new home can feel uncertain, especially in a new country, but our guide will help you understand Edinburgh culture, traditions and lifestyle. You’ll feel at home in no time!

What’s it like to study in Edinburgh?

Universities in Edinburgh, much like the rest of the United Kingdom, are assessment-based and focus on the depth of the subject. 

Most undergraduate degrees in Edinburgh are four years long, however, each year is weighted differently, with the last two counting towards the final degree. This means many students take advantage of the entertainment Edinburgh has to offer during their first, or ‘freshers’ years!

You’ll attend lectures, which will be taught in English, so you’ll need to have passed a Secure English Language Test (SELT) to attend the course. 

You may find that relationships with teachers, called lecturers, are slightly less formal than you are used to, with many comfortable with being addressed by their first name. 

Your day to day student life may take some time to get used to, but often your university can provide support to help you settle in.

Cool student bars and restaurants

A sure-fire way to find your feet in a new city is by trying out the most popular restaurants and bars it has to offer. 

Edinburgh is a renowned spot for foodies, and there are some fantastic bars and restaurants in the area. 

For something special, head to George Street where you can find some of the most exciting restaurants the city has to offer. You’ll also find several UK chain restaurants to try along this route, like Nando’s, Prezzo and Gusto.

Alternatively, here are our more independent and student-friendly picks for you to head to with your new classmates between lectures.

Ting Thai Caravan – A former festival pop-up, this is a hidden gem popular with domestic and international students alike. Grab some authentic freshly-cooked Thai food in this casual and friendly setting. You can also take out to enjoy al fresco on sunny Scottish days.

Mary’s Milk Bar – If you have a sweet tooth, be sure to pay a visit here. A    cosy space to enjoy great quality gelato and chocolate. There are fresh flavours to try each day, so you’ll never get bored. Make sure to try one of their hot chocolate floats during your time in Edinburgh too!

The City Cafe – You can’t study in Edinburgh and not try a traditional Scottish breakfast, and this one from the City Cafe is just the ticket. You’ll get to try a square sausage, and learn what a tattie scone is. Enjoy!

If you’re looking for nightlife, you’re studying in the right place. Edinburgh is popular with tourists at the weekends, so dedicated student nights tend to be during the week. 

Edinburgh is full of eclectic bars and nightclubs, with most situated on George Street, The Cowgate and Lothian Road.

If Indie Rock is your vibe, try Sneaky Pete’s intimate live music venue, or if you’re more interested in Drum and Bass, give The Bongo Club a try.

The best shopping spots

Edinburgh has plenty of small and independent shops, matching the quirky style of its inhabitants. 

You can find all the high street names you’ll need for essentials, but the true appeal of Edinburgh is its vintage shopping.

Embrace the blast from the past with stores like Herman Brown a fabulous emporium full of luxury picks, alongside glorious gear from the 80’s – perfect for themed nights at uni!

Getting around Edinburgh

Navigating a new city can be tough, but luckily, Edinburgh is on the smaller side and most student haunts are within walking or cycling distance of the university campus and accommodation. 

Travelling in and out of the city is also easy, with two train stations at either end of Edinburgh, and bus services to and from Glasgow, which is also a popular night out and a great shopping spot.


Lothian buses run throughout the city, and there’s a night service that runs every ten minutes from Waverley Steps. Take advantage of this to ensure you get home safe and sound. 

Edinburgh buses only accept the correct change, so be prepared before you jump on!

If you find yourself frequently using the bus, get hold of a Student Ridacard.


Edinburgh is lined with cobbled streets, but that doesn’t stop students from using a bike to get around!

Cyclists are allowed to share the buses’ green lanes throughout the city, so getting around is a lot smoother – just make sure you’re confident with the rules of the road before you set off on two wheels.

Unmissable Edinburgh

There are some places in Edinburgh that you have to visit during your time as a student there. Visitors and locals alike frequently choose these spots, and you can see why the city is often voted as a great tourist destination.

Arthur’s Seat

An ancient volcano, which forms the main peak of a group of hills overlooking the city. Although where the name comes from is uncertain, some claim it’s due to a connection between King Arthur and the city of Edinburgh.

Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat for spectacular views of the city and beyond.

Edinburgh Fringe Festival

For three weeks in August, the city is taken over by artists, comedians and shows in a celebration of the arts.  You can catch shows from people at the top of their game, and new stars breaking through in their careers. 

The National Museum of Scotland

Get to grips with Scottish history, culture and arts with a trip to the National Museum of Scotland. Spend a day exploring the galleries which house everything from Scottish Royal History to fashion royalty. 

Edinburgh is an exciting city full of culture, style and welcoming people, making it a great place to study internationally. 

Once you’ve navigated the first few weeks in your new city, you’re sure to settle in and feel at home in Edinburgh. 

Novel provides  student accommodation for students in Edinburgh. With unrivalled amenities and wellness facilities, and great social spaces, Novel student accommodation is designed with happy students in mind. 

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