Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is a busy tourist strip where you can eat, drink and shop right in the heart of the city. It’s a popular street for visitors and one which is always filled with people. It leads you down from the castle, all the way to Holyrood. But take a wander down one of the side streets that lead away from the Royal Mile and you find a very different atmosphere.
In the area called “the Cowgate,” things are a little more quirky, a little offbeat, interesting, and unique. This was where farmers would drive their cattle long ago, when the city was walled, through an actual gate, The Cow Gate. Today you’ll find independent cafes, diners, small boutique shops, and a totally unique cocktail bar with rooms. A neon sign of the boutique hotel’s name shines high up in the window: House of Gods. And once you’re inside, it’s like stepping directly into The Great Gatsby.
City Center Cocktails
House of Gods is perfectly placed within the city center. It’s just a short walk from the train station and the tram that brings you to the city from the airport. It manages to straddle two worlds within Edinburgh by being right in the middle of the action and being tucked away at the same time. The Cowgate isn’t known for being an upmarket part of town, though it has its own charm and it is becoming a place that visitors want to go to. The addition of bars, restaurants, and hotels like this one is bringing the Cowgate away from its backstreet past and into a desirable neighborhood. House of Gods is at the center of this renovation and revolution.
When you first walk into House of Gods, you find yourself in a dimly lit, opulent cocktail bar. It feels instantly like you’ve been transported to another place and another time. A waitress wanders around with a tray of sparkling glasses of complimentary prosecco, which she hands out to those visitors just arriving. Soft leather seating meanders around the room and intimate circular tables and chairs offer places to huddle. There’s even a tray of glasses and jugs of iced lemon water to sip in between those glasses of prosecco. It’s cozy, with a cute 1920s vibe, and the cocktails are truly incredible.
You can simply visit the cocktail bar for a drink or two, or you can check into one of the unique experience rooms in this boutique hotel. A doorway by the tiny reception area at the back of the cocktail bar leads you into an equally tiny corridor where you’ll find your room. Each room is as luxurious as the bar and is designed to look and feel like a cabin on the Orient Express. The sleigh bed looks over at the TV, which is located within a mirror.
My room had a compact wet room, though some rooms do have free-standing bathtubs. The lighting remains dim in the rooms, as it does throughout House of Gods, with fringed and beaded lamps by the bed and overhead lights that never seem to go beyond the middle of the dimmer switch! All of this is, of course, done to create an atmosphere, which it does expertly. There’s a small bar in the room too, stocked with gin, cognac, and bottles of red and white wine. There aren’t any windows, due to the layout of the building and where the rooms are positioned within it, but if you can go with the hotel’s theme and embody the traveler this hotel is aimed at, you’ll soon forget about the lack of natural light.
All in all, it really does feel like you’re in a cabin, either on a luxurious cruise liner or on a traditional luxury sleeper train. It’s a clever use of the space this building has. Instead of feeling cramped, it feels opulent. Instead of feeling like you’re in a micro-hotel, you feel like you’re traveling in style. You can also experience things at this hotel that you just won’t find at any regular hotel.
Treat Me Like I’m Famous
House of Gods offers a few add-on packages if you want to make your stay extra special. I had the “Treat Me Like I’m Famous” package which comes with a “rider” for you to enjoy. There was a bottle of prosecco on ice waiting in the room when I got there, and at around 5 p.m., the waiter from the bar turned up at my door with a cocktail trolley that he wheels up and down the tiny corridor, offering guests an aperitif. He mixed me a Millionaire’s Cocktail right there at my door, and it was amazing! He chatted about the history of the cocktail while he mixed it, and he told me what was going into the drink at every step of the mixing. This was more than simply having a cocktail mixed, this was like a mini cocktail-making experience. You can also order milk and cookies with this package, or ring reception for a cocktail anytime you want one. There was a silver platter of handmade chocolates in my room and a bunch of golden balloons scattered on my bed! If this is what it’s like to be famous, I can see the appeal!
Dinner At Casablanca Club
House of Gods is very compact, and there’s no restaurant or dining area. Next door, though, there is the bar’s sister restaurant, The Casablanca Club. I ate dinner here on the night of my stay. When you step inside, you can tell instantly this is the House of Gods’ restaurant. There is a tiny cloakroom counter inside the doorway, where someone checks you in and takes your coat, giving you a cloakroom ticket. This was a really nice touch and continued the feeling of being looked after and being in the arms of luxury. The décor and design is an extension of the cocktail bar, with mood lighting and interesting, risqué artworks on the walls. The kitchen had run out of my choice from the menu, but the chef went out of his way to make sure I had a good replacement, and the food was delicious.
You don’t have to be staying at the hotel to eat here, and it’s a great place for a special occasion meal. The restaurant has a fun atmosphere and a bar menu of wine and beer to compliment the cocktail bar next door. If you do want to visit, it’s essential you book a table ahead, as it gets very busy.
I was intrigued to find out what breakfast would be, and where it would be, as the hotel doesn’t have a dining area. In true House of Gods style, you simply pick up the phone when you’re ready and breakfast is delivered to your room in the form of a picnic basket. I really loved this idea. I always enjoy a good hotel breakfast in the dining room, but this was something totally unique and I really enjoyed it. The basket has pastries, bread and jam, cute little pots of yogurt and granola, flasks of tea and coffee, and little bottles of orange juice. If you like a big fried breakfast to start your day, this might not be enough for you, but I loved the experience. There is a diner you just a few doors away from the hotel, but I wouldn’t have traded my picnic basket for anything. Laying on the bed in the dusky light with my picnic basket of goodies is something I’ve never done before. But House of Gods is full of things I’ve never seen, done, or experienced before! To top it off, the waiter who brings your picnic breakfast also supplies breakfast mimosas, and I can tell you, they don’t scrimp on the alcohol even at that time in the morning!
The hotel doesn’t have its own parking lots, so if you’re driving into Edinburgh, there is an NCP car park just a few steps away from the hotel where you can leave your car overnight. I did this, and it all worked out perfectly. It cost around £20 for the night for a secure location very close to House of Gods.
For more places to stay in Edinburgh, places to eat, drink, and things to do, also consider: