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ExploreSt James Quarter

This Must Be The Place

One-of-a-kind shops, world-class food, a heady dose of culture and somewhere to rest your head in the coming year: Edinburgh’s new kid on the block is all about celebrating the good things in life.
 
Edinburgh is one of life’s overachievers. Not content with having a world-famous arts festival, historic castle and Insta-friendly architecture lining its cobbled streets, the capital has just unveiled a brand new cultural and lifestyle hub completely different to anything seen before in Scotland. Classic Edinburgh, eh?
Blowing a gust of vitality into the city’s East End, St James Quarter has been five years and £1 billion in the making – and it shows. Comprising a meticulously curated shopping galleria with an array of brands new to Scotland, a hipster-cool bowling alley, Lane7, and a 16,000 sq ft Bonnie & Wild food hall fusing haute cuisine with laidback dining, this stylish space has been designed to meld with the surrounding streetscape and has a distinctly cosmopolitan vibe. If you’ve ever visited an upmarket shopping district while abroad and wished we had something like that back home, dream no more: this is it.
It’s not resting on its laurels, either. Over the coming year, St James Quarter will evolve to include even more stores, two swanky hotels, the UK’s second ever W Hotel, a 244-bed W Edinburgh, which is scheduled to open in 2022, and a 75-bed Roomzzz Aparthotel, plus a boutique Everyman Cinema and 152 New Eidyn residential apartments built by Native Land. There will also be nine event spaces hosting everything from pop-up fashion shows to music gigs, cementing Edinburgh’s status as Scotland’s cutting-edge cultural capital and drawing more people to the city as it rebuilds in the wake of the pandemic.
Giving back to the community is central to its purpose. As well as supporting the local economy by employing more than 3,000 people in a variety of sectors – not to mention the 6,796 construction jobs created during its build.
But perhaps most important of all is the role St James Quarter plays in bringing people together to shop, dine, sleep and, well, have fun. From spirit-lifting days out with friends to promising first dates that stretch into the small hours, it’s providing a fresh canvas to make joyful new memories at a time when we need it most. And doesn’t that feel good?
 
Retail therapy
Think about the most stylish person you know; the tastemaker who uncovers the under-the-radar labels before anyone else and has a knack for effortlessly combining designer clothes with covetable high street finds. The retail mix at St James Quarter has been considered with that person firmly in mind.
Forget the humdrum shops you’ve grown accustomed to seeing spring up everywhere. This is the only place in Scotland where you can browse the rails of & Other Stories, Spanish brand Stradivarius, Gen Z favourite Bershka and Zara’s edgier sibling, Pull&Bear.
Flying the flag for homegrown talent are two of Scotland’s leading accessories designers: Iolla, which specialises in on-trend eyewear (and has an interactive try-on garden), and Kartel, whose modern timepieces are inspired by rugged Scottish landscapes. Pop-up retail space Sook, meanwhile, will host an ever-revolving array of brands in its first Scottish site.
Feeling spendy? You might want to visit Swiss watchmaker Breitling and upscale shoe store Russell & Bromley, a favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, for those all-important finishing touches. Calvin Klein, The Kooples and Tommy Hilfiger are among the other brands that sit at the luxe end of the sartorial spectrum.
There are high street mainstays too, of course, including Zara, H&M and Mango. Many of these favourites are elevated by experiential elements. Superdrug, for instance, has a Beauty Studio area for treatments, and John Lewis & Partners boasts a World of Design hub where you can make a free drop-in appointment with a stylist to help you reimagine the interior design of your home.
Beauty mavens will be making a beeline for Harrods’ standalone H Beauty
 store, which opens later this year – it’s the place to go for next-gen skincare and cult make-up brands – as well as Aesop for its iconic hand wash.
And for all you fitness fanatics, there’s the dynamic Peloton showroom where you can experience a personalised walk-through of the bikes that everyone’s talking about. Make sure you work up an appetite, because when you see St James Quarter’s selection of eateries, you won’t be able to choose just one.
 
On the plate
Picture the scene. You’re ravenous after a busy day out and take the escalator to the fourth floor of St James Quarter. You’ve heard there’s a food hall and you expect to be met by the usual suspects. Except instead of fast food chains, you see something rather unexpected. At one food station, MasterChef winner Gary Maclean is fixing a plate of hand-dived scallops; behind another is TV chef Jimmy Lee carefully preparing a katsu chicken bao. But you don’t need to be decked out in your finery, and you won’t be waiting months for a reservation because there’s space for almost 400 people to dine here.
Bonnie & Wild is quite unlike any other food hall in that it focuses squarely on celebrating Scotland’s larder and its brightest culinary stars. Each of its eight indie food stalls serves restaurant-quality food spanning a range of cuisines, from artisanal gelato and melt-in-your-mouth fried chicken to imaginative plant-based meals. It’s high-end food without the stuffiness or pomp – the kind of place where you’re encouraged to sample something from everyone. It would almost be rude not to.
Three bars, each with a different vibe, will keep you well watered – whether you enjoy craft beer, crisp wine or creative cocktails and mocktails.
Complementing the food stations are four speciality retailers selling premium butchered meats, quality spirits, artisan cheese and picture-perfect pâtisseries. Grab some to go or savour them at a table by the floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook bustling St James Square. But if none of that grabs your fancy, there are other bars, cafés and restaurants dotted throughout the district. Head to Tortilla for LA-style Mexican food, Maki & Ramen for playful bowls of Japanese goodness or Salerno Pizza for traditional Neapolitan fare.
Oh, and keep your eyes peeled for some very exciting openings. St James Quarter will soon be home to Scotland’s first outpost of Black Sheep Coffee, and Bross Bagels, a Jewish deli dishing up a fine line in Montreal-style salt beef bagels.
 
After hours
The fun doesn’t stop when the shops lock up either. SJQ has been designed with entertainment in mind and brings some welcome new additions to enliven the nightlife in Edinburgh’s East End.
Just a short stroll from Bonnie & Wild is Lane7, a neon-lit industrial-style bowling alley that wouldn’t look out of place in New York. As well as bowling lanes, there are ping-pong tables, classic arcade games, crazy golf and a photo booth, making it an uber-cool hangout spot for groups of friends. Do you like your cocktails poured with a side serving of theatre? The Alchemist has selected St James Quarter for its first location north of the border. These master mixologists serve creative concoctions shrouded in smoke and sparkle for a drinks experience that brings the drama. (Try their boundless brunch the next day for the hair of the dog and a stack of mango-topped pancakes.)
Those in the mood for something a little more sedate will find it in the soon-to-open Everyman Cinema, which is redefining the classic trip to the flicks. Think less stale popcorn and shuffling in an uncomfortable chair, more wine and pizza delivered directly to your plush velvet seat while you watch the film. 
 A selection of mainstream, independent and classic films ensures that everyone 
 is catered to – whether you’re a movie buff or you simply want to sink into the 
 latest blockbuster.
At the heart of the district is Scotland’s first W Hotel, W Edinburgh – a 244-bed 12-storey marvel clad in spiralling bronze ribbon, which is due to open next year.
The hotel will offer a series of buzzing rooftop spaces, including a destination bar, chef’s table and fusion restaurant SUSHISAMBA, which blends Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine. The outdoor terrace promises to be something special, with 360-degree panoramic views of Edinburgh’s historic skyline.
When it’s time to rest your head for the night, there are contemporary 
 suites designed by Jestico + Whiles in the W Edinburgh, or you can make your way to Roomzzz, a boutique aparthotel with 75 rooms set to open next spring.
 
And the next day? Well, it’s time to do it all over again...

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