Edinburgh, Scotland's capital, is an inviting package of cultural, historical, architectural and contemporary attractions and is one of the UK's most visited cities. Boasting a host of monuments, museums (which include the Museum of Scotland), some of the best art galleries in the UK (including Scotland's National Gallery) and a character medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town, you could easily fill a week long holiday in Edinburgh with activities which lean to the cultural side.
Edinburgh's natural landscape, set as it is on a selection of old volcanic hills and lochs, boost its character. Most of the city's attractions are packed into the city centre so Edinburgh is easily explored on foot. This, combined with a choice of Edinburgh guest houses and Edinburgh hotels in both the Old Town and New Town, and immediate surrounds, make Edinburgh one of the best city break locations in Europe, up there with the likes of Lisbon and Barcelona. Lothian Buses run an excellent and great value bus service around Edinburgh City centre and north to Leith. They also lay on open top bus sightseeing tours. Check the Lothian buses weblinks right for details.
Edinburgh city centre offers the visitor a split personality. The Old Town, essentially to the south of Princes Street Gardens and revolving around Edinburgh's hilltop Castle, dates from the medieval period and consists of a series of character narrow alleys or 'vennels'. To the North Edinburgh's Georgian New Town dates from 1767 and saw ongoing work through the Scottish Enlightenment - Edinburgh's boom period. Edinburgh's enlightenment saw an explosion of intellectual and artistic expression, earning it the nickname the 'Athens of the North.
Visitors coming to Edinburgh through August and into the beginning of September will be coming with the crowds. This is Edinburgh Festival time, plus the military gathering of the Edinburgh Tattoo which attracts huge numbers of visitors. Pre-book accommodation well in advance in central Edinburgh if you're planning to visit during the Edinburgh Festival period. If you're unlucky and booking late, choose accommodation listed here on Iknow Scotland in suburbs such as South Queensferry and the Lothians, or base yourself in Glasgow and hop on a fast train in for a day trip. Edinburgh in general is busy with tourist visitors across all of the summer peak period. If you're flying into Edinburgh Airport there's a choice of accommodation in and around this busy international airport, with a regular bus service from Edinburgh Airport into Edinburgh City Centre (see Edinburgh Shuttle weblink right for details, it runs around every 10 minutes and offers plenty of luggage storage space!).
Edinburgh is Scotland's administrative centre, the Scottish Parliament is based here with its jazzy new Scottish Parliament building just opposite Holyrood Palace. Added boost to Scotland's capital has been given by the UNESCO tag of World City of Literature. The award is well deserved with the likes of Robert Louis Stevenson heralding from here, with notable texts such as 'Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' influenced by the Old Town streets of Edinburgh and schizophrenic real life Deacon Brodie. Numerous ghost walks and tours are available night and day in Edinburgh, mostly around the Old Town.
If you're visiting Edinburgh for a few days it's well worth picking up an Edinburgh Pass (see Visit Edinburgh weblink right for details and pre-order online, or pick one up at either Edinburgh Airport or Edinburgh City Centre Tourist Information centre). The Edinburgh Pass entitles you to free entry to Edinburgh Museums and attractions, plus unlimited free transport including Edinburgh Airport free bus return plus a guidebook and exclusive offers thrown in. You can buy the pass for one, two or three days and cheaper child passes are available. If you're really tearing through Edinburgh's many museums, art galleries, the castle and other attractions this pass can mean big savings!
Edinburgh's famous Royal Mile (approximately about one mile long) is situated in the Old town area of Edinburgh and runs from the narrow Castle Hill through the medieval market site Lawnmarket to the end of Canongate. The Royal Mile is actually four streets including Castle Hill, The Lawnmarket stretch, the High Street and Canongate. Busy even outside of the Festival Period, Edinburgh's Royal Mile offers a choice of museums, fascinating architecture, a Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre plus a selection of rather kitsch family tourist attractions including the 3D Loch Ness Monster Experience - the truth is here in Edinburgh apparently! (weblink right) Hard to believe now that the Royal Mile was once the site of Edinburgh's notorious slums. Today it's lined with Edinburgh attractions including a weaving centre, St Giles' Cathedral, the Scotch Whisky Experience, John Knox's House and the Museum of Childhood. These jostle with tourist shops and other historic buildings such as Gladstone's Land 17th century tenement building on Lawnmarket.
You'll spot a big neo-Gothic building with a spire on your way up to the Castle that towers over Edinburgh on the Royal Mile. This is The Hub which pushes up 275 feet and dates from 1842-44. The designers of this famous Edinburgh gothic spire were home grown James Gillespie Graham and renowned Victorian gothic revivalist Augustus Pugin. Today The Hub serves as the main box office/info centre for the August Edinburgh International Festival, but initially it housed the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. Read more via Edinburgh's Hub weblink right.
Head up towards Lawnmarket and note the number of passageways and small courts or courtyards which branch out from Lawnmarket, including James Court and Riddle's Close. All the courts are dotted with historic buildings . A particularly well traversed street is Brodie's Close with the house of Deacon William Brodie who was a cabinet maker and local councillor as well as a closet thief. Brodie was hanged in 1788, but has been embellished and immortalised in Robert Louis Stevenson's 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde which he wrote in 1886. The Edinburgh Ghost Walks and Tours usually venture down here!
Key Edinburgh attractions on Castlehill include the Weaving Centre, the Witches' Fountain marking the spot where around 300 women were burnt alive, the last being in 1722, Ramsay Gardens, the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, Camera Obscura with periscope (weblink right) and the Hub. Around Lawnmarket explore the selection of Courts and Gladstone's Land as well as the Writers' Museum (see City of Edinburgh Museums and Galleries weblink right) and Brodie's Close - spook. Moving onto High Street explore the gothic St Giles Cathedral (weblink right) which is so closely associated with John Knox. See also Parliament Square with Law Courts dating from 1816 and Parliament House, the apparently haunted Mary King's Close which was blocked off during the plague and the Museum of Childhood holding numerous antique toys. Finally, on Canongate don't miss the Canongate Tolbooth People's Story exploring the history of ordinary Edinburgh residents. There's a superb collection of Trade Union banners in here. Canongate is also home to a choice of historic houses.