An ancient city, once the home of kings and queens, Edinburgh, Scotland is one of the best cities in Europe for travelers. A cultural hub that is guaranteed to delight, Edinburgh is the capital of a vibrant country steeped in history and traditions and revered by the world. Whether you want to wake up to bagpipes echoing off of medieval skyscrapers, unique culinary experiences, or to see some of the most elegant architecture in the world, Edinburgh is a city not to be missed.
Need to know-
The main part of Edinburgh is split into two parts; there is the Old Town and the New Town, as a result of expansion in the 18th century. The Old Town is where the castle and oldest buildings of the city are, along with steep closes and early skyscrapers, all built on a dormant volcano. This makes for intensely beautiful landscapes but can be quite the workout for tourists. Plan on walking uphill a lot, and wearing comfortable shoes to manage the cobblestones.
Why you should go-
Though as a traveler the beauty of a place can be seen, but sometimes a local can put it best. “Born and bred in Edinburgh, I never realized how much one city could mean to me, I took it for granted at first, but what I left my home I missed everything. I felt drawn back to its poetic landscapes and architecture, in the summer the world unites in the city center and you truly feel blessed to be a part of it.” Sean Rae is a native of the city and still enjoys the typical sites of the Royal Mile and eating “heart destroying deep fried foods” such as fish and chips, fried mars bars, and scotch eggs.
Maybe the best part of Edinburgh is that it can be enjoyed on almost any budget. Accommodations are very affordable, especially in the off-season of October to November and January through May, and many sights around the city have free or inexpensive entrance fees. Just make sure to bring your rain gear and a warm jacket, as temperatures can get as low as 52°F in July with a high of only about 66°F, on average.
Festivals year round mean that there is plenty to do while in town and a few that may surprise you. Add those to special gallery and museum exhibits and you will not run out of activities. Key festivals are in August with the military Tattoo, Fringe Festival, International Festival, Book Festival and Mela Festival.
For the History Buff
Edinburgh Castle– £16 adults, £12.80 adults 60+, £9.60 children 5-15, FREE children under 5- Castlehill Edinburgh EH1 2NG- A must see for most visitors to the city, this castle encapsulates much of Scottish history, and the history of Auld Reekie (Edinburgh). The castle is made of several smaller museums, such as armories to collections on world war two and life on the home front. St. Margaret’s Chapel is the oldest building in Edinburgh dating back to the 12th century. Make sure you take the time to see the royal chambers in the Royal Palace and finish by visiting the Scottish crowned jewels. Get to the castle early to avoid crowds, but make sure to stay around for the 1pm cannon that goes off everyday but Sunday.
National Museum of Scotland– Free, donations welcome- Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh EH1 1JF-A little something for everyone, kids and adults can be awed by ancient statues and priceless Scottish relics along with beautiful pieces of art and culture from all over the world. Understand why many Scots left Scotland in the search for opportunity elsewhere, and learn about the way life has changed for people in the last 100 years. Don’t miss the observation deck on the roof for great panoramic views of the city.
For the Literary Buff
Edinburgh Writer’s Museum-Free, donations welcome- Lady Stair’s House, Lady Stair’s Close, Lawnmarket, Edinburgh-In a home built in 1622, this beautiful and cozy museum offers Scottish Literary buffs the chance to be swooned by the Scottish Bards’ words over loud speaker, and learn about the great Robert Louis Stevenson, and Sir Walter Scott.
For the Art Fanatic
Scottish National Gallery– Free- The Mound, Edinburgh- This gallery offers a wide variety of Scottish made classics along with artists from around the world. Make sure to see John Duncan’s St. Bride and many other uniquely Scottish works of art.
For Ghoulish Geeks
Surgeon’s Museum- £6 adult, £3 students-The Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Nicolson St, Edinburgh- Reopening in Summer 2015, this museum is in homage to Edinburgh being the home to the oldest surgeon’s college in the world and to this day is a prestigious location to receive an education. The museum boasts a lavish collection of body parts in formaldehyde from World War I, along with wax body parts and collections of old operating instruments.
Vaults Tour– The New City of Edinburgh was built in the 18th century as a more elite neighborhood, in order to get all the expensive and heavy belongings from the hilled Old Town to New Town they built bridges to make the move easier. When building the bridges they decided to take advantage of all the space underneath and create storage and business vaults opening in 1788. These vaults evolved into a slum of a neighborhood with a red light district and where the extremely poor could afford to live. Crimes were rampant in the vaults and in the mid 18th century the vaults were sealed off, the last in 1875. Only to be rediscovered in the 1980s. It may be hard to single out which tour to take as many exciting people will stand with signs on the Royal Mile advertising their ghoulish adventure. Choose from ghost tours, historical reenactor tours, or plain-Jane history tours. Mercat Tours- Mercat House 28 Blair St Edinburgh- offers a little bit of everything.
Scots Monument– £4 a person- E. Princes St Gardens, Edinburgh- A gorgeous Victorian-Gothic spire that is dedicated to Sir Walter Scott and his contribution to not only literature but the causes of Scotland. Climb 287 steps to the top for beautiful images carved into the tower and to see the landscape of the whole city.
Calton Hill– Free- Regent Road, Edinburgh- A popular hangout for locals and visitors alike this natural green space is ideal for some time away from the city and a chance to explore some distinct architectural features along with views of the local landscape and Arthur’s Seat.
Arthur’s Seat– Free- Technically in Holyrood Park, Arthur’s seat is the highest point in the Lothian’s and the prime location for time with nature and to get a hike in on a famous landmark.