So you’re thinking of visiting the capital of Scotland?
Excellent choice I’d say.
Edinburgh is a city filled with unique attractions, incredible Georgian architecture, beautiful parks, all year world-famous events and friendly locals.
Oh, and with that Scottish accent, this city is a wee bit too charming.
Edinburgh was never really on my radar of cities to travel to, until I serendipitously bumped into a number of travelers, over the last year, who kept mentioning that having visited, the city is now one of their favourites.
I kept wondering why.
“Oh, you’ll have to see for yourself” I so often heard in response to my puzzled look. “It’s not something that can be described”
So of course, driven by curiosity and an insatiable hunger for exploration, I promptly made my way to the Scottish capital.
“What a strangely beautiful and unique city!” I exclaimed as we ambled along the Royal Mile on our way to hike up Arthur’s Seat. “I’m so glad Edinburgh is living up to the expectation.”
This city is a photographer’s dream
So without further ado, here’s (most of) everything that you need to know.
Edinburgh is a compact city, easily explored on foot. The city with its seven hills is represented by Edinburgh Castle, Scotland’s most popular tourist attraction. The world-famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place at the entrance to the Castle Esplanade for three weeks in August during the summer festivals every year, while colourful fireworks displays are set off from the ramparts at Hogmanay.
Towering iconically over the city, Edinburgh Castle is the city’s defining feature that’s proudly positioned on an extinct volcano. The castle has dominated the skyline for centuries. Inside, you will find treasures such as the Scottish Crown Jewels, the Stone of Destiny and the Royal Apartments. The Scottish National War Museum is also within the walls, reflecting the castle’s long military history. Dedicate at least two hours to appreciate it fully and be sure to listen for the One o’clock Gun, which is sounded from the castle ramparts.
One of the most famous streets in the world, the city’s most important and historic promenade is a must see for all. This historic spine stretches from the Castle at its highest point, goes right through the Old Town, and ends at the Palace of Holyrood house. On either side of this famous street lies a unique combination of many historic sites; lots of cafes and souvenir shops nestled between the cobbled streets and dark, narrow lanes of the Old Town and the elegant Georgian grandeur of the New Town. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a bustling area with plenty going.
St Giles’ Cathedral is a gothic church with an impressive crown spire. A short detour up George IV Bridge will take you to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby and the nearby Greyfriars Church.
For the perfect start to the day or for the end to a perfect day and another incredible view, walk up to the top of Arthur’s Seat. You certainly won’t regret this. The 360-degree view will leave you even more breathless than the hike up as you revel in the surrounding beauty.
Certainly my favourite part of my visit to Edinburgh.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions
Fascinating fun on over five floors of hands-on attractions, fantastic optical illusions, interactive exhibits and a large variety of visual delights. Situated on the Royal Mile, Camera Obscura also boasts panoramic views of the city from the rooftop terrace. Normally I wouldn’t recommend anything that’s purely touristic, but the whole place is very hands-on, original, and again, lots of fun for all ages.
Almost all of the postcards I’d seen prior to visiting this city showed the entire capital in all its glory from this hill. Boasting gorgeous views, it’s that good. It’s centrally located, so head here before sunset.
Victoria Street and Grassmarket
One of my favourite streets in the city, this winding, downhill street with brightly coloured buildings is charming and a must to wander along filled with great restaurants, cafes and quirky shops.
Edinburgh Zoo has always been popular even more so with the recent addition of the UK’s only giant pandas.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Want to follow in the footsteps of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela and get a glimpse into the private lives of royalty? A visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia, which took the British Royal Family around the world, will provide just that.
Check out Edinburgh’s free art galleries
The National Gallery of Scotland, houses Scotland’s greatest collection of paintings, drawings and prints by artists from the Renaissance to Post-Impressionism. It also has great views from its rooftop, which is open to the public.
Also check out the adjacent Royal Museum. And just outside the city on Belford Road you’ll find the city’s National Gallery of Modern Art.
In Midlothian, 10 kilometers south of Edinburgh, you can visit this gothic chapel, made famous by Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. To get there take bus #15 from St Andrew’s Square.
Should you decide to venture that far out of the city, further attractions in the Lothians include the Edinburgh Butterfly & Insect World and the award-winning Scottish Seabird Centre, a delight for nature-lovers.
Concealed under the streets of south Edinburgh and one of the most intriguing sights in the city, Gilmerton Cove consists of many diverse chambers that have been a clandestine for tourists and archaeologists for hundreds of years.
If you have time, the former village of Duddingston veiled behind Arthur’s Seat provides great views of its loch and wildlife reserve.
2. The best views
The Scott Monument on Princes Street and the Nelson Monument on Calton Hill will provide wonderful views over the city.
If you’re feeling active, the walk up Arthur’s Seat is completely worth the view from the top. From Edinburgh castle the view over the city is fantastic.
3. Parks and Gardens
There are many beautiful parks and gardens in Edinburgh, but no trip to the city is complete without a stop at the Royal Botanic Gardens. With 70 acres of beautiful gardens and plant species from around the world, it represents one of the world’s largest living collections of plants.
Situated in the centre of the city, in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street Gardens is home to some of the city’s most attractive landmarks, including the towering Scott Monument and the Ross Fountain. Join the locals by enjoying your lunch in this park and see for yourself why this is the best known and the most popular in the city.
Holyrood Park, at the end of the Royal Mile, is also very central. This park is perfectly positioned to enjoy some of the capital’s best sights. From Arthur’s Seat and Holyrood Palace to Salisbury Crags and Holyrood Abbey there’s plenty to discover.
Up and coming Leith is a somewhat underrated area of the city, but over the past decade it has become quite trendy. For an alternative city centre walk, take a stroll along the Water of Leith. The walkway is a popular cycling and walking route and the many colourful boats and tree-lined walkways make it feel as though you’ve left the city.
Situated adjacent to the Royal Botanic Garden, award-winning Inverleith Park, consists of a lovely boating pond, a bog garden, a children’s play park, basketball and tennis courts. It’s a beautiful place for a walk with great cityscape views.
4. Arriving & Departing
Arrival in Edinburgh is possible by plane, train, bus or car.
By plane: Many direct scheduled flights from major airports, both in the UK and overseas, make getting to Edinburgh simple. Edinburgh International Airport (EDI) is 11km (8 miles) west of the city centre and is easy to reach. If you are heading for the city centre the simplest and cheapest ways are to catch either the Airlink express bus no. 100 (a 24 hour service) or the Tram service from outside the arrivals door.
If you are flying into Edinburgh but want to get to Glasgow you can take the Airlink 100 bus, the tram or a taxi to Haymarket railway station.
By train: Edinburgh has two main stations – Waverly Station and Haymarket Station. If arriving by train, Waverly Station in the city centre is the final stop.
By bus: Edinburgh’s main bus station is on Elder Street in the city centre.
On foot: As Edinburgh is a small and fairly compact city, getting around on foot is simple. Most attractions are within walking distance and the city is full of quirky streets leading to amazing views.
Public Transport: There are a number of bus companies, of which the largest are First Edinburgh and Lothian Buses, which you can use to get around town or to explore the surrounding countryside.
5. Weather and When to Go
Edinburgh has a temperate climate, which means the city has cool summers and relatively chilly, wet winters but rarely extreme weather.
Should you wish to attend any of the incredible number of events scattered throughout the year, those specific events will determine your schedule.
For the rest, the comfortable conditions of April all the way through September, is a great place to start when planning your trip.
Not unlike the rest of the UK, high season occurs from June until late August. It’s simply a beautiful time of the year when the sun is out, enticing all locals and tourists to enjoy the extended, comfortable summer days. August is the busiest time of the year because of the fantastic number of festivals scheduled at this time each year and also being holidays for many UK residents.
During October to March the days naturally get shorter and the weather wetter. The tourists dissipate somewhat and things quiet down all round. And if you do want to travel in the winter, there’s plenty going on to keep you active and warm.
6. Mark your calendar
Edinburgh is famous for it’s world-famous events.
January – The New Year celebration is an important activity here and the world-famous Hogmanay, Europe’s largest winter festival, attracts over a quarter of a million annually.
February/March – Thousands of sports fans travel here to witness the annual Six Nations Rugby tournament, one of the year’s biggest sporting events.
April – In celebration of the end of winter and the beginning of spring, Edinburgh’s annual Beltane festival is one of the year’s most unique events.
July – The 10-day long Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival attracts top performers from all over.
August – The busiest time of the year as a result of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the largest arts festival in the world and entertains over 1 million people annually. Military Tattoo with performances in the shadow of the Edinburgh Castle to take your breath away. Edinburgh International Festival for three weeks showcasing the very best in music, dance and theatre.
December – Christmas Get ready for Britain’s largest open-air ice-rink, the ‘Edinburgh Wheel’ and a traditional German Christmas market.
Other smaller-scale events such as the highland games, whisky festivals and folk music occur throughout the year.
Telephone Country code: +44
Area code: 0131
Electricity 240 Volt, three-pin socket, adapter needed.
Currency Pound Sterling, £1 = 100 pence
Visit Scotland Information Centre
3 Princes Street, Edinburgh
+44 845 225 5121
Don’t forget to bookmark this for future travels.
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