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Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland located in the Central Belt region of the country. With a population of approximately 450,000 (1 million in the city region), "Auld Reekie" (Edinburgh) manages to combine both ancient and modern in a uniquely Scottish atmosphere. Watched over by the imposing Edinburgh castle, the symbol of the city, Edinburgh combines medieval relics, Georgian grandeur and a powerful layer of modern life with contemporary avant-garde. In Edinburgh, medieval palaces, evident throughout the New Town which is painted with Gothic churches and fascinating historical buildings, rub shoulders with the best of modern architecture, such as the Houses of Scottish Parliament, found in Hollyrood, and the recently renovated National Museum of Scotland. Scotland's throbbing night-life centre, Edinburgh, "the Athens of the North", is also a feast for the mind and the senses, playing host to great restaurants, shops, friendly pubs, wild and mild clubs, and an unrivalled programme of city festivals throughout the year. Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, kicks off the festivities, which culminate in the high summer with the Tattoo, the International and the famous 'Fringe' festival, among many others. The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1995. In 2004, Edinburgh became the first member of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative when it was designated a City of Literature. In a 2009 poll by YouGov, Edinburgh was voted the most desirable city to live in the UK. (less...) (more...)
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Points of Interest in Edinburgh
For the budget-conscious and/or avid sightseer, the Edinburgh Pass is well worth bearing in mind, offering a maximum of £155 worth of entry to 27 of Edinburgh's top attractions, a 90-page guidebook, retail and restaurant offers and discounts. All this, as well as free public transport around the city and airport transfers. A one-day pass costs £30, two days £40, three days £50 (2013 prices). Can be purchased online or at Tourist Information Centres.
If you are staying in Scotland a little while, it might be worth getting a Historic Scotland Membership. Passes last for a year, and cost about £40 for adults and £30 for concessions (including full-time students). They provide unlimited access to about 70 paying sites in Scotland, including Edinburgh's Castle and Craigmillar Castle. You also get a lot of discounts for their shops, a quarterly magazine, and 50% off all English, Welsh and Manx historical sites.
- Edinburgh Doors Open Day. Is an annual event, co-ordinated by the Cockburn Association, where many important and/or historic buildings across the city open up their doors to the public at no charge. Many of the buildings are not normally accessible so this can present a unique opportunity to see some of the city's lesser-known architectural marvels. It usually takes place on the last weekend in September. Brochures with details of the participating sites, opening times, access details etc., can be picked up from city libraries in the run up to the day, or downloaded from the website.
- Edinburgh Castle, Old Town. Edinburgh Castle, home to the Edinburgh Tattoo, is a magnificently situated royal fortress located on one of the highest points in the city. The castle has been continuously in use for 1000 years and is in excellent condition. £14.50 Adults, £8.60 Under 16s, £11.60 Concessions.
- Abbey and Palace of Holyroodhouse, Old Town. The Palace is a royal residence, and hosts the Queen's Gallery containing a collection of art from the Royal Collection. £11.00 Adults, £10 Concessions, Under 17s £6.65, Under 5s Free.
- St Giles' Cathedral, Old Town. The historic City Church of Edinburgh is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and takes its name from the city's patron saint. Free.
- Mary King's Close, Warriston's Close, Old Town (Opposite St Giles' Cathedral). Open daily except 25 Dec. A slice of Edinburgh's medieval history, preserved since being closed over in the 18th century - watch out for the haunting. £12.95 Adults, £11.45 Concessions, £7.45 Under 15s.
- Gladstone's Land, Lawnmarket, Old Town. A 17th century Old Town tenement (known as a 'Land') in the Lawnmarket at the top of the Royal Mile. It features period furniture and an impressive painted ceiling £6 Adult, £5 Concessions.
- Greyfriars Kirkyard, Old Town. A 16th century graveyard in the Old Town off the Southwest corner of George IV Bridge. Made famous by Disney as the home of Greyfriars Bobby. Free.
- Camera Obscura, Castle Hill, Old Town. Over 150 years old, the Camera Obscura focuses light from the top of the tower onto a large dish in a dark room below, allowing a 360-degree view of all of Edinburgh. £11.95 Adult, £9.95 Concessions, £8.75 Under 15, Free Under 5.
- Scottish Parliament, Old Town, Eastern end of the Royal Mile, opposite the Palace of Holyrood House. A unique building designed by the Spanish (Catalan) architect Enric Miralles. It is necessary to get (free) tickets to watch the Parliament in session from the Public Gallery.
- Scott Monument, East Princes Street Gardens, New Town. Built in 1846 to commemorate the life of Sir Walter Scott after his death in 1832, the Gothic spire monument allows you to climb 200 ft above the city centre to enjoy fantastic views. £3.
- Royal Yacht Britannia, Ocean Terminal, Leith. Jan-Mar, Nov-Dec 10AM-5PM, Apr-Jun, Sep-Oct 10AM-5:30PM, Jul 9:30AM-5:30PM, Aug 9:30AM-6PM last entry 1.5 hrs before closing, closed 1 Jan and 25 Dec. Decommissioned from royal use in recent years and voted one of Edinburgh’s best new attractions, Britannia offers visitors the chance to tour the royal apartments and view a selection of the many gifts offered to the royals by dignitaries worldwide. Adults £10, Under 17s and Concessions £8.75, Under 5s Free.
- Royal Botanic Garden, Inverleith Row (East Gate) / Arboretum Place (West Game), Stockbridge. Very impressive gardens with a collection of interesting plants. Great place to wander around on a sunny day, or to sit and have a picnic. Free entry to Gardens, Entry to Glasshouses: £3.50 Adults, £3 Concessions, £1 Children.
- Edinburgh Zoo, West. Zoo that is home to the UK's only Giant Pandas. Also home to the world famous Penguin Parade.
- Rosslyn Chapel, South (Bus: Lothian Bus 15 to 'Hotel' stop, Roslin Village). 15th century chapel, featured in "The Da Vinci Code" novel and film.
- The Meadows, South. Edinburgh's best and biggest central public park. Absolutely free. Known for great atmosphere especially during the summer and entertainment like the festival and regular busking. Great for a walk at any time, day or night."
Museum and galleries
- Museum of Scotland and Royal Museum, Chambers St, Old Town tel +44 131 247 4422. fax +44 131 220 4819. typetalk 18001 0131 247 4422. email firstname.lastname@example.org. The museum mixes innovative modern architecture with the best of Scotland's heritage. The Royal Museum has a magnificent airy Victorian atrium now with the Millennium Clock at one end - arrange to be there when it is chiming. Exhibits in the Museum of Scotland include Scottish pottery and weapons from the Roman era and the Renaissance. M-Sa 10AM-5PM with extended opening to 8PM on Tuesdays, and Su noon-5PM. Free.
- National Gallery of Scotland, ☎ +44 131 624 6200. The, The Mound, New Town, holds much of Scotland's fine artwork and carries exhibitions that change seasonally. The new Western Link was opened in 2004 with an entrance from Princes Street Gardens. It joins The National Gallery with the neighbouring Scottish Academy gallery and gives Scotland it's first world class art space.
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 74 Belford Rd. The, on the western fringe of the New Town, +44 131 624 6200,  contains a fine selection of modern art from Scotland and other countries.
- Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market St. The, behind the Edinburgh Waverley Rail Station, Old Town . Aims to find the most appropriate way to bring artists and audiences together. It is a not-for-profit organization and a registered charity. M-Sa 11AM-6PM, Su noon-5PM. Free.
- There are a number of independent galleries in the St Stephen Street area of Stockbridge
Edinburgh has been the royal capital of Scotland since 1437.
Edinburgh's climate is most comfortable for the traveler from May to September. That said, the weather in Edinburgh is always changeable and visitors should expect both sunshine and rain, whatever the season. Edinburgh tends to get windy while it rains as well, so be sure to pack either a raincoat or a sturdy umbrella! Many a tourist has abandoned an inverted umbrella due to the persistent, whipping winds. Summer, the main festival season, combines long daylight hours with lengthy evenings (being so far north, it rarely gets dark before 10 or 11 at night!). Winter can feel bitterly cold, with short daylight hours, however snow is rare and of a short duration, and most of Edinburgh's winter precipitation comes in the form of a chilly rain and sleet. Edinburgh has an abundance of indoor attractions and activities that make the cold winter days fly by. In other words, bring a coat big lad, will ya? Do not worry about being cold in winter, because like many modern countries all buildings including the old ones are warm, dry and insulated.
Refer to the district articles for listings.
- Walk along the Water of Leith, a small river that meanders through Edinburgh, providing a peaceful haven from the busy city. Check out the Leith or Stockbridge and Canonmills sections of the route.
- Edinburgh has an excellent theatre and concert life. Europe's largest theatre, the 3000-seat Edinburgh Playhouse (top of Leith Walk, New Town) hosts major West End shows. The Festival Theatre (Old Town) frequently hosts opera and ballet, and the Usher Hall (Lothian Road) has weekly orchestral concerts all year round with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The Queen's Hall (South Clerk Street, (Old Town) is home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. For a cheaper option, the excellent Bedlam Theatre (Bristo Place, Old Town) regularly puts on good student theatre and is the home to Scotland's oldest improvised comedy troupe, The Improverts.
- Experience traditional Folk Music at one of the pubs in the Old Town or Leith which host regular sessions.
- Arthur's Seat. The extinct volcano to the East of the city centre offers fantastic views from its summit - and at only 251 m high the ascent isn't too strenuous. If a lighter stroll is in order, a traverse of Salisbury Crags, just below the hill, offers similar panoramas of the city.
Edinburgh in the summer becomes "festival city" when a huge number of major national and international arts festivals are hosted by the city. Most of these occur virtually simultaneously in August. These cater for a wide variety of interests and include:
- The Edinburgh International Festival— The original that spawned all the rest. Founded in 1947 and still seen as more "high-brow" than any of its offspring. Surprisingly, tickets are often priced more reasonably than for many Fringe shows.
- The Edinburgh Military Tattoo— One of the iconic images of Edinburgh for millions worldwide is the yearly Tattoo, kilted pipers skirling below the battlements of Edinburgh Castle. Although tickets sell out well in advance, persevering individuals are likely to find one or two tickets still for sale due to cancellations... just be prepared to ask, ask, and ask again!
- Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The — As the name might suggest, this Festival developed on the "Fringe" of the main International Festival and offers more alternative performances, with an emphasis on comedy and avant-garde; it is now the largest arts festival in the world.
- The Edge Festival (formerly known as "T on the Fringe")— Music festival which takes place alongside the Fringe Festival.
- Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. The.
- The Edinburgh International Book Festival— Takes place in a temporary village of marquees at Charlotte Square (West End of George Street, New Town).
- The Edinburgh International Film Festival— Now moved to June from its former slot in August, so that it no longer clashes with all the others! Centred around the Filmhouse Cinema on Lothian Road, though other cinemas take part too.
- The Edinburgh International Television Festival— Predominantly a "closed shop" for industry professionals only.
- The Edinburgh Mela— Multicultural festival held in Leith.
- Imaginate Festival. — Every May/June, an international festival of children's theatre.
- Edinburgh International Science Festival. — Takes place annually in March or April. Emphasis on "hands-on" science.
One important thing to decide when planning a trip to Edinburgh is whether you wish to go at festival time, which runs from early August through to mid-September. Hotel rooms in and around the city are noticeably much more expensive then, and you will need to book well (at least six months!) in advance.
Edinburgh in the winter festive season is also huge with various concerts and other activities taking place starting a couple of weeks before Christmas and running up to a week into January. Princes Street Gardens play host to a Big Wheel, outdoor ice rink and various festive markets. As in most of the rest of Scotland, Hogmanay, the New Year celebrations, are the main focus of the festive season rather than Christmas. On the night itself whole sections of central Edinburgh are roped off and accessible only by ticket for the Hogmanay street party , which takes place across several stages and is easily the largest in Scotland. Hogmany and Edinburgh fit together like hand and glove.
- Go to the cinema. Edinburgh has a number of cinemas covering mainstream, foreign language and arthouse films.
- Cineworld, 130 Dundee St, ☎ +44 871 200 2000. Mainly mainstream and arthouse. This is about 20 mins on foot from Princes Street and a Number 1 34 or 35 bus will take you.
- Cameo Cinema, Home St, +44 131 228 4141. Mainstream & alternative films, in remarkable surroundings. A much-loved venue that's well worth a visit.
- Dominion, Newbattle Terrace, +44 131 447 4771. Mainstream & alternative films. One screen is full of two- and three-person leather sofas for the ultimate cinema-going experience.
- Filmhouse, Lothian Rd, +44 131 228 2688. Edinburgh's (and Scotland's) largest venue for arthouse and foreign language films. Great café and bar, and hub of the annual Film Festival.
- Odeon Cinema, Lothian Rd, +44 870 505 0007.
- Vue, Leith Walk, +44 870 240 6020. Large multiplex.
- Vue, Ocean Terminal, Leith. Large multiplex.
- See a 6 Nations Championship rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium . The 6 Nations is effectively the European Championship of rugby, taking place every spring between Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Italy and England. The teams play each other once per year, and alternate home and away games. In even-numbered years, England and France visit Murrayfield, while in odd-numbered years, Scotland host Wales, Ireland and Italy. On the weekend of a home match, Edinburgh is absolutely full to bursting, and the atmosphere is like nothing else, especially if Wales or Ireland are in town. If you plan to visit in February or March, be sure to check the fixtures and book accommodation well in advance if your trip coincides with a home match (Edinburgh/West).
- Take in a football match at Heart of Midlothian FC's Tynecastle Park (Edinburgh/West), or Hibernian F.C.'s Easter Road Stadium (Leith).
- Catch a match of the city's professional rugby club, Edinburgh Rugby, at Murrayfield (Edinburgh/West).
- Catch an American Football match at the Edinburgh Wolves's home venue of Meadowbank Stadium (Edinburgh/East).
Edinburgh is a great city for the food lover. There is a vast selection of eateries scattered throughout every part of the city, catering for all tastes, prices and styles - from fast-food to Michelin-starred grandeur. Just be careful around the castle and in the Grassmarket area, where many restaurants are tourist traps. Refer to the District articles for individual listings.
As well as the centre of Edinburgh, it is also worth checking out Leith and the West End when looking for a place to eat.
Rose St, running parallel to Princes St is a pedestrian precinct that has a huge number of pubs offering a variety of pub fare food.
The Scots are well known for having a penchant for fried food which has resulted in such gastronomic delights as deep fried pizza, deep fried hamburgers, deep fried Black Pudding (a type of blood sausage), deep fried haggis and deep fried Mars bars. If you're up to it, be sure to drop by a chippy (fish and chip shop) and experience these Scottish delights. Edinburgh chippys are unique in the UK for offering salt'n'sauce as standard in place of the salt'n'vinegar usually provided elsewhere in the country. The sauce is a kind of runny, vinegary version of HP or Daddys style brown sauce. Most chippys will provide vinegar on request if you prefer, but you really should try salt'n'sauce at least once!
There are establishments to suit all tastes scattered throughout every pocket of the city. Be careful, some of the more local pubs can be a little rough around the edges, especially in Leith.
For a non-alcoholic beverage give Scotland's second national drink a try - Irn-Bru . It's a great cure for hangover.
As for Scotland's first drink, you will find The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre at the top of The Royal Mile, which offers an interactive "tour" of the history and practise of Whisky distilling, complete with a rather sedate barrel ride. This is a good place to go if you want to sample whisky, as they have a very large selection (200+?) at a fairly reasonable price. Older whiskys tend to cost more and the rarest on offer can cost up to £50.00 per measure! The atmosphere is less pub-like than some might like as it tends to be fairly quiet - if you don't fancy the interactive tour and just want to try some whiskys then check the listings for some good whisky pubs but in any event, the majority of Edinburgh pubs tend to have a reasonable array of Scotch whiskys on offer. The food at the Centre is reasonably priced and fairly good.
- Lots of traditional pubs are all around the city.
- Many famous traditional pubs on the Grassmarket, Old Town. These pubs are tourist traps and tend to be very popular with visiting stag and hen parties, so locals tend to keep clear.
- Lots of modern clubs are around Cowgate and Lothian road including Base, Gig and Diva.* George Street in the New Town hosts many of Edinburgh's trendier bars
- George IV Bridge in the Old Town is another trendy style bar area.
- Other night clubs around the city include Espionage , Opal Lounge, Shanghai, Bacaro, The Hive, Octopussy (Thursday's at HMV Picture House) and Why Not.
Refer to individual district articles for detailed listings.
- Princes Street (New Town), north of the castle, is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. It runs through the middle of the city from the train station to Lothian Road. It contains large chain stores such as HMV for music, Topshop and H&M for clothes, tourist oriented shops, and department stores.
- There are many more upmarket shops, restaurants and bars on George Street (New Town), which runs parallel to Princes Street.
- Cockburn Street (pronounced "co-burn") in the (Old Town) has many small alternative shops selling music, novelty toys, underground clothing, body piercings and spiritual items.
- The Royal Mile (Old Town), especially the higher end near the castle, has many tourist-oriented shops selling Scottish souvenirs from postcards to whisky and kilts.
- Victoria Street (Old Town) is a nice street which is well worth a visit. You can find colourful buildings and interesting boutiques which are worth having a look at.
- Victoria Street also leads onto the Grassmarket (Old Town), a street which gives stunning views of the castle, which dominates right over it, and is also full of interesting and nice shops, as well as several pubs and restaurants. The Grassmarket is definitely well worth visiting.
- Multrees Walk (also known as The Walk), for high-end labels such as Vidal Sasoon, Armani, Vuitton, Harvey Nichols or Calvin Klein (New Town).
- Other malls include Princes Mall or St James Mall which are both just off Princes Street, and Ocean Terminal in Leith.
- Take home a bottle of Scotland's finest export, a single malt whisky.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Edinburgh on Wikivoyage.