Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. This distinction is partly an accident of Nature, for the city is built upon a jumble of hills and valleys; however, during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the natural geography was enhanced by the works of a succession of distinguished Georgian and Victorian architects. The result today is that there are countless spots where Edinburgh looks less like a city and more like a theatrical backdrop. The view from Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, across the River Forth to Fife, looks more like a scene from ancient Rome.
Edinburgh is also a well endowed city, there is a great deal to see and to do. Indeed the average holiday visitor can only dip into the great variety of entertainment and recreation that is available.
Edinburgh is, in some ways, the least Scottish of Scotland’s cities. Tourism, its close proximity to England, and its multicultural, sophisticated population set it apart, and its vibrant pub and club scene, and college population, make it a city ready to take on the world.
Add to this the fact that Edinburgh is easily accessible by rail, road, air and sea, and it becomes obvious why the city has a special place in the affections of so many. It is, indeed, the most popular tourist destination in Britain after London.
City Sightseeing Hop On Hop Off Tour of Edinburgh
|Explore the historic capital of Scotland with this 24 hour ticket aboard an open-top double-decker bus. See all the main sights of Edinburgh. Listen to the multilingual commentary and learn interesting facts. Spend as much or as little time at places of interest before jumping aboard for the next stop.|
How to get there
Edinburgh’s international airport has frequent direct flights to Europe, Ireland and other parts of the UK and a limited number of services to Africa, the Middle East and Asia. There are no direct air services from North America.
Traveling from Europe you’ll often be best off flying to London, then taking the train or bus north. The 4-hour centre-to-centre rail trip takes only about an hour more than flying in actual traveling time.
Edinburgh Airport is 8 miles (12km) to the west of the city centre
For route planning information, check the AA, or RAC.
If you want a detailed street map of your location visit multimap
Parking in the city centre, is awkward, expensive and the parking wardens (dubbed “blue meanies” on account of their blue uniform) are vigilant. Often you are best parking your car outside the “peripheral zone” (where parking is free) and walk into the city centre.
A new overnight ferry service now operates between Zeebrugge and Rosyth, located approximately a 30-minute drive from Edinburgh. SuperFast Ferries estimate a 17.5 hour crossing time, with one service per day in each direction.
Edinburgh has two stations – Haymarket (map) and Waverly (map). The main station is Waverly which is located in the city centre, sandwiched between the New and Old towns.
Edinburgh does not have a light rail or any kind of local rail system. However, there are quite a few bus companies operating within, as well as to and from the city.
Edinburgh International Festival,
The highlight of Scotland’s calendar is the held every August. Since its inception in 1947, it has grown into one of the world’s largest and most important arts festivals. The Fringe Festival began unofficially at the same time and grew in tandem to become the largest such event in the world. Over 500 amateur and professional groups present every possible kind of avant-garde performance in venues all around the city.
Edinburgh Military Tattoo,
The Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle during August. The show is an extravaganza of daredevil displays, regimental posturing and swirling bagpipes and ends with a single piper playing a lament on the battlefields.
Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the New Year, is another major fixture in Edinburgh’s festival calendar with concerts, street parties and a massive bonfire on Calton Hill.
Eating Dining Shopping
There is a wide range of cuisines to choose from in Edinburgh. In the last few years there has been a huge boom in the number of restaurants and cafes. In addition, most pubs serve food, offering either bar meals or a more formal restaurant or both, note that pubs without a restaurant licence are not allowed to serve children under the age of 16.
Edinburgh has it all with regard to shopping: Princes Street is the location for Scotland’s most famous shop, Jenners (the oldest independent department store in the world), which has a fabulous food hall. The main modern shopping centres are Cameron Toll Centre, and the Waverley Shopping Centre.
The Royal Mile, on the other hand, is scattered with off-beat stores and souvenir sellers. Nearby Grassmarket (a trading place since 1477) and Victoria Street are packed with arts and crafts shops, bookshops and specialist food stores. Some of the city’s smartest designer stores are along George Street in the New Town.
Edinburgh really began to grow in the 11th century, when markets developed at the foot of the fortress, and from 1124, when David I held court at the castle and founded the abbey at Holyrood.
The first effective town wall was constructed around 1450 and circled the Old Town and the area around Grassmarket. This restricted, defensible zone became a medieval Manhattan, forcing its densely packed inhabitants to build tenements that soared to 12 stories.
A golden era that saw the foundation of the College of Surgeons and the introduction of printing ended with the death of James IV at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. England’s Henry VIII attempted to force a marriage between Mary Queen of Scots (James V’s daughter) and his son, but the Scots sent Mary to
France to marry the dauphin. The city was sacked by the English, and the Scots turned to the French for support.
While Mary was in France, the Reformation of the Scottish church was under way. The Scots were increasingly sympathetic to the ideas of the Reformation, and when John Knox returned from exile in 1555 he found fertile ground for his Calvinist message. In 1560 the Scottish Parliament created a Protestant church independent of Rome, and the pope’s authority and Latin mass were rejected.
When James VII succeeded to the Scottish and English crowns he moved the court to London and, for the most part, the Stewarts ignored Edinburgh. Religious differences led to civil war in Scotland and England. When Charles I tried to introduce episcopacy (the rule of bishops) in 1633 he provoked the National Covenant and more religious turmoil, which eventually ended in triumph for the Presbyterians.
Though cultural and intellectual life continued to flourish in Edinburgh, the Act of Union in 1707 further reduced the city’s political importance, uniting the two countries under a single parliament. In the second half of the 18th century a new city was created across the ravine to the north. The population was expanding, defense was no longer vital and the thinkers of the Scottish Enlightenment planned to distance themselves from Edinburgh’s Jacobite past.
The population exploded in the 19th century – Edinburgh quadrupled in size to 400,000, not much less than it is today – and the old city’s tenements were taken over by refugees from the Irish famines. A new ring of crescents and circuses was built to the south of the New Town, and grey Victorian terraces sprung up.
Useful telephone numbers
Emergency Number 999
Airport Information (Edinburgh) (0)870 040 0007
Tourist Office: 0845 22 55 121
Holiday rents online:
National Transport Line
24 hour medical service