This is Edinburgh! – An Edinburgh Travel Guide
Mystical, romantic and utterly gorgeous, the Scottish capital Edinburgh is a captivating destination, and it’s definitely one of my top favorite places around the world. With its meandering cobblestone streets and dramatic castle that stands like a sentinel over the city, to its bustling shops and bars, Edinburgh is a seductive blend of old and new. While the city is potent all year round, it pulses to an even more spectacularly energetic beat during the annual Hogmanay celebrations and the summer festivals. Get ready to be awed!
Aside from the beautiful architecture, Edinburgh is perhaps even more famed for its cultural worth. During the Enlightenment era, Edinburgh was one of the major centers of the movement and the University of Edinburgh’s contribution to new principles of thought led the city to be nicknamed the ‘Athens of the North’ by many scholars. Today it has been awarded the title of a City of Literature by UNESCO for its inhabitants’ contribution to writing. On a more fundamental level, although the city is undoubtedly steeped in history, Edinburgh is also an up and coming city with modern architecture, vibrant nightlife, fantastic cuisine, and globally renowned festivals unequaled by any other European city.
On New Year’s Eve, Hogmanay kicks off the Scottish calendar with massive firework displays and fantastic street parties. Although technically only on New Year’s Eve, the period between Christmas and NYE is always incredibly eventful in Edinburgh. Another major event in Edinburgh is the Military Tattoo which is an iconic image of the city with kilted bagpipers and military bands performing in front of the spectacular Edinburgh Castle. However, the real festival season is from August to September and encompasses many art sub-festivals including the Edinburgh Fringe (a festival focusing on comedy and avant-garde performances), The Edge Festival (music), Jazz festival, TV festival, among others. Although the atmosphere in Edinburgh comes alive during the festival seasons, the city is a fantastic holiday destination at any time of the year, as there are numerous activities and attractions to experience in and around the Scottish capital.
The main attraction in Edinburgh would be the castle which is magnificently located atop an extinct volcano and provides a stunning and regal backdrop to the whole city. Despite being almost a 1000 years old, the castle has been in continuous use and is still in excellent condition. Another magnificent landmark is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, also in great condition and home to an amazing art collection. There are a number of other gorgeous old churches and abbeys which encompass over a century of architecture, as well as the royal botanical gardens which have an impressive large collection of plants. Edinburgh is also home to a large number of interesting museums (some of which are free to visit) such as the Scottish National Museums and the Edinburgh history museums, both of which I highly recommend! Also One of the most fascinating and unusual ways to see the city and learn about its history is to visit Edinburgh’s Camera Obscura which provides visitors with breathtaking 360 degree images of the city.
WHEN TO GO
In the summer months, the weather tends to be warmer and definitely sunnier. During such days you can enjoy the fantastic parks and open spaces in the city. Having said that, no matter what the season is, like the rest of the UK you should expect the occasional onset of showers at any time. Winter can be bitterly cold, but as previously mentioned, the city is host to a lot of indoor attractions and even the festivals are predominately held indoors. Nevertheless, I would recommend that you visit Edinburgh and Scotland in general either during the Christmas period or between May and September, keeping in mind however that visiting during these times means considerably higher accommodation prices.
Accommodation in Edinburgh is generally of a high standard with many five star hotels, but there are also lots of smaller B&Bs and cheap hostels for those who are on a budget. The old town runs from the castle all the way down to the Palace, and is most convenient and atmospheric as you are staying right in the heart of the city, however the prices will often match the location significance. The new town district is equally stunning with Georgian architecture and it is the commercial heart of the city. There are many Hotel and hostels in this area as well but slightly more affordable than those located in the old town. If you’re looking for an economical yet central option, go for the Cowgate area since it’s home to plenty of Hostels and not too far from the lower Royal Mile (old town) and its inside streets.
Public transport is also fairly reasonable in the Scottish capital with cheap ‘day tickets’ which you can buy directly on the local bus. An extensive infrastructure of trains and buses easily connects you to the surrounding Scottish cities. Edinburgh, however, is a fairly compact city that is best enjoyed on foot, and although there may be some hills around, the views are definitely worth the extra leg work.