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Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh

Great Destination:

5

Value for Money:

3

Total Stars:

8.0

Personality Types that Like it Best

Most personality types like it, but especially Mid and Centric-Venturers

Did You Know…?

  • J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book in Nicholson’s Cafe in Edinburgh.
  • Sneaky Pete’s, a pub on the Cowgate, was built on a graveyard with gravestones under foot.
  • The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers is considered the first organized golf club (1744).
  • The Walter Scott monument on Princes Street is the largest ever dedicated to one person.
  • Stevenson’s tale of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was inspired by a local, William “Deacon” Brodie.

History on a hill

From the dramatic castle that protrudes from a rocky hill in city center to the robust theater and restaurant scenes, Edinburgh is a multifaceted city that pleases visitors with a variety of interests. The atmosphere is grand and a bit conservative, thanks to the imposing architecture and preserved Old Town, but Edinburgh also boasts a younger, hip vibe for people interested in nightlife and street festivals. This also is a political city; it is Scotland’s capital.

This sophisticated metropolis has all the glamour and uptown flare of a modern world capital along with the stately Old World charm visitors expect in Europe. A fierce spirit of independence also reigns here, along with pride over a history of repelling would-be conquerors, including Scotland’s closest neighbor, England.

Eventually, Scotland did become part of the United Kingdom, but that was after the Scottish king inherited England’s throne in 1603. Today the country retains its own style and — of course — accent. Since the 1997 vote for devolution, that independence has grown stronger with the reinstituted Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

The city’s layout is easy for visitors to navigate, with Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse flanking the Royal Mile, plus the historic Old Town at its base and the New Town beyond.

Edinburgh is surrounded by the picturesque Lothians — East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian, to be precise — counties that offer day-trip opportunities for visitors with time to explore the region.

The city also is known for its cuisine. Some of the more famous restaurants include the Witchery, situated in 16th century digs near the gates of the castle and known for whipping up regional dishes with local produce, and the Michelin-starred Restaurant Martin Wishart, which perks up the Port of Leith district with French cuisine.

The city calendar bursts with festivals year-round, including the eponymous Edinburgh International Festival in mid-August (book way ahead for a hotel room during its run). Winter is nearly as lively with a round of holiday events and festivals, including an annual four-day celebration, called Hogmanay, in city center in December.

Things to do for Venturers

  • Test your mettle by climbing Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano (its last eruption was more than 300 million years ago) in Holyrood Park. Enjoy the city views from the summit.
  • Try your hand at keyhole surgery with a laparoscopic training unit set up for visitors at the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, which also exhibits a huge collection of historic surgical instruments.
  • Mingle with the beautiful people at LuLu, an ultra-hip club and bar with a sophisticated vibe and limit of 300 people, or brave a signature cocktail at the trendy Dragonfly Bar near Grassmarket, complete with leather chairs and chandeliers.
  • Stay in shape on the guided three-mile Edinburgh Jog Tour, which combines jogging, sightseeing, history and even a little theater.
  • Explore the network of off-road cycle paths in Edinburgh, many of which follow defunct train track routes.
  • Bring a group and participate in team-building Highland games, including falconry and archery, at Maximillion near the city.

Things to do for Centrics

  • Attend the annual Edinburgh International Festival in August, widely considered to be among the most important music and theater events  in Europe.
  • Learn about whisky making at the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, and follow that with a visit to Dallas Dhu, a preserved distillery in Forres.
  • Pick your own bottle and libation — from dessert liqueurs to a single-cask whisky — and have your choice bottled on the spot at Demijohn for a one-of-a-kind keepsake. (Remember, you cannot take this souvenir on the plane as carry-on.)
  • Bundle up for the Torchlight Procession that kicks off the four-day Hogmanay street festival in December, followed by live music and mayhem at the Royal Bank Street Party.
  • Welcome spring at the annual three-week Ceilidh Culture, an April festival featuring music, dance and storytellers.
  • Join an Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, complete with actors performing excerpts of Scottish literature, rounding out the experience with a few beers.

Things to do for Authentics

  • Climb aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is now permanently docked at Ocean Terminal in the charming Port of Leith area.
  • Pay homage to locations in the city connected with Harry Potter’s creator J.K. Rowling, including the Elephant House Cafe, the Balmoral Hotel and Edinburgh Castle.
  • Have your own kilt made from your family tartan or to your own specifications at any of several fine kilt makers.
  • Stroll along the Royal Mile, the original street in the city, bracketed by the castle at the high end and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at the other.
  • Examine the oldest intact crown in Europe — it dates back to Robert the Bruce in the early 14th century — in Edinburgh Castle.
  • Spend an evening at the theater — from the classics at the Royal Lyceum to more edgy fare at the modern Traverse Theatre.

Additional Resources

For more information, consult VisitScotland’s Edinburgh pages at www.edinburgh.org.