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Edinburgh, the charming capital city of Scotland, is an intriguing city. A city defined by its ancient geology and geography, sculpted by its history, that nevertheless is as progressive, modern, and forward-thinking as any other European capital. Nestled between the dramatic, rugged landscapes of the Scottish highlands and the bleakly beautiful shores of the North Sea, it is a city where yesterday, today, and tomorrow are combined to create a wonderful visitor experience.
So if you are in the mood for a captivating blend of rich history, stunning Georgian architecture, and a thriving contemporary culture, then Edinburgh might just be the city for you. Let’s pack our bags and explore the many facets of this vibrant Scottish metropolis.
A Tale of Two Cities
Edinburgh is a city of contrasts, a blend of historic and modern, and in reality is two cities in one. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage site, a labyrinth of narrow, winding cobblestone streets, filled with medieval and Renaissance-era buildings. Here, the Royal Mile stretches from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and a stroll along this fabulous stretch includes an abundance of charming shops, traditional pubs, excellent restaurants, and endless street performers.
In contrast, the New Town is where the Georgian aristocracy of Edinburgh built their grand houses in the 18th century. It is a masterpiece of urban planning, with elegant streets and striking squares providing a venue for some of the best restaurants, most interesting galleries, and best boutiques in the city.
Getting to Edinburgh is a simple matter from much of the UK. There are flights from most major cities, but from most places in England, it is quicker and easier to get a train or drive. If you are starting from the south coast of England or the West Country a flight might be necessary, or you could choose to go on a cruising adventure from Southampton, adding a little extra excitement to your Scottish vacation.
Thanks to its geography, Edinburgh is full of imposing, iconic landmarks. Edinburgh Castle perches atop an extinct volcanic plug at the heart of the city and can be seen from almost everywhere in Edinburgh. The Forth Bridge, a marvel of Victorian engineering, crosses the Forth River to connect Edinburgh to Fife, supported by three double cantilever towers soaring over 100 meters in height. Finally, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, and is a delightful place to visit, thanks to its dramatic architecture and sumptuous interiors.
Edinburgh is famous as one of the cultural capitals of Europe, with the annual Edinburgh Festival and Fringe the highlight of the summer festival calendar. This is the largest arts festival in the world, and attracts performers from all over the world in almost every artistic discipline, from theater and dance to comedy and music. The Festival takes over the city throughout August, and is an unmissable treat for anyone with the slightest interest in the creative arts.
One of the best things about Edinburgh is how close it is the the great outdoors. Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, rises dramatically from Holyrood Park just outside the city center, and is a fantastic place for a surprisingly challenging hike. The Leith Walkway is another excellent place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and find peace and tranquility walking the course of the River Leith.
Edinburgh is a city that defies simple categorization, but its historic streets, world-class festivals, and natural beauty make it a must-visit destination.