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Edinburgh Guide

Known as the 'Athens of the North', Scotland's capital is one of the world's great cities.

Its centuries of history can be traced in its stunning and memorable architecture, from the towering medieval heights of the High Street, to the Georgian splendours of the New Town, and more recently with the opening of the new Scottish parliament building, one of the most ambitious buildings of the late 20th century. Between the Old and the New Towns stands the prehistoric castle rock, an extinct volcano now topped by the castle, and forming one of Scotland's most iconic landmarks.

Edinburgh today is a financial and commercial centre, with a particularly successful high-tech industrial sector. It is a major destination for tourism and a great cultural centre, particularly renowned for its festival. Each year in August the Edinburgh Festival attracts thousands of performers and audiences from around the world. But outside of the festival season Edinburgh offers one of the world's great art galleries, leading collections of contemporary art, an impressive museum of science, and the new Museum of Scotland, as well as many theatres and arts venues. Despite its hills, Edinburgh is a city that is made for walking, with sophisticated restaurants, and enticing bars and bistros on every corner, as well as an impressive number of traditional Victorian pubs.

In addition to its key role in Scottish history, Edinburgh's past also has a darker side, exemplified by the macabre activities of the notorious body-snatchers, who supplied its medical school in the 19th century. Today one of its most popular tourist features is the 'city underground', a vast warren of streets, houses, and shops, submerged and shut away beneath the Old Town when it was redeveloped in the 18th century.

Weather Information

Edinburgh enjoys a moderate year-round climate. From April to September, temperatures are mild and compare favourably with other European cities. Annual rainfall is the same as Frankfurt, New York and Rome.

A perfect Edinburgh day dawns with a clear blue sky. In summer it is warm and pleasant but in winter it is often accompanied by a sharp frost. It's always worth packing a sweater for the changeable conditions.

Edinburgh Pass

The Edinburgh Pass allows you to see more of the city and save money. It includes entry to many top attractions in the city, return airport transfers and unlimited bus travel, exclusive offers from some of the city's best retailers, restaurants etc.

Fifteen things you must do in Edinburgh

  1. Take to the streets during the festival and find the world's best and most bizarre street entertainers giving the performances of their lives. It won't cost you a penny.
  2. Buy your lunchtime snack from Valvona and Crolla, the UK's finest deli.
  3. Follow in the footsteps of Ian Rankin and his Detective Inspector Rebus and sup a pint at the Oxford Bar in New Town's Young Street.
  4. Sing Flower of Scotland at the opening ceremony of a Six Nations rugby union match at the impressive Murrayfield stadium, the national centre for Scottish rugby.
  5. Watch the sun set across the city from the top of Carlton Hill.
  6. Order an evening cocktail at The Scotsman Hotel, Edinburgh's most talked about hostelry, and enjoy the view of Edinburgh nightlife from the North Bridge.
  7. Buy a copy of The List, the twice-monthly arts and entertainments magazine and the definitive guide to what's on in Edinburgh.
  8. Sample traditional Scottish fare at The Witchery. Located in a 16th century house at the Castle gates, this has to be Edinburgh's most spectacular and most atmospheric dining destination.
  9. Set your watch to the One O'clock Gun, a daily Edinburgh ritual that takes place on the Castle's Mill Mount Battery.
  10. Walk the Royal Mile from the Castle to Holyrood Palace, ignore the tacky tourist shops but revel in the breathtaking architecture. This mile-long street is home to some of the most picturesque city-centre flats in the world.
  11. Enjoy a Baroque concert at St Cecili's Hall, Scotland's oldest and most beautiful concert room.
  12. Marvel at the natio's treasures at the Museum of Scotland, the elegant sandstone building that opened in 1998 to international acclaim.
  13. Explore the creepiest cobbled streets and underground passageways of the Old Town with a Ghost and Ghouls Tour from Mercat. This dramatic tour combines the best story telling and the most gruesome history to be found anywhere in Scotland!
  14. Check out Edinburgh Zoo's "Penguin Parade". The zoo boasts the largest number of penguins in captivity anywhere in the world and this afternoon ritual has now achieved cult status.
  15. Order the catch of the day from one of Leith's fine seafood bistros and enjoy quayside gastronomy on the cobbled waterfront of Edinburgh's historic port.


With a rich heritage, internationally renowned architecture and a vibrant arts scene, Edinburgh is, without doubt, the showcase capital of Scotland.

Edinburgh Heritage

Like Florence, Prague and the Taj Mahal, Edinburgh's city centre is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The status was granted in 1995 in a bid to conserve the city's unique mix of medieval and neo classical town planning.

Edinburgh Festivals

The Scottish capital has an international reputation as one of the world's top festival cities. It began with its first arts festival in 1947 and hasn't looked back since. The festival calendar opens with the international science festival in April and rounds off, nine months later, with the traditional Scottish Hogmanay celebrations at the end of the year.

Intercultural festival
International arts festival
Horror film festival
Fringe festival
International film festival
Book festival
Jazz and blues festival
Military Tattoo
Children's international theatre festival
New Year celebration
Science festival
Ghost festival

Literary Edinburgh

Where else in the world will you find a railway station named after a novel and a museum dedicated to writers? Not only is Edinburgh UNESCO's first City of Literature but it will be hosting the inaugural international Man Booker prize and celebrating Hans Christian Anderson 200th anniversary with a festival dedicated to his memory.

The city's literary greats include Arthur Conan Doyle, Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson who all lived and wrote in Edinburgh. There is a thriving contemporary literary scene, which most famously includes Ian Rankin, J K Rowling and Alexander McCall Smith.

Shopping in Edinburgh

Princes Street remains one of the UK's top retail centres and, with the castle rising above the gardens on the south side, is a picturesque place to shop. Yet, steer away from the main drag and you'll find an eclectic mix bound to tempt the most reluctant shopper.

Harvey Nichols
For the dedicated fashionistas http://www.harveynichols.com
The very best of Scottish knitwear and original clothes http://www.mrwoodsfossils.co.uk
Royal Mile Whiskies
Past winners of the 'Whisky Retailer of the Year' award, the knowledgeable staff at this friendly shop will talk you through their wide range of malt whiskies. http://www.royalmilewhiskies.co.uk
Anta Scotland
Hand painted stoneware and 100% woollen textiles, all designed and made in the highlands. http://www.anta.co.uk
Valvona and Crolla
A family-run delicatessen trading since the 1930s and acknowledged to be one of the best in the UK. http://www.valvonacrolla.co.uk
Hawick Cashmere
Exclusive ladies and men's knitwear and accessories produced in their own mill in the Scottish Borders. http://www.hawick.com
McNaughtan's Bookshop
Large stock of second-hand and antiquarian books for sale. http://www.mcnaughtansbookshop.com
The Cigar Box
Havana Heaven! The perfect complement to your single malt. http://www.thecigar.co.uk
Geoffrey Tailor Kilts
Ladies and gents kilt making and tailoring. Highland dress, accessories and tartan material are all in stock. http://www.geoffreykilts.co.uk
The oldest independent department store in the world. The well-stocked food hall is superb for stocking up on Scottish delicacies. http://www.jenners.com
Wm Armstrong and Sons
Edinburgh's largest second hand clothing emporium. http://www.armstrongsvintage.co.uk
Aitken and Niven
Conveniently located in the city centre, this classic, independently owned department store is renowned for sports, Highland Dress, Barbour, and quality fashions and footwear. http://www.aitken-niven.co.uk
Contemporary and traditional Scottish music. http://www.codamusic.co.uk
Edinburgh Farmers' Market
Where the countryside comes to town on the 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month. http://www.scottishfarmersmarkets.co.uk

Dining Out

Home to stylish bars, cafés, restaurants and bistros, Edinburgh buzzes day and night. Scottish food need no longer strike terror into the visiting gourmet's heart and, whatever your dining budget, you're bound to find a decent meal to fit it.

Edinburgh Walking Tours

Edinburgh is a city made for exploring on foot so take a guided walking tour and discover the secrets behind the elegant façade.

The Georgian Tour
Geology walks of Arthur's Seat
The Vaults Tour
City of the Dead Tour
Saints and Sinners
Murder and Mystery
Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour
Rebus - The Body Politic Tour
The Ultimate Ghost and Torture Tour
Edinburgh Celtic Trails

Edinburgh Sport

The city can meet every sporting need be it passive or active.

Alternative Edinburgh

Video games specialists Chips is at Nicolson Street http://www.chipsworld.co.uk

Check out the Electronics Boutique in Frederick Street for games, consoles and PCs For Warhammer games and models try Games Workshop and Mac's Models, both on the Royal Mile.

Choose from Fopp Records on Cockburn Street or Rose Street for cheap music and knowledgeable staff.

Edinburgh's leading gaming and Internet café is Pallas Athene, Marchmont Crescent, http://www.pallas-athene.co.uk

Odd Ball Mall, Lochrin Buildings, is the home to urban fashion and BMX culture, http://www.oddballmall.co.uk

Try Avalanche Records in West Nicholson Street or Cockburn Street for new and second-hand CDs, band T-shirts and vinyl galore.

You'll find the Edinburgh outlet for the UK's leading street store at Route One in Cockburn Street, http://www.routeone.co.uk

Purveyors of the finest four wheeled goods and clothing are Focus, West Port, http://www.focuspocus.co.uk, and Odd One Out, Victoria Street.

Nothing is beyond the realm of fantasy at Deadhead Comics, Candlemaker Row.

Try Forbidden Planet on South Clerk Street and South Bridge for cool comics, videos, tee shirts and the latest Star Wars merchandise.

Scotland's finest selection of alternative cds, videos and dvds, as well as clothing and accessories, can be found at Underground Nation, Candlemaker Row, http://www.undergroundnation.co.uk

Ground Control in Cockburn Street stocks everything the discerning gothic/rocker shopper could need.

Join Area 42, the Edinburgh Sci-fi and Fantasy Club, on the 1st and 3rd Thursdays of the month at 8pm in the basement bar for Canon's Gait pub, Canongate, http://www.area42.org.uk

The Edinburgh Dr Who Group meets on Mondays at 7pm in the very same basement bar, http://www.edinburghwho.co.uk

Edinburgh Rock

If it's rock 'n' goth you're after look no further than the Edinburgh club scene.

Edinburgh and Lothians Top Twenty Tourist Attractions

  • Brass Rubbing Centre
  • Castle Museums
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Edinburgh Zoo
  • The Forth Bridges
  • Hopetoun House
  • John Knox House Museum
  • Linlithgow Palace
  • Museum of Childhood
  • Museum of Flight
  • Museum of Scotland
  • National Gallery of Modern Art
  • National Gallery of Scotland
  • The Palace of Holyrood House
  • Royal Botanic Gardens
  • The Royal Observatory
  • Royal Yacht Britannia
  • Scottish Mining Museum
  • Scottish Tartans Museum
  • Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre

Edinburgh Mysteries

The Stone of Destiny, reputedly the rock on which all Scottish Kings were crowned, was reputedly brought to Scotland from the Holy Lands around 900AD. But was the stone returned to Scotland in 1996 a genuine holy relic or a centuries old fake? http://www.highlanderweb.co.uk/wallace/destiny.htm

Greyfriars Kirkyard claims to be one of the most haunted places in Edinburgh and has a reputation for gruesome activity, both past and present. http://www.greyfriars.org/

Rosslyn Chapel, the 15th century church recently immortalised in Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, has always been steeped in mystery and legend. Does the Chapel have links to the Knights Templar and what is really buried in the sealed vault? http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/roslin/rosslynchapel

Hare and Burke are Edinburgh's most infamous serial killers. They murdered to furnish the city's medical schools with a regular supply of fresh cadavers for the surgeons' research. http://www.highlanderweb.co.uk/burkhare.htm

The Koestler Parapsychology Unit at Edinburgh University was set up in 1985 after the writer Arthur Koestler left a bequest to fund a chair of parapsychology. The unit conducts research into a variety of paranormal phenomena. http://www.moebius.psy.ed.ac.uk/

Deacon William Brodie lived in 18th century Edinburgh and is widely believed to be the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. He led a double life, turning to crime to finance his extravagant spending habits. http://www.saltiresociety.org.uk/deaconb.htm

The Sheep Heid Public House in Duddingston, one of the oldest Edinburgh villages, is reportedly visited by a whole host of ghostly apparitions - a young girl called Mary, a 19th century street urchin, an elderly gentlemen and a courting couple. http://www.craigmillarhistory.lineages.co.uk/

Gilmerton Cove is a series of hand carved passages and chambers that lie beneath the Edinburgh streets. Was it the unique work of an 18th century blacksmith, a refuge for persecuted Presbyterians or a smugglers' lair? You decide... http://www.gilmertoncove.org.uk/

The MacKenzie Poltergeist is the spirit of 17th century hanging judge, George MacKenzie. The poltergeist is said to have become active after the desecration of MacKenzie's tomb in 1998. http://www.wyrdology.com/

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