Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, and offers a unique combination of architecture and atmosphere that is difficult to find anywhere else in the world. The city's population currently stands at 450,000, while 1 million people call the metropolitan region home. Edinburgh combines the ancient grandeur of Scotland, with an imposing castle watching over the city, and modern architectural techniques that represent the city's growth in recent years. Many of the city's attractions are located within the tightly-packed central districts.
When to visit
The best times to visit Edinburgh come during the so-called "high summer" period from August to early September when the city hosts numerous festivals. Additionally, Hogmanay is another popular time to visit because of the festivities accompanying New Year's celebrations in the city. If you choose to visit during these periods, it is best to plan ahead as these are extremely popular times to come to Edinburgh.
Edinburgh Doors Open Day is one of the major events to occur annually. Typically held the last weekend of September, the festival opens the doors of numerous important and historical buildings across the city for no charge. The Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe Festival are huge annual draws, while the winter festival of Hogmanay includes various concerts and activities in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Whenever you visit Edinburgh, be prepared for the weather to change frequently. Spring is cool and rainy, while winter is bitter cold and short on daylight. Summer is the most comfortable time to visit, with high temperatures in June, July, and August averaging 63.1 F (17.3 C), 65.8 F (18.8 C), and 65.3 F (18.5 C) respectively. You can expect to see larger crowds in the summer and around the Hogmanay celebration, with lighter crowds in spring.
If you are looking for a quiet section of Edinburgh to visit, you might enjoy a stroll along the Water of Leith. The small river snakes its way through Edinburgh and offers a peaceful respite from the hustle and bustle of the city. If you're interested in traditional Scottish folk music, stop in to any of the pubs in the Old Town or Leith districts where regular sessions are hosted by local musicians.
The city has an impressive theater and concert environment. The 3,000-seat Edinburgh Playhouse is the largest theater in Europe and hosts numerous shows each year. Additional theaters are located across Old Town, including the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Your trip to Edinburgh is not complete without visiting the city's two castles. Edinburgh Castle is an excellent condition today, despite its advanced age. Situated on one of the highest points in the city, Edinburgh Castle has been used continuously for 1,000 years. Craigmiller Castle stands in ruins today, but offers a look back at 14th century Scotland, the period during which it was first built.
Additional must-see places in Edinburgh include the Grassmarket Area in Old Town that once served as the site of the city's horse and cattle market, the Edinburgh Zoo where you can take in the Penguin Parade, and the Scottish Parliament.
Tips & Recommendations
• Pack wisely for your visit. The weather shifts frequently, and even a summer visit can require a jacket.
• American visitors should try Scotland's first drink, Scotch. Remember though, the Scots spell it whisky not whiskey.
• There are rundown or low-income neighborhoods that are dangerous after dark, such as Niddire, Sighthill, and Oxgangs.
• Night buses offer an affordable form of transportation, but avoid the upper deck.
• 999 is the national emergency number (dialed from landlines and payphones). 112 also works for emergencies.
Ibis Edinburgh Centre Royal Mile is a 2-star establishment. With so many rooms, you'll find a comfortable one to call home. The Real Mary King's Close is within easy walking distance, as are Edinburgh Dungeons and Edinburgh Castle. Nearby museum choices include Camera Obscura and The National Gallery Complex. Nearby, St Giles' Cathedral is a classic Edinburgh structure. From this property, you can head out and see Scott Monument.
At the popular Allburys Boutique B&B rooms go quickly thanks to its small size. The 5-star rating reflects its luxurious opulence. Within walking distance of Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, this property is also accessible by foot to Scott Monument. While visiting Edinburgh, you don't want to miss St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral.
Edinburgh Townhouse enjoys a 3-star rating. Sometimes the best things come in small packages, and this is one of those. Recommended attractions: Edinburgh Dungeons, The Real Mary King's Close and Edinburgh Castle. Wandering through The National Gallery Complex and Camera Obscura, both a short walk away, is time well-spent. Nearby, St Giles' Cathedral is a classic Edinburgh structure. Scott Monument is one monument that you can visit when you stay here.
The 2-star The Hostel delivers good quality for the price. Edinburgh Castle is within easy walking distance, as are Edinburgh Dungeons and The Real Mary King's Close. Take in the impressive St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral. Scott Monument, just 1.7 km (1.1 miles) from here, is something you should definitely see during your stay. Nearby Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Camera Obscura are recommended tour stops.
Brodies Hostels is a 2-star establishment. Offering no more than 20 rooms, this accommodation offers an intimate setting for your stay. The Real Mary King's Close is within easy walking distance, as are Edinburgh Dungeons and Edinburgh Castle. Nearby are numerous museums, including the fine Camera Obscura and The National Gallery Complex collections. The impressive St Giles' Cathedral is nearby. If you have the time, be sure and visit Nelson Monument.
The 2-star Euro Hostel Edinburgh Halls delivers good quality for the price. You'll have a lot of great options here, given the large collection of rooms. The Real Mary King's Close, Edinburgh Dungeons and Edinburgh Castle are all within walking distance. While in Edinburgh, spend a few hours exploring Camera Obscura or The National Gallery Complex. From this lodging, St Giles' Cathedral is an easy jaunt. Scott Monument is no more than 2km (1.25mi) from here.
City Centre Group Holiday Apartments - Hostel has a 2-star rating. The number of rooms is low, the quality of personal service is high. Edinburgh Castle is within easy walking distance, as are Edinburgh Dungeons and The Real Mary King's Close. For a memorable Edinburgh visit, be sure you see Scott Monument. Cultural options in the vicinity include Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Camera Obscura. You can easily get to St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral from this property.
In contrast with impersonal corporate hotels, The St. Valery Guest House offers a more intimate atmosphere. The 3-star rating ensures a memorable stay here. Among the popular sights within walking distance from here are Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Scott Monument. Recommended attractions: Edinburgh Dungeons, The Real Mary King's Close and Edinburgh Castle. From this lodging, St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral is an easy jaunt.
Fraoch House is a relatively small property. Experience good quality service at this 4-star property. You'll find a number of attractions in the vicinity, including Edinburgh Dungeons and Nelson Monument. Wandering through The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and The National Gallery Complex, both a short walk away, is time well-spent.