Whether you’re visiting Edinburgh for a couple of days or a couple of weeks, you’re certain to leave the Scottish capital wanting more. The city boasts stunning architecture, elegant open spaces and an abundance of culture and history. It’s little wonder that it holds a special place in the hearts of Scots and people from far further afield.
Edinburgh in brief
Scotland’s capital city is located 26 miles from the country’s east coast, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth. People have been living in that location since prehistoric times and Edinburgh was Scotland’s largest town throughout the Middle Ages. It is regarded as one of the country’s best places to live and is now the UK’s second most popular tourist destination, welcoming more than one million overseas visitors each year. As well as coming to see the city’s numerous historic buildings, many visit for the Edinburgh Festival – the largest annual arts festival in the world – and for the traditional Hogmanay street party at New Year.
What not to miss
There’s far too much to see and do in Edinburgh if you’re only visiting for a day or two. So here are a handful of the leading attractions and activities to help you make the most of your trip:
Edinburgh Castle – This iconic landmark features buildings that date as far back as the early 12th century, although most have been built since the 16th century. The castle was originally a royal residence, before being used to house Scotland’s military. Now, it fulfils ceremonial and administrative roles, as well as welcoming more than a million visitors each year.
Edinburgh Zoo – This is Scotland’s second most popular paid tourist attraction, attracting over 600,000 visitors a year. It was built in 1913 and plays an important role in many captive breeding and conservation programmes, as well as conducting research. Key attractions include giant pandas and koalas.
National Museum of Scotland – This important museum was formed in 2006, when the Royal Museum merged with the neighbouring Museum of Scotland. Admission is free and visitors are treated to a wide variety of exhibits, ranging from culture and history to science and technology. Highlights include Dolly the sheep and an ancient guillotine that was used for executions between the 16th and 18th centuries.
St Giles’ Cathedral – The existing building dates back to the 14th century, although records suggest there was a parish church on the site long before then. While it is known as a cathedral – dedicated to the city’s patron saint – its proper title is the High Kirk of Edinburgh. Admission is free, although visitors are encouraged to make a donation towards the building’s upkeep.
How to get to the city
The Scottish capital is served by Edinburgh Airport, which handles around nine million passengers each year. Alternatively, many visitors arrive from elsewhere in the UK via Waverley Railway Station. Once inside the city, tourists can easily navigate its streets and the surrounding suburbs thanks to the extensive city bus network.
When to go
Edinburgh is a good city break destination at all times of year, although the best months are widely seen to be August – when the Edinburgh Festival takes over the city – and December for the famous New Year celebrations.
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