Set amid the spectacular scenery of the Pentland Hills and Firth of Forth on Scotland's east coast, Edinburgh lures families, fun seekers and art lovers. The Scottish capital has a history stretching back more than 1,500 years. You'll discover stories of tragic monarchs, rebellious nobles, scholars and poets on and under its old streets.
Rich medieval and Georgian heritage, fine dining, theatres, museums and art galleries all give the city a distinctive energy. And as a major financial centre, Edinburgh also attracts business travellers.Edinburgh: city layout
The Edinburgh skyline is dominated by Arthur's Seat
, the city's own mini-mountain overlooking its dramatic castle ramparts and old church steeples.
Pubs, boutiques, antique shops, restaurants and quirky museums fill the Royal Mile
, which runs through the medieval Old Town between Edinburgh Castle
, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse
South of the Old Town and overlooked by the castle, Princes Street
is Edinburgh's main thoroughfare, lined with hotels and department stores. The Gothic Scott Monument
looms over the lawns and flowerbeds of the adjoining Princes Street Gardens. The National Gallery of Scotland
and Royal Scottish Academy
stand at the foot of The Mound
, which connects Princes Street with the Royal Mile. From George Street, Edinburgh's poshest shopping precinct, the city's Georgian New Town
stretches downhill towards the Firth of Forth.
Leith Walk connects the city centre with Leith, a buzzy docklands area full of quayside pubs and restaurants.Top attractions in EdinburghEdinburgh Castle
is the city's must-see attraction. Along the Royal Mile, between the castle and Holyrood, you'll find museums dedicated to every aspect of the city's past, from the Writers' Museum to the People's Story Museum.
Lovers of contemporary art will find plenty to enjoy at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. If your tastes run to works by old masters, you'll find them at the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Fans and admirers of the British monarchy will want to see the royal collections at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and to climb aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia, moored in lively Leith.
The concierge recommends…
- Book online to avoid long ticket queues at Edinburgh Castle. Allow at least two hours to explore this huge citadel. Be there at 1pm for the daily ceremony of the One O'Clock Gun.
- Climb 287 stairs to the top of the Scott Monument for the best view of the Old Town and castle.
- Delve into Scotland's ancient and recent past at the National Museum of Scotland. It's free.
- Pretend you're in the Scottish Highlands as you hike to the 251-metre summit of Arthur's Seat. From the top of that extinct volcano you can see for miles inland and far out to sea.
Hotels in EdinburghWhether you're looking for a weekend hideaway, a no-frills place to stay or a Georgian townhouse hotel in the New Town that combines business and leisure facilities, you'll find accommodation in Edinburgh to suit every budget.
Want to step straight from your hotel into Edinburgh's historic heart? Stay on the Royal Mile. Boutique hotels cluster around York Place, close to museums and posh shopping. Trams whisk you to and from the airport in 30 minutes.
Business travellers favour hotels near Charlotte Square and the West End, near Edinburgh's conference venues.
Staying in Leith, a 10-minute bus ride from the centre, puts you close to lively bars and restaurants in a rejuvenated docklands district.
Arriving late? Leaving early? You'll find hotels near Edinburgh International Airport. Between the airport and city centre, Corstorphine is home to Edinburgh Zoo and close to Murrayfield Stadium.
Eating Out in EdinburghEdinburgh has a tremendous choice of places to eat, with dishes from every continent at prices to suit every budget. Diners with gourmet tastes and budgets have several Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from, while cheap and cheerful eateries serve Middle Eastern, South Asian, Thai and Chinese cuisine.
Edinburghers love their fast food, and if you're hungry for a late snack after the pub there's a cluster of chip and kebab shops around Nicholson Square and South Nicholson Street.
Moving south to the New Town, you'll find smart café-bars and restaurants along George Street, while Broughton Street is lined with Japanese, French, Greek and Tex-Mex spots. Even the "pub grub" in this part of town is often top-notch.
Leith is home to two of Edinburgh's Michelin-starred restaurants, and you'll find some of the city's best seafood along the waterfront, served fresh from the North Sea.
The chef recommends...
- Fish and chips: At street level, Edinburgh offers great fish and chips. Haddock is the most popular choice. Locals often order a vinegar-heavy brown sauce on top – it's particular to Edinburgh chip shops.
- Fine seafood: Want to splash out? Local oysters, lobster and wild salmon come fresh from Scottish shores.
- Scottish game: Venison, pheasant, grouse and partridge from Highland moors add wild flavours to many menus.
- Cranachan: This traditional Scots sweet is made with cream, whisky, berries and oatmeal.
Shopping in EdinburghVisitors looking for gift ideas and Scottish souvenirs need only stroll down the Royal Mile, where the shops are packed with antiques, cashmere, tweed, tartan and Caledonian kitsch.
Locals tend to shop elsewhere, and you can follow them to quirky vintage boutiques along the cobbled Grassmarket, and punky, funky clothes and accessories on Cockburn Street.
Edinburgh's iconic department store, Jenner's, is a landmark on Princes Street, one of the world's most dramatic and attractive high streets. You'll also find Apple, Marks & Spencer, Gap, H&M and others.
Harvey Nichols is the focal point of the pedestrian zone on Multrees Walk, with high-end brands like Liberty and Louis Vuitton inside. The luxury shopping continues along nearby George Street.
Serious about art and antiques? Browse galleries around Dundas Street, in the New Town, for works by Scottish masters like Peploe and Raeburn and painting and sculpture by new talents.
Best vintage buys in Edinburgh
- Get that 1970s rock 'n' roll look at Armstrong's in the Grassmarket.
- Browse second-hand shops along St. Stephen Street and Raeburn Place in bohemian Stockbridge for books, records, maps, prints and accessories.
- Souvenirs don't come any older than the fossil fish, dinosaur teeth and other relics of deep time at .
Culture & Nightlife in EdinburghCultural life reaches fever pitch during Edinburgh's summer festival season, when the city celebrates everything from classical music, opera and film to writing, storytelling, theatre, painting, jazz and stand-up comedy.
Festival season peaks in August with the Edinburgh International Festival, but culture flourishes here all year. The Traverse, Royal Lyceum, Festival Theatre and King's Theatre present drama by resident companies and prestigious visitors like the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company.
The grand 19th-century Usher Hall hosts opera, ballet and orchestral performances as well as rock gigs. For musicals, cabaret and tribute acts, visit the Playhouse Theatre. Edinburgh licensing laws allow some pubs and live music venues to stay open as late as the nightclubs, especially during festival season. On any given evening you can keep the party going until at least 3am.
To find out what's on in Edinburgh check The List.
Music and comedy
- Serious party animals favour The Liquid Room for club nights, live music, resident and guest DJs and tribute gigs.
- The The Voodoo Rooms has a grand Victorian interior but the music and cocktail list are very 21st-century.
- Up for a laugh? The Stand Comedy Club is Edinburgh's iconic comedy spot.
- Eat, drink and dance to live jazz, blues and rock at the Jam House.
Visiting Edinburgh with a FamilyEdinburgh keeps families happy with attractions and activities designed to appeal to kids of all ages – and their mums and dads. Even better, most of the city's major museums and art galleries are free.
Modern kids accustomed to digital magic are amazed by 19th-century trick technology at Camera Obscura and World of Illusions. There's plenty of interactive stuff for young visitors at the National Museum of Scotland. It's free, as is The Museum of Childhood, which is packed with old-style toys and games.
Kids with a taste for the dark side enjoy chills and thrills at Edinburgh Dungeon and ghost stories at Mary King's Close. Less scary tales are told at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. Pandas and penguins are the big draws at Edinburgh Zoo.
Outdoor family activities in Edinburgh
- On a sunny summer day, catch a bus to Portobello, three miles east of central Edinburgh, where you'll find a long sandy beach, family-friendly pubs and ice cream parlours.
- The lush Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is a great spot for a family picnic. Tots enjoy feeding the ducks.
- Edinburgh's thrilling zorb slope at Rolling Haggis gives daring kids and parents the chance to hurtle down the Pentland Hills in a giant plastic sphere.
- Maid of the Forth will take you on a boat trip from North Queensferry to Inchcolm Island in the Firth of Forth, or by high-speed catamaran to the Isle of May and the Bass Rock to see puffins and gannets.