Edinburgh and the Lothians

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Edinburgh is "a city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again," as Alexander McCall Smith once wrote. One of the world's stateliest cities and proudest capitals, it is—like Rome—built on seven hills, making it a striking backdrop for the ancient pageant of history.

In a skyline of sheer drama, Edinburgh Castle looks out over the city, frowning down on Princes Street’s glamour and glitz. But despite its rich past, the city’s famous festivals, excellent museums and galleries, and the modernist Scottish Parliament are all reminders that Edinburgh has its feet firmly in the 21st century.

Nearly everywhere in Edinburgh (the burgh is always pronounced burra in Scotland) are spectacular buildings, whose Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian pillars add touches of neoc... Read More

Edinburgh is "a city so beautiful it breaks the heart again and again," as Alexander McCall Smith once wrote. One of the world's stateliest cities and proudest capitals, it is—like Rome—built on seven hills, making it a striking backdrop for the ancient pageant of history.

In a skyline of sheer drama, Edinburgh Castle looks out over the city, frowning down on Princes Street’s glamour and glitz. But despite its rich past, the city’s famous festivals, excellent museums and galleries, and the modernist Scottish Parliament are all reminders that Edinburgh has its feet firmly in the 21st century.

Nearly everywhere in Edinburgh (the burgh is always pronounced burra in Scotland) are spectacular buildings, whose Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian pillars add touches of neoclassical grandeur to the largely Presbyterian backdrop. Large gardens are a strong feature of central Edinburgh, while Arthur's Seat, a craggy peak of bright green-and-yellow furze, rears up behind the spires of the Old Town. Even as Edinburgh moves through the 21st century, its tall guardian castle remains the focal point of the city and its venerable history.

Modern Edinburgh has become a cultural capital, staging the Edinburgh International Festival and the Festival Fringe in every possible venue each August. The stunning National Museum of Scotland complements the city’s wealth of galleries and artsy hangouts. Add Edinburgh’s growing reputation for food and nightlife and you have one of the world’s most beguiling cities.

Today, Edinburgh is the second-most-important financial center in the United Kingdom, and is widely renowned for its exceptional (and ever-expanding) dining and nightlife scenes—some of the reasons it regularly ranks near the top of quality-of-life surveys.

Edinburgh's Old Town, which bears a great symbolic weight as the "heart of Scotland's capital," is a boon for lovers of atmosphere and history. In contrast, if you appreciate the unique architectural heritage of the city's Enlightenment, then the New Town's for you. If you belong to both categories, don't worry—the Old and New Towns are only yards apart. Explore the city's main thoroughfares—peopled by the spirits of Mary, Queen of Scots, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson—then get lost among the tiny wynds and closes (old medieval alleys that connect the winding streets). And remember: you haven't earned your porridge until you've climbed Arthur's Seat.

Head out of the city center and you'll find smaller communities with an abundance of charm. Dean Village, with its cobbled streets and 19th-century water mills, has a character all its own. Duddingston, just southeast of Arthur's Seat, has all the bucolic charm of a country village. Then there's Edinburgh's port, Leith, home to some of Scotland's smartest bars and restaurants. Visible beyond them all, across the Firth of Forth, is the patchwork of fields that is the county of Fife—a reminder, like the mountains to the northwest that can be glimpsed from Edinburgh's highest points, that the rest of Scotland lies within easy reach.

Recommended Fodor’s Video

Edinburgh Castle
Castle/Palace/Chateau
Old Town
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Palace of Holyroodhouse
Castle/Palace/Chateau
Old Town
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Scottish National Gallery
Museum/Gallery
New Town
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Greyfriars Kirkyard
Cemetery
Old Town
Scottish Storytelling Centre and John Knox House
Arts/Performance Venue
Old Town
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Garden/Arboretum
Inverleith
View Tours and Activities
Culross Palace
Town/Village Museum Village
Tantallon Castle
Castle/Palace/Chateau

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Language

English

Nearby Airports

EDI

Electrical Outlets

230v/50 cycles; plugs have three rectangular blades

Currency

British pound

Language

English

Electrical Outlets

230v/50 cycles; plugs have three rectangular blades

Currency

British pound

Nearby Airports

EDI

Scotland's reliably unreliable weather means that you could visit at the height of summer and be forced to wear a winter coat. Conversely, conditions...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in Edinburgh and the Lothians with curated recommendations from our editors.

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Scotland's reliably unreliable weather means that you could visit at the height of summer and be forced to wear a winter coat. Conversely, conditions...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in Edinburgh and the Lothians with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

Scotland's reliably unreliable weather means that you could visit at the height of summer and be forced to wear a winter coat. Conversely, conditions...Read More

Discover the best neighborhoods in Edinburgh and the Lothians with curated recommendations from our editors.

Explore All

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