Difference between revisions of "Edinburgh"
Revision as of 00:36, 1 May 2016
Edinburgh (Gaelic: Dùn Èideann; ) is the capital of Scotland located in the Central Belt region of the country. With a population of approximately 450,000 (1 million in the city region), "Auld Reekie" (Edinburgh) manages to combine both ancient and modern in a uniquely Scottish atmosphere. Watched over by the imposing castle, the symbol of the city, Edinburgh combines medieval relics, Georgian grandeur and a powerful layer of modern life with contemporary avant-garde. In Edinburgh, medieval palaces rub shoulders with the best of modern architecture, Gothic churches with amazing museums and galleries. Scotland's throbbing night-life centre, Edinburgh, "the Athens of the North", is also a feast for the mind and the senses, playing host to great restaurants, shops and an unequaled programme of city festivals throughout the year. Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year, kicks off the festivities, which culminate in the high summer with the Tattoo, the International and the Fringe, amongst many others.
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh were listed as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in 1995. In 2004, Edinburgh became the first member of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative when it was designated a City of Literature.
In a 2009 poll by YouGov, Edinburgh was voted the most desirable city to live in the UK.
Edinburgh is on the west coast of Scotland's east Lowlands, situated on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. Edinburgh's landscape is the product of ancient volcanism (both the Castle crag and Arthur's Seat are the eroded plugs of volcanoes) and more recent glaciation (carving out valleys south of the castle and the old Nor'Loch, presently the site of the Princes Street Gardens). Impress the locals by knowing that Princes Street is the correct spelling (dedicated plurally and not possessively for King George III's sons - hence the absence of an apostrophe). Don't make the mistake of pronouncing it Princess Street. And watch out for these two commonly mis-pronounced streets as well: Cockburn (coe-burn) and Buccleuch (buh-clue) are nearly always got wrong, to the amusement of the locals.
Edinburgh's historic centre is bisected by Princes Street Gardens, a broad swathe of parkland in the heart of the city. Southwards of the gardens is the castle, perched on top of an extinct volcanic crag, and flanked by the medieval streets of the Old Town following the Royal Mile along the ridge to the east. To the north of Princes Street Gardens lies Princes Street itself - Edinburgh's main shopping boulevard - and the Georgian period New Town, built after 1766 on a regular grid plan.
Evidence suggests that humans have inhabited Edinburgh for millennia. Archeological findings indicate that humans lived in the area as early as 8500 BC, approximately 5,000 years before the Bronze Age. In the 600’s, one of the first forts was erected. In the seventh century, the English invaded and named it “Eiden’s Burgh.” “Burgh” being a word for fort. A few centuries later, the Scots reclaimed their land and a castle was built. A small town sprang up, and by the 12th century, Edinburgh had become a thriving community.
The pattern of England gaining control of Edinburgh, being tossed out by the Scots, marshaling their troops, and marching back into battle repeated itself many times over the years. One battle, led by William Wallace, was made famous in the 1995 movie Braveheart. Upon Wallace’s resignation, the Scots nobles chose Robert the Bruce and John Comyn as the Guardians of Scotland. Bruce promptly murdered his rival, and in 1306, had himself crowned king.
Under Bruce’s leadership, England signed a treaty giving Scotland its independence and acknowledging Bruce as king. As a result of a charter written by Bruce shortly before his death, Edinburgh became one of Scotland’s most important royal burghs. When he died, England and Scotland promptly resumed their battles.
In the 15th century, Scotland and England became inextricably linked when the Scottish King James IV married the Tudor daughter of the English King Henry VII. James embodied the term “Renaissance Man.” During his reign the arts and sciences flourished. Unfortunately, the peaceful times didn't last long. The French persuaded James to go to war against his own in-laws and the battles raged again.
By the end of the 17th century, Edinburgh was in shambles. Its population had been severely decimated, first by plague and later by famine. Civil wars had left the economy in ruin. Edinburgh was unsanitary and overcrowded. England and Scotland agreed that peace was the only way out. The Act of Union was signed in 1707. Scotland was now governed by the same parliament and sovereign as England, but retained its own church and legal system.
Edinburgh began to flourish in the 18th century. “New Town” was designed to allow expansion out from the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. The town gave birth to philosophers, physicists and chemists and the Scottish crown jewels were put on display in Edinburgh Castle.
In the 1800’s, the Industrial Revolution introduced the citizens of Edinburgh to new industries. The population quadrupled, to a number almost equal to what it is today. Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson published his classic works Treasure Island and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
As the decades passed, Edinburgh continued to transform into the thriving city it is today. After World War II, Edinburgh launched its now famous Edinburgh International Festival. Its economy is thriving and the city has the highest percentage of professionals anywhere in the UK. Yet despite its modernities, the restored buildings, archaic street names and cobblestone streets still give visitors glimpses of Edinburgh's turbulent past.
Edinburgh is a literary city. So much so that, in 2004, Edinburgh became the first city to receive the designation UNESCO City of Literature.
It's conceivable that some of Edinburgh’s current day residents could trace their family tree back for millennia. Historical findings indicate that people have lived in Scotland in general, and in Edinburgh in particular, since 8500 BC. With over 80% of Edinburgh’s current population either from Edinburgh or elsewhere in Scotland, it’s possible that their great-many-times-over grandparents emigrated to the country shortly before the start of the Iron Age.
For centuries, these early inhabitants eked out a living. The town did not really begin to grow until the 12th century when David I built what would later become Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Abbey. Over time a town slowly grew up around these two landmarks. Along with the royals and castle inhabitants, there was a large concentration of friars. The rest of the town’s inhabitants were likely farmers, with perhaps a scattering of tradesmen.
For the next few centuries, Edinburgh continued to grow. The population swelled as emigrants from outlying areas came to Edinburgh looking for work. Despite relatively frequent invasions by the English, rampant disease (a plague in the 1600’s wiped out almost half of the population of the port town of Leith), famine and fires, the town continued to grow.
Today, Edinburgh is home to just under 500,000 people. Despite the vast majority of people identifying themselves as “White,” Edinburgh is considered one of the more ethnically diverse places in Scotland. Asians in general, and emigrants from the Middle East in particular, comprise the largest subset of Edinburgh’s people.
Edinburgh is primarily home to young professionals. Close to 50% of those living there are between the ages of 16 and 44. Most people who live in Edinburgh either attend the university or are engaged in a white-collar profession.
English is spoken almost exclusively. That being said, many travelers find it difficult to understand those who speak quickly and with a strong Scottish accent. On a rare occasion it is possible to find an individual who also speaks Scots or Gaelic.
Edinburgh is not a particularly religious city. A little over 40% of the population consider themselves Christian, with many belonging to the Church of Scotland. Visitors to Edinburgh will also find followers and practitioners of Judiasm, Hinduism, Buddism and Islam. A poll in 2011 also revealed that a minute number of residents claimed their religion was “Jedi Knight.”
Edinburgh is noted as a long-lived literary capital of the English-speaking world.
The great Scottish historical novelist Sir Walter Scott was born in the city and has his great monument on Princes Street. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was also a native of Edinburgh.
More recently, Edinburgh has variously been the home and inspiration for such well-known modern writers as Muriel Spark (author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie), Irvine Welsh (author of the 1993 novel Trainspotting, set in the gritty district of Leith), Ian Rankin (a crime writer best known for the Inspector Rebus series, set in Edinburgh), Alexander McCall Smith (The No. 1 Lady Detective's Agency and several novels set in the Scottish capital) and J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame.
Speaking in vastly general terms, Edinburgh has a temperate (meaning mild or moderate) climate. During the course of a year, temperatures can range from a high of 71°F (22°C) to a low of 33°F (1°C). Weather, of course, has a mind of its own. While September tends to be the wettest month and April the driest, Edinburgh has no true dry season. Travelers are almost guaranteed that, no matter what time of year they visit, it’s going to rain at some point.
Summer, or the warm season, generally lasts from early June to the end of August or early September. The temperature during the day tends to hover in the mid-60s (approximately 18°C). Rain is not as common as at other times of the year, however showers and the occasional torrential downpour are not unheard of, so it's wise to pack raingear. July is the hottest month and August has the longest days, with ten hours of daylight.
Edinburgh’s winter typically starts in November and lasts through mid-March. January has historically featured the coldest temperatures. During winter, the temperature tends to hover in the low-40s (5-6°C). Showers and steady rain are a given during these months, interspersed with periods of sleet and even snow. Fortunately, Edinburgh offers plenty of indoor activities and tourists sometimes find the best flight and hotel deals during these months. Travelers should dress in layers so they can be comfortable indoors and out. Rain gear is a must.
The few months that bridge the cold and warm seasons (April and May in the spring, September and October in the fall) are the most schizophrenic times of year as far as weather is concerned. As one city guide put it, it’s pretty common during these months to have four seasons worth of weather in a single day. During the cold season, travelers are advised to pack plenty of rain gear and to dress in layers to ensure they stay comfortable throughout the day.
When to go
Travellers should note that Edinburgh becomes overwhelmingly crowded (accommodation-wise) during the main festival periods of high summer (August to early September) and Hogmanay (around New Year's Day / 1 January). Visitors at these times should plan well ahead (even more than a year in advance!) for booking central accommodation and event tickets at these times.
Edinburgh International Airport (IATA: EDI) (ICAO: EGPH) , the busiest airport in Scotland, is situated some 10 miles west of the city. The airport offers a wide range of domestic and international flights to Europe, North America and the Middle East. Many visitors to the city arrive via a connecting flight from London. Edinburgh Airport does, however, have a direct flight to and from Newark (UNITED, Twice daily May-October, Daily November-May), a 25 minute train ride or drive from New York City. Since July 2013 Edinburgh also has direct flights, operating during the summer months, to Toronto and since summer 2014 has also had direct flights to Chicago, Philadelphia and Doha. Most recently, Etihad Airways launched a new direct flight from Abu Dhabi on 8th June 2015. In comparison to most Scottish airports, Edinburgh's European flight network is well developed, with frequent scheduled flights to destinations such as Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Budapest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Hamburg, Istanbul, Krakow, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Oslo, Paris, Prague, Rome, Stockholm and Zurich. For a full list of destinations served to/from Edinburgh Airport see .
Edinburgh Trams'  link the airport to Edinburgh city centre every 8-10 minutes between 06.15 and 22.45. Adult fares from the airport to any stop are £5 for a single and £8 for an open return - you must purchase a ticket from the machine before you board. No change is given, however the machines do accept cards. If you are adventurous, and want to save a few pounds, consider walking to the next stop - Ingliston Park & Ride. A single fare from there to any other stop (except the airport) only costs £1.60.
A dedicated airport bus service, Airlink Express , service 100, runs from outside the terminal building to Edinburgh city centre (Waverley Bridge) at least every 10 minutes until 00.22, and then every 30 minutes from then until 04.45. The bus leaves from Waverley Bridge (opposite entrance to train station) for the Airport at the same intervals 24/7. Adult fares are £4 for a single, £7 for an open return and the journey takes an average 25 mins. The buses offer free wi-fi connection, sockets for charging electrical equipment, CCTV allowing top-deck passengers to monitor their luggage, and electronic "next-stop" information. The Airlink buses have a dedicated blue livery which makes them easy to distinguish from the rest of the Lothian fleet. From 00.22 to 04.45, Airlink passengers must use the N22 nightbus to reach the airport, this leaves from Princes Street. The buses on the N22 service are normal Lothian Buses branded vehicles.
A cheaper alternative is the ordinary Lothian Buses service 35 , which runs from the bus stance outside the arrivals building to Ocean Terminal via the Royal Mile/High Street. Although much slower (about 1h30) and with less provision for baggage than the 100, it is far cheaper at £1.60 a single and also allows the use of day tickets (£4.00) and other options that work on all Lothian Buses services, a great option for getting straight to the city if travelling lightly or on a budget. Do note that you must carry exact change with you onto the 35, as the driver can't give any back to you, so try and get this from within the airport, or just take the airlink!
Wikitravel has a guide to Rail travel in the United Kingdom
The main railway station in Edinburgh is called Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station  and is an attraction in itself. First opened in 1846, Edinburgh Waverley Station was rebuilt 1892-1902. It lies between the Old and New Towns, adjacent to Princes Street, Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens, where it serves over 14 million people per annum. Despite various refurbishments, the past still survives in the station's elaborate, domed ceiling where wreathed cherubs leap amid a wealth of scrolled ironwork.
Edinburgh Waverley Station is a major hub for the Scottish rail network, operated by Scotrail . There is an hourly service to Dundee and Aberdeen, and two hourly to Inverness. Shuttle trains to Glasgow (Queen Street) run every 15 minutes throughout the day, dropping to 30 minutes on evenings and Sundays, and the journey takes 45-50 minutes. There are also services which operate via Bathgate and Airdrie to Glasgow Queen Street Low Level at a 15 minute interval. Stopping patterns differ on this route, meaning that every half hour, the service takes approx. 1 hour whereas every other half hour services take around 1 hour 15 minutes to complete the journey. Some services run to Glasgow Central instead, but run via Lanarkshire with many more stops. Certain CrossCountry trains originating from Birmingham and the south west also continue to Glasgow Central - again your ticket will be valid on these services but the journey will take slightly longer than the shuttle.
The vast majority of train services to Edinburgh from London (and most of eastern England) are operated by Virgin Trains East Coast ; an hourly service leaves from London Kings Cross station throughout the day until 6PM. Journey time is between 4hrs 20min and 5 hours. The cheapest tickets (£16 to £90) are advance single (one-way) fares for a fixed train time bought 2-12 weeks in advance, and the flexible Saver Ticket (roughly £100 single or return) is not valid at some times to/from London. Virgin Trains  also operate a 2 hourly service from Birmingham New Street via the West Coast Mainline with an average journey time of 4hrs 4 mins.
For a different travel experience from London, try the Caledonian Sleeper service  (now operated by Serco), which runs every night from London's Euston Station except Saturdays, and the journey takes approximately 8 hours. Bear in mind that if you are travelling alone you may have to share the sleeping compartment with a stranger of the same sex. Tickets can be booked in the usual manner at any main line railway station in Britain, and the cost of a return journey to Edinburgh from London varies from around £100 for two one-way "Advance" tickets rising to the full open return fare of £165. You can also travel for around £23 one-way in a seated carriage or £95 return (full fare). BritRail passes can be used to reserve tickets on the sleeper trains.
Tickets can now (as of late 2014) be booked up to a year ahead, via the Caledonian Sleeper website.
Trains to other English cities are operated by Arriva Cross Country (services via York, Birmingham and central England to the south coast and West Country) and Trans-Pennine Express (services to Manchester via Carlisle) from Edinburgh Waverley.
The "charged by the piece" left luggage service at Edinburgh Waverley railway station is much more expensive (£7 per item for 0-24 hours!) than the lockers a few blocks away at the Edinburgh bus station near St. Andrew Square.
There is a second railway station in the centre of Edinburgh, Haymarket, around a mile to the west of Edinburgh Waverley. If you are arriving from the north, west or southwest, Haymarket is a better station to exit at if you are heading straight for the airport, zoo, or modern art gallery or if your accommodation is on the west side of town as you will avoid the city centre traffic, and it is on the major westbound bus routes.
Both Edinburgh Waverley and Haymarket stations had ticket barriers installed in 2004 so you will need to purchase a ticket in order to enter or leave the platform area. If you get on a train at an unmanned station, you can purchase a ticket from the conductor on the train or a ticket inspector near the barrier gates: note that there is usually a long queue during the peak rush hour period. The barrier gates will retain single journey tickets so be sure to get a receipt if you need one. If you have the larger kind of ticket that does not fit in the barrier, you will need to go to the gate manned by a member of staff who will check your ticket and let you through. If you do not have a ticket, you will need to go to the ticket office behind the barrier (platform 14 at Edinburgh Waverley) to buy one.
Edinburgh Park is a new train station that opened in 2004, which is some way from the city centre, serves business parks and "The Gyle" shopping centre. As of December 2010, direct trains to and from Glasgow Queen Street Low Level began to serve Edinburgh Park, on the Airdrie-Bathgate route (or A2B) operating on a 15 minute interval. This service takes around an hour to get to Glasgow from Edinburgh Park.
By road, Edinburgh can be reached most immediately by the M8 motorway (from Glasgow and the west), M9 (from Stirling and the north-west), A90/M90 (from Perth, Dundee and northern Scotland), the A1 (from Newcastle upon Tyne and north-east England) and A702/M74 (from Carlisle and north-western England).
From London the fastest route to Edinburgh is the M1 motorway, followed by the A1(M) and the A1 - a journey of 640 km (398 mi) and approximately 8-9 hrs driving time.
Edinburgh is not a particularly car friendly city (the worst city to drive in outside of London in the UK) with the myriad of one-way streets and the Old Town's medieval layout, and the dedication of parking wardens to ticketing anything that is not moving is legendary. In addition, the works to install the new tram line will be ongoing until 2014, and have caused numerous road closures and diversions throughout the City Centre and Leith. Finding parking can be difficult, though there are several multi-storey car parks in the city centre (Castle Terrace for the West End, try St James Centre or Greenside at the East End). It is often cheaper and quicker to use the new Park and Ride systems now in place on all approaches to the City, (National Park and Ride Directory is available online ), so it's even easy to just abandon your car on the outskirts. For visitors arriving from the M8, follow directions for Edinburgh Airport to reach Ingliston Park and Ride; this facility is half a mile from the airport terminal.
The city is served by the major inter-city bus companies from around Scotland and England. Most long distance services start and end from Edinburgh Bus Station near St Andrew Square. The left luggage lockers at the Bus station are much cheaper than the "charged by the piece" left luggage service at Edinburgh Waverley train station.
Edinburgh is a compact city - most of the sights and major tourist attractions are within the Old Town and New Town and are no further than a 15 minute walk apart. Walking along elegant or atmospheric streets is one of the pleasures of the city. There are however, a number of hills to be navigated; for example from Princes Street, up The Mound towards Edinburgh Castle requires some significant legwork, but it's worth it for the views en route.
The city's public transport system is relatively poor next to London and other major European cities - being heavily reliant on buses, which have to navigate the city's sometimes bustling traffic. Congestion charging similar to that found in the English capital has been proposed but was defeated at a referendum. Equally, the suburban railway network is very sparse compared to that of Glasgow, although there have been some slow and steady improvements over the years.
Edinburgh has two main bus companies, Lothian Buses , which is majority-owned by the The City of Edinburgh Council, and First , a private operator. These two companies share the same bus stops, but the route numbers and tickets are not interchangeable and they operate different fare structures.
Lothian are the larger operator in the city itself whose distinctive madder-red (burgundy) and white coloured buses had become as much a symbol of Edinburgh as its buildings. For some reason Lothian saw this as a negative and this livery was almost completely phased out in favour of Harlequin colours, which are predominantly white, with red and gold rhombuses of different sizes along the sides. Some of the more important routes also have different colours on the front and roof of the bus to help passengers spot their required bus. As of March 2010, they started to repaint the fleet into the traditional "madder" livery and this was completed early 2016.
Single tickets for Lothian Buses are £1.60 (70p for under 16s) and are valid for only one journey. If you have to change bus, you have to buy another £1.60 ticket! Bear in mind that bus drivers will not give change, so save up those £1.00 and 20p coins.
More conveniently, Lothian offer an all-day ticket for £4.00 (as of May 2015) that covers all buses (except sightseeing, airport express and night services) and the trams (see below). The all-day ticket is a great way to see the city without the expense of the tour buses, as you can get on and off all Lothian buses for the whole day. Kids' day tickets are generously discounted to £2. You can buy these from any bus driver, or from Lothian Buses offices.
There is a BusTracker service. This provides "real time" bus service information. Electronic signs are along major routes, showing the wait time for the next bus on each service at that stop. Online, it's possible to view the information for every bus stop in the city, not just those stops with electronic signs. Every stop has a unique eight-figure code, which are listed on the website and also displayed at the stop. You can access Bus Tracker via a mobile phone at mobile.mybustracker.co.uk. A free app named "Transport for Edinburgh" is available for iPhone and Android. They provide similar information with route maps and a stop locator.
First  buses mostly service farther-flung areas to the east and west of the city.
Edinburgh Coach Lines operate service 13 , a bus of use to many visitors as it is the only route serving the National Gallery of Modern Art and the Dean Gallery. Single tickets are in line with Lothian fares at £1.50 for adults and 70p for children (under 16). Lothian season tickets and day tickets are not valid on service 13.
There are also four companies that operate sightseeing buses , all of which are now owned by Lothian Buses. All have a policy that a sightseeing ticket is valid for 24 hours, so you can get around central Edinburgh quite handily using the sightseeing buses. Each sightseeing bus follows a different route around the city, but they all start and finish at Waverley Bridge, adjacent to Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station near Princes Street.
A small number of suburban rail routes run from Edinburgh Waverley station, most of the stations lying in the south west and south east suburbs of the city, and are useful for reaching the outer suburbs of Balerno, Currie, Newcraighall, Wester Hailes and South Queensferry and the towns Wallyford, Prestonpans & Musselburgh in East Lothian and a useful link to Edinburgh Park which is adjacent to the Gyle shopping complex. Services to North Berwick, Bathgate, Fife or Glasgow Central will make stops at these various stations. Note that standard National Rail fares apply to these trains - there are no credible daily season ticket options available. Check at the station before you board!
The "charged by the piece" left luggage service at Edinburgh Waverley train station is far more expensive than the storage lockers a few blocks away at Edinburgh Bus station near St Andrew Square.
Central Edinburgh is a nightmare to drive in, particularly the Old Town with its tangle of medieval streets with their associated one way systems. The New Town fares slightly better, but the scourge "Blue Meanies" who mercilessly swoop on vehicles which may have only been illegally parked for a matter of minutes. Edinburgh operates a "controlled parking zone" - on-street parking is illegal within a large central area (see map ) without a residents parking permit. Parking fines are £40 and vehicles parked in an obstructive manner are liable to be towed away with a £150 release fee to be paid for its retrieval. Even the suburbs (especially Morningside, The Grange, The Meadows) have little parking available (and on-street parking is illegal within the controlled parking zone). Take a bus and/or walk. Leith seems to fare a bit better for parking, but there's no guarantee. Park and Ride facilities provide access to the city centre . Additionally drivers should take heed of tram operations taking place at various locations throughout the city centre and the west of the city.
Edinburgh is a beautiful city that's full of history. There is no better way to see it than to walk.
The long-awaited Edinburgh Trams  opened in May 2014, linking York Place in the centre of Edinburgh to Edinburgh Airport in the west, passing through the New Town to the city centre. After disputes with the main construction contractor and delays in construction, the line started running on the 31st of May 2014. As it links the airport, rugby stadium, both main train stations and Princes Street, it is helpful for some visitors to the city.
The trams operate every 8-10 minutes throughout the day. Single tickets to and from any stop (except the airport) cost £1.60. A ticket to the airport from any other stop costs £5, or £8 for a return. Day tickets are available for £4.00, which allow unlimited travel on the trams (all stops excluding the airport) and Lothian Buses day services for one day. Similarly, any day tickets purchased on Lothian Buses services are valid on the trams, excluding the stop at the airport.
Tickets must be purchased from a machine prior to travel - no change is given, however the machines accept cards.
Like most major British cities, Edinburgh offers a choice between Black Cabs, carrying up to 5 passengers, which can be hailed on the street, and minicabs, which must be pre-booked. Black cabs display an orange light above the windscreen to indicate that they are available to hire. It's usually quite easy to find a cab in and around the city centre, and on the main radial routes running out of the centre. There are also Taxi Ranks dotted around the city, where black cabs will line up to be hired. Taxi Rank locations include:
The main taxi firms operating within the city are:
If you are staying in Scotland a little while, it might be worth getting a Historic Scotland Membership . Passes last for a year, and cost about £40 for adults and £30 for concessions (including full-time students). They provide unlimited access to about 70 paying sites in Scotland, including Edinburgh's Castle and Craigmillar Castle. You also get a lot of discounts for their shops, a quarterly magazine, and 50% off all English, Welsh and Manx historical sites.
Museum and galleries
Refer to the district articles for listings.
Edinburgh in the summer becomes "festival city" when a huge number of major national and international arts festivals are hosted by the city. Most of these occur virtually simultaneously in August. These cater for a wide variety of interests and include:
One important thing to decide when planning a trip to Edinburgh is whether you wish to go at festival time, which runs from early August through to mid-September. Hotel rooms in and around the city are noticeably much more expensive then, and you will need to book well (at least six months!) in advance.
Edinburgh in the winter festive season is also huge with various concerts and other activities taking place starting a couple of weeks before Christmas and running up to a week into January. Princes Street Gardens play host to a Big Wheel, outdoor ice rink and various festive markets. As in most of the rest of Scotland, Hogmanay, the New Year celebrations, are the main focus of the festive season rather than Christmas. On the night itself whole sections of central Edinburgh are roped off and accessible only by ticket for the Hogmanay street party , which takes place across several stages and is easily the largest in Scotland. Hogmany and Edinburgh fit together like hand and glove.
Edinburgh is host to a number of higher and further education organisations including 4 Universities. The following offer summer schools of a week or more on topics such as creative writing or printmaking:
Edinburgh is a popular destination for language students, looking to learn English, or build on their existing English language skills. Most schools offer a "homestay" option where accommodation is with a local family, which can be a great introduction to Scottish life. Language schools in the city include:
While travelers will find expected items (e.g. kilts or whiskey, Scotland's national drink), Edinburgh also features a large number of independent retailers offering everything from joke supplies to fine art.
According to Scottish tourism officials, Edinburgh has more restaurants per person than any other town in the UK. Travelers will find everything from Michelin-rated fine-dining establishments to small pubs. And within that array, places offering traditional Scottish fare, seafood dishes, and ones specializing in Indian, Mediterranean or Chinese cuisine. If you crave it, there's a restaurant in Edinburgh that makes it. What follows are some examples of traditional Scottish fare.
A full Scottish breakfast normally consists of eggs, black pudding, tattie scones, Lorne sausage, baked beans, toast, fried mushrooms and grilled tomatoes, not to mention sides of yogurt, cereal, and fresh fruit. And all washed down with tea or coffee. Of course, no Scottish breakfast would be complete without a steaming bowl of porridge.
Scotland's lush lands and gentle slopes have helped produce some of the top beef breeds in the world. As a result, beef and lamb are commonly used in traditional fare.
Scottish desserts showcase Scotland's produce growers, dairy farmers, and whiskey makers.
There are establishments to suit all tastes scattered throughout every pocket of the city. Be careful, some of the more local pubs can be a little rough around the edges, especially in Leith.
For a non-alcoholic beverage give Scotland's second national drink a try - Irn-Bru . It's a great cure for hangover.
As for Scotland's first drink, you will find The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre  at the top of The Royal Mile, which offers an interactive "tour" of the history and practise of Whisky distilling, complete with a rather sedate barrel ride. This is a good place to go if you want to sample whisky, as they have a very large selection (200+?) at a fairly reasonable price. Older whiskys tend to cost more and the rarest on offer can cost up to £50.00 per measure! The atmosphere is less pub-like than some might like as it tends to be fairly quiet - if you don't fancy the interactive tour and just want to try some whiskys then check the listings for some good whisky pubs but in any event, the majority of Edinburgh pubs tend to have a reasonable array of Scotch whiskys on offer. The food at the Centre is reasonably priced and fairly good.
See the district articles for individual listings.
Edinburgh has been established as a tourist destination for centuries, and so there is a huge choice of accommodation available for travellers. Note however that the average cost of hotel accommodation in Edinburgh is higher than anywhere else in Scotland, and if you're planning a visit during festival time (Aug), around Christmas and New Year, or on the weekend of a Scotland home game in the 6-nations Rugby  (Mar/Apr, 2 or 3 matches per year), then you will find that all types of accommodation get booked up well in advance, and hefty premiums may be applied to the room-rate. It's not impossible to get somewhere to stay at short notice at these times, but you won't be able to be fussy and it will probably be expensive.
For those on a budget, there are cheap youth hostels available with prices from £10 and above. The private/independent hostels centre around the Cowgate area, the lower Royal Mile and its side streets. The hostels of the HI affiliated Scottish Youth Hostel Association  can be booked on-line and are an especially good deal during summer, when the SYHA rents student accommodation as summer hostels: Single rooms in the city centre for a very modest price.
There are Guest Houses and small hotels dotted around almost every part of the city, however there are high concentrations in 2 areas, namely around Newington Road and Minto Street on the South side, and on Pilrig Street and Newhaven Road in Leith. Both areas are within a brisk 15-20 minute walk of the city centre and both have excellent round-the-clock bus services. If arriving in town without having booked accommodation, it may be worth heading for one or other of these areas and looking out for the "Vacancies" signs, though probably not during the festival or around Hogmanay.
Some of the Guest Houses and even hotels can be booked for as little as the hostels at certain times of year, while more upmarket accommodation ranges from boutique B&B's, with just a few rooms, lovingly run by a family, to world-renowned large 5-star hotels.
Another good alternative for accommodation is self-catering holiday apartments. Edinburgh has a wide offer of short term holiday apartments steps away from its main tourist attractions. It is a great opportunity to experience the city as a local. Apartments can be booked on-line. For summer months, especially August, it is highly recommended to book well in advance as most tourists tend to make their bookings in February for this period.
Due to the excellent and frequent rail and bus links between the two cities, savvy travellers can cut the costs by basing themselves in Glasgow, where deals in mainstream chain hotels are often easier to come by - and you get the advantage of being able to "do" both cities - bear in mind of course when your last train or bus leaves!
Multiple internet cafés and hotspot venues exist throughout Edinburgh (see district articles for details).
By all accounts, Edinburgh is an extremely safe destination. In a poll conducted by international market research firm YouGov in 2014, Edinburgh was listed as the safest of the ten most populous cities in the UK. The water is safe to drink. Visitors can eat the food without constant fear of becoming home to a nefarious parasite. And although home break-ins are on the rise, violent crime and robberies happen infrequently.
During the day, visitors can travel safely almost anywhere on the streets of downtown Edinburgh. Although as with any city, there are a few places to steer clear of. Travelers are advised to stay away from the housing districts of Sighthill' and Wester Hailes in the west, the residential housing estates Muirhouse and Pilton in the north and the suburb Niddrie in the southeast. These are areas known for drug use and high crime rates.
The biggest threat to travelers are pickpockets and purse snatchers. These petty thieves tend to congregate around tourist attractions, on public transportation and in crowded areas such as busy shopping centers. Tourists can keep their valuables safe by keeping them out of sight or at least out of easy reach.
Travelers should take a little more caution at night. It is always wise to explore with a buddy after dark, and to keep food and drink in sight at all times when visiting bars or pubs. Cowgate in [Old Town], and Lothian Road and the top of Leith Walk in [New Town] should also be avoided. At night, these places tend to become saturated with drunken crowds. Women, in particular, should also stay out of the meadows in [Old Town] after dark.
A good resource to know about is The SafeZone Bus. Operated by volunteers, SafeZone buses are in service on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 pm to 4 am. They offer free transportation home for anyone who is drunk, unwell or simply disoriented. They can also offer first aid services if needed. Buses can be found at Cathedral Lane, opposite the Omni Center, in [Old Town].
In emergency, dial 999 (preferably from a landline, a free call from any phone including payphones), 112 also works. For advice on non-emergency medical problems, you can ring the 24-hour NHS 24 service on 0845 424 2424.
The Western General near Crewe Toll runs a no-appointment Minor Injuries Clinic between 8am and 9pm every day. http://www.nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk/Services/Emergencies/MinorInjuryClinic/Pages/default.aspx
During normal shopping hours (M-F 9AM-5:30PM, Sa 9AM-12:30PM), you won't have any problem locating a pharmacy as they are dotted all around the city. Any row of local shops will usually include one. Common brands include Boots (city centre branches in the New Town at St James Shopping Centre, 11 Princes St, 101-103 Princes St and 48 Shandwick Pl; in the Old Town at 40-44 North Bridge), Alliance and Numark.
Outside of these hours you will face more of a challenge. There are no 24 h pharmacies in the city. In the city centre the best option is probably the Boots branch at 48 Shandwick Pl (western extension of Princes Street), M-F 7:30AM-8PM, Sa 8AM-6PM, Su 10:30AM-4:30PM.
Some of the major supermakets include a pharmacy counter, but note that the pharmacy does not necessarily follow the same opening hours as the supermarket itself. The pharmacy counter within the Tesco supermarket at 7 Broughton Road in Canonmills is quite close to the city centre and opens M-Sa 8AM-8PM and Su 10AM-5PM.
For non-prescription medication, Asda are open 24/7 and have a handful of branches dotted around the outskirts.
Super Mums Childcare Agency, +44 131 225 1744 or +44 7748 964144. Bookings 24hr service, Card payments only (Amex, Visa,Mastercard, Maestro). Round-the-clock baby-sitting is available short- or long-term from £8.50 per hour (3 hour minimum) and travel expenses home (approx. £7). Multilingual sitters are also available.
Deputy High Commissions
Many countries run consulates in Edinburgh 
Almost all cash machines in Edinburgh will dispense Scottish bank notes, but there are a few listed here that usually have Bank of England notes, which may be convenient if you are leaving Scotland, (for more info see Scotland#Currency).