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Edinburgh

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Edinburgh

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Edinburgh is a huge city with several district articles containing sightseeing, restaurant, nightlife and accommodation listings — have a look at each of them.
Designated UNESCO World Heritage Site

Edinburgh (Gaelic: Dùn Èideann; [6]) 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 2005, the whole city was recognised as the World's first City of Literature as part of the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative.

Edimburgo - scotlandflats.com
Holyrood Palace
Entrance to Edinburgh Castle
Railbridge on the Firth of Forth, an engineering marvel constructed in 1890

Districts

  • The Old Town— Edinburgh's medieval heart along the Royal Mile, which runs from the Castle to Holyrood Palace. Most of the really famous sites are in this area.
  • The New Town— The other half of the city centre is the Georgian (late 18th Century) New Town. The commercial heart of the city, this is where shopaholics will make a beeline towards.
  • Stockbridge and Canonmills— Exclusive neighbourhood to the north of the New Town, some interesting independent shopping plus the most relaxing spot in the city - the Royal Botanic Garden.
  • Leith— Edinburgh's independent-minded port area is a destination in its own right.
  • Edinburgh/East— The beach district of Portobello and the historic village of Duddingston both lie in the east of the city.
  • Edinburgh/South— A popular part of town for students, so there are plenty of interesting places to eat and drink. Further out is Edinburgh's Outdoor Playground of the Pentland Hills, and the intriguing Roslin Chapel.
  • Edinburgh/West— Edinburgh's excellent zoo is here, plus the temple of sport that is Murrayfield rugby stadium.
  • South Queensferry— On the north-western fringe of the city, site of the contrasting engineering marvels that are the Forth Bridges (one road and one rail). Quite a few hotels here and with good transport links to the city centre it can be a good base for visitors.

Understand

Edinburgh is located on the east coast of Scotland's central 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 - though many of the locals won't know the difference! And watch out for these two commonly mis-pronounced streets as well: Cockburn (coe-burn) and Buccleuch (buh-clue) are nearly always gotten wrong, to the amusement of the locals.

Orientation

Edinburgh's historic center is bisected by Princes Street Gardens, a broad swathe of parkland in the heart of 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.

History

Edinburgh has been the royal capital of Scotland since 1437.

Profile

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.

Climate

Edinburgh's climate is most comfortable for the traveler from May to September. That said, the weather in Edinburgh is always changeable and visitors should expect both sunshine and rain, whatever the season. Summer, the main festival season, combines long daylight hours with lengthy evenings (being so far north, it rarely gets dark before 10 or 11 at night!). Winter can be bitterly cold, with short daylight hours, but Edinburgh has an abundance of indoor attractions and activities that make the cold winter days fly by.

The Hub on the Royal Mile, the former Tollbooth Kirk is the headquarters of the Edinburgh International Festival

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.

Get in

By air

Edinburgh International Airport (EDI) [7], is situated some 10 miles west of the city. The airport offers a wide range of domestic and international flights to Europe and North America. Many visitors to the city arrive via a connecting flight from London. Edinburgh Airport does, however, have a daily flight to and from Newark (Continental Airlines), a short drive from New York City and also a daily flight to and from Atlanta, Georgia and New York (Delta Air Lines). In comparison to most Scottish airports, Edinburgh's European flight network is well developed, with frequent scheduled flights to destinations such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Dublin, Frankfurt, Geneva, Madrid, Milan, Munich, Paris, Warsaw and Zurich.

A dedicated airport bus service, Airlink Express [8], service 100, runs from outside the terminal building to Edinburgh city center (Waverley Bridge) at least every 10 minutes until 00.22 and then every 30 minutes 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 £3 for a single, £5 for an open return and the journey takes an average 25 mins.

A cheaper alternative is the ordinary Lothian Buses number thirty five, which runs from the bus stance outside the arrivals building to Ocean Terminal via the Royal Mile/High Street. Although slower, and with less provision for baggage than the 100, it is far cheaper at £1.10 single, and also allows the use of day tickets and other options that work on all Lothian Buses services - a great option for getting straight to the city if travelling light, or on a budget.

By train

The main railway station in Edinburgh is called Waverley Railway Station [9] and is an attraction in itself. First opened in 1846, Waverley Station was rebuilt 1892-1902. It lies between the old town and modern Edinburgh, 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.

The "charged by the piece" left luggage service at Waverley railway station is much more expensive than the lockers a few blocks away at the Edinburgh Bus station on St. Andrew's Square.

Waverley Station is a major hub for the Scottish rail network, operated by First Scotrail [10]. There is an hourly service to 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. Some services run to Glasgow Central instead, but run via Lanarkshire with many more stops. Certain National Express East Coast trains originating from London 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 National Express East Coast (which replaced GNER in December 2007) [11]; 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 are for a fixed train time bought 2-8 weeks in advance, and the flexible Saver Ticket is not valid at some times to/from London. Virgin Trains [12] operate a once daily service from London Euston via the West Coast route but at a much slower journey time of 5 hrs 20 mins.

For a different travel experience from London, try the Caledonian Sleeper service [13], 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.

However, heavily discounted one-way tickets on the Caledonian Sleeper known as "Bargain Berths" are available for £19, £29, £39 or £49 depending on how early you book, but confusingly these cannot be bought from a railway station in the normal way - they can only be purchased from the First ScotRail website and you will be emailed an e-ticket (similar to an airline) which you must print out and show to the conductor at the platform before getting on the train.

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 Waverley.

There is a second railway station in the center of Edinburgh, Haymarket, which is around a mile to the west of Waverley. If you are arriving from the north, west or south-west, 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 center traffic and it is on the major west-bound bus routes.

Both 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 from a ticket inspector near the barrier gates - 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 which is 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 Waverley) to buy one.

Edinburgh Park is a new train station that opened in 2004, which is some miles from the city center, serves business parks and "The Gyle" shopping center. It should be noted that direct trains from Glasgow do not call at this station. You must either change in Linlithgow or, travel past Edinburgh Park and change at Haymarket to double back, on a train bound for Dunblane or Bathgate.

By road

By road, Edinburgh can be reached most immediately from the M8 (west from Glasgow), M9 (north-west from Stirling), A90/M90 (north from Perth and Dundee), the A1 (south-east from Newcastle upon Tyne and north-east England) and A701/M74 (south-west 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 398 miles and approximately 8-9 hrs driving time.

Edinburgh is not a particularly car friendly city 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 2011, and have caused numerous road closures and diversions throughout the City Centre and Leith. Finding parking can be difficult, though there are several multi-story car parks in the city center (Castle Terrace for the West End, try St James Center at the East End (access from York Place). 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 [14]), 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.

By bus

The city is served by the major inter-city bus companies from around Scotland and England. Most long distance services start and end in the Bus Station in St Andrew Square. The left luggage lockers at the Bus station are much cheaper than the "charged by the piece" left luggage service at Waverly train station.

By boat

  • The ferry service from Zeebrugge, Belgium to Rosyth, near Edinburgh is not currently running after Superfast Ferries withdrew from the route in September 2008. Norfolk Line [15] have announced that they will be running a thrice-weekly service as soon as the new vessel they have ordered for the route is ready to go into service - probably April or May 2009. They expect the crossing to take 19 hours.
  • A ferry/bus service from Belfast to Edinburgh can be booked through Citylink [16].
  • Passenger cruise liners are a common sight in summer at Leith Docks, where a new terminal has been built next to the Ocean Terminal shopping/leisure complex.

Get around

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 British 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 with work now begun on a tram system linking the city centre to Leith and to the airport. The tram line is due to open in 2011.

By bus

Edinburgh has two bus companies, Lothian [17] and First [18]. These two companies share the same bus stops, but the route numbers are not interchangeable, and neither are the tickets.

Lothian Bus in the new livery, at Canonmills

Lothian are the larger operator in the city itself whose distinctive burgundy and cream colored buses had become as much a symbol of Edinburgh as its buildings. For some reason Lothian see this as a negative and have decided to change their livery. Many older buses still carry the old livery but more and more have the new colours which are predominantly white, with red and gold rhombuses of different sizes along the sides. Single tickets are £1.10 and are only valid for one journey (ie if you have to change bus you have to buy another £1.10 ticket!). Bear in mind that bus drivers will not give change, so save up those £1 and 10p coins. Some busy stops on main routes have red ticket machines, which sell single tickets for £1, as well as day tickets (no discount). The machines don't give change either.

Lothian offer an all-day ticket for £2.50 (as of September 07) that covers all transport (except sight-seeing, airport express and night services). 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!

Lothian are in the process of rolling out their BusTracker[19] service. This provides "real time" bus service information. Electronic signs are being installed 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 8 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.

First buses service areas to the east and west of the city.

There are also at least three companies that operate sightseeing 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 Waverley Station on Princes Street.

It can be useful to catch a bus down to the port area of Leith.

By train

A small number of suburban rail routes run from 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 and towns of Balerno, Currie, Wester Hailes, Portobello, Prestonpans, Musselburgh and a useful link to Edinburgh Park which is adjacent to the Gyle shopping complex. Services to North Berwick, Bathgate 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 Waverly train station is far more expensive than the storage lockers a few blocks away at the Bus station on St Andrew's square.

By car

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 of the city is the infamous parking attendants, locally known as "Blue Meanies" who mercilessly swoop on vehicles which may have only been illegally parked for a matter of minutes. 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. 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 center[20]

By foot

Edinburgh is a beautiful city that's full of history. There is no better way to see it than to walk.

  • Edinburgh walking directions [21] can be planned online with the walkit.com walking route planner.

By tram

There is a single tram line currently being built in Edinburgh that will link Leith on the east to Edinburgh Airport on the west, passing through the New Town in the city centre. This is due to be finished by 2011. As it will link the airport, zoo, both main train stations, the New Town, Leith and the Cruise Liner terminal it will undoubtedly be very helpful for visitors to the city.

By Taxi

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:

  • Outside the main entrances of Haymarket and Waverley train stations.
  • Opposite the Caledonian Hotel and Sheraton Hotel (both near the West End), The George Hotel (east end of George Street) and the Crowne Plaza Hotel (High Street, Royal Mile).
  • St Patrick's Square, off South Bridge
  • Leith Bridge, close to The Shore and Commercial Quay, in Leith

The main taxi firms operating within the city are:

  • Central Radio Taxis (Black Cabs) - 0131 229 2468
  • City Cabs (Black Cabs) - 0131 228 1211
  • Festival Cars (minicabs - mostly saloon cars but also have people carriers with up to 8 seats. Let them know the number in your party when you book) - 0131 552 1777

See

For the budget-conscious and/or avid sightseer, the Edinburgh Pass [22] is well worth bearing in mind, offering a maximum of £155 worth of entry to 27 of Edinburgh's top attractions, a 90-page guidebook, retail and restaurant offers and discounts. All this, as well as free public transport around the city and airport transfers. A one-day pass costs £24, two days £36, three days £48. Can be purchased online or at Tourist Information Centers.

Cannons on the northern defenses of Edinburgh Castle
  • Edinburgh Doors Open Day [23] is an annual event, co-ordinated by the Cockburn Association, where many important and/or historic buildings across the city open up their doors to the public at no charge. Many of the buildings are not normally accessible so this can present a unique opportunity to see some of the city's lesser-known architectural marvels. It usually takes place on the last weekend in September. Brochures with details of the participating sites, opening times, access details etc., can be picked up from city libraries in the run up to the day, or downloaded from the website.

Landmarks

  • Edinburgh Castle, [1]. Edinburgh Castle, home to the Edinburgh Tattoo, is a magnificently situated royal fortress located on one of the highest points in the city. The castle has been continuously in use for 1000 years and is in excellent condition. (Old Town)
  • Abbey and Palace of Holyroodhouse [24]— The Palace is a royal residence, and hosts the Queen's Gallery containing a collection of art from the Royal Collection. (Old Town)
  • St Giles' Cathedral [25]— The historic City Church of Edinburgh is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and takes its name from the city's patron saint. (Old Town)
  • Mary King's Close [26]— Warriston's Close (opposite St Giles' Cathedral), open daily except Christmas Day - a slice of Edinburgh's medieval history, preserved since being closed over in the 18th century - watch out for the haunting. (Old Town)
Looking down the top of Edinburgh's Royal Mile, thronged with Edinburgh Festival visitors
  • Gladstone's Land [27]— In the Lawnmarket at the top of the Royal Mile. It is a 17th century Old Town tenement (known as a 'Land') decorated with period furniture. It has an impressive painted ceiling. (Old Town)
  • Greyfriars Kirkyard is a very old graveyard in Old Town off the Southwest corner of George IV Bridge, made famous by Disney as the home of Greyfriars Bobby. (Old Town)
  • Camera Obscura [28]— Castle Hill. Over 150 years old, the Camera Obscura focuses light from the top of the tower onto a large dish in a dark room below, allowing a 360 degree view of all of Edinburgh! (Old Town)
  • The Scottish Parliament [29], (eastern end of the Royal Mile, opposite the Palace of Holyrood House)— A unique building designed by the Spanish (Catalan) architect Enric Miralles. It is necessary to get (free) tickets to watch the Parliament in session from the Public Gallery. (Old Town)
  • Scott Monument, East Princes Street Gardens. Built in 1846 to commemorate the life of Sir Walter Scott after his death in 1832, the Gothic spire monument allows you to climb 200 ft above the city center to enjoy fantastic views.(New Town) Admission £3.00.
  • The Royal Yacht Britannia [30], Ocean Terminal, open Nov-Feb 10AM-5PM, Mar-Oct 9.30AM-6PM, last entry 1.5 hrs before closing, closed Christmas and New Years Days, admission adult £9, seniors £7, child 5-17 yrs and students with ID £5, children under 5 free - decommissioned from royal use in recent years and voted one of Edinburgh's best new attractions, Britannia offers visitors the chance to tour the royal apartments and view a selection of the many gifts offered to the royals by dignitaries worldwide. (Leith)
Penguin Parade
  • Royal Botanic Garden [31], Inverleith Row (East Gate) / Arboretum Place (West Gate), Stockbridge. Very impressive gardens with a collection of interesting plants. Great place to wander around on a sunny day, or to sit and have a picnic. Free entry to the gardens, entry to the glasshouses costs £3.50 adults, £3 concessions, £1 children. (Stockbridge and Canonmills)
  • Visit Edinburgh Zoo [32] and watch the world famous Penguin Parade. (Edinburgh/West)
  • Rosslyn Chapel Take bus number 15 to see this chapel, featured in "The Da Vinci Code" novel and film. (Edinburgh/South)

Museum and Galleries

  • Museum of Scotland [33] and Royal Museum [34], Chambers Street, Old Town tel 0131 247 4422. fax 0131 220 4819. typetalk 18001 0131 247 4422. email [email protected] The museum mixes innovative modern architecture with the best of Scotland's heritage. The Royal Museum has a magnificent airy Victorian atrium now with the Millennium Clock at one end - arrange to be there when it is chiming. Exhibits in the Museum of Scotland include Scottish pottery and weapons from the Roman era and the Renaissance. Opening hours are 10am - 5pm Monday to Saturday with extended opening to 8pm on Tuesdays; and 12pm - 5pm Sundays. Admission is free.
  • The National Gallery of Scotland, The Mound, EH2 2EL, New Town tel. +44 (0)131 624 6200, [35] holds much of Scotland's fine artwork and carries exhibitions that change seasonally. The new Western Link was opened in 2004 with an entrance from Princes Street Gardens. It joins The National Gallery with the neighboring Scottish Academy gallery and gives Scotland it's first world class art space.
  • The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 74 Belford Road on the western fringe of the New Town, +44 131 624 6200, [36] contains a fine selection of modern art from Scotland and other countries.
  • The Fruitmarket Gallery, 45 Market St., behind the Edinburgh Waverley Rail Station, Old Town [37]. Aims to find the most appropriate way to bring artists and audiences together. It is a not-for-profit organization and a registered charity. Opening hours M-Sa 11AM-6PM; Su 12PM-5PM. Admission free.

Do

Refer to the district articles for listings.

Holyrood Palace from the Scottish Parliament
  • Walk along the Water of Leith, a small river that meanders through Edinburgh, providing a peaceful haven from the busy city. Check out the Leith or Stockbridge and Canonmills sections of the route.
  • Edinburgh has an excellent theatre and concert life. Europe's largest theatre, the 3000-seat Edinburgh Playhouse (top of Leith Walk, New Town) hosts major West End shows. The Festival Theatre (Old Town) frequently hosts opera and ballet, and the Usher Hall (Lothian Road) has weekly orchestral concerts all year round with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. The Queen's Hall (South Clerk Street, (Old Town) is home to the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. For a cheaper option, the excellent Bedlam Theatre (Bristo Place, Old Town) regularly puts on good student theatre and is the home to Scotland's oldest improvised comedy troupe, The Improverts.
  • Experience traditional Folk Music at one of the pubs in the Old Town or Leith which host regular sessions.

Festivals

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:

  • The Edinburgh International Festival [38]— The original that spawned all the rest. Founded in 1947 and still seen as more "high-brow" than any of its offspring. Suprisingly, tickets are often priced more reasonably than for many Fringe shows.
  • The Edinburgh Military Tattoo [39]— One of the iconic images of Edinburgh for millions worldwide is the yearly Tattoo, kilted pipers skirling below the battlements of Edinburgh Castle.
  • The Edinburgh Fringe Festival [40]— As the name might suggest, this Festival developed on the "Fringe" of the main International Festival and offers more alternative performances, with an emphasis on comedy and avant-garde; it is now the largest arts festival in the world.
  • The Edge Festival [41] (formerly known as "T on the Fringe")— Music festival which takes place alongside the Fringe Festival.
  • The Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. [42]
  • The Edinburgh International Book Festival [43]— Takes place in a temporary village of marquees at Charlotte Square (West End of George Street, New Town).
  • The Edinburgh International Film Festival [44]— Now moved to June from its former slot in August, so that it no longer clashes with all the others! Centred around the Filmhouse Cinema on Lothian Road, though other cinemas take part too.
  • The Edinburgh International Television Festival [45]— Predominantly a "closed shop" for industry professionals only.
  • The Edinburgh Mela [46]— Multicultural festival held in Leith.
  • Imaginate Festival [47]— Every May/June, an international festival of children's theatre.
  • Edinburgh International Science Festival [48]— Takes place annually in March or April. Emphasis on "hands-on" science.

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.

Hogmanay

Edinburgh in the winter festive season is also huge: whole sections of central Edinburgh are roped off and accessible only by ticket for the Scottish New Year Celebrations known as Hogmanay [49], of which the Edinburgh Hogmanay is easily the largest in Scotland.

Cinema

  • Go to the cinema. Edinburgh has a number of cinemas covering mainstream, foreign language and arthouse films.
    • Cineworld, 130 Dundee St, 0871 200 2000. Mainly mainstream and arthouse. This is about 20 mins on foot from Princes Street and a Number 1 34 or 35 bus will take you.
    • Cameo Cinema, Home St, 0131 228 4141. Mainstream & alternative films.
    • Filmhouse, Lothian Rd, 0131 228 2688. Arthouse & foreign language films.
    • Odeon Cinema, Lothian Rd, 0870 50 50 007.
    • Vue, Leith St, 08702 40 60 20.

Sport

  • See a 6 Nations Rugby match [50] at Murrayfield Stadium [51]. The 6 nations is effectively the European Championship of rugby, taking place every spring between Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Italy and England. The teams play each other once per year, and alternate home and away games. In 2009, Scotland host Wales, Ireland and Italy at Murrayfield, with England and France visiting in 2010. On the weekend of a home match, Edinburgh is absolutely full to bursting, and the atmosphere is like nothing else, especially if Wales or Ireland are in town. If you plan to visit in February or March, be sure to check the fixtures and book accommodation well in advance if your trip coincides with a home match (Edinburgh/West).
  • Take in a football match at Hibernian F.C.'s Easter Road Stadium (Leith), or Heart of Midlothian FC's Tynecastle Park (Edinburgh/West).

Learn

Edinburgh is host to a number of higher and further education organisations including:

  • The University of Edinburgh [52] - Over 400 years old.
  • Heriot-Watt University [53] - Specializes in science.
  • Napier University [54].
  • Queen Margaret University [55].
  • Edinburgh College of Art [56].
  • Stevenson College [57].

Edinburgh is also 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:

  • EAC School, 45 Frederick Street, Edinburgh, 0131 477 7570 (, fax: 0131 477 7571), [2]. Large, well-established school, with premises on Frederick Street and Queen Street, in the city centre. Offers courses for adult and junior students.
  • Edinburgh School of English, 271 Canongate, Edinburgh, 0131 557 9200 (, fax: 0131 557 9192), [3]. Great location on the Royal Mile. Caters to both adult and junior students
  • MacKenzie School of English, 6 John's Place, Leith, 0131 555 5315 (, fax: 0131 555 5155), [4]. New (2008) school in a beautifully refurbished Victorian building on the edge of Leith Links. Generally catering to secondary school aged students.

Buy

Refer to individual district articles for detailed listings.

  • Princes Street (New Town), north of the castle, is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. It runs through the middle of the city from the train station to Lothian Road. It contains large chain stores such as HMV for music, Topshop and H&M for clothes, tourist oriented shops, and department stores.
  • There are many more upmarket shops, restaurants and bars on George Street (New Town), which runs parallel to Princes Street.
  • Cockburn Street (pronounced "co-burn") in the (Old Town) has many small alternative shops selling music, novelty toys, underground clothing, body piercings and spiritual items.
  • The Royal Mile (Old Town), especially the higher end near the castle, has many tourist-oriented shops selling Scottish souvenirs from postcards to whisky and kilts.
  • Multrees Walk (also known as The Walk), for high-end labels such as Vidal Sasoon, Armani, Vuitton, Harvey Nichols or Calvin Klein (New Town).
  • Other malls include Princes Mall or St James Mall which are both just off Princes Street, and Ocean Terminal in Leith.
  • Take home a bottle of Scotland's finest export, a single malt whiskey.

Eat

Edinburgh is a great city for the food lover. There is a vast selection of eateries scattered throughout every part of the city, catering for all tastes, prices and styles. Refer to the District articles for individual listings.

As well as the centre of Edinburgh, it is also worth checking out Leith and the West End when looking for a place to eat.

Rose St, running parallel to Princes St is a pedestrian precinct that has a huge number of pubs offering a variety of pub fare food.

And if you're up to it, be sure to drop by a chippy (fish and chip shop) and experience such Scottish delights as deep fried pizza, deep fried hamburgers, deep fried Black Pudding (a type of blood sausage), deep fried haggis and deep fried Mars bars. Edinburgh chippys are unique in the UK for offering salt'n'sauce as standard in place of the salt'n'vinegar usually provided elsewhere in the country. The sauce is a kind of runny, vinegary version of HP or Daddys style brown sauce. Most chippys will provide vinegar on request if you prefer, but you really should try salt'n'sauce at least once!

Drink

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 [58]. It's a great cure for hangover.

Edinburgh is a huge city, so all individual listings should be moved to the appropriate district articles, and this section should contain a brief overview. Please help to move listings if you are familiar with this city.

Part of the wall in the lounge of the Whisky Heritage Centre

As for Scotland's first drink, you will find The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre [59] at the top of The Royal Mile, which offers an interactive "tour" of the history and practise of Whisky distilling. This is a good place to go if you want to sample whisky, as they have a very large selection (200+?) at reasonable rates. Older whiskys tend to cost more. 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. The food is reasonably priced and fairly good.

  • Lots of traditional pubs are all around the city.
  • Many famous traditional pubs on the Grassmarket, Old Town. These pubs are tourist traps and tend to be very popular with visiting stag and hen parties, so locals tend to keep clear.
  • Lots of modern clubs are around Cowgate and Lothian road including Base, Gig and Diva.
  • George Street in the New Town hosts many of Edinburgh's trendier bars
  • George IV Bridge in the Old Town is another trendy style bar area.
  • Other night clubs around the city include Ego, Faith and The Liquid Room.

Sleep

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. If you're planning a visit during festival time (August), around Christmas and New Year, or on the weekend of a Scotland home game in the 6-nations Rugby [60] (Mar/Apr, 2 or 3 matches per year), then you will find that all types of accommodation get booked up well in advance, and a premium 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 center around the Cowgate area, the lower Royal Mile and its side streets. The hostels of the HI affiliated Scottish Youth Hostel Association [61] 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 center for a very modest price.

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.

Contact

Internet

Multiple internet cafés and hotspot venues exist throughout Edinburgh, (check out district articles for details).

  • Many of the municipal libraries[62] throughout the city have PC's with free internet access. Some of the most prominent are listed in the relevant district articles.
  • The city's largest independent internet cafe is Mossco Internet Cafe, located near Haymarket Station (18 West Maitland Street) - [63].
  • easyInternetcafe [64] 58 Rose Street (New Town), central branch of the bright orange chain (also in St James Centre and Stockbridge).

Stay safe

In general Edinburgh can be considered a safe destination for visitors but like all major cities it pays to remain attentive and use some common sense

  • Try not to get too drunk - if you have had too much, it might be wise to get a taxi home. There are taxi ranks all around the City Centre.
  • Night buses [65] (which depart from Waverley Bridge next to the train station) are an affordable and safe alternative to taxis, but stay on the lower deck. Night Buses cost £2.50 for unlimited travel on a single night, so for groups of 3+ travelling moderate distances, taxis can be more cost effective for single journeys.
  • Like most cities in the UK, there are some run down areas. For its size, Edinburgh does not have many but there are still some suburbs that are better avoided by anyone unfamiliar with the area such as:
    • Niddrie and Craigmillar in the south-east of the city.
    • Sighthill and Wester Hailes in the west.
    • Muirhouse and Pilton in the north.

Cope

Consulates

Many countries run consulates in Edinburgh [66]

  • Australia, 93 George Street, 0131 243 2589.
  • Canada, 50 Lothian Road, 0131 473 6100.
  • China, 55 Corstorphine Road, 0131 337 9896 (fax: 0131 337 7866).
  • Denmark, 48 Melville Street, 0131 220 0300.
  • France, 11 Randolph Crescent, 0131 220 0141.
  • Germany, 16 Eglinton Crescent, 0131 337 2323.
  • India, 17 Rutland Square.
  • Ireland, 16 Randolph Cres, 0131 226 7711.
  • Italy, 32 Melville Street, 0131 226 3631 (fax: 0131 226 6260).
  • Japan, 2 Melville Crescent, 0131 225 4777.
  • Monaco, 39-43 Castle Street, 0131 225 1200.
  • New Zealand, 5 Rutland Square, 0131 222 8109.
  • Poland, 2 Kinnear Road, 0131 552 0301.
  • Russia, 58 Melville Street, 0131 225 7098.
  • Spain, 63 North Castle Street, 0131 220 1843.
  • Sweden, 22 Hanover Street, 0131 220 6050.
  • Ukraine, 8 Windsor St, 0131 556 0023.
  • USA, 3 Regent Terrace, 0131 556 8315.

Laundry

  • Tarvit Launderette, 7-9 Tarvit St (Beside the Kings Theatre in Tollcross), 0131 229 6382. Last wash 6pm Mon and Tues, 4.30pm at all other times.
  • Bendix Self-Service Launderette, 342-346 Leith Wk, 0131 554 2180.
  • Raeburn Launderama, 59 Raeburn Place, Stockbridge, 0131 343 3399.
  • Direct Dry Cleaning, 47 Bread Street, 0844 800 3033, [5]. Offer an interesting service for travellers where they will take your suitcase, unpack it, wash all the clothes and repack the case before handing it all back to you.

Clothing Repairs

  • Oscars, 371 Leith Walk, 0131 553 3662. Repairs, Zip replacements, hems shortened etc.
  • Huttons Shoe Repairs, 11 Elgin Terrace (Just off Easter Road near its junction with London Road), 0131 661 6164. Well-established traditional cobblers

Cash Machines

Most cash machines in Edinburgh dispense Scottish notes, but there are a few that usually have Bank of England notes, which may be convenient if you are leaving Scotland.

  • HSBC, 118 Princes Street, EH2 4AA
  • NatWest, 8 George Street, EH2 2SB

Get out

  • Dunfermline, previously the capital of Scotland, makes an excellent day trip. It is easily accessed by car via the Forth Road Bridge. There is a half hourly service by train from Waverley station (also stopping at Haymarket).
  • Aberdour— Described as "The Jewel of Fife", Aberdour is a historic and stunningly attractive coastal village 25 minutes drive North of Edinburgh. Aberdour Castle is a must-see, as well as the Blue-Flag awarded beach the Silver Sands. There are also several pubs, restaurants, and boutique shops.
  • Linlithgow is also a great little town for a day trip from Edinburgh. It is a short drive by car on the M9. There is also a frequent service by train from Waverley station (also stopping at Haymarket).
  • Glasgow, Scotland's largest city, is located 46 miles west of Edinburgh and is easily reached via train (see above), bus (running from the main bus terminal) or via the M8 motorway. Great for shopping.
  • East Lothian, immediately to the east of the city, offers rolling green countryside, golden sandy beaches, dozens of golf courses, and more annual sunshine hours than any other part of the UK. The area has a number of picturesque villages and small towns, including North Berwick, with webcams at the Scottish Seabird Center giving live pictures of thousands of birds on the Bass Rock; Gullane, a mecca for golfers; Musselburgh for ice cream and horse racing; and Dunbar, the birthplace of conservationist John Muir.
  • St Andrews— Ancient university town, former ecclesiastical capital of Scotland, and home of the Royal and Ancient - the ruling body of Golf.
  • Livingston— One of Scotland's New Towns, it is one of Scotland's most popular shopping spots, only a short drive from Edinburgh on the M8 or A70. Plus there are also bus and rail services to the new town.
  • The Museum of Flight [67] in East Fortune is about 30 minutes drive along the A1. It also has British Airways Concorde G-BOAA. Remember to book in advance to see inside Concorde as these tickets are generally sold out on the day. Another rather good attraction (and well worth the look) is the De-Havilland Comet 4C, a derivative of the Worlds first jetliner.
  • The Falkirk Wheel [68]— Built in 2001 to reconnect the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal, it is the world's only rotating boat lift. Free entry to the visitor center / cafe / gift shop. Boat trips up on the Wheel take about an hour, and cost £8 adults, £4.25 children, £6.50 concessions. Half hourly buses from Falkirk town center, or a good walk from the Falkirk "Camelon" railway station.



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