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Scotland's capital city is beautiful, creative, and friendly. It's small enough to walk around, but large enough to have everything tourists could need. Easy to reach by air, rail, and road, Edinburgh is an incredible vacation destination.
Walking around Edinburgh feels like visiting three cities at once. There's the medieval Old Town, with its atmospheric cobbled streets, imposing castle, and tight, compact layout. Then there's the New Town, with its gorgeous 18th-century streets and luxury shopping opportunities. Finally, there's modern Edinburgh - a student town, a cultural hub, a sporting center. The result is a city unlike any other.
Visit during the Edinburgh International Festival to see the best in drama, music, and comedy. Watch a rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium, or just wander down Princes Street or George Street and shop the days away. Edinburgh caters to all tastes, and it's a city that visitors return to again and again.
Scotland's capital is a treasure trove for history lovers. You can tour Edinburgh Castle and see the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo if you are there in August. Wander the winding cobbled streets of the Old Town, tour the gardens of Hopetoun House, or visit the unique Camera Obscura in the Old Town, which has been providing magical views of the city since 1835.
In August, the city becomes one of the world's cultural capitals thanks to the Edinburgh International Festival. Taking place all over the city, this massive event brings together comedians, theatrical companies, classical orchestras, and artists in one incredible festival.
If you love to shop for clothes, jewelry, textiles, or craft goods, Edinburgh is the place to do so. From the chain stores of Princes Street to the vintage shops of West Port, Edinburgh is a fantastic place for window (and actual) shopping.
Edinburgh is often associated with the supernatural. Whether you believe in ghosts or not, Edinburgh Ghost Tours are a spooky experience, and companies like Mercat use the network of underground vaults to create a truly terrifying atmosphere.
Art lovers will adore the Scottish National Gallery, which features works by masters like Degas and Monet, but the National Museum of Scotland is just as enjoyable (don't miss the beautiful and mysterious set of Lewis chessmen).
Summer is the time to visit Edinburgh. More specifically, book accommodation for August if you intend to catch a show at the Edinburgh International Festival (or the Fringe Festival). August brings crowds, however, so if you just want to see the sights, try May through July. The weather should be fine and hotels will almost certainly have rooms to spare.
The best way to reach Edinburgh is by flying into Edinburgh Airport (EDI), which is 10 miles west of the city center, and has a daily direct connection to Newark Airport in New Jersey. Getting into town is simple: just take the tram (at a cost of £5.50) or the number 100 airport bus, which is slightly slower and costs £4.
If you are arriving by train from Glasgow or London, your train will almost certainly stop at Edinburgh Waverley, one of the most beautiful stations in Europe. Shuttle trains run from Glasgow every quarter of an hour and Virgin Trains East Coast arrive from London every hour. Expect the journey from London to take about five hours.
If you are driving from the south, the best route to take is the A1, which runs all the way from London to Edinburgh and features some stunning scenery as it approaches the Scottish capital. The M8 runs directly from Glasgow, while the M9 runs from northern Scottish cities like Inverness and St Andrews.
Edinburgh is served by National Express and Megabus coaches, both of which stop at the main bus station in Elder Street.
The best places to stay are generally found in the Old Town, where upscale hotels like the Sheraton Grand and the Witchery offer wonderful views of the castle and Arthur's Seat. You'll also find budget options in the center, including Merith House and Castle Rock Hostel. Slightly outside the center, check out the Waldorf-owned Caledonian, the Roxburghe, or Adria House (which is ideally situated near the Festival's major venues).
The Old Town - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Edinburgh's Old Town dates back to the medieval era, and is home to historical attractions like Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and St Giles Cathedral. It's also home to the Royal Mile, an elegant street that hosts many of the city's best pubs, and Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano that offers stunning views across Edinburgh.
The New Town - also listed by UNESCO, the New Town was actually laid out in the 18th century. It's the luxury shopping and business heart of Edinburgh, thanks to the presence of bustling Princes Street and George Street. It's also a cultural hub, with the National Gallery and the 200 ft-high monument to writer Walter Scott, which is a great place to take photos across the city.
Leith - Edinburgh's port, Leith, is energetic and on the way up. It enjoys quick links to the city center, and has attractions like the Royal Yacht Britannia, the massive shopping mall at Ocean Terminal, and the natural beauty of the Water of Leith Walkway.
The best way to get around Edinburgh (if you aren't walking or cycling) is by the buses operated by Lothian or First Group. Most of the city center routes are provided by Lothian, who charge £1.60 for a basic fare. You can also take the recently opened Edinburgh Tram network from the Old Town to the New Town, which also costs £1.60 per journey.
Another good, comfortable way to get around town is via Edinburgh's black cabs (or pre-booked minicabs). Black cab rates are fixed. Most of the week, they charge £2.10 for the first 105 seconds, then around £2 per mile after that, with slightly higher rates on weekends and in the evening.
Much of central Edinburgh consists of winding narrow streets that can be tricky to navigate for inexperienced drivers, and parking can also be hard to come by. Renting a car is a good option if you are staying outside the city and are happy to use Park and Ride buses, but aren't so convenient for those staying in the Old or New Towns. Companies like Avis, Enterprise, and Thrifty all rent vehicles in the city, and prices can start from around £8 per day. Please note that drivers in Scotland use the left-hand side of the road.
Shopping is one of the biggest attractions when visiting Edinburgh, and there are plenty of streets and neighborhoods to choose from. The most famous shopping area is Princes Street in the New Town - an elegant 18th-century street that features chains like H&M and unique Edinburgh department stores like Jenners. George Street is slightly different, offering more upmarket boutiques for men and women, while Multrees Walk is home to luxury retailer Harvey Nichols, and you'll find smaller stores like Joey D or Concrete Wardrobe on Broughton Street.
Edinburgh has all of the UK's major supermarket chains, including plenty in the city center. If you need to buy groceries, Tesco, Sainsbury's, or Marks and Spencer should have a store near you. For luxury Italian deli items, head to Valvona and Crolla, or visit I.J. Mellis to sample their delicious Scottish cheeses. Food prices are generally reasonable. Expect to pay £3.30 for a gallon of milk and less than £0.70 for a pound of potatoes.
Whether you want hearty Scottish meat or Indian feasts, Edinburgh delivers. If you want prime Scotch beef, small gourmet restaurants like Angels with Bagpipes or Aizle are the place to go. Navadhanya and the Gurkha Cafe are the best Indian eateries in town, and Loudons Cafe is the place to head for filling breakfasts. For really high-end dining, try Timberyard or the Stockbridge Restaurant: neither will let you down. In general, meals cost between £10 and £15 at mid-range places and more than £30 for a three course meal at more upmarket restaurants.