Edinburgh is a city with many strings to its bow. Its architecture, people, ambience and scenery alone make it a city both bold and brilliant enough to rival the greatest cities of Europe. Here’s a rundown of the best ways to take advantage of this exceptional city, in just a short space of time.
Edinburgh earned UNESCO World Heritage Site status in 1995 and with 5000 listed buildings scattered around the city, it’s obvious why. The city’s architecture is grand. Take a touch of Prague, a hint of Budapest and an all-important pinch of classic ‘British’, and congratulations, you’ve just imagined Edinburgh. It’s hard to envisage a place with more abundant history. It’s a city where old contrasts with new, where aged cobbled streets are trodden by the florescent sport shoes of teenagers and ancient landmarks are photographed using 2014’s biggest blunder, the selfie stick. It may be the 21st century, but this city is still steeped in history. The Castle dates back to the 12th century and is the most iconic symbol of Edinburgh. It’s home to the crown jewels of the late 15th century, has many a story to tell, and is stunning to look at. The castle is located in Edinburgh’s old town at the end of the Royal Mile, and it towers majestically over the city from all angles. The Royal Mile harbours other prominent landmarks such as St. Giles Cathedral, Parliament Square and The Scotch Whisky Experience and succeeds in capturing the traditions and ambiance of Edinburgh on one street.
Like many old cities, one of Edinburgh’s most appealing qualities is that it can be explored completely on foot. Make sure you wear some sturdy footwear though, as the cobbled streets can be a menace for those who choose the elegance of heels over comfort. You’ll also need them for when you inevitably climb Arthur’s Seat. Nobody knows quite where the name comes from, but this once active volcano from 350 million years ago is home to a very traditional happening for some locals. At the turn of each New Year, after a few (or more) drams of whisky, groups of impulsive Scots will climb to the summit to welcome in the New Year, in unique Scottish style. It is however recommended that you attempt this feat during the day time, not intoxicated, (just to make sure that you don’t forget the breathtaking scenery). It’s only a 2 hour return trip and will offer unsurpassed views of the entire city. Whilst we are on the topic, Scotland is famous worldwide for its world-class, pioneering production of whisky. Whilst in Edinburgh this is something that should certainly be tried and tested. There are masses of bars scattered around the city, some stocking over 250 different whiskies, but for a tutored tasting session try the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile.
For world famous views of the city, visit Carlton Hill. A single photo from here will capture the castle, Arthur’s Seat and almost the length of Princes Street in one image. Nelson’s Monument, the City Observatory and the National Monument, but to name a few, are all iconic attractions that can be found perched upon this hill. The National Monument could easily be mistaken for the Acropolis of Athens and is an interesting addition to the city’s varied architecture. Carlton Hill is a quiet place to come and relax whilst taking in the views.
You’ll find an abundance of city walks on offer during the day and in the evenings, however, a more interesting way to walk the city whilst hearing more about its past, is to take a ghost tour. These tours offer a light hearted look at Edinburgh’s bloody past and would suit those visitors who don’t take life too seriously and enjoy a good laugh. Your guide however, will almost definitely take their role very seriously, not slipping out of character for even a second. They will regale you with fascinating stories as you venture through eerie graveyards and into the famous underground vaults of Edinburgh.
If you have any extra time, a short walk north, still within the city, is the Royal Botanic Garden. As one of the world’s largest collections of living plants, the Botanical Gardens make for a lovely morning walk to blow the cobwebs away. It’s free to visit and you’ll be surprised at just how entrancing the gardens can be, as hours can be lost spent exploring and appreciating this spectacle.
There are a number of luxury and boutique hotels in Edinburgh, set in grand buildings that tower above the city’s rooftops, where the notion of a room with a view is taken to a new level. Whether you stay in Haymarket, or Waverley, everything is within walking distance and with so much on offer, you’ll always be able to find the perfect accommodation.
Edinburgh is a truly beautiful city. Embrace the history, explore it on foot, drink the whisky and make sure you take your camera, because it’s one of the most photogenic cities in Europe.
Featured Image Credit: John McSporran