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Edinburgh has class by the bucket load. Its heritage is visible everywhere you look: a whopping great castle, 16th- and 17th-century tenements (the skyscrapers of their day), elegant Georgian crescents and a tremendous royal palace. Culturally, Edinburgh is a formidable force. Aside from its world-renowned arts festival, the city is home to Scotland’s national museum and art galleries and hosts film, jazz, storytelling and science festivals. Stylish boutiques and bars attract an equally chic populace, while the great outdoors are close at hand for those more interested in ridge walks than catwalks. Potentially the capital of Europe’s newest nation after the 2014 independence referendum, Edinburgh undoubtedly has wow factor.
Our top five sights
The capital’s mighty fortress sits on a craggy volcanic rock and houses the Honours of Scotland (crown jewels) along with 12th-century St Margaret’s chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
See fine portraits, intricate tapestries and exquisite plasterwork in the Queen’s Edinburgh residence and take a peek at Mary, Queen of Scots’ Bedchamber.
National Museum of Scotland
An extraordinary Scottish and global collection comprising exhibits ranging from dinosaurs to Dolly the sheep and mummies to meteorites.
Scottish National Gallery
This remarkable display of international art includes works by Botticelli, Rembrandt and Gainsborough.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Another regal residence – this time a floating one. Look out for the sick bay, royal bedrooms and onboard Rolls Royce.
Our top five activities
For cracking views across Edinburgh and the Firth of Forth, fuel up on porridge and follow the path along the Salisbury crags and up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano.
Reckon you could give McIlroy, Donald and Westwood a run for their money? Challenge yourself to a round on the 2013 Open Championship course, Muirfield, east of Edinburgh.
Hop on the bike bus to Glentress, one of the world-class 7stanes mountain biking hubs in southern Scotland. Choose from gentle forest trails or white-knuckle adrenaline rides.
Hook a big one: the River Tweed in the Scottish Borders, an hour south of Edinburgh, is one of the world’s top spots for salmon fishing.
Take a barrel ride through the Scotch Whisky Experience’s replica distillery or visit the real thing at Glenkinchie, creator of The Edinburgh Malt, in East Lothian. You’ll want to try a wee dram too.
Our top five events
March-April: Edinburgh International Science Festival
Two weeks of innovative, mind-blowing and entertaining experiments, talks and workshops covering often unexpected topics from air-purifying jeans to dream apps to mini humanoid robots.
June: Edinburgh International Film Festival
A packed programme of British and international movie screenings with premieres, director talks, gala evenings and plenty of famous faces.
August: Edinburgh Festivals
In August, the city buzzes with world-class operatic extravaganzas, big-name comedians, literary launches and off-beat street entertainment as the International Festival, Fringe and Book Festival take over every available nook and cranny.
August: Edinburgh Military Tattoo
An atmospheric and sparkling spectacle, with pipers, musicians and dancers performing their hearts out in front of Edinburgh Castle.
December-January: Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
If there’s one place you should see in the New Year, it’s Edinburgh. Party hard with a torchlit procession, banging ceildh, raucous street party, rocking concert and smashing fireworks display followed by a bracing dip in the Forth on the 1st.
Head to George Street for high-end fashion names followed by Multrees Walk for even more upmarket labels. Nip into St James Shopping Centre to pick up unique clothing, jewellery and art from ICE Store (0131 557 0050), a new social enterprise showcasing up-and-coming designers. In the Old Town, Victoria Street’s kaleidoscopic curve of shop fronts conceals an enticing array of crafts, gifts and clothing. I J Mellis at number 30A (0131 226 6215) stocks an exceptional range of Scottish cheeses. On Saturdays, arrive early at the Edinburgh Farmers Market (Castle Terrace, 0131 652 5940) for fresh Scottish produce, then pop into William Street’s independent stores in the West End.
Food & Drink
Edinburgh is gaining a solid reputation for fine dining and is home to a clutch of Michelin-starred restaurants including the acclaimed Castle Terrace (33/35 Castle Terrace, 0131 229 1222), which concocts high-quality Scottish fish and meat dishes. If you’re out to impress, new on the scene is The Pompadour by Galvin (The Caledonian, Princes Street, 0131 222 8777). Or try the hotel’s more casual yet stylish French bistro Galvin Brasserie De Luxe. Edinburgh locals are all talking about The Gardener’s Cottage (1 Royal Terrace Mews, 0131 558 1221), whose daily changing menu often features Scottish game such as pheasant or roe deer.
Do an Edinburgh pub crawl and you’ll still be sinking pints next year. The Last Drop (74-78 Grassmarket, 0131 225 4851) even comes with an in-house medieval ghost. For a dressier soirée, sip cocktails in the New Town. Bramble (16A Queen Street, 0131 226 6343) is a basement gem – knock yourself out with a ‘golden delicious sour’. The Liquid Room (9C Victoria Street, 0131 225 2564) runs club nights spanning every genre imaginable and has hosted big names from Franz Ferdinand to The Jungle Brothers. Catch a movie at the Filmhouse (88 Lothian Road, 0131 228 2688) or new drama at the Traverse Theatre (10 Cambridge Street, 0131 228 3223).
Accommodation in Edinburgh
For an extravagant treat, unleash your cash on the The Atholl (11 Atholl Crescent, 0844 736 0047), an ultra-luxurious, off-the-top-of-the-scale-swanky apartment hotel in the West End, with private dining from Albert Roux-trained chefs. Grande dame The Caledonian Hotel or ‘Caley’ (Princes Street, 0131 222 8888) has undergone a major refurbishment in 2012 and is steps away from the shops and financial district. Fashion-led Hotel Missoni (1 George IV Bridge, 0131 220 6666) brings a colourful blast of style to the Old Town. You’ll find affordable luxury at the smart Apex International (31-35 Grassmarket, 0131 441 0440), while Motel One (18-21 Market Street) promises a low-cost boutique experience from late 2012.
The Airlink 100 bus travels from the airport to Waverley station (with stops en route) in about 25 minutes. You can also pick up a taxi directly outside the terminal or take your pick from several car hire companies.
Edinburgh Airport Information
The London City Airport to Edinburgh route will be discontinued from October 26th 2013. If you have a booking in place departing after 26th October, CityJet is happy to offer a full refund. CityJet is doing all it can to ensure a smooth, seamless transition for passengers that may be inconvenienced by this change. While the Edinburgh route will no longer be available, CityJet will continue to serve Scotland via its route to and from Dundee. Please click here for more information.
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