Athens of the North // Edinburgh Festival // Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo // Edinburgh Fringe // 1 million + visitors per annum...

Edinburgh is the second most visited tourist destination in the UK after London, attracting in excess of a million visitors a year, many who come to see the many festivals the city holds, such as the Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh Military Tatoo and the Edinburgh Fringe, which is the world’s largest performing arts festival.

The city dates back to the Bronze Age and by the 12th Century was a well established city. Its nickname ‘the Athens of the North’ is derived from the Greco-Roman architecture of the New Town together with the Scottish intellectual elite who were gaining notoriety throughout Europe.

The city is divided in to the Old Town, dating back to medieval times, New Town, an 18th Century solution to the overcrowding of the Old Town and Southside and Leith, Edinburgh’s port.

Edinburgh is also home to Edinburgh University founded in 1583. Many of the university’s buildings are stunning pieces of architecture and make up a significant part of the city’s skyline, such as McEwan Hall and Old College.

Museums and Culture
Edinburgh is popular with visitors as there is so much to see and do. Museums include the Royal Museum, the Museums of Scotland, Edinburgh and Childhood as well as the National War Museum of Scotland and National Library of Scotland.  The National Galleries of Scotland are also well worth a visit.  Edinburgh is home to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.  In fact the Scottish National Portrait Gallery just re-opened (December 1st 2011) following major refurbishment and sits next to the Scottish National Gallery between Queen Street and Princes Street, both being magnificent and iconic buildings in themselves and just a 3 minute walk from Edinburgh Waverley Station.  All the galleries have free admission.

There are a number of theatres and production companies with regular performances in the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Royal Lyceum Theatre and King’s Theatre.

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is also a longstanding annual event that takes place each August and attracts thousands of visitors.

Restaurants and Shopping
There are many great pubs and restaurants in the city and the more popular areas are Grassmarket, Rose Street and Lothian Road and surrounding area as well as the waterfront at Leith. Café Marlayne is well worth a visit for its excellent French cuisine and Dragonfly is one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets. Princes Street is the main shopping area and George Street is the home of luxury and designer names and Harvey Nichols even has a rooftop restaurant and bar.

Edinburgh has a very good bus system throughout the city. Having said that it is not a large city and is easy to walk around, giving you an excuse to take in all the wonderful architecture. Edinburgh Airport is the city’s international airport with an Airlink bus which runs regularly from the city centre to the airport. A return ticket is just £7 and takes about 25 minutes. The mainline station Edinburgh Waverley is connected with King’s Cross Station in London. Edinburgh Haymarket Station is located in the West End. This is the closest station for those of you who are visiting Murrayfield to catch some rugby at the national stadium.

Visit Scotland tourist office for info: www.visitscotland.com Tel. +44 (0)131 472 2222.

Emma Westman is a freelance travel writer based in London and has lived in Edinburgh and California and helped contribute to our Edinburgh section

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