A magic city
There’s a magic to Edinburgh that makes it quite unlike any other British city. Add some fine Georgian architecture to a medieval heart, mix-in some truly stunning natural beauty – not to mention some particularly welcoming pubs and bars - and you’ll soon discover why Auld Reekie changed its nickname and became the Athens of the North.
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Tourists are drawn to Edinburgh year round, meaning no shortage of souvenir shops and gift stalls – if you’re after shortbread biscuits, tartan tweeds and the like, you won’t need to look far. The quality is sometimes excellent, sometimes less so. There’s more of an international flavour to other retail outlets, meanwhile, particularly the style-conscious Harvey Nichols (30-34 St Andrews Square), which stocks designers such as Prada and Gucci. Not far away, Jenners (48 Princes Street) has been a department store since 1848, while other city districts like Bruntsfield, Stockbridge and the West End all offer the chance to find one-off items.
Food & Drink
It’s possible to eat superbly in Edinburgh, with the city boasting more Michelin-starred restaurants than any UK city outside London. Modern interpretations of Scottish and European dishes are now commonplace in the city’s best restaurants. Castle Terrace (33-35 Castle Terrace) is a near-peerless example, earning industry plaudits for its fine dining based on local ingredients, while The Grain Store (30 Victoria Street) serves up excellent Scottish meat and fish and has a well-priced lunch menu. There’s also plenty for those in search of more exotic fare – there are some superb Indian, Thai and Japanese eateries – while those looking to sample Scotland’s most famous tipple will enjoy The Albanach (197 High Street), which offers 250 malt whiskies.
An annual knees-up that generally involves copious amounts of food, drink and rousing verse, Burns Night is celebrated to mark the date of birth of national poet Robert Burns. Suppers traditionally serve haggis as the main course.
Edinburgh International Festival
An expertly curated programme of opera, dance, theatre and classical music, this formal performing arts festival enjoys considerable prestige. Along with the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it is one of a number of festivals that collectively forms the Edinburgh Festival each summer.
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Originally created as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe has evolved into the world’s largest arts festival, placing particular prominence on theatre, comedy and street performance. It generally involves hundreds of performances on any given day.
Royal Military Tattoo
A spectacular showcase of traditional pageantry and military pomp, the city’s iconic Military Tattoo brings some 200,000 spectators to watch massed drum and pipe bands in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Fireworks and dancing add to the sense of occasion.
Possibly the world’s most famous New Year’s Eve bash, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay sees thousands spill onto the streets to enjoy live bands, fireworks, ceilidh dancing and carnival antics, not to mention a mass midnight rendition of Auld Lang Syne.
Edinburgh’s city-break appeal is all about its blend of old and new, and the same selling point applies to its hotel stock. Properties like the Radisson Blu Hotel (80 High Street) are lauded for mixing stylish modern accommodation with a history-rich location, in this case just off the Royal Mile. Close to Waverley Station, the Balmoral Hotel (1 Princes Street) has been drawing discerning guests for over a century and boasts a spa and a Michelin-starred restaurant. And for those keen to stay outside of the city centre, the 23-room Prestonfield House (Priestfield Road, Newington) is an upmarket retreat 3km from the Royal Mile.