Sunday, January 6, 2013

What To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a miniature capital when compared with other European capitals. It's not even the biggest city in Scotland (this status is reserved for Glasgow).

The advantage, however, of having only 500,000 inhabitants, the capital is small enough to allow quick access to all major attractions.

Edinburgh sets itself apart from other European capitals and big cities - -not in terms of number or grandeur of its attractions, but in the unique and varied scenery from different heights which tourists can enjoy. For those who love nature and landscapes, and especially for photographers, Edinburgh, known as the Athens of the North, it's a dream come true, definitely worth visiting on your Great Britain holidays.

In conclusion, no other European capital is so compact and offers views of both the varied and different as well as Edinburgh.

Main tourist attractions in Edinburgh:

1. Old Town

Most of the attractions of Edinburgh are in the Old Town, the medieval center of the capital. All the places and monuments tell the story of a turbulent past and the mysterious legends of the Old Town.

Edinburgh Castle
The main attraction of the Old Town is, of course, Edinburgh Castle, the most visited Castle in Scotland. Following is the Royal Mile, the historical Street 1.5 km long that connects the castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.

The Royal Mile is the backbone of the city, many of the main attractions being located here. The street has on both sides very narrow side streets, known as closes and wynds. The most beautiful of these is the Advocate's Close, where you can see the Monument of Scott, but the most visited is Mary King's Close. The Royal Mile is also sprinkled with numerous churches, the most imposing being the Cathedral of St Giles.

Walking on the narrow streets of the old town you will find:

The story of Deacon Brodie, a respected citizen of the city by day and burglar by night whose double life inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
About Burke and Hare, serial killers who have exploited the growing demand of corpses from the students of the medicine so they committed 17 murders.
The story of Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye Terrier dog whose loyalty of his master, from whose tomb he didn’t split up until his death. His story impressed so much that he was raised a bronze statue in front of the Greyfriars cemetery.
Much of the Old Town consists of high-rise buildings of 6-7 floors of at least 4-500 years old. They are the first skyscraper in Edinburgh (due to lack of space, the municipality decided to develop vertically).

Other famous attractions of the Old Town are: Ramsay Gardens, the most expensive residential area of Edinburgh, Holyrood Park and streets Victoria Street and Greyfriars Cemetery Street, Candlemaker Row (the resting place of the famous Skye Terrier, Greyfriars Bobby).

Calton Hill, Edinburgh
2. Calton Hill

Calton Hill offers, without doubt, the most beautiful views of Edinburgh. Located in Waterloo Place, a few hundred yards from the East end of Princes Street, on Calton Hill you find: Nelson's Monument (you can climb to the top), Dugald Stewart Monument, and the National Monument.

From Calton Hill one can admire the whole historical center of the city, the River Forth estuary with Inchkeith Island, extinct volcano Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crags, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and in the distance, to the East of the Pentland Hills.

The views are great at sunset, in the evening, and in the morning till 10 am.

3. Holyrood

The entire Holyrood area is located at the East end of Royal Mile. The main attraction is the Palace of Holyrood House and the new building of the Parliament of Scotland, whose vanguardist architecture and budget which was exceeded many times have sparked strong controversy.

Palace of Holyrood House 
Once these attractions are visited, many tourists turn to the center, where the main attraction arises, in fact, behind these buildings.

From Holyrood you can go on a winding climb to Salisbury Crags, the cliffs perfectly vertical and distinctive, an image one can see from anywhere in the city. The path goes to the base of Arthur's Seat, the extinct volcano in the shape of a camel image seen from dozens of miles away.

Walking is pleasurable, but the views are superb. From here you can see the Edinburgh Castle and the main monuments of the city, Calton Hill, Firth of Forth, the Palace of Holyroodhouse and the new Parliament of Scotland.

After the pass of Salisbury Crags, you can take a path that takes you up to Arthur's Seat, the highest point in the city, with incredible views in all directions, or on the plateau above Salisbury steeps. The most beautiful sights are early morning and evening, at sunset.

4. New Town

Princes Street and its adjacent Gardens split Edinburgh into Old Town (to the South) and New Town (to the North). In the New Town are some of the most beautiful examples of residential architecture in Europe. This area is often neglected by tourists in favor of the Old Town.

New Town is not new, not by our standards. It was built in the 18th century when the Old Town had become so crowded, dirty and noisy, that the rich, which at the time used to live in the same building with the poor, pressured the city to expand the city to the North. Thus was born the New Town with its wide streets, large buildings and private green spaces where they moved the families of wealthy individuals.

Princess Street from Nelson's Monument
Princes Street is the main street in this area; however, commercial interests have ruined over the years its architectural facade. At first, though, here lived the richest citizens of the city who have used influence to prevent the construction of buildings in Princes Street Gardens. The Reason? It would have screwed up the view towards the Castle.

The main attractions in the area are: Charlotte Square, where is the residence of the Prime Minister of Scotland; St Andrew's Square, at the other end of Princes Street, where is the Royal Bank of Scotland; Rose Street, the street full of pubs and terraces, beautifully adorned with flowers; Moray Place and Ainslie Place, two residential areas in the form of a perfect circle; St Mary's Cathedral and the adjacent streets, Grosvenor's Crescent and Glencairn Crescent, both excellent examples of Georgian architecture; Belford Road and Dean Gallery.

5. Leith

Leith is the docks area in Edinburgh, an area with a fascinating history. Sadly, many tourists come here just to visit the Royal Yacht Britannia, the yacht docked permanently in Leith, where Prince Charles and Diana spent their honeymoon, or to do shopping at Ocean Terminal.

Beyond the period of decay after the Second World War, Leith has become in recent years an area attractive for both tourists and locals, with many pubs, terraces and restaurants. It’s worth to take a stroll through the port and nearby residential neighborhoods.

Shopping in Edinburgh

Aside from Princes Street, Edinburgh's main shopping street where you can find big names like H & M, Debenhams, Next, Marks & Spencer, HMV, Clarks, Gap, Burton, Dorothy Perkins and others, there are many shopping malls and outlets where you can spend your pounds: Fort Kinnaird (Lothian bus No 30), Straiton (Lothian bus No. 37/47), Gyle (Lothian bus No. 22), the Ocean Terminal (Lothian bus No. 22).

Find out other places where to visit in Scotland

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