Edinburgh's reputation is enormous, and the city essentially lives up to it. The second-most popular destination after London for visitors to Great Britain, the Scottish capital is one of the most picturesque cities in Europe. Built on a set of steep hills, Edinburgh is unarguably dramatic.
Old Town lies at the heart, with Edinburgh Castle at one end of the Royal Mile, which follows the spine of a hill down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. For many visitors, this is Edinburgh, with its mews, closes, and alleyways. But across the valley to the north, now filled by the verdant Princes Street Gardens, is the city's New Town, which dates to the 1770s. Here are tidy streets and broad avenues, another popular focal point in Edinburgh, with restaurants, bars, shops, squares, and attractions, such as the National Portrait Gallery. New Town reaches out to the village-like setting of Stockbridge - from which one can walk along the city's narrow meandering river, the Water of Leith - to Dean Village (another district that feels almost rural in nature) and the National Gallery of Modern Art and its sister arts venue, the Dean Gallery.
Between the city center and Haymarket is the West End. It has more outstanding examples of New Town-styled buildings, as well as a cluster of performance spaces such as Usher Hall and the Traverse Theatre.
Edinburgh's Southside is mostly residential, but offers the sprawling park known as the Meadows, the precincts of Edinburgh University, as well as suburbs such as Marchmont. North of the city center is the now vibrant district around the port of Leith on the Firth of Forth, which empties into the North Sea.
Edinburgh's world-famous annual cultural celebration - the Edinburgh Festival - brings in tourists and lovers of art of all forms from around the world. But if you prefer a bit more space and smaller crowds, avoid the month of August in Edinburgh.
A Note on Museum Hours --During the Edinburgh Festival, some museums that are normally closed on a Sunday will be open, and hours can be generally longer. Some museums that open only in summer are also open on public holidays throughout the year.
National Gallery Bus -- If you plan to visit the various branches of the Scottish National Gallery, from the Dean to the Portrait, a good way to get around is by using the free shuttle bus service that stops at them all.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.