Edinburgh, Scotland, also known as the “Athens of the North” and capital of Scotland, is one of the United Kingdom’s must-see cities.
The history of Edinburgh runs deep, dating back to 1130. Built around one of the most defendable fortresses in all of Scotland, the city is marked by centuries of war, politics, religion, and the rise and fall of kings. Not many cities in the world can say that they have a castle in the center AND it’s on top of an extinct volcano.
Growing up, I heard countless stories about the medieval world and the legendary battles and sieges that are retold in movies today. My time in Edinburgh felt surreal because of the history embedded in the foundation of the city.
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What I learned about Edinburgh
Edinburgh is relatively small for a capital city, so getting around is very easy. The buses, trams, and taxis make it possible to go everywhere. If you like to stay out late, the buses run 24 hours a day. This city is perfect for people who love walking. You might have to walk up some hills, especially to get to Edinburgh Castle, but you’ll be fine.
I was fortunate to visit during the Fringe Festival. It’s the world’s largest arts festival, lasting 25 days. The festival was spectacular. However, since it brings in millions of people, the streets were very crowded, making lines longer and travel slower.
A quick note if you love Harry Potter: the famous Elephant House where J. K. Rowling wrote part of the series is in the Old Town part of Edinburgh.
To this day, Edinburgh Castle remains part of the locals’ everyday lives. Every day at 1 p.m., a cannon is shot off from the castle. Ships initially used the cannon shot to set their maritime clocks.
The Scottish aren’t as particular about their lines as the English, but in Edinburgh, people do love their queuing.
Gin and whiskey are popular among the Scottish. I’ve never been to a place that has such a diverse variety of gins and whiskeys.
I noticed that the Scots make excellent meals, but sometimes it’s better not to ask what it’s made from. Picky eaters might have a problem eating haggis made from sheep intestines. However, I found it to be delicious!
Scottish cuisines to try:
- Haggis — If you’re wondering, haggis is baked or boiled sheep liver, heart, and lungs with mixed oatmeal, herbs, suet, and seasoning wrapped in sheep intestines. YUM.
- Fresh seafood — Lobster, trout, and salmon are especially useful since Edinburgh is close to the sea.
- Cullen skink — This dish is a traditional Scottish soup made from smoked haddock, leek, and potatoes.
- Grouse — This bird is native to Scotland tastes great in roasts and stews.
Quick tips for surviving Edinburgh
- Don’t mess up the Scots’ queues; they won’t be happy if you do.
- Have exact change for the buses; the drivers won’t be able to give you change.
- If you plan to visit in August, book your stay months in advance as Edinburgh is very full during the month due to the Fringe Festival.
- Don’t tip at restaurants. They don’t tip in Scotland, and if they do, it’s included in the bill.
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My Review of Edinburgh
Cost to stay in Edinburgh
Edinburgh isn’t exactly a budget-friendly place to visit, but don’t stress. It’s still cheaper than London.
Lucky for you, there are plenty of things to do and see for free in Edinburgh. However, the castle is not free. Tickets are £17.50 if you buy them online.
Edinburgh is a very safe city, and you have very little to worry about when visiting.
As with many other touristy cities, be aware of your personal belongings at restaurants, pubs, and clubs and on public transport. Thieves here are usually opportunists. Take precautions, and your valuables should be safe.
The Scottish in Edinburgh are very used to tourists.
Just remember to be respectful. No local will like an annoying tourist. Just follow our tips, and you’ll be okay.
Do not rub Greyfriars Bobby’s nose. It won’t give you good luck. It just causes further damage to the paint on his nose.
During the day, Edinburgh offers many iconic sites that are world-famous and easily accessible.
You could easily spend a significant amount of money on going out, but there are still plenty of things you can do and see for free. The National Museum of Scotland is free, and all sites are free to see from the outside.
The castle may not be cheap to enter. However, if you’re worried about money, you can still visit the outside.
Top seven sites to see in Edinburgh:
- Edinburgh Castle
- The Scott Monument
- St. Giles’ Cathedral
- National Museum of Scotland
- The Dean Village
- Arthur’s Seat
- Royal Botanic Gardens
Once you’ve had your long day of site-seeing, it’s time to unwind and enjoy the city’s plentiful range of subterranean pubs in the Old Town and then cross the bridge into New Town. Here you’ll be able to party at the trendier night clubs.
Everyone here speaks English, so communicating with the locals will be no problem. Scotland is an English-speaking country, after all. It does have two other official languages (Scots and Scottish Gaelic), but they’re endangered languages, so barely anyone speaks them.
Quality of life
The quality of life here is fantastic. Edinburgh is ranked as one of the most livable cities in the world — even more than London.
The Scottish here rank at the top of the world for a highly educated and healthy workforce and low crime rates.
Socially, people of all colors, shapes, sizes, and orientations are treated well and accepted here.
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My conclusion on Edinburgh
I wasn’t entirely sure of what to expect from Scotland’s capital city.
I was pleasantly surprised by the liveliness and excitement of things to see in just one city. The massive Edinburgh Castle overlooking the whole town gave me medieval vibes. I’ll always remember how unique this feeling was.
From the rich history of the city’s architecture to the crazy Scottish pubs where we hung out at night, Edinburgh is a sight to see. I highly recommend this city to travelers visiting the United Kingdom or Europe.
What part about Edinburgh would you like to experience for yourself the most?