Edinburgh is unique among Scotland's cities. Tourism, its proximity to England, and its multicultural population set it apart. There's up-to-the-nanosecond dance clubs in 15th-century buildings and firebreathers outside Georgian mansions: this is a place that knows how to blend ancient and modern.
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Edinburgh's superb architecture ranges from ancient churches to monumental Victorian masterpieces - all dominated by a castle on a precipitous crag in the city's heart. Pick any street to stroll - you'll be wowed by sudden vistas of looming battlements, cold volcanic peaks and hills steeped in memory.
What To See
As dark, dramatic and incorrigibly romantic as a Pre-Raphaelite landscape, Edinburgh castle lords it over the city, letting loose a daily blast of cannon to remind you who's boss. Wind your way along the Royal Mile, losing yourself among a riddle of closes, vaults, tunnels and old-town tenements.
They don't call Edinburgh the Festival City for nothing. The peak party time of the year is August, when the city explodes with arts events and the streets fill with a cosmopolitan melange of visitors high on a heady mix of culture and single malt. If you're hardy enough to brave the Scottish winter, you'll be rewarded by the fullest-bore New Year celebrations you're ever likely to see.
The highlight of Scotland's calendar is the Edinburgh International Festival, held every August. Since its inception in 1947 to mark the end of WWII, it has grown into one of the world's largest and most important arts festivals.
The Fringe Festival began unofficially at the same time and grew in tandem to become the largest such event in the world. Over 500 amateur and professional groups present every possible kind of avant-garde performance in venues all around the city.
Also held in the same period is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which takes place on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. The show is an extravaganza of daredevil displays, regimental posturing and swirling bagpipes and ends with a single piper playing a lament on the battlefields.
Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the New Year, is another major fixture in Edinburgh's festival calendar with concerts, street parties and a massive bonfire on Calton Hill.
There's also the frenzy of the other international fests: Edinburgh International Jazz and Blues Festival in July-August, Edinburgh International Book Festival and Edinburgh International Film Festival in August, and a whole lot more in between.
When to Go
The climate in Edinburgh is best from May to September, but whenever you go, you're likely to see both sun and rain. In summer, daylight hours are long, and the evenings seem endless. In winter, it's cold and daylight hours are short, but with so much going on, Edinburgh is still worth visiting. Note that the city becomes impossibly crowded during the main festival period (August to early September) and Hogmanay (around 1 January), so make reservations well ahead of time if you plan to visit then.