Edinburgh: staid and reserved? Not a chance. Its raucous rugby fans, boot-stomping ceilidh dancers, boundary-pushing writers, innovative designers and creative chefs would beg to differ. Join them at cool hangouts and thought-provoking festivals, and enjoy unmatched heritage.
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Top 5 sights for first-timers
Perched on rugged volcanic rock at the top of the Royal Mile, the castle dominates Edinburgh’s skyline. Highlights include 15th-century cannon Mons Meg, the Honours of Scotland (crown jewels), the Stone of Destiny (returned to Edinburgh in 1996 after 700 years) and the firing of the One o’clock Gun.
Palace of Holyroodhouse
When Kate and Wills’ baby heads north for his or her hols, there should be plenty of room for the royal crib at the Queen’s official Scottish residence. The palace was once home to Mary, Queen of Scots and became Bonnie Prince Charlie’s headquarters during the 1745 uprising. Capture a glimpse of interior design through the ages in the ornate Royal Apartments.
Canongate, The Royal Mile
National Museum of Scotland
This wonderful museum encompasses an astonishing variety of over 8,000 exhibits, from national artefacts such as the Lewis chessmen and 1,300-year-old Hunterston brooch to a life-size T-Rex model, ancient Egyptian coffins and Dolly the Sheep.
National Galleries of Scotland
Spread over three sites, the National Galleries house an unrivalled collection of historic and contemporary Scottish art as well as an extensive range of international works. Spot paintings of Mary, Queen of Scots and national bard Robert Burns at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Scottish National Gallery, The Mound
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, 75 Belford Road
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street
Royal Yacht Britannia
For 44 years, Britannia was the Queen’s maritime home, sailing her to over 600 ports in 135 countries. Peer into the regal boudoirs and sick bay (even the royals feel a little queasy at sea). There’s an onboard Rolls Royce for Ma’am’s shoreside excursions.
Ocean Terminal, Leith
Top 5 sights for old hands
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
A favourite with locals, the Botanics make for a serene urban escape. From clambering over the intricate Rock Garden to weaving your way through the labyrinth in the Queen Mother’s Memorial Garden to getting hot and steamy in the glasshouses, you’ll come across a multitude of rare plants.
Inverleith Row/Arboretum Place
City Art Centre
This first-rate gallery hosts regularly changing exhibitions, showcasing Scottish art from its own vast collection along with new work by local and international artists, plus displays of photography, design and architecture.
2 Market Street
With an independence referendum fast approaching, a visit to the award-winning, 21st-century parliament building is a must. Free guided tours cover architectural highlights, offer a fascinating insight into the work and history of the parliament, and take you into the debating chamber.
Museum on the Mound
Ever wondered what £1 million looks like? See for yourself at this interactive money-themed museum based in the Bank of Scotland’s headquarters. Gen up on banking history and try your hand at cracking a safe.
Half an hour from the city centre via bus 27 is a striking sculpture garden containing an eye-catching collection of installations by leading artists from Ian Hamilton Finlay to Anish Kapoor. Allow a couple of hours to explore the meandering parkland trail. May to September only.
Bonnington House Steadings, Wilkieston
Written by World Travel Guide