The Essential Guide to Edinburgh
Collected by Barry Steven Shelby , AFAR Local Expert
Scotland’s capital city, Edinburgh is history incarnate. The Old Town features well-preserved medieval architecture and design, while across a deep valley, the New Town—misleadingly named considering it dates to the 19th century—is a marvel of Georgian buildings and public squares. Other city highlights include Edinburgh Castle, the National Galleries of Scotland, and the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
Castlehill, Edinburgh EH1 2NG, UK
Perched on a great rock above Edinburgh’s New Town, this impressive castle dominates the city. Iron Age warriors understood the site’s military potential and built a fort here in the late first century C.E. It changed hands several...
477B Lawnmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2NT, UK
One of the oldest buildings on the Royal Mile, Gladstone’s Land stands as a tribute to tenement life in Edinburgh’s Old Town. It was once owned by merchant Thomas Gladstone, who extended and remodeled it to include opulently decorated...
The Mound, Edinburgh EH2 2EL, UK
Scotland’s art collection is spread across three sites: the National Gallery, home to classics by Velázquez and Botticelli; the National Portrait Gallery, including Ken Currie’s haunting Three Oncologists; and the National...
Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1JF, UK
History buffs shouldn’t miss this sprawling museum housed in adjacent modern sandstone and classic Victorian buildings—the latter of which features a magnificent atrium with soaring pillars and high windows. The diverse collections...
Canongate, Edinburgh EH8 8DX, UK
The Palace of Holyroodhouse remains the official residence of Queen Elizabeth when she visits Scotland, and guided tours here include her public reception rooms in the main part of the pile. History buffs, however, will want to see the...
Edinburgh EH99 1SP, UK
It’s hard to imagine that the Scottish Parliament building—an innovative mix of steel, oak, and granite across the road from the Palace of Holyroodhouse—was once the site of a brewery. In 1999, famed Catalan architect Enric...
34 Thistle St N W Ln, Edinburgh EH2 1EA, UK
An accomplished food journalist in print and on the radio, chef Neil Forbes has also been associated with some of Edinburgh’s best cooking for the past 20 years. At Cafe St Honoré, he works with local, seasonal ingredients from...
54 Shore, Edinburgh EH6 6RA, UK
Though not widely known, chef Martin Wishart singlehandedly revived Edinburgh’s fine-dining scene. Case in point: Before he arrived in 1999, there were precisely zero Michelin-starred restaurants in the city. Now there are several, including...
267 Canongate, Royal Mile, Edinburgh EH8 8BQ, UK
With this Old Town restaurant, Paul and Lisa Wedgwood aimed to create their “Perfect Night Out.” Here, guests can enjoy fine dining without the pretention, lingering at tables as long as they wish. The menu is inspired by Paul’s...
Alexandra Dock, Edinburgh EH6 7DX, UK
A 237-foot ship built in 1963, the Fingal is now a luxury floating hotel, docked a short walk from the Royal Yacht Britannia in the Port of Leith. Following a multimillion-dollar refurbishment, the converted boat—once used to service...
1 Tower Pl, Edinburgh EH6 7BZ, UK
Near the water in Leith, this boutique hotel is within walking distance of top stores, bars, and restaurants, as well as popular sights like the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and Princes Street. The 100 stylish rooms feature gray velvet beds, big...
Priestfield Rd, Edinburgh EH16 5UT, UK
Occupying a historic home from 1687, the five-star Prestonfield House is one of Edinburgh’s most luxurious hotels. Surrounded by 20 acres of gardens, it offers the seclusion of a country estate in the heart of the city, right next to...
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