City guide to Edinburgh, “Athens of the north”

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Bout of Bubble fever? Birthday weekend? Getting the travel itch? Don’t fear! One of the UK’s finest cities is just an hour and a half away and has a lot to offer for both first-time visitors and returnees. Below are just a few of Edinburgh’s finest attractions.

The views

I have lived intermittently in Edinburgh for the past three years and I still can’t get enough of the beautiful views available everywhere. Just standing at the statue-marked intersection on George Street gives a stunning view of the Firth and Fife. For a first-timer, the first stop would be Arthur’s Seat and the Castle (prepare to be startled by the one o’clock gun), both of which are must-sees.

I often find, however, that getting views from major landmarks can be frustrating since the major landmarks are never in your view.

This is an easy problem to solve in Edinburgh as places such as Calton Hill are perfect spots to see all the major landmarks like Arthur’s Seat and the Castle, as well as getting the perfect shot of Princes Street (featuring the Scott Monument and the Balmoral Clock). Calton Hill has the added bonus of having several famous landmarks itself, but as the hill is quite big they can still be featured in photographs. For other options, both the National Museum and Camera Obscura have panoramic terraces.

The rain options

If it’s raining and you can’t head to the Botanic Gardens, Princes Street Gardens or up Arthur’s seat for some connecting with nature, Edinburgh offers plenty indoors.

The National Gallery has fantastic exhibitions on all the time. The National Museum is a rare gem. Free and extensive, you can spend an entire day wandering through the history, inventions and culture of Scotland and other world civilisations.

Camera Obscura offers some mind-altering visual spectacles with a bonus history lesson (with a view, so rain or shine it’s a winner), and if all else fails, there’s always shopping (hello Topshop, goodbye bank balance)!

Edinburgh - N&S-Locations, St Stephen Church
St. Stephen’s Church in Edinburgh

The history

The Castle and the Palace of Holyrood House are obvious destinations for fans of history. The Royal Mile has a lot to offer for those who want to venture beyond the history of royal monarchs.

The Mile’s attractions range from tours down the famous closes that cover both the historical and supernatural past of Edinburgh to a police museum that features a purse made out of human skin, (definitely not for the squeamish). Wandering down some of the closes can reveal hidden gardens, cafés and museums.

Slightly further afield into Midlothian, Vicky Rines, director of the Edinburgh Little Black Book, recommends Rosslyn Chapel, a fascinating and beautifully preserved fifteenth-century chapel (conspiracy theorists and fans of the Da VinciCode might recognise it). She also recommends one of the city’s many ghost tours if you’re interested in finding out about Edinburgh’s rumoured spooky past. English students should note down the Writer’s Museum as a definite destination. It features original artefacts from the likes of Walter Scott and Stevenson.

The nightlife

Not looking to Hive Till Five? Don’t worry. Edinburgh’s got plenty of amazing pubs if you want a slightly less fluorescent night and Revolution has a club vibe without the pressure to push yourself until unthinkable morning hours.

For quieter nights, there are some great pubs around the University pof Edinburgh (Sandy Bell’s, Malones) that offer Irish-tinged live music. If you get stuck (unlikely) there’s always the Standing Order on George Street – cheap, cheerful and classier than a Wetherspoons has a right to be.

The top of Leith Walk (opposite John Lewis) also offers a selection of Edinburgh’s finest and friendliest gay bars.

Living so close to Edinburgh is a blessing. It’s the best cure for the occasionally overwhelming bout of Bubble fever. I’ve highlighted a few options for you, but the most fun comes from discovering things for yourself, so take your time to get to know and appreciate the city.

If you move on from St Andrews to another corner of the world without immersing yourself in Edinburgh at least once, you’d have missed a great historical and cultural opportunity.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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