Cheap flights to Edinburgh

Presenting a rather Gothic cityscape as it spreads out below its ancient Castle, reaching out to the port of Leith, Edinburgh is far from dour. The canny Scots have crafted a capital that is crammed with culture, filled with fun and festivity, veneered with sophistication but reeking of history and mystery. It's a heady combination that never fails to charm visitors to this city, built on a set of extinct volcanoes on the Firth of Forth, an inlet from the North Sea, just north of the border between Scotland and England.

The first thing that catches the eye is the looming battlements of the castle, sitting atop sheer granite cliffs that can only be accessed from one steep ridge. Today the castle heads up the Royal Mile and a linear set of streets making up the 'New Town', created when Edinburgh was re-designed in the 1700s, after the Act of Union with Britain. Tourists eagerly wander up and down the main street, Princes Street, all year round, browsing in the top quality stores and photographing the vista of the castle and the old town. When it comes to sightseeing, Edinburgh's attractions are largely based on historic stories and legends, from the churchyard where Greyfriar's Bobby, the terrier, refused to leave his master's grave, to the grand royal apartments of Holyrood House, where Mary Queen of Scots watched her husband kill her lover back in the 16th century.

Edinburgh oozes atmosphere, but never more so than during the summer months, when the vibrant Edinburgh Festival fills the city with drama, creativity and colourful visitors from around the world. Another occasion when Edinburgh pulls out all its stops is during the traditional Hogmanay New Year festival, when the jolly festivities are warmed by a great imbibing of Scottish malt whisky and ales pulled in the many local pubs.

Edinburgh is perhaps best summed up by one of its famous sons, the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson, who described it as 'a profusion of eccentricities; a dream in masonry and living rock'. Just remember that if you want to endear yourself to the locals, pronounce the city's name as 'Edinbruh' and not 'Edinberg'!

Getting around

A good network of buses cover the city; this is the main form of public transport. Buses are given exclusive use of certain lanes within the city, and as a result, the services are fairly free-flowing. Exact change is required, so buying a One-Ticket pass is a convenient option. This allows unlimited travel in and around the city. Different bus companies provide services along similar routes, and tickets are not interchangeable. Night buses come into operation after midnight; they offer an economical way of getting home after a night out. There are no internal rail services. Black taxis are easily hailed in the street and there are numerous taxi ranks, but rates are a bit expensive. Rental cars can be useful for touring the country, but driving around Edinburgh's one-way, narrow streets can be confusing, and parking is difficult. Edinburgh is compact, and its pretty views and large number of parks make walking a lovely way to see the city. Keep in mind, though, that Edinburgh has a fair share of steep hills, which can also make cycling challenging.

Nightlife

Edinburgh's nightlife comes alive during its many festivals but the rest of the year a more subdued, trendy night scene fills in the empty spaces. There is no central nightlife district in Edinburgh and instead a few different neighbourhoods offer slightly different night atmospheres. Despite Old Town's name, the district has new and trendy areas such as Cowgate and Grassmarket. Both of these are popular bar-hopping destinations. Great live bands and folk music is best heard in both these areas and surrounding small alleys and walkways. The seafront area of Leith shares a trendy and upmarket feel although, like many areas, it competes with traditional bars and old pubs. After work watering holes dot the Edinburgh streets of most neighbourhoods as they have done for centuries. These are still popular local haunts, a great place to begin an evening or end a day. Edinburgh enjoys a relaxed nightlife atmosphere which is shared in lax rules and drinking hours. Most bars stay open until one to three in the morning, and much later for festivals.

Shopping

Shopping in Edinburgh is not something for the feint hearted and visitors will be in danger of shopping till they drop! Princess Street is by far the most well-known and popular strip to do a spot of shopping. Here most people fight their way through the bustling crowds to get to some of the major UK chain stores, as well as a few independent shops. The slightly calmer and more exclusive George Street runs parallel to Princes Street but is somewhat pricier. At the east end of the street, Princess Mall contains plenty of specialist shops and high-end boutiques, while the Royal Mile is a slightly more off-beat shopping destination with loads of quirky independent stores. Popular buys in Edinburgh include tartan scarves and kilts, whisky, Edinburgh Crystal and tweeds. Shops in Edinburgh are open Monday to Friday from 9am to 5.30pm, with late-night shopping on Thursday until roughly 8pm. Some larger stores open on Sundays. Many shops (especially those frequented by tourists) are part of the Tax-Free scheme and shoppers are advised to keep their receipts and fill out a claim form to have the 17.5% VAT refunded.

Sightseeing

Sightseeing in Edinburgh reveals a score of attractions, highlighting this ancient city's historical, cultural and visual charm. Most Edinburgh attractions are quite centrally located and best enjoyed during the summer, when the days are both longer and warmer. Located on the mound of an extinct volcano, Edinburgh Castle hosts structures from as early as the 12th century, and the National Gallery has displayed fine works of art to the public since 1859. For Scottish opera and ballet performances, visit the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, while the Museum of Edinburgh is another great attraction. The Scotch Whisky Experience shows visitors the art of brewing Scotland's celebrated whiskies, locally referred to as 'the water of life'. Speaking of water, the Royal Yacht Brittania is docked in the port of Leith and has hosted the likes of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela. A well-known Edinburgh attraction is the Royal Botanic Garden, and the Royal Mile in Old Town is another must.

Kids Attractions

The historic city of Edinburgh is brimming with old castles and fascinating sights and children can have a great time exploring this fantastic city too. The kids will love a visit to the Royal Yacht Brittania, or on a sunny day, visit the cute animals at the Edinburgh Zoo, or pack a picnic and the Frisbee and head to the Royal Botanic Garden for day in the fresh air and sunshine - fair weather days are rare so make the most of them! For an educational excursion, visit the Museum of Edinburgh and be mystified by the history of this famous city, while Our Dynamic Earth will astound the little ones and get them thinking about their place in the planet. When skies are grey and outdoors attractions are not an option, take the water soaked kids to discover some other aquatic animals at Deep Sea World Aquarium, or make use of indoor playgrounds such as the one in Edinburgh Park or the Happy Castle Play Centre.

Dining

Restaurants in Edinburgh suit all tastes and pockets. Traditional Scottish fare such as Haggis, salmon and Aberdeen Angus beef is widely enjoyed, while international cuisine including French, Italian, Oriental and Indian is also readily available in Edinburgh. When eating out in Edinburgh, the best local cuisine, including good old fish and chips, can be found in and around the Royal Mile or the historic port of Leith. For French, Italian and Indian cuisine diners should try Castle Terrace, Ocean Drive (also in Leith), George Street and Lothian Road. Most Edinburgh restaurants are open daily and reservations are recommended. A 10% tip is customarily given to the waiter.

Climate

Edinburgh has very unpredictable weather, sunny summer days sometimes rapidly changing into damp, showery conditions or vice versa. Summers are generally fine though, with mild temperatures and bright sunshine, although days might start out misty. Winters are long and damp with many frosty days. December, January and February are the rainiest months, but snow in winter is infrequent. The best time to travel to Edinburgh is during spring when parks are a riot of colour and the weather pleasant.