An Alternative Summer Destination Scotlands capital city, Edinburgh is a wonderful place to live and visit. Guest Travel ArticlesEurope & Beyond is keen to hear from guest bloggers and travel writers who want to share their experiences. Of all the cities in the world, Edinburgh - the capital and cultural center of Scotland for over 500 years - occupies one of the most beautiful locations. The Royal Mile refers to the road linking Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Scotland's most famous landmark, Edinburgh Castle is one of Britain's most visited tourist attractions.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen's official Edinburgh residence and has frequently been at the center of Scottish history: it was where James II and James IV were each married, where James V and Charles I were crowned, and where "Bonnie Prince Charlie" held court in 1745.
The Great Gallery is also worthy of a mention with its portraits of Scottish kings, both legendary and real. Since opening in 2011, the National Museum has become one of Scotland's most popular attractions with close to two million visitors each year. Of interest to those keen on genealogy is New Register House, home to the Scottish National Archives, some of which date from the 13th century.
Paintings of Scotland's leading historic figures from the 16th century to the present day can be seen in the National Portrait Gallery, one of Edinburgh's three major art galleries. Finally, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art displays paintings by Henry Matisse and Pablo Picasso, surrealistic works by Rene Magritte, Joan Miró and Max Ernst, contemporary paintings by Bruce McLean, Callum Innes and Gwen Hardie, and sculptures by Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth and David Hockney. Opposite Calton Hill stands a memorial to Scottish poet Robert Burns, a favorite of Edinburgh's highest social circles. On George IV Bridge stands the National Library of Scotland, one of the largest libraries in Britain.
Its fine architecture, excellent accommodation, restaurants and activities make it an ideal place for visitors to enjoy. Sometimes described as the "Athens of the North", this famous festival city boasts Greek-style columns on Calton Hill, a wide choice of museums and art galleries, as well as a host of historical gems.
Lined with charming townhouses and historic landmarks, this splendid thoroughfare is a great first stop in Edinburgh with its fine shops (including kilt makers), numerous inns, museums, cafés and restaurants. When the Queen's away, public access is permitted to the stunning Historic Apartments (former home of Mary Queen of Scots) and the State Apartments, famous for their fine furnishings, tapestries and plasterwork. Tours are also available of neighboring 12th century Holyrood Abbey, founded by King David I. The spectacular sightseeing views from the top encompass the whole city all the way to the mouth of the Forth.

The 161 ft central tower with its eight arched buttresses forms a huge crown (the Crown Steeple) and is a favorite backdrop for photos. Within its magnificent 70-acres are a herbarium and Britain's biggest palm house, a tropical house with exotic orchids, an alpine house, a terraced moorland garden, a heather garden, and an extensive arboretum with rare giant trees from the Himalayas, North America and China.
It extends for almost a mile and is lined with colorful gardens and elegant shops, including the tradition-conscious Jenners of Edinburgh, the world's oldest independent department store. Princes Street's historic landmarks include the 200 ft tall Sir Walter Scott Monument, and the David Livingstone Memorial, a memorial to the missionary and African explorer. The highlight of the gallery's 65,000-plus pieces is the huge processional frieze showing Scotland's most famous personalities, including Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, Sean Connery, Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Stuart and Bonnie Prince Charlie, among others. It's a lot of art (and walking), so you may want to spread your visits over a couple of days. Over the years, this luxurious vessel has hosted numerous famous people from around the world, although none perhaps as famous as the Queen.
To the west lie Princes Street and the castle, to the south the old town is silhouetted against Arthur's Seat.
Perhaps the most important of Edinburgh's many memorials is the impressive National Monument on Calton Hill, erected to remember the dead from the Napoleonic Wars.
Established around the collection of the former Advocate's Library in 1689, the library receives a copy of every book published in the UK. Edinburgh actually consists of two cities: the castle, set on high basalt rock, dominates the densely populated Old Town, a labyrinth of narrow alleys and rows of houses. Many of the buildings are tall, averaging six to 15-stories and referred to locally as "lands". Another notable feature is the Stone of Destiny (aka, the Stone of Scone), famously stolen by Edward I and placed under the English throne in London - only returned to Scotland 700 years later in 1996. Afterwards, be sure to snap a shot of the lovely Holyroodhouse Fountain outside the palace. Interior highlights include memorials to the dead of WWI, lovely stained glass windows, and a statue of John Knox, leader of the Protestant Reformation (his former home, 45 High St, is close by and contains a museum and related artifacts).
Highlights include national archaeological collections, medieval artifacts, plus displays focusing on natural history, geology, art, science and technology.
House of Frasers at the western end is also quite grand, while Princes Mall with its small shops set among fountains and cafés offers goods of varying quality. When you're done with all that shopping and history, head for Princes Street Gardens - home to the world's oldest floral clock (1903). The second major art collection is housed in the Scottish National Gallery, which boasts Scotland's biggest collection of European paintings and sculptures, beginning with the Renaissance and including some Post-Impressionists.

After more than 40 years serving the Royal Family, the 60-year-old vessel was sent to Leith, Edinburgh's port area, as the centerpiece of the Britannia Visitor Centre.
Henry Playfair designed the memorial using the Parthenon in Athens as his inspiration and work began in 1822, but the project had to be abandoned due to lack of money.
Edinburgh Castle is the central point of the city, with residential and business areas radiating outward.
While grand squares, wide avenues and elegant facades characterize the Georgian New Town, a masterpiece of 18th century town planning. Narrow little alleys, called "winds" with the hidden backyards "closes", weave in and around them. Other features in this huge park are the ancient cultivation terraces - some of the earliest and best-preserved examples of ancient farming practices in Scotland, and the picturesque ruins of the medieval St Anthony's Chapel. The Thistle Chapel is known for its marvelous oak carvings, heraldic emblems and seals of the "Knights of the Thistle" (Scotland's oldest order of knights).
Among the 16 galleries, the most interesting of more than 8,000 artifacts on display include Dolly the sheep, the world's first cloned mammal, as well as some of Elton John's more elaborate stage costumes.
As well as these temples to consumerism, Princes Street boasts several reputable hotels and restaurants, from fast food to gourmet bistros.
Once aboard, you'll learn about the history of this and other Royal Yachts as you explore the ship's five main decks.
At the foot of the hill stands the 13th century Royal High School, where Sir Walter Scott was once a pupil. Also of note here is Nelson's Monument, unveiled in 1816 after Horatio Nelson's victory at the Battle of Trafalgar.
The Castle has been in continuous use, incredibly for over a 1000 years and is the venue for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo – it should be number one on your list of places to visit. Sir Robert Lorimer designed the chapel in 1911, and it is a superb example of modern Gothic style.
Traditional museum displays include material from Ancient Egypt, and the infamous Maiden, an early form of guillotine. Highlights include the Royal Apartments and bedrooms, the lovely sun lounge, and the onboard Royal Deck Tea Room.

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