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Edinburgh Vacations

A festival for the senses

Edinburgh vacations from

$802

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Welcome to the Athens of the North

Which other British city can deliver up two extinct volcanoes, one garnished with a dramatic castle atop it, and two distinct, highly photogenic UNESCO-rated districts? Add into the mix the world’s largest arts festival and a surfeit of beautiful green spaces and you have yourself a world-beating destination. Little wonder then that Auld Reekie is still regarded as the Athens of the North.

Start off by meandering your way down the slightly over a mile-long Royal Mile (it’s based on the longer Scots mile measurement) stopping off for a snifter in the Jinglin’ Geordie on Fleshmarket Close. Call in at the Witches Well, which memorialises the many women put to death on suspicion of witchcraft, witness mindboggling optical illusions at the Camera Obscura and get a slice of medieval subterranean life at the Real Mary King’s Close. Take in the view from the Athenian acropolis of Calton Hill, one of many imposing monuments in the city.

Head down through the maze of elegant architecture that is the New Town towards villagey Stockbridge where homely bistros, cosy pubs and indie boutiques await. Or else make your way to the 70-acre Royal Botanic Garden to take in the splendour of two vast Victorian glasshouses and around 800 varieties of rhododendron. Wander along the banks of the Water of Leith ‘til you reach Dean Village, a ridiculously scenic area that’s home to two of Edinburgh’s best galleries set amid a stunning sculpture park, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Modern Two, the latter with its neon banner reassuring you that ‘Everything’s Going to be Alright’. Stroll across Bruntsfield Links where people have been playing golf since the 15th Century and indulge yourself with coffee and cake in one of the many cafes here.

One perhaps does not tend to think of Edinburgh as a typical seaside destination, but the coastal suburbs of Joppa, Musselburgh and Portobello all have their own charms. Elsewhere the studenty Newington, chic Marchmont and genteel Morningside are all worth exploring once you’ve exhausted the city centre. Book your flights to Edinburgh today and start exploring.

Carefully selected Edinburgh hotels

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Best hotels in Edinburgh for all types of traveller

We have a great selection of quality hotels in Edinburgh to recommend. From its airy public spaces through to its spacious modern rooms Ten Hill Place Hotel, WorldHotels Distinctive exudes an atmosphere of quiet sophistication. Interestingly, Ten Hill Place is owned by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh with all profits from the hotel going back into training surgeons worldwide.

The Balmoral, a Rocco Forte hotel sits at No 1 Princes Street, where the Old Town meets the New Town. Expect a legendary hotel with a landmark clock tower – a symbol of its city – and an award-winning fine-dining restaurant. Combining Victorian style and modern luxury, the iconic Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian has inhabited a former railway station building on Princes Street since 1903. It offers views of Edinburgh Castle and is just yards from the stunning Princes Street Gardens. A grand hotel since 1881, a collection of fine Georgian townhouses make up the InterContinental Edinburgh The George. The hotel has hosted literary legends Robbie Burns and Sir Walter Scott, while the building was also home to Scotland’s answer to Jane Austen, Susan Ferrier.

YOTEL Edinburgh is a tech-savvy hotel surrounded by a UNESCO World Heritage Site on historic Queen Street. Each cabin incorporates YOTEL’s seamless technology and clever space-saving design. Situated in the New Town, the Georgian building of Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh - City Centre is just a five-minute walk from the bustling shopping zone of Princes Street and Edinburgh Waverley railway station.

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Talk to our destination experts

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Edinburgh fly-drive vacations

Fiat 500 or similar
  Flights +   7 days car hire
From$757pp
Fiat 500 or similar
  Flights +   7 days car hire
From$757pp
Fiat 500 or similar
  Flights +   7 days car hire
From$757pp

Edinburgh vacation FAQs

Make the most of your Edinburgh vacation

Unsurprisingly perhaps, Edinburgh has become something of a whisky mecca in recent years, with the UK’s first vertical whisky distillery set to open soon in Leith. It will join the Holyrood distillery run by a youthful team of master distillers and the behemoth that is the Johnnie Walker Princes Street visitor experience. Combine that with a clutch of gin distilleries and several craft beer breweries and you can see how the city’s boozy reputation was built to outlive last orders.

What are the best places to visit in Edinburgh?

A stroll down the Royal Mile is the perfect introduction to Edinburgh. Starting at the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, follow the cobbles and you’ll come across some of the city’s most famous attractions. These include the Scotch Whisky Experience, St Giles’ Cathedral, the ultramodern Scottish Parliament Building and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. You can even venture inside the King’s official residence in Scotland, complete with an art gallery with seasonal exhibitions, before hiking up Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park. Make time to wander down the Mile’s many atmospheric closes and wynds.

Princes Street is the city’s main thoroughfare and a key shopping area. Well-known high-street names such as Boots, H&M and Marks and Spencer rub shoulders with souvenir shops and independent outlets. Several of the street’s most famous names have now closed, including the historic department store Jenners, which is now being redeveloped as a luxury hotel complex. Nearby though you’ll find Multrees Walk, the city’s luxury shopping enclave and home to the only Harvey Nichols department store in Scotland. Relax in the pleasantly maintained Princes Street Gardens complete with a Beaux Arts-style fountain and large floral clock, perhaps calling into the Scottish National Gallery on the Mound for a dash of culture, or you can scale the impressive Gothic rocketship that is the Scott Monument.

Few cities can claim to have an ancient volcano within easy reach of the city centre but that’s precisely what Arthur’s Seat is. The short but strenuous hike up to the summit of this grassy hill in Holyrood Park is worth it for the prime views it affords. There are several trails of varying difficulty including the gentler Salisbury Crags route – wear decent walking boots to navigate the dirt paths and uneven stone trails. From the top you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of Edinburgh’s skyline, including Edinburgh Castle, the Firth of Forth and the coast beyond.

Edinburgh’s Old Town is easily one of the most atmospheric quarters of the city, with a romantic skyline of higgledy-piggledy old buildings bedecked with spires and turrets and other fairytale architecture. Highlights include picturesque, winding Victoria Street, George IV Bridge and its Harry Potter associations and Greyfriars Bobby, plus the 104 marble Scotsman Steps which were developed into a public artwork by artist Martin Creed in 2010. Take in an exhibition at the Fruitmarket Gallery and stop for a pint on the Grassmarket, which has held a bustling market since the 14th Century and was once the site for public executions.

Built from around 1767 to 1850, Edinburgh’s New Town is a masterpiece of town planning complete with Neoclassical flourishes and Georgian period pieces. Its elegant UNESCO-listed contours are comprised of a cityscape dotted with garden squares, terraces, crescents and secluded lanes made up of some of the most handsome sandstone buildings in Britain. Go for a spot of antiquing on stately Dundas Street, have an indulgent afternoon tea at The Dome on George Street or get your fill of famous faces at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street.

Moored alongside Leith’s Ocean Point Shopping Centre is the Royal Yacht Britannia, where an audio tour provides a glimpse into the private lives of the Royal Family. The Royal Yacht has travelled more than a million miles and its splendour is showcased in its 412ft (125m) build. Pose for a photo wearing a Royal Navy cap in the Petty Officers bar, the ‘Verge Inn’. For a lovely treat, take afternoon tea on board, in the Royal Deck Tearoom.

Where are the best things to do in Edinburgh?

  1. The highlight of any visit, Edinburgh Castle dominates the city, set high atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Immerse yourself in its history and traditions but don’t be startled by the one o’clock gun salute fired daily (except Sunday) since 1861. Don’t miss the Stone of Destiny, Crown Jewels or Prisons beneath the Great Hall. Enjoy a pot of tea here in the Tea Rooms, along with dainty sandwiches and homemade scones. Move on down the Royal Mile from here, past traditional tartan souvenir shops, to the Scottish Parliament building and the Palace of Holyroodhouse – the official residence of the King when he's in Scotland. Book a Royal Edinburgh tour to see more.
  2. Edinburgh’s museums offer up a diverse mix of inspiring collections. Kids of all ages will love the National Museum of Scotland – from meteorites to mummies and monsters of the deep. Have a taste for the macabre? Check out the Surgeons' Hall Museum with its anatomical oddities, ghoulish death masks and even a book said to have been fashioned from the human skin of a murderer. Alternatively, take a fascinating dip into recent social history at the People’s Story Museum or for a trip into literary Edinburgh delve between the covers of the Writers’ Museum which charts the lives and influence of three of the country’s most famous scribes: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
  3. Anyone with even a passing interest in the worlds of theatre and comedy should not miss the world’s largest arts festival. For three weeks in August the streets of Edinburgh come alive with buskers, street theatre and live entertainment filling practically every cobblestone. Every conceivable performance space in the city is rammed with keen audiences watching in rapture at the new shows on offer. The International Festival is acclaimed for bringing opera, classical music and world-class theatre, while the Fringe is famous for off-the-wall comedy and offbeat drama. Both offer astonishing talent giving stellar performances. Then there are spine-tingling spinoff festivals covering the worlds of books, art, film and music, plus a host of compelling festivals held outside of August, such as the Edinburgh Science Festival (April).
  4. The mighty Edinburgh Castle is also home to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – one of Scotland’s most iconic events. Each August, hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world queue around the block in Edinburgh for a spectacular showcase of the world’s best military bands, pipers and drummers, dancers and theatre groups. Each 90-minute show ends with a performance of the haunting Lone Piper and a dazzling fireworks display, making it an unforgettable experience.
  5. Also on the Royal Mile, and great fun, is the Scotch Whisky Experience. All tours start with a swirling, bubbling barrel ride through a replica distillery and before you know it you've become part of the whisky making process. You’ll see the world’s largest whisky collection and of course have time to sample a ‘wee dram’. Guaranteed you’ll leave happier than when you went in.
  6. Dining in Edinburgh is a rich and diverse experience not to be missed. The capital is home to no fewer than five Michelin-starred restaurants, several of them in the trendy port district of Leith, alongside countless fish and chip shops and traditional pubs such as The Last Drop where you can sample the national dish haggis, neeps and tatties (mashed swede and potato). Meanwhile the weekly Farmers Market on Castle Terrace and its hipper cousin in Stockbridge are great places to sample local produce and get a glimpse of Edinburgh life.
  7. Edinburgh’s nightlife is varied from sipping a dram of whisky in a quaint pub to going through the menu at a stylish cocktail bar in the New Town. Have a drink in the cosy Halfway House, Edinburgh’s smallest pub, or try some of over 300 malts at Whiski Bar. Go and see a live band at one of the city’s innumerable quirky venues like Summerhall set in the former Old Royal Veterinary College, or witness some traditional folk music in The Royal Oak.

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