I’ve always heard good things about Edinburgh, and I have to say that it fully lives up to its reputation. I’m here to celebrate my birthday tomorrow, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to do it. I really love cities with a medieval feel—cities with cobblestoned streets, Gothic architecture, tiny windy alleys—and Edinburgh has all of that.
The city is just beautiful.
There’s Gothic architecture all over the place, ancient cathedrals, a beautiful garden, small, windy streets, and historic buildings. All of this is surrounding a castle that is perched high on a hill where you can find panoramic views of the old city and the modern area that surrounds it.
Today, I walked around the city. Though I hate to use the word, the city is very charming. In many ways, it feels like Bruges. It’s medieval, well-preserved, peaceful, scenic, and romantic. Besides being a fantastic city for young people (rowdy nightlife), Edinburgh seems like a good place to have a romantic holiday. You come here with your significant other, spend some time in a bed and breakfast, explore the city, and fall in love all over again. Well, I didn’t do any of that, but I did fall in love with the city.
I took the free walking tour around the city, which lasts three hours and walks you around the old city with the guide pointing out the major sites and giving you some history. One of my favorite things about European travel is that in every city around Europe, you’ll find a free walking tour. Sure, the stories they tell are cheesy, but I find that the tours are a great way to orient yourself to a new city. You can learn a bit about the city, get your bearings, and find out the major sites to see. Tomorrow, I’ll head to the Edinburgh Castle and some of the other sites on the tour to better acquaint myself with them.
One of the highlights of my day was the visit to the National Museum of Scotland. Rising six floors, the museum covers the history of Scotland from the ice age until now. You’ll be able to learn the land’s geological, political, social, and economic history. I found the museum did a good job of explaining the history. They cover a lot of ground, and the interactive videos and artifacts are really well explained.
Some other things to see and do in Edinburgh that I really liked:
Visit Edinburgh Castle
(Castlehill, +44 131 225 9846)
The Edinburgh Castle is an important landmark. Although it costs 18.50 GBP to enter, you can spend a good part of the day here, and it’s worth it alone just to see the Crown Jewels exhibit. You also get sweeping views of the city. Try to get on the guided tours as they give you more information and context. The castle opens daily at 9:30 am. Last entry in the winter is at 4 pm, 5pm in the summer. Audio Tours are available to hire in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Mandarin. The cost for this is 3.50 GBP.
Hike to Arthurs Seat
Although it can be a bit of a hike, the top of Arthur’s Seat provides a spectacular view of all of Edinburgh. Some parts of the hike are rather steep, so bring a picnic and spend an afternoon looking out over the city.
Walk down the Royal Mile
The most famous street in Edinburgh, this road is filled with pubs, restaurants, and shops. It takes you from the royal castle to the royal palace. While touristy, there are a number of historical monuments to check out along the way.
Tour Rossyln Chapel
If you read the Da Vinci code, you know this chapel supposedly helped guard the holy grail. It’s a very intricately-designed chapel and there are many mysteries surrounding it (why does it show corn when the New World hadn’t yet been discovered? Huh? Huh!). Though small, the carvings in the wall are spectacularly done. The chapel is open Monday to Saturday 9:30 am to 5 pm (6 pm in the summer) and on Sunday from noon to 4:45 pm. Last admission is 30 minutes before close. Admission is £9.00.
For you backpackers out there, I recommend Castle Rock Hostel. It’s pretty cheap, and they run a lot of activities where you can meet other people. There’s a big common room, and the hostel is located right across from the castle, giving you an amazing view. I’ve had a lot of fun here the last few days. The beds are comfortable, and it’s great to have hot water. I know that doesn’t seem like a novelty, but I’ve been traveling Asia, where hot water is a novelty.
Edinburgh is one of the best cities in Europe. I often hate going to hyped-up locations because I usually am disappointed. Not this time. Edinburgh lives up to the hype. I haven’t even left yet, but I already want to come back. I can’t wait to spend the next three days exploring the city more, visiting the castle, Rosslyn chapel, and getting lost in the city’s windy, narrow streets of Edinburgh.
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