Edinburgh is a stately city that's proud of its UNESCO-certified heritage, with its iconic castle and Royal Mile as central, visual reminders of the centuries it's helped shape. The center of the Scottish Enlightenment, Edinburgh's appreciation for knowledge and culture continues to run deep as home to one of the best universities in the world, as well as fascinating museums, great music venues, and the world's first fringe festival, a showcase for of-the-moment performing arts.
When to Go
The city comes alive in the summer months, with May, June, and July being particularly sunny. While a local saying jokes that you're likely to get all four seasons in a single day, chances of rain are lowest as summer kicks off. August is wonderful, too, but the city's population doubles when the annual Fringe Festival hits, so unless it's the reason for your trip, you might as well avoid the crowds—and premiums on lodging.
The aforementioned Fringe Festival that takes over Edinburgh each August is what puts the city on the radar for many—and it's worth planning a trip around. This is Edinburgh at its most cosmopolitan, as both famous and up-and-coming comedians, musicians, and other arty types from around the world head here to perform. Hogmanay, the city's winter celebration ushering in the New Year with a torch parade, bagpipes, and a massive street party, is also an excellent time to visit.
What to Eat
You can't have a trip to Scotland without trying its most famous dish: haggis. Don't think too much about how this proverbial sausage is made (hint: organ meats), but the end result is like a deliciously spiced ground mince, best served with "neeps and tatties" (that's mashed yellow turnip and potato) and, of course, a wee dram of whisky. For meat-eschewers, Haggis's vegetarian version is just as good as the real thing.
Souvenir to Take Home
There's no shortage of "tat"—also known as tacky souvenirs—to buy here, including entire stores of cheap kilts. Avoid the Royal Mile for souvenir-shopping and head to Jenner's for cozy, Scottish-made wool sweaters and timeless Harris Tweed jackets. Another go-to? A bottle of Speyside whisky—or a cheeky bottle from one of the area's many craft distilleries. The now-ubiquitous Hendrick's Gin is Scottish-made, but take home a bottle of locally produced (and much-beloved) Edinburgh Gin instead.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
Sustainable Travel Tip
Edinburgh is incredibly walkable—and arguably best explored this way. If you allow enough time, have a decent pair of walking shoes, and don't mind a hill or flight of stairs once in a while, there's really no reason to take the bus around the city center.
The best shot of the city is quite likely from the top of Calton Hill, located at the east end of the city's high street. Climb to the top and face toward the city, and you'll have a stunning vista often captured in paintings and photos of Edinburgh, with the splendor of the city—including its iconic castle and Old Town—stretching toward the horizon.