City Guide

Edinburgh

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Introduction to Edinburgh

Edinburgh, or Dùn Eideann if interested in picking up Scottish Gaelic, is a small city of happiness. Most people who visit fall in love with the atmosphere that Edinburgh offers. From castles and old churches to cobblestone roads and quaint pubs, it is a comfortable and safe city that makes it easy to call Edinburgh ‘a home away from home’.

One of the current interesting attractions about Scotland is the newly built parliament. This parliament marks the first time that Scottish politicians have conducted business from their own front since the Union of Parliaments in 1707. Though much of the decision making power remains at Westminster in London, the Scottish parliament provides a separate platform for a Scottish agenda. If interested in this political aspect of Scotland, you might want to check into the Parliamentary Programme at the University of Edinburgh, a political internship program designed for international students. More information can be found on the University of Edinburgh website along with other information for prospective exchange students.

Edinburgh Castle is one of the most visited attractions by tourists and locals each year and it is open throughout the year. The castle is a must see so if you are only visiting for a short while as a tourist or studying abroad in the second semester, then it is worth paying the price to see the castle (£16 adult, £12.80 concession).

Though Edinburgh can be an amazing city to explore, come prepared to be geographically confused, especially for those coming from North America. Because Edinburgh (like most cities in the UK) is much older, there is no street system likened to a grid system, and nearly all of the streets have several different street names that mark different sections of the same street. For example, Edinburgh’s North Bridge, South Bridge, Nicholson Street, and Clerk Street are all actually just one street but with four different names. Therefore, a map will come in handy while making your way around the town. When in doubt, just ask for help. Edinburgh is a friendly city and, for the most part, people will be able to point you in the right direction.

The city centre

The population of Edinburgh is roughly under 500,000 inhabitants. It is big enough to accommodate all of your interests, yet small enough to make it easy to get out and enjoy the city. Unlike places like London or Chicago, everything is within, at the most, a 60-minute walking distance. Buses also run regularly to provide quicker arrival, and taxis are also an option.

Princes Street

Probably the most famous street in Edinburgh. If doubtful about where to go or which bus to take, just head for Princes Street because the majority of Edinburgh buses will pass by here. The train station is adjacent to Princes Street, and the bus station is just up the hill from the Tourist Information Centre, on the right side of St Andrews Square. Along Princes Street there are several shops, the Princes Street Gardens, and the Princes Street Mall. Adjacent to Princes Street is yet another shopping centre, the St James Centre on Leith Street. So if you are big on shopping and liveliness, then this is the place to be. Hogmanay, the Scottish term for the exciting New Year’s holiday, is celebrated each year with a massive street party along Princes Street with fireworks, music, and pipers.

Chambers Street

Chambers Street is where the National Museum of Scotland is located. This museum is free like a lot of museums and galleries in Edinburgh. Chambers Street is also home to The Jazz Bar and the Revolution Bar, two hot spots in the area. Chambers street also leads to one of Scotland’s Presbyterian churches: Greyfriars Tollbooth and Highland Kirk, which is the oldest post-reformation church in Edinburgh. Each Sunday, this Kirk has Scottish Gaelic services at 12.30pm.

Nicholson Street

Nicholson Street is the same street mentioned above that has several different street names. You’ll be able to find most of your basic necessities along this street with natural food stores, at least two grocery stores (Lidl and Tesco), bargain shops, charity shops, and electronic stores.

The High Street/The Royal Mile

This is a long stretch of tourist shops, relatively expensive places to eat, and various small shops that leads to two major attractions at both ends, the Edinburgh Castle at the top and the Scottish Parliament at the bottom.