Edinburgh – a city bursting with myths and exciting stories, even said to be haunted. Hidden among the hills of the Lowlands, this Scottish beauty today looks out onto the rough sea with its thousand legends and stories from its castle on a former volcano.
Edinburgh has been Scotland’s capital since the 15th century and has also been the seat of the Scottish Parliament since 1999. It is the second largest city in the country after Glasgow.
The city center of Edinburgh is more or less divided into two parts: First, there’s Old Town, where you’ll find most of Edinburgh’s historical sights. They are connected by the main artery, the Royal Mile, which consists of the individual streets Canongate, High Street and Castlehill. Just a stone’s throw away, across Princes Street Gardens, is New Town, with the main street Princes Street, which itself also offers many sights and invites you to a shopping trip.
Tip 1: Edinburgh Castle
The special atmosphere and grandeur Edinburgh owes above all to its landmark, Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful capitals in Europe. Around 1 million people visit the impressive fortress complex on the crater of an extinct volcano every year. No other historical monument in Great Britain, with the exception of the Tower of London, records more visitors.
A visit to the castle is worthwhile not only for historical interest, but also for the fantastic panoramic view of the city. When the visitor lets his gaze wander over Edinburgh from the castle, the special and dramatic location of the city, between the sea and the mountains, immediately becomes apparent. There is much to discover in the castle complex. The oldest building is St. Margaret’s Chapel. The small Norman church has stood here for over 900 years and is therefore also the oldest masonry in the city.
The extensive castle complex was a fortress, garrison and prison. Above all, however, Edinburgh Castle was a royal palace, and today the “Honours of Scotland,” the Scottish crown jewels, are on display here. The oldest insignia in Europe include the crown, the scepter and the sword of state. They can be admired in the “Crown Room.” In the palace, the royal apartments can be visited, including the small room where Mary, Queen of Scots, gave birth to her son James, later James I of England. Very impressive is the “Great Hall” from the 16th century, whose wooden ceiling is preserved in the original.
Tip 2: National Gallery of Scotland
The National Gallery of Scotland is located in one of two impressive neoclassical buildings at the foot of The Mound, built by Playfair in 1854. The gallery is located directly behind the Royal Scottish Academy, and the two together swallowed up a staggering 30 million pounds in construction.
The museum is home to the largest collection of European as well as Scottish art from the Renaissance to the post-Impressionist era in Scotland. The collection includes masterpieces by Gauguin, Van Gogh, Allan Ramsay, Holbein, Raphael, Rembrandt, Henry Raeburn and David Wilkie.
The National Gallery of Scotland is one of the most important art exhibitions in the whole Europe and the number of its exhibits is constantly increasing. However, at the same time – due to the given space – only certain exhibits can be seen. The National Gallery administration also includes the subsidiary galleries Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and Dean Gallery, all located in Edinburgh. Furthermore, the Duff House in Banff as well as the Paxton House in Berwick upon Tweed belong to it.
Tip 3: Holyrood Palace
When Elizabeth II is in Edinburgh, she traditionally resides in the magnificent Castle of Holyrood. The origins of the building complex date back to the 12th century.
Holyrood House is closely linked to one of the many dramas in the life of Mary Stuart, also known as Mary Queen of Scots.
It was here that she married Lord Darnley and it was here that her private secretary David Rizzio was murdered by this same husband out of jealousy.
Today it is peaceful behind the facades in Renaissance and Baroque style. Many parts of the palace are open to the public and besides the former rooms of Mary Stuart you can admire precious furniture, Flemish tapestries and much more.
The palace is located at the eastern end of the Royal Mile, which leads up to Edinburgh Castle. Behind the castle stretches the park of Holyrood.
Tip 4: Scotch Whiskey Experience
Scotch Whisky Experience is a kind of whisky experience center at the top of the Royal Mile. The Experience is housed in the Castlehill Primary School building opposite the Camera Obscura and below Edinburgh Castle. The Experience is, nomen est omen, all about experiencing the lifeblood of the Scots, whisky.
The school building was built in 1887, and in 1951 the school ceased to operate. In 1987, the Whisky Heritage Centre (an association created by various producers) took over the building, which in the same year was included in the B-listing of protected buildings.
Since 2001, the building has also housed the Scotch Whisky Training School, a kind of training center for everyone involved in any way with whisky as a product. In 2006, the Heritage Centre became the Scotch Whisky Experience. In 2008 and again in 2012, a few million pounds were spent to further improve the experience in the building.
You can experience the production process in a relatively authentic way if you let yourself be driven through the replica of a distillery in the mobile whisky barrel and are informed about the steps of production.
In the Sense of Scotland Room, you get an introduction to the different tastes of the whisky regions. In the McIntyre Whisky Gallery there is information on the history of whisky and its production in Scotland.
Tip 5: St. Giles Cathedral
The former St. Giles Cathedral is one of the most important sights of the city of Edinburgh in Scotland. It is located on the main axis of the old town, known as the Royal Mile, about 500 meters east of Edinburgh Castle.
The first documented mention of a church on this site dates back to 854, and the present building was constructed around 1120. After a fire in 1385, the church was rebuilt in the Gothic style; the tower was not completed until 1495.
In the 16th century, the reformer John Knox preached in the church of St. Giles. He was buried in a graveyard south of the church. A sculpture of John Knox was erected near the cathedral in 1904, created by the sculptor MacGillivray.
In 1633 St. Giles was elevated to the status of cathedral by Charles I, which title it lost in 1638. In the years 1661 to 1689 it became a cathedral again.
Extensive restorations took place in the 19th century and in the 1970s. Numerous stained glass windows date from the late 20th century, such as the large window in the west façade (The Great West Window or The Burns Window) by Icelandic artist Leifur Breidfjörd in 1985.