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Prime Location Edinburgh Area Guide

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh has been a major European city since the Enlightenment. During that time, the city became known as the Athens of the North, thanks largely to the work going on at the University of Edinburgh. It has held on to its prestigious pedigree: the Medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town are together recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the city has over 4,500 listed buildings. It is perhaps most well-known, however, for the world-famous Edinburgh Festival, a collection festivals both large and small, official and independent, that fill social calendars for a month in the late summer. During this time, the population of the city practically doubles. It is a major destination throughout the year, though. Edinburgh greets over 1 million visitors each year, and it is the second most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom. For residents, the city is made up of eight large areas. Old Town was first established 900 years ago, and many of Edinburgh’s tourist sites are there. It revolves around the Royal Mile, which features a mix of restaurants, boutiques, pubs and Scotland’s parliament. New Town was borne out of the ideals of the Scottish Enlightenment, which is reflected in the logical layout of the area and the Georgian architecture. These days, it boasts the high-end shops of George Street and the busy thoroughfare of Princes Street. The dirt left over from the construction of New Town was used in the creation of The Mound, the home of the National Gallery of Scotland and Royal Scottish Academy Building.

West Edinburgh has a host of entertainments. There’s Murrayfield for fans of rugby, Edinburgh Zoo for animal lovers, Tynecastle for football and the Union Canal towpath for a walk. Cramond, a village in the north west, has a river walk and a lovely coastline. The Southside area includes some of the most exclusive streets in the city. Neighbourhoods like Morningside and Marchmont are filled with young, middle class families – who move there for the high-quality schools – and with students, as the campuses of both the University of Edinburgh and Napier University are nearby. It is also popular with fictional characters: Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus lives in Marchmont, and Miss Jean Brodie lived in Morningside. It is still a little controversial to call Leith an area of Edinburgh. Formerly a separate port town, it was merged with Edinburgh in 1920 and underwent extensive regeneration in the 1980s. It maintains its distinctive feel, which attracts buyers looking for a home by the sea that is minutes from the city centre. Stockbridge is north west the New Town and is notable for its bohemian sensibilities. It is also the home of Scottish cricket and has the Royal Botanic Garden. Calton Hill is renowned for its views of the city and unusual monuments, and Broughton Street is lined with pubs and café bars that melt into the heart of the city’s gay scene. Duddingston is most well known for Holyrood Park, which surrounds Arthur’s Seat. The neighbourhood itself is as picturesque as the park and the 250m hill.


Edinburgh has a population of 495,360, which means almost one in every ten people living in Scotland are residents of the city. The city has a younger population than the Scottish average. In Edinburgh, almost one-quarter of the population are between 16 and 29 years, compared to 18.7% in the country as a whole. Moreover, those aged 60 and over only make up 19.3% of the population of the city, compared to 23.3% in all of Scotland

Over 95% of residents are white, and Indian and Chinese people make up 1.6% and 0.8% of the population respectively. Despite this appearance of a lack of diversity, 22% of residents were born outside of Scotland. Most of these people are from England, but many migrants from within the EU, notably those from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia, have been drawn to the city. In fact, 18% of Scotland’s total minority ethnic population lives in the city.


There is no shortage of good schools in Edinburgh. The city council alone administers 18 nursery, 94 primary and 23 secondary schools. Stand out schools include Boroughmuir (described in its HMIe report as having a “very good quality of education”), James Gillespie’s High School (with its “very good curriculum”) and Leith Walk Primary (which is marked out for its “high standards of pupils’ attainment and behaviour”). Edinburgh is also home to one of the oldest schools in the country and the world: The Royal High School.

It also has some wonderful independent schools, such as George Heriot's School (which has a “good quality of education”). In fact, more than 24% of pupils in Edinburgh attend independent schools, much more than the average of 7% across the country. Edinburgh is renowned for its four universities, with over 100,000 students. Most famous is the University of Edinburgh, which was established by Royal Charter in 1583. Also upholding the academic tradition of the city are Heriot-Watt University, Napier University and Queen Margaret University.


Transport in Edinburgh is extensive. Edinburgh airport is Scotland's busiest and is the principal international gateway for the country. The city’s main rail station is Edinburgh Waverley, a crucial hub on the East Coast Main Line. Haymarket railway station brings the commuters into the city, while Edinburgh Park station serves the adjacent business park. The Edinburgh Crossrail connects these stations with the suburban ones of Brunstane and Newcraighall. There are also lines to South Gyle, Dalmeny in South Queensferry, Wester Hailes and Curriehill

Most cross-town bus services are run by Lothian Buses, and regional routes are served by First Bus and City link buses. Technically, Edinburgh also has a tram line, but that has been a source of local humour (to mask the impatience), since construction began on the line in 2008. Plagued by delays and increasing budget problems, the tram line still has not become operational, despite an expected deadline of July 2011. It is now estimated to be ready by 2014, though even then it will only run from the airport to the city centre.

Amenities and shopping

As befits a European capital, Edinburgh does not want for things to do and see.


The Edinburgh Festival is the highlight of the cultural calendar, but it is actually a series of separate events that run almost simultaneously. These include the Edinburgh International Festival, which boasts theatre and classical music performances. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, now larger than the original festival, features comedy, cabaret and avant garde performances. Also running are the Edinburgh Art Festival, Edinburgh International Film Festival, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the Edinburgh International Book Festival and the Edge Festival. Edinburgh is also known for the giant street party it throws to celebrate Hogmanay. The official celebration lasts four days and has live bands, food and drink stalls and fireworks displays to ring in the new year.

Theatres and other venues

Throughout the year, the city attracts some of the best entertainment in the world. The Royal Lyceum Theatre, the King's Theatre and Edinburgh Playhouse all stage large touring shows, while the Traverse Theatre presents more contemporary plays. The Usher Hall is the prestigious classical music venue. More mainstream acts can be seem at The Hub, the Assembly Rooms and the Queen's Hall. Large shows are staged at Murrayfield and Meadowbank, and the Corn Exchange, HMV Picture House, the Liquid Rooms, and the Bongo Club feature mid-sized gigs. Edinburgh is ideal for cinephiles as well. It has two repertory cinemas, the Edinburgh Filmhouse and the Cameo, and the independent Dominion Cinema. It also has the regular national multiplexes.

Galleries and museums

Many of Edinburgh’s museums, galleries and libraries are national institutions. The National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and National War Museum of Scotland are all based in the city. Scotland's five National Galleries are also in the capital, as are numerous smaller galleries.

Nightlife and shopping

It goes without saying that Edinburgh has a large number of pubs, clubs and restaurants. These are traditionally found in areas like the Grassmarket, Lothian Road and Rose Street, though George Street and Queen Street in New Town are attracting their fair share of night owls. Further out, Leith’s waterfront and Stockbridge are increasingly fashionable destinations for their nightlife. Still, each neighbourhood has its own collection of pubs, bars and restaurants. When it comes to shopping, Princes Street is the go-to street in the city centre. It has a massive selection of souvenir shops, high street chains and Jenners Department Store, the Edinburgh shopping institution that is now owned by House of Fraser. George Street and Multrees Walk are Edinburgh’s answer to London’s Bond Street and King’s Road, as it is home to the upmarket boutiques and independent shops. The St. James Centre is also a shopping destination, as it hosts many national chains including a large John Lewis.


Edinburgh is a world capital for sports. It has two professional football clubs, Heart of Midlothian and Hibernian, and it is home to the Scotland national rugby union team, as well as the Edinburgh Gunners and Heriot's Rugby Club, Boroughmuir RFC, the Edinburgh Academicals and Currie RFC. Rugby league is represented by the Edinburgh Eagles. It is also home to the Scottish cricket team. It has a lot to offer fans of less popular sports, with the Edinburgh Capitals for followers of ice hockey, the Edinburgh Diamond Devils for baseball fans, and the Edinburgh Monarchs for those into speedway. The city also holds a marathon annually, which attracts more than 13,000 runners. For shorter distance runners, Edinburgh also holds a half-marathon and a number of 10 km and 5 km races, including a 5 km race on New Year’s Day each year, presumably for those who didn’t participate in Hogmanay that year.

Whilst every effort has been taken to ensure the above information is up to date, some inaccuracies may occur. If you notice any inaccuracies please contact

All information was correct at time of publication and is provided in good faith.

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