About Edinburgh

Here are some facts about our city which we hope you will find interesting.

Photo: Andy Stephenson

Every year, Edinburgh welcomes around four million visitors, making it Scotland's most popular tourist destination. As the country's capital - and its second largest city - it is the home of the Scottish Parliament, the official residence of the monarchy in Scotland and the site of the world's largest arts festival.

Edinburgh Castle is very much the focal point of the city's history: arguably the reason that Edinburgh exists. Built on top of an impregnable volcanic crag, it dominates the skyline. The Castle has been involved in many of the great conflicts of Scottish history, from the Wars of Scottish Independence (13th and 14th centuries) to the Jacobite Rising (1745). It includes the city's oldest building, the 12th-century St. Margaret's Chapel. Today, the Castle is Scotland's most popular paid-for visitor attraction.

The Old Town grew up in the shadow of the Castle, starting from about the 12th century. It grew rapidly in the 15th and 16th centuries, quickly becoming one of the most over-crowded and unsanitary towns in Europe. Today, the slums have gone and the Old Town is very much a thriving community. Rather than being preserved merely as a museum piece or a tourist attraction, it is still a place where people live, work and go to school.

The Royal Mile is the Old Town's main thoroughfare: five contiguous streets which together form a route from the Castle in the west to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the east. With more historic sites packed into its short length than any comparable street in Europe, the Royal Mile is the main focus of our free walking tours.

The Canongate is the eastern part of the Old Town. It was a separate burgh (administrative unit) until 1856, after which it was incorporated into the growing city of Edinburgh. It includes the Queen's official residence in Scotland, the church where the Royal Family worships when in residence, and the new Scottish Parliament building. We include the Canongate in our free walking tours.

The New Town, built between 1767 and the 1850s, lies to the north of Princes Street. It includes some of the UK's finest examples of neo-classical and Georgian architecture and is considered a masterpiece of town planning. Although we don't visit the New Town on our free tours, we are happy to arrange a custom tour of this beautiful district on request.

The UNESCO World Heritage site encompasses both the Old Town and New Town. It is one of six such sites in Scotland.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Edinburgh today is a vibrant cosmopolitan city of nearly half a million people. It has the strongest economy of any UK city outside London and the highest percentages of professionals and graduates. It is the UK's most popular conference venue and Europe's fourth largest financial centre. With its four universities, it is also an important centre for higher education.

The Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are the city's two leading cultural events, attracting large numbers of visitors from around the world. The International Festival features world-class performers in the fields of music, theatre and dance, while the Fringe offers a much wider selection of shows, including many free open-air events. Our free walking tours are timed to coincide with the two festivals, which take place concurrently over a 25-day period each year in August (see our home page for the current dates).

Further information

City of Edinburgh Council. Official website of the city's local government.

Edinburgh by Numbers. A collection of facts and figures about the city.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Edinburgh International Festival.

History of Edinburgh. Wikipedia article.

UNESCO World Heritage site.