Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid once described the city of Edinburgh as a “mad god's dream”. This is perhaps the most apt description of a gorgeous landscape that has seen thousands of years of settlement, upheaval, and conflict with cultures as diverse and far-flung as the Vikings, Romans, and Germanic tribes. The city today is a jumble of architecture, innovation, and art, with a proud and independent population. Despite high ideals, you’ll find this Scottish capitol to be grounded and without pretensions. Loud and noisy pubs set the pace of local nightlife, while sightseers can get happily lost in the metropolis or use it as a jumping-off point to explore the rest of Scotland. The annual collection of international summer festivals epitomizes Edinburgh’s role as the steely, resolute civilization at the junction of cultures.
Location: Ancient Gateway to the British North
Sitting on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth (where the River Forth empties into the North Sea), modern Edinburgh is said to sit atop seven hills, prompting allusions to Rome. Though populated by ever-shifting cultural groups, the region has been more or less continuously settled since well before the Bronze Age. Today, Edinburgh is well connected to the world by Scotland’s busiest and largest airport, and boasts a considerable network of buses, trams, and trains facilitating access throughout the city and around the country.
Business: Financial Services, Research, and Scotch
Edinburgh residents boast the highest average annual earnings of any UK city, save London, and the city attracts plenty of foreign direct investment (FDI). Made famous for brewing, distilling, and publishing, Edinburgh’s economy today is primarily based on banking and other financial services, scientific research, and tourism. Here you’ll find the home of the Bank of Scotland, Tesco Bank, and Virgin Money. The many annual festivals draw millions of visitors every summer.
Culture: An International Showroom
Edinburgh is host to a number of massive festivals with a global reach every year. The Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe bring the best of the performing arts and music into the city, while lovers of media will enjoy both the International Book Festival and International Film Festival. If these festivities don’t catch your eye, never fear: this is a metropolis that can easily be explored at your own pace. Take in a play at the King’s Theater, Royal Lyceum, or Bedlam Theater, or visit one of Edinburgh’s many museums and galleries.
Activities: Ascend the Highlands and Delve into History
There’s no shortage of entertainment in the city center, but if you’ve had your fill of theater, music, and museums, why not try a spot of sightseeing at the Edinburgh Castle? Adventurous types will love a day trip into the renowned Scottish Highlands. Visit famous Loch Ness for a little monster hunting, or visit some of the North’s many castles – defenses against Vikings and other threats – and ancient Stone Age settlements – some older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids.