Edinburgh – The Athens of the North

If you’ve never been to Edinburgh you must know there aren’t many cities in the world that come close to matching the beauty of Scotland’s capital city. After all, where else can you find a castle built on top of an extinct volcano, right in the middle of the city?
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You could try and discover the wonders of Edinburgh by reading about it on the web, looking for photos, or even accessing Google Earth, but no matter how many technological wonders you have at your disposal, you’ll still have to travel to Edinburgh, in order to fully appreciate its Scottish charm. It’s just like trying to enjoy the taste of a delicious cake by admiring a photo of it. You’ll feel like something is missing, no matter how rich your imagination.
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Its two most popular nicknames: Old Smoky and Athens of the North immediately send your mind flying centuries back in history and, as soon as you set foot in Scotland’s capital, the black walls and amazing architecture, influenced by Celtic and Gothic styles, will make you feel like you’ve traveled in time.
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After you’ve settled into your hotel and are ready to go sightseeing in Edinburgh, the first place you have to visit is Castle Rock, the legendary castle towering atop a volcanic plug, right in the middle of Old Town. Here you’ll have the chance to explore the old chambers of this former royal court, see the Crown Jewels, visit a small arms museum, but most importantly, enjoy breathtaking views of the city. A true “panorama”, a word few people know was born right here, in Edinburgh.
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As you walk down from Castle Rock, on the Royal Mile, you can actually feel history oozing out from every rock in the pavement. It’s a sensation you can’t experience in the concrete and glass cities of today, and it’s emphasized even more by the narrow, dark corridors that link Royal Mile to the rest of Old Town. Close to the castle you’ll find on of the most popular attractions of Edinburgh, the Scotch Whiskey Experience, a true whiskey museum, where you can see how the famous scotch whiskey is distilled and even try some genuine scotch, for free.
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Down the street from Edinburgh’s whiskey museum you’ll find a number of worthy attractions like the St. Giles Cathedral, the Museum of Childhood or Holyrood Palace, the official Scottish residence of the Monarch of the United Kingdom. Royal Mile is also the most popular shopping destination in Edinburgh, sporting an impressive number of shops, boutiques and charming pubs.
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For relaxing walks in the middle of nature, you have to visit the Edinburgh Zoo and botanical garden on Princess Street. There’s no entrance fee, but you can make a donation inside. For art enthusiasts, Edinburgh offers a number of fascinating attractions, like the Royal Museum, the National Gallery of Scotland, as well as a number of memorial houses that belonged to local artists.
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Edinburgh is often referred to as the World’s Festival City, because of its wide array of celebrations and events that take place throughout the year. Right now, the Edinburgh Winter Festival is in full swing and will culminate with Hogmanay, a four-day New Years celebration.
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Despite what you may have seen in historical movies about the rugged Scots, they are friendly people that will gladly help you if you ask for information and even guide you to the best, cheapest places to shop in Edinburgh.

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