Lay of the Land
Scotland's capital and second-largest city sits on an estuary called the Firth of Forth. At its center is Princes Street, the traditional boundary line between the Old Town to the south and the New Town to the north. With the exception of Dundas Street, the New Town is mainly residential and plays host to the city's professionals. The Old Town boasts many of Edinburgh's historic sites, and while these are well maintained, some of the surrounding streets are rather worn, edging on shabby. There are a number of distinct villages with their own character within the city: To the south, Stockbridge is a trendy little enclave of boutique shops, while the old port of Leith, although redeveloping at a pace, has a more rough-and-ready charm. The area around Broughton Street has an enthusiastic nightlife and is also the hub of the city's gay scene.
WHEN TO GO
Nobody comes to Edinburgh for the weather. Winters get bitterly cold, though you may find the sea mist swathing the city in gauze romantic (if you really try). On the plus side, Hogmanay (New Year's) rapidly followed by the anniversary of the great bard Robert Burns (Burns Night, January 25) are occasions of riotous fun if you know where to go. The most pleasant months weatherwise are May to September, with the peakest of peak seasons being early August to early September, when the Edinburgh Festival takes place, plus the (arguably) even more festive Fringe Festival. Both offer world-class arts (the latter with a higher proportion of comedy), but if you're coming, book many months ahead and be prepared for raised hotel rates.
HOW TO GET THERE
Edinburgh Airport is about eight miles west of the city center. A taxi costs around $36, or you can catch the Airlink 100 (44-131-555-6363), which departs every 10 minutes to Waverley Bridge and takes approximately 25 minutes ($6 single fare, $10 return). Continental flies nonstop from Newark airport. If you take a stopover in London, you can fly with many low-cost airlines up to Edinburgh, which takes, on average, an hour. Alternatively, catch the train: GNER (44-845-748-4950) or Virgin (44-845-722-2333) from London King's Cross station to Waverley Station in Edinburgh, can take as little as four hours.
Edinburgh is a compact, accessible city and it's easy to get around on foot. There are also plenty of buses: Lothian Buses (44 -131-555-6363; day ticket $5/child $4) or First Buses (44-870-872-7271; day ticket from $3.70). It's approximately $2 for a single trip, but make sure you have the right change. You can also hail or order a cab (City Cabs: 44-131-228-1211; Central Cabs: 44-131-229-2468).
The main tourist office is at 3 Princes Street (44-845-225-5121).View Scotland Factsheet