Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Edinburgh
Of all the cities in the world, Edinburgh, the capital and cultural center of Scotland for over 500 years, occupies one of the most beautiful locations. Sometimes described as the "Athens of the North", the famous festival city boasts Doric columns on Calton Hill, a wide choice of museums and art galleries as well as a host of other historical gems. Edinburgh actually consists of two cities. The castle, set on high basalt rock, dominates the densely populated old town, a labyrinth of narrow alleys, rows of houses and back yards. The famous "Royal Mile" links the castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Georgian new town, itself a masterpiece of town planning from the 18th century, is characterized by grand squares, wide avenues and elegant facades.
Edinburgh is now home to many prosperous service industries and the area around George Street is one of Europe's largest investment centers.
Little is known about Edinburgh during the time of the Roman occupation or before. According to legend, in the fifth century the Picts built a fortress on the volcanic castle rock which they called in Gaelic "Din Eidyn". But the settlement became strategically important when the Angles from Northumbria overran Lothian and most people assume that the name originates from Edwin, king of Northumbria (617-633). When the Scottish Picts pushed south in the middle of the 10th century, the town was probably reconquered. Malcolm III (Canmore) built a castle on Castle Hill and his wife Margaret, who was later canonized, built a chapel. By the time Robert I, the Bruce, had granted Edinburgh a number of special rights in 1329 and had handed over the port of Leith, the eastern slope of Castle Hill had become quite densely populated. When Berwick was lost (1482), Edinburgh, which had now become an important center for traders and craftsmen, was declared the capital and the first ramparts were constructed, although the king often stayed elsewhere.
The defeat at Flodden Field aroused concerns about an English invasion and a second protective wall was built around the city center. Despite the upheavals of the Reformation, the invasion by Henry VII and the unfortunate reign of Mary Stuart, during the 16th century the city enjoyed a period of great prosperity. Union with England in 1707 left the city without a parliament, but it retained its importance as a regional capital and also as a cultural center. The university which had been founded in 1582 developed into a respected center for research. While Peter the Great was Tsar of Russia, for example, nearly all his doctors trained in Edinburgh. From about 1750 this creative spark which influenced the arts and the sciences attracted intellectuals, writers and artists from all over Europe. During the Victorian era, some cultural influence ebbed away to London, but Edinburgh remained a dominant force in the world of medicine. James Young Simpson discovered chloroform and Joseph Lister demonstrated the value of antiseptics. At the same time, banking houses, insurance companies, publishing companies, docks and the railroad brought with them economic success. At the beginning of the 19th century the area around Nor' Loch (now Princes Street Gardens) was drained and three bridges (North Bridge, George IV Bridge and Waverley Bridge) were built to connect the old and new towns.
During the 14th century, Edinburgh, like other royal cities, would almost certainly have had a coat-of-arms, but it only gained official recognition in 1732 when one was granted by Lord Lyon. A new version of the coat-of-arms for the City of Edinburgh was introduced after the administrative reforms of 1975. A shield showing a castle on a rock of black basalt and towers with red flags is topped by the Scottish crown and the Admiralty anchor. The motto "Nisi Dominus Frustra" meaning "Nothing of lasting value can be done without God's help" comes from Psalm 127. The shield is supported on the left by a girl - in the Middle Ages the castle was known as "Castrum Puellarum" (The Maidens' Castle) as according to legend it was a safe refuge for princesses - and on the right by a hind, the symbol of St Egidius, the patron saint of Scotland's capital.
George Heriot's School
Empire Palace Theatre
Seton Collegiate Church