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Top Rated Attractions in Edinburgh

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Old Town - Edinburgh

Steeped in unbridled antiquity, the charming Old Town is that part of Edinburgh where history yet lives in all its glory. The town is home to an arsenal of significant buildings like the St. Gile's Cathedral, the National Museum of Scotland and the Old College; however, its nerve center is the Royal Mile, which cuts through the ancient landscape of the town, straddling many historic monuments on its way. Pervaded by a certain kind of old-world charm, Old Town is where quaint alleys like Cockburn Street overflow with shops full of tie-dye and joss sticks, piercings and indie style, while the St. Mary's area boasts tiny independent designer boutiques. Old Town, together with New Town is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical significance as the oldest part of the Scottish capital.

Royal Mile

The core of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, the Royal Mile begins at Edinburgh Castle, making its way down the volcanic hill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Along the way are numerous historic icons and modern-day attractions, hidden gems tucked away down narrow closes interlinked with stairways that lead to an underground maze of wonders. From the mysteries of the Real Mary King Close and the panoramic views afforded by the Camera Obscura to the Scottish Whiskey Experience and the Parliament Buildings, both old and new, the Royal Mile encompasses the heritage of Scotland in a single Scots mile. The Royal Mile is actually made up of four successive streets, namely, Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Cannongate, lined with restaurants and boutiques that offer regional specialties. Other attractions include the People's Story Museum, St. Giles Cathedral and the Museum of Childhood. A visit to Edinburgh is simply incomplete without a walk down the Royal Mile.

The National Museum of Scotland

Next door to the Royal Museum, the stunning Museum of Scotland details the history of the Scottish people. From the beginning of time through the present day, the history of Scotland is explained through galleries and displays in a wonderful, informative exhibition. Wander through the halls and wonder at the fossils, the ancient jewelry and artifacts. Travel back in time to the industrial revolution and the Scottish position in the British Empire. Marvel at the technological advances that have taken Scotland to modernity.

Festival Theatre

Before the birth of the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, opera seemed to have no real home in the Scottish capital. Several plans for an Opera House were suggested, shelved and eventually rejected. Instead of constructing anew, the decision was finally taken to refurbish and revamp the old Empire Theater, and in the summer of 1994 a new, glass-fronted Festival Theater was opened. The large stages are now graced by a variety of performances, from ballet and opera to drama and cabaret. During the Edinburgh International Festival, the theater hosts many prestigious concerts. The summer Proms season with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is another annual highlight. Prices vary so call for details.

Edinburgh Castle

Perched at the craggy edge of Castle Rock, the world-renowned Edinburgh Castle, with its brooding grey fortification, was once the military centerpiece of the British army in Scotland. Along with fulfilling its duties as a wartime fortress, it was also the residence of King Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret in the 11th Century. Within its dark grey walls and even beyond them, the Edinburgh Castle is home to some of the most marvelous relics of Scottish history, meriting it one of the most popular paid-attractions in the world. The oldest monument atop the volcanic Castle Rock promontory is St Margaret's Chapel, beside which Mons Meg, a colossal siege gun dating back to the 15th Century stands in historic pride. At the heart of the castle's main complex, one can almost hear the deafening silence of the Great Hall, the erstwhile site for several royal ceremonies and the place of congregation for the Scottish Parliament. A little further toward the east, the Royal Palace proudly displays the sparkling crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny. Together with its remarkable past and beautifully preserved elements of history, both Castle Rock and the Edinburgh Castle form solid units of Scotland's royal and political heritage.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Conspiracies, plots and other dramatic turns in Scottish history were the scenes played out at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Established as the monarchical residence for the kings and queens of Scots more than six centuries ago, it is now the Queen's formal residence in Scotland. Built on the ruins of a medieval abbey, this elegant, quadrangular complex was built in the 16th Century with added extensions in the following century. Intriguing stories abound in its state apartments that give a glimpse into the life of its famous residents like Mary, Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie and George IV. The Great Gallery displays fascinating exhibitions from the Royal Collection, while the expansive, beautiful gardens add further charm to this regal castle.

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