Travel guide - Edinburgh

Although not the official capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is undoubtedly the best place to visit for a touch of elegance north of the border. The cultural centre of the country, this city is divided into two parts: Old Town, with its pretty cobblestone roads, and New Town, a meticulously planned urban masterpiece. From its Gothic architecture to its British manners, whisky to haggis, Arthur’s Seat to the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, like its men in kilts, loves to subvert expectations.

There’s something Gothic about Edinburgh

One of the most striking things about Edinburgh’s city centre is the juxtaposition of Georgian and medieval buildings. Walking through Old Town, you discover a maze-like city where brick buildings are intermingled with Gothic facades along Victoria Street and the Royal Mile. Take the royal path to Edinburgh Castle and traverse the Middle Ages by way of the six different sections that make up this famous road.
New Town awaits you on the other side of North Bridge. The refuge of the gentry of the 19th century who fled the dirty, overpopulated old town, New Town catapults you into the Scotland of the Enlightenment period, filled with beautiful Georgian houses. While walking down Princes Street, cast your gaze above the shopfronts to admire the neoclassical facades, weathered with time. Then head for the “Athens of the North”, Calton Hill, and enjoy the view while dusk falls on the antique columns of the National Monument of Scotland.

Scotland’s cultural beacon

As the cultural centre of all of Scotland, Edinburgh is full of museums that help visitors learn more about its heritage. Take a trip to the National Museum to retrace the history of Scotland, from its first inhabitants to modern Europe by way of the Celts. This heritage is marvellously showcased through pieces like Dolly, the first cloned sheep, and medieval tapestries, not to mention the more or less obligatory exhibit on the evolution of the kilt.
For a more representative experience, reconnect with Scottish elegance through a visit to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. With its 3,000 paintings and sculptures and thousands of drawings, the museum literally illustrates the most important moments of the nation through the faces of those who played pivotal roles in the country’s history.

Scottish nature in the middle of the city

Edinburgh is deeply surprising, and the green spaces you’ll discover while exploring the city are the perfect example of this. Few cities have Edinburgh’s selection of green spaces, parks, zoos and botanical gardens, and this city definitely knows how to take a walk on the wild side. Take in a breath of fresh air south of the city by heading to the hill that overlooks the slate rooftops of Edinburgh. Between valleys and walking paths, you arrive at a natural peak which was the legendary meeting place for King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table.
For further natural encounters, head to Portobello Beach near the city centre, a pretty seaside suburb that, when the wind gets up and the waves come crashing in, gives you a tiny taste of the raw, untamed wilderness that is the Scottish countryside. In addition to the picturesque brick facades and charmingly old-fashioned villas you’ll find here, the invigorating spray of the North Sea will add a sprinkle of energy to your Scottish adventure.

A city with taste

Much like its strong accent, Scottish cuisine is astoundingly rich, especially when compared with that of their Anglo-Saxon neighbours. Contrary to rustic Irish dishes and haughty English cooking, Scotland has a remarkable ability to practise a way of life through its food. Walk through the doors of a comfortable pub and settle into a worn leather armchair before ordering some haggis, deliciously seasoned stuffed sheep’s stomach. But haggis isn’t Scotland’s only speciality. Try the salmon, available both smoked and boiled, or the famous Angus beef. Finally, treat yourself to a sampling of local cheeses, surprisingly refined for the French palate, and finish off your meal, in moderation, with a glass of scotch with salty notes.
Edinburgh is both one of the most elegant cities in the United Kingdom and one of the most surprising. The city is full of things in unexpected places, like the buildings that seem to be built on top of each other in the old town, or the working-class neighbourhood cut off from the rest of the world, yet in the middle of Edinburgh: Dean Village. As the Scots say, “Haste Ye Back” (hurry back).

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