We have visions of old Scotland: kilts, bagpipes, the seemingly endless, raw Highlands. Castles, ruins, and a rigorous climate. A lot of culture, an abundance of tradition. Scottish soil does not disappoint, not only when you’re a history enthusiast. Various sources throughout the years have listed Scotland as “the most beautiful country”. It’s clear why. Charming, welcoming, mythic, historical with breathtaking sceneries – Scots can be proud to call this corner of earth their home. And rightfully so, it draws in visitors and leaves them enchanted. Additionally, with its 112 parks, Edinburgh is greener than any other city in the United Kingdom, perhaps the reason why it feels so very welcoming and not like an actual city. And at the end of the day, you‘ll be leaving this place with a story (or two) to tell, yearning to return. 

Where History Is Tangible

When visiting Edinburgh, more than a thousand years rich in history, be prepared for a picture-perfect city and even more picturesque views. And so Queen Victoria, who visited Edinburgh for the very first time in 1842, already noticed that the “view of Edinburgh from the road before you enter Leith is quite enchanting: it is […] fairy-like.” Having served as an inspiration for many writers and artists in general, Edinburgh can be described as a dreamy poem. In fact, it became the first UNESCO City of Literature in 2004. 

With its many museums and galleries, medieval streets, Victorian town houses, Reformation-era constructions and large town squares, parts of Edinburgh have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It might, hence, just be fitting that many call it the “Athens of the North”.

This is a city of shifting light, of changing skies, of sudden vistas. A city so beautiful […] – Alexander McCall Smith

Probably one of the most picture perfect streets in Old Town, and also the most iconic, is the Royal Mile (technically a little longer than just one mile). Beginning at the Castle Rock – an extinct volcano – where the incredible Edinburgh Castle is located, the Royal Mile (the term was given to this main artery in the early 20th century) runs down to the Holyroodhouse Palace nestled in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, a 251 m high summit of a group of hills in this city. Making the trek up there is rewarding; the panoramic vistas are incredibly beautiful and are well worth the hike. 

An Enchanting Aura

Edinburgh is guarding its beauty well. Therefore, everyone visiting Scotland’s capital for the very first time is bound to fall for this dazzling city. Strolling around Old Town, it seems as if time has come to a halt decades ago. Especially later in the day, when the streets are a little emptier, an enchanting aura takes over. Or early in the morning, before its residents commute to work.

A moment of serenity within the beautiful, historical capital of Scotland; an enchanting aura surrounds you – Edinburgh, UK

I found myself strolling through the narrow alleyways, peeking into the windows of little shops that appear to have been around for many years. Whiskey is Scotland’s national drink. There’s a certain nostalgia surrounding it as you sip on a carefully poured glass in an old-fashioned, dimmed-light, cozy pub. It’s history in itself. And so I wonder just how many stories have been shared over this beverage with a price range as large as this planet, as I like to joke.

Piled deep and massy, close and high; Mine own romantic town – Sir Walter Scott (“Marmion”)

Occasionally, I stopped, looked up, as I was walking along the cobbled streets, thinking about the historical moments that took place exactly where I was standing while taking the feature image of this article. You could say I was time traveling to fuel my composition. The thick brick walls, perfectly imperfect, crooked little houses with dreamy facades, and a warm atmosphere seldomly felt anywhere else. Edinburgh is a city, yet, it does not feel like it. Wandering around Old Town allowed me to dive deeper into the heart of one of the most beautiful of Scottish cities – and Europe at large. 

Wandering Through A Historic Fort

Edinburgh Old Town is a captivating destination all year round. However, it’s especially attractive throughout the month of August, when the famous Fringe Festival with its many artists is taking over the medieval streets. Follow the labyrinth of narrow roads and let the sounds of a city that’s so very welcoming and alive guide you.

Old Town is home to iconic buildings that characterize the cityscape of Edinburgh. Those include the St. Giles’ Cathedral, the Old College, the Scottish Parliament Building, as well as the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland, just to mention a few.

Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life… I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh […] – Ian Rankin

Make a stop at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street, or head over to Charlotte Square for a spot of Georgian House watching. On Dundas Street, for instance, you find many galleries and antique shops. Take it slow. Soak it all up. Take your time to let Old Town do its magic. And along the way, you might learn that Edinburgh was the first city in the entire world to introduce a fire service – pretty advanced. And, did you know that Edinburgh started out as a fort? The English called it “Eiden’s burgh” when they took charge of the Castle Rock in the 7th century, before the area was reclaimed by Scots three centuries later. The meaning of the name makes sense now. 

Continue wandering the minor streets – called “closes” or “wynds” – and get a little bit lost in a truly stunning city that has well carried its history into the present time. 

If you have visited Edinburgh before: What’s your favorite thing about this city, your favorite part of it?