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Edinburgh is the capital of Scotlandand the second most popular holiday destination in Great Britain (London is, of course, number one). The symbol of the city is Edinburgh Castle, which 'guards' the city from the top of a hill. Both the 'Old Town' (medieval) and the 'New Town' (18th century) are on the World Heritage list of UNESCO. In addition, Edinburgh is a popular place to shop and party. The annual Edinburgh Festival (August) is world famous. In fact, there are various festivals, that attract many visitors: the number of people in the city doubles in the three weeks of the festival.
The city has more than 450,000 inhabitants. It is expected that the population will increase to half a million in years to come. Almost one in five of the city's inhabitants are students. The average level of education is among the highest in Great Britain.
Edinburgh is located in the east of central Scotland on the south side of a deep sea inlet, the Firth of Forth. The landscape in the city's surrounding areas was originally shaped by volcanic activity, after which the glaciers during the Ice Ages formed deep valleys. Glasgow is located 70 kilometres to the west.
Edinburgh is a service town, with as its most important sectors financial services and tourism. The Bank of Scotland was founded in Edinburgh over 300 years ago.
In addition, the city houses large investment banks and insurance companies. Industry has never been very important to the city, although in recent years the electronics industry has been emerging.
As the capital of Scotland and an important education centre, many of the people in Edinburgh find employment in the (semi-)government sector.
The city is visited by millions of domestic and foreign tourists every year. Tourism is an important sector, which generates around a hundred million British pounds a year.
Edinburgh International Airport is located 12 kilometres to the west of the city. There are connections to other cities in Great Britain (over 40 flights a day to and from London), European capitals and Newark and Atlanta in the US. Shuttle buses (Airlink Express) depart every 15 minutes to and from the city centre. In 2009, a railway link will be opened between the airport and the city.
The city has two bus companies, Lothian and First. They use the same bus stops, but a ticket from one of them is not valid on the other company's buses. In the centre of the city, Lothian is bigger, whereas First has more lines in the areas in the east and west.
In 2007, work will begin on the construction of a lightrail, which will connect the western areas with the city centre. The line will eventually be extended to the airport.
In addition, there are three tourist buses. They all leave from Waverly Bridge, but they each take a different route. Waverly Bridge is located near Waverly Station, the city's main train terminal. It is the final destination of the East Coast Main Line, from where there is a direct connection to Kings Cross in London.
First of all: in Great Britain people drive on the left side of the road, which means that the steering wheel of your rental car will be on the right. We do not recommend venturing into the city's busy traffic if you have never driven on the left side of the road before. You may want to practice in a quiet neighborhood first.
Edinburgh is famous for its traffic congestion. In addition, many streets in the city centre are one-way streets, which does not make it easier to find your way around. The city centre is fairly compact and it is easily explored on foot. Finding a place to park in the street is difficult, and also there is usually a maximum allowed time period. On the edge of the centre there are a few car parks. Some of the bigger ones are Castle Terrace on the west side of the centre and St. James Centre and Greenside Place on the east side. It is easier and cheaper to park your car at one of the train stations or on the P+R areas on the edge of the city, and from there to proceed by public transport.
As the second tourist destination in Great Britain and an important economic centre, there are a tremendous lot of accommodations available in Edinburgh. From top-of-the-line luxurious and very expensive hotels to dead cheap but sometimes dingy rooms in simple guesthouses. In August (during the Edinburgh Festival) all hotels are fully booked. If you do want to stay in Edinburgh in August, make sure you book your hotel room months in advance.
For more information about Edinburgh, we recommend Google, and the following sources: