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Edinburgh, Scotland: Your Essential Weekend Itinerary

Established in the 7th century, Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is the UK’s second most popular tourist destination thanks to its historical and cultural significance. Home to several national institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery, as well as The University of Edinburgh, which was founded in 1582, the city is an artistic and educational hub. Famous for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the world's largest arts festival, the city features numerous historic sites, including Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the churches of St. Giles, Greyfriars and the Canongate, and the Georgian New Town. The city’s Old Town and New Town are both listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

First Coast

Via First Coast

First Coast in South Edinburgh, a popular neighborhood eatery, specializes in Scottish cuisine. Locals are drawn to its lunch and dinner specials, which feature two courses for under £14. The restaurant's low-key maritime blue and white decor and cozy ambiance make this an ideal stop after a morning of sightseeing. The simple lunch and early evening menu features creative comfort food, such as Thai fishcakes with mango salad, and spiced and butterbean and quinoa fritters with green olive dressing as starters. Entrées include pea, herb and feta linguine, and flat iron steak with peppercorn sauce, chips and salad. First Coast also serves a three-course set menu for £26, as well as a small plates brunch menu, which is available from 12pm to 4pm on Saturday afternoons.

Edinburgh Castle and Royal Palace Entrance Ticket

Via Edinburgh Bus Tours

Rather than waste time in line, purchase an entrance ticket in advance to bypass the queue at Edinburgh Castle and Royal Palace. The fortress, which was built in the Iron Age, features spectacular rooms and exhibition halls that will transport you back to the days of Mary Queen of Scots. The castle also contains the National War Museum, which displays 400 years of Scottish military artifacts. Given its position on Castle Rock, the fortress became a stronghold, which witnessed the 14th century War of Independence between the Scots and the English. Eventually, the castle was reclaimed by Robert the Bruce. Edinburgh Castle houses the Scottish Crown Jewels, as well as the Stone of Destiny, upon which Scottish kings were enthroned. Visitors can also access the Great Hall of James IV, the prisons that held French and American captives during the War of Independence, and St. Margaret’s Chapel. The castle includes tea rooms that serve traditional tea and baked goods, as well as the self-service Redcoat Café.

Martin Wishart

Via Restaurant Martin Wishart

Martin Wishart, a French Michelin-starred restaurant named after its owner, has been a local favorite for nearly 20 years. Wishart, who has trained with Albert Roux, Marco Pierre White and Nick Nairn, takes pride in sourcing his ingredients locally. The chef has been awarded a Degree of Doctor honoris causa by Edinburgh University for his “contribution to the raising standards of Scottish cuisine, specifically in Edinburgh, to the international regard it currently holds.” The quirky yet cozy dining room invites guests to sit back and enjoy their culinary experience. Favorites include the six and eight-course tasting menus with selections such as ceviche of Gigha halibut and oyster blade of black Angus beef, as well as Orkney lobster ravioli and Shetland squid “a la plancha.”

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When traveling to Edinburgh, pack an umbrella since rain is all but inevitable. With a mild climate, the city’s temperatures range from a high of 71°F to a low of 33°F with more rain in the fall than in the spring. The city hosts the annual Edinburgh Doors Open Day on the last weekend in September, in which many historic buildings are open to the public at no charge, allowing visitors to experience the local architectural wonders. Art lovers won’t want to miss the National Museum of Scotland, which exhibits Scottish pottery and weapons from the Roman era and the Renaissance, the National Gallery of Scotland, which displays Scotland's fine artwork and includes seasonal exhibitions, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which features modern Scottish and international art. Sports fans can catch a 6 Nations Championship rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium, or a football match at Heart of Midlothian FC's Tynecastle Park, or Hibernian F.C.'s Easter Road Stadium. Edinburgh also has an active nightlife, as well as a traditional folk music performances at pubs in the Old Town or Leith.

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