Edinburgh Travel Guide

While Edinburgh has a number of sights to see much of the appeal of the city is simply soaking up the atmosphere of the Old Town, with its shadowy alleyways that make it possible to imagine what life was like in medieval Scotland, and the New Town, with its orderly Georgian elegance. Travelers in search of Scottish goods—tartan scarves, ties, and, of course, kilts and skirts; wool sweaters; smoked salmon—will find the country's best selection here. Princes Street and George Street will satisfy most shoppers. Don't forget to leave time to soak up the atmosphere at a local pub in the evening. Some sights not to be missed:

National Museum of Scotland. Eclectic exhibitions range from woolly mammoths to the lives of Scottish Enlightenment figures.

Scottish Parliament. One-hour tours are free but should be booked in advance.

Princes' Street. Come here for shopping and the views of Edinburgh Castle.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery. 30,000 works include Scottish icons like Mary, Queen of Scots and Robert Burns, as well as 6,000 photographs of contemporary figures.

Calton Hill. Climb to its peak to take in the 19th-century monuments and city views.

Top fashion houses commission Rohde's cashmere handiwork. The designer, who only works with the finest yarns from Scotland in her town-house atelier sells discounted elbow-length gloves and sweaters in candy colors. Call ahead for an appointment.

The hottest contemporary-arts gallery in the city once housed a 1938 produce market; now displayed are the works of Scottish artists like Christine Borland and emerging international talents. The chic industrial café is great for people-watching.

A 10-day celebration of film, theater, and food that takes place along the Edinburgh harbor.

In a funky chandeliered lounge known for the Adidas sneaker collection displayed above the bar, sip an Ape Expectations (local Monkey Shoulder Whiskey, maple syrup, and fresh mandarin orange juice).

Catalonian architect Enric Miralles went $767 million over budget on his 2004 architectural masterpiece, which won the U.K.'s most prestigious architectural award, the Stirling Prize, in 2005.

Behind a narrow red storefront on Victoria Street, this self-proclaimed “liquid deli” is a cross between a liquor store and an old-fashioned apothecary shop. Inside, the open wooden shelves are lined with row after row of Italian glass demijohns in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Salty locals haunt this no-frills establishment with long literary traditions; it's favored by writers and is featured in native Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus novels.

Browse bolts of house-woven tartans or pick up one of the leather pouches that adorn traditional men's dress. Downstairs at 21st Century Kilts, the owner's son turns out black leather versions favored by U.K. rockers like Robbie Williams.

For incredible couture hats and contemporary hairpieces, style mavens and royals turn to Jelfs. The milliner's studio—a centuries-old feather-, felt-, and flower-filled beamed farmhouse—fittingly lies on Palace grounds. Hours are quirky, so call ahead.

Since 1670, when it was established for cultivating medicinal plants, the gardens have been an exemplar of botanical conservation. On the immaculate grounds: dwarf rhododendron, 11 glass conservatories, and a heath garden.

Just west of the Princes Street Gardens, the Lyceum is an impressive Victorian theatre dating back to 1883. Over the centuries, the theatre hosted some of Scotland’s most noteworthy theatrical events, including performances by Henry Irving and Ellen Terry.

Rent a Mini Cooper S—a sporty classic that hugs the winding Scottish roads nicely.