Famous for its festivals, Scotland's capital is home to numerous places of history and mystery. Here are five must-see attractions in Edinburgh.
Human use of Castle Rock, the location of one of Scotland's most famous icons, dates back to the late Bronze Age. During the Middle Ages, it became Scotland's primary royal castle. The Great Hall was finished in 1511, but Oliver Cromwell had it converted into barracks when he invaded Scotland in 1560.
It was not restored until the reign of Queen Victoria and, according to the castle's website, many of the current decorations date back to the 1880s. A special room was built specifically for the Honours of the Kingdom, Scotland's crown jewels.
Another important Scottish symbol on display is the Stone of Destiny, which is still an important part of coronation ceremonies. Visit St. Margaret's Chapel, which is Edinburgh's oldest surviving building and dates back to 1130. Check out Mons Meg, a 550-year-old cannon, and don't miss the stunning view of Edinburgh from Argyle Battery.
The Royal Mile connects Edinburgh Castle with the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Home to sites, shopping and the Scottish Parliament building, the Royal Mile actually consists of five streets, and makes up much of the city's Old Town. The High Kirk of St. Giles, also known as St. Giles Cathedral, features beautiful stained glass windows and a statue of Scottish religious reformer John Knox. Take a paranormal ghost tour or opt for a tour of the historic vaults. If you are in the mood for a different kind of tour, go to the Scotch Whisky Experience for a behind-the-scenes look at the process, and, of course, some samples.
At the end of the Royal Mile is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland. Beyond the palace is a hilly public park where city dwellers can escape urban life. Holyrood Park, also known as the King or Queen's Park, depending on the monarch in power, is a great place to bike, jog or just go for a walk. Arthur's Seat, the main hill in Holyrood Park, is actually an extinct volcano. It taken an hour or two to reach the very top, and when you get there you are rewarded with a stunning view of Edinburgh's Old Town skyline.
Made famous by Dan Brown's bestseller "The Da Vinci Code," Rosslyn Chapel is surrounded in legend and mystery. Originally called the Collegiate Chapel of St. Matthew, Rosslyn Chapel was founded by Sir William Sinclair of the St. Clair family in 1446 and completed in 1450. It is known for its hundreds of carvings, which include green men, angels playing instruments, musical cubes and symbols from Freemasonry and the medieval order of the Knights Templar. Today it is an active Scottish Episcopalian church.
The National Museum of Scotland reopened in 2011 after a three-year renovation and refurbishment. Located in Edinburgh's Old Town, the museum depicts Scotland's history and presents collections relating to the natural world, science technology, art and culture.
Edinburgh is also home to the Museum of Childhood, the world's first museum dedicated to the history of the topic. Toys and games dating back to the 18th century are on display, along with collections pertaining to home life, education and children's clothes.