This Gorgeous City Is One Of The Most Entertaining In Europe, According To Rick Steves

Timeless charm is unmistakable in a European destination like Scotland, where green hills and storied stone structures shape the landscape. With every turn, the pulse of Scotland's historical and cultural heart is palpable. As the capital of a deeply patriotic country, Edinburgh rightfully claims its spot as one of Europe's most entertaining cities. Travel expert Rick Steves echoes this sentiment, frequently praising the city for its vibrant cultural entertainment, rich history, and distinctive architecture, all of which contribute to its unique appeal.

In Edinburgh, history permeates from every wall, resonating through its many cobblestone streets and fortified buildings. The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, captures this essence perfectly. Here, history buffs can venture through a labyrinth of medieval tenements and narrow alleys taking you back centuries. Walking these paths, one can easily imagine the bustling life of what was once one of Europe's most densely populated cities during the Middle Ages.

One of the best ways to experience Edinburgh is the Royal Mile, a path Rick Steves traversed repeatedly over the past 30 years. This stretch runs from Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and is the city's historical backbone. Along the way, visitors encounter museums like the People's Story Museum, majestic cathedrals like St. Giles', and statues of Scottish intellectual leaders like David Hume, interspersed with charming cafes. For Rick Steves, each visit to the Royal Mile is as enlightening as the first, with new discoveries and insights at every corner, even on the 31st time around.

Edinburgh: New Town, festival culture, and literary heritage

Edinburgh's New Town, introduced in the 18th century, is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This area, renowned for its neoclassical and Georgian elegance, offers a distinct and equally captivating feeling compared to the medieval Old Town despite being only 1,248 feet away. The New Town represents the culmination of Edinburgh's intellectual prowess, embodying beauty, order, and progress achieved during its Enlightenment period.

Beyond historical grandeur and glimpses of the past, the city has unique offerings. Rick Steves finds Edinburgh's festival culture most compelling. It is renowned for hosting the Edinburgh International Festival and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe — the world's largest performing arts festival. Since 1947, the city has transformed into a global stage where performers and artists from around the world showcase their talents. The best time of year to visit Edinburgh for the festivals is August, as many other events, such as the Edinburgh International Film Festival and the International Book Festival, also occur during this time.

Edinburgh is a UNESCO Creative City and the first UNESCO City of Literature. The Scottish capital was the home and inspiration for famed writers like Sir Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson, and J.K. Rowling. Rick Steves points out that literary enthusiasts can also participate in the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, an informal social event that offers dramatic insight into Scottish literature (with a splash of local booze and revelry). It's been running since 1996 to much acclaim.

Museums, gastronomy, and natural beauty

No visit to Edinburgh is complete without experiencing its cultural and traditional showcases. Some of the best museums in Scotland are in Edinburgh, like the National Museum of Scotland, with its extensive history and art collections, and the National Portrait Gallery, where you can find plenty of patriotic heroes of Scottish culture immortalized in art. Additionally, although traditional bagpipe performances are available year-round in Edinburgh, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August is an unmissable spectacle of music, fireworks, and military precision.

Regarding the gastronomy scene, Rick Steves recommends trying one traditional Scottish drink and dish found in a pub (short for public house) or "where you meet people," as Rick Steves would say. He mentions that showing an interest in whisky can help you develop a taste for its fine flavors and make some local friends in a pub. The recommended dish is haggis, a spicy meat pudding made from sheep's heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with onions, oats, and suet — something that takes a bit of Scottish guts to try.

Nevertheless, just as stimulating as its cultural offerings is Edinburgh's natural landscape, which rolls through the city like a lush green blanket. A 350 million-year-old volcano sets the scenic foundation for Scotland's capital, especially with the iconic Edinburgh Castle perched atop Arthur's Seat. So, whether you are a newbie visitor or a veteran (like Rick Steves), Edinburgh never fails to enchant and entertain, standing proudly as one of Europe's most captivating cities.