Cultural holidays in Edinburgh

Delve into the culture of Scotland’s capital with native travel writer Robin McKelvie

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Robin McKelvie

Robin McKelvie
HomeAway travel expert

Edinburgh's Royal Mile The Scottish capital Edinburgh is one of the world’s great cultural cities. It boasts a rich heritage of great art, literature and the arts, with such famous names as Robert Louis Stevenson, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns all inexorably woven into the story and fabric of the city. It came as no surprise when Edinburgh was named by UNESCO as its first ever City of Literature. Edinburgh, though, is no cultural timepiece or finished masterpiece; today, it's home to a dynamic and energetic cultural scene that visitors to the city can tap into.

Engaging with culture in Edinburgh is something the locals do on a daily basis and that visitors can easily enjoy. The Scottish capital is home to a slew of national museums and galleries that are home to exhibits and works, not just of local, but of international significance. Edinburgh is also blessed with grand performance venues, where the performing arts can be savoured year-round, as well as smaller, more alternative venues and art house cinemas. The city’s cultural scene thrives throughout the seasons, but reaches is zenith during the Edinburgh Festivals held in summer, when the world’s largest arts festival rumbles into, and pretty much takes over, town.


Discover wee comedy clubs through to the world’s largest arts festival

National Museum National Museum

One of the UK’s most visited museums is very Edinburgh; a story of two distinct halves. The modern wing tells the story of the Scottish nation, from the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots and national hero Robert the Bruce, through to more recent sporting heroes including racing driver Jackie Stewart and cyclist Graeme Obree. The grand old Victorian wing, which was brilliantly reinvented with a massive refurbishment that culminated in a grand re-opening in 2011, delves into other matters: the natural world, cultures of the world and anything else it fancies. There's everything from interactive kids playrooms and a giant whale skeleton, through to Alexander Graham Fleming’s (the pioneer of antibiotics) Nobel Prize and Dolly the Sheep.

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National Gallery of Scotland National Gallery of Scotland

This grand neoclassical dame sits proudly on The Mound, which separates Edinburgh’s old and new towns. It also straddles centuries of fine art and is home to such delights as masterpieces by Botticelli, Rembrandt and Constable. It also showcases Scottish artists with one of the country’s most famous works on show, Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch, which controversially may or may not have been painted by seminal Scot Sir Henry Raeburn. The adjacent Royal Scottish Academy stages a range of temporary exhibitions. Also housed in the underground complex connecting the two galleries is the superb Scottish Café and Restaurant, offering remarkable local produce from all over the country.

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Gallery of Modern Art Gallery of Modern Art

These twin galleries out in Edinburgh’s West End look and feel very different to the venerable cultural institutions of the centre. The focus here is on the avant garde; on experimentation in a range of mediums through the permanent collections of Modern One, with its highlights such as Matisse, Picasso and Warhol. Then there are Modern Two’s innovative temporary exhibitions, and the permanent collection of seminal Scottish sculptor Eduardo Paolozzi’s work. The buildings may look neoclassical, but the contents are most certainly not.

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Edinburgh Summer Festivals Edinburgh Summer Festivals

The world’s largest arts festival completely takes over Scotland’s capital every August and early September. These days, it's not just about the official International Festival, which dates back to 1947, but also the tumultuous, rebellious comedy loving Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Then there is the Edinburgh Military Tattoo for a bit of military pomp and pageantry up at the castle, the Book Festival with its famous visiting authors and the Mela Festival, a vibrant celebration of ‘world music, dance, fashion, food and fun’.

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The Strand The Stand

This unassuming, ultra-relaxed wee comedy club says everything that is good about comedy in Edinburgh. Munch on a plate of nachos, quaff a pint, and sit so close to the low stage that it feels like Frankie Boyle is performing in your living room. And he may well be; the Strand attracts some huge stars as well as a constantly changing roster of total beginners, up and coming talents and some keen amateurs who might even crumble under your best heckles. Never dull, never predictable, but always fun.

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Edinburgh Holiday Rentals

Great property for family breaks or golf mini breaks by the seaside.

Situated right on the seafront, a short walk to the town centre. You have the two upper floors of a Victorian Villa to call home for the duration of your stay in North Berwick. You'll instantly feel at home in this comfortable well equipped house ...

LINKS VIEW, family friendly in Musselburgh, Ref 26449

Links View is a two storey apartment with views towards the Firth of Forth, in the town of Musselburgh six miles from Edinburgh. The apartment has a third floor double, with the remainder of the accommodation on the second floor, comprising of a d...

East Lothian apartment rental

Loft style 2nd floor apartment overlooking the sea. Entered by shared entry phone system. Spacious hall leading to 1 king size bedroom, and 1 twin, also leads to bathroom and shower room, under floor heating in both. Remaining bedroom is situated ...

Vacation home Seton Sands in Port Seton, Scotland - 8 persons, 3 bedroom(s)

Property details building and outdoor: Child friendly resort Seton Sands. In the centre of Port Seton, 50 m from the sea, 5 km from the beach, road to cross. For shared use: indoor pool heated (16.03.-31.10.). Children's pool, children's playgrou...

Vacation home Seton Sands in Port Seton, Scotland - 6 persons, 3 bedroom(s)

Property details building and outdoor: Child friendly resort Seton Sands. In the centre of Port Seton, 50 m from the sea, 5 km from the beach, road to cross. For shared use: indoor pool heated (16.03.-31.10.). Children's pool, children's playgrou...
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