Culture Lover’s Guide Edinburgh
The Scottish capital is home to one of the world’s biggest and most renowned arts festivals, the Edinburgh Fringe. The city is a hub for Scottish cultural tradition and a magnet for innovative young creators during the August fest and year-round. From bagpipe performances to museum visits, here are the city’s top cultural activities.
Learn about Edinburgh’s literary connections.
Edinburgh has been an inspiration for many a famous writer, from Sherlock Holmes-creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to 18th-century poet Robert Burns. Join a literary tour to discover sites connected with well-known wordsmiths, such as the cafe where J.K. Rowling penned part of her first Harry Potter novel, and the Writers’ Museum, which celebrates the work of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Browse the National Galleries of Scotland.
Edinburgh is home to all three branches of the National Galleries of Scotland, which possess significant collections of national and international art. Inspect works by European greats and classic Scottish masterpieces from the likes of Sir Henry Raeburn at the National Gallery, then stare down famous faces from Scotland’s past at the National Portrait Gallery. The third branch, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, is spread out across two venues, and focuses on art of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries.
Catch a bagpipes performance.
The bagpipes are a national symbol in Scotland. While it's unusual to hear them outside the country, expect to encounter the woodwind instrument's distinctive droning sound in Edinburgh. Take a walking tour down the Royal Mile, where busking bagpipers are frequently stationed, or catch them on stage at traditional Scottish shows including at Edinburgh Castle’s esplanade in August for the annual Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo.
Sample a Scotch or two.
Whisky is as essential to Scottish identity as tartan and bagpipes, and imbibing a dram is part of experiencing the local culture. To appreciate the nuances of regional styles and variations, it’s best to sip your Scotch on a guided tasting session, where you not only get to savor them but you also learn about whisky production and Scotch-sipping etiquette.