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Updated: Jun 22, 2023


Photo: The Elephant House...birthplace of JK Rowling's Harry Potter series

Edinburgh is the world’s first UNESCO City of Literature.

It is the birthplace and home to world-famous writers, poets and playwrights including Arthur Conan Doyle (Sherlock Holmes), Walter Scott (Waverley), and JK Rowling (Harry Potter). It has its own Poet Laureate, the Edinburgh Makar.

Publishing Scotland, the national body for publishers, as well as award-winning independent publishers is based here. The Edinburgh International Book Festival is the world’s largest literary festival of its kind, lasting for two weeks each August. The Festival welcomes approximately 800 authors from nearly 40 countries and brings in over 225,000 visitors annually.

In 1725 the world’s first circulating library opened in Edinburgh and today free public libraries can be found all over the city. Furthermore, the National Library of Scotland, the leading centre for the study of the Scots, the Scottish Poetry Library and the Scottish Storytelling Centre can all be found in Edinburgh. The city is home to unique institutions fostering literacy, including the Scottish Book Trust, a national agency for readership development and the Writers’ Museum and Makars’ Court, which commemorates Scottish writers and poets.

There are over 50 bookshops in Edinburgh. They are key venues for a vibrant culture of readings, literary cabarets and workshops happening year-round. Edinburgh has four universities, including the University of Edinburgh, established in 1580 and which is one of the United Kingdom’s oldest. The city is also the first in the world to appoint a Regius Professorship of Rhetoric and Belles Lettres (English Literature).


The Edinburgh International Book Festival is a registered charity, a non-profit making organisation. It is a distinctive international showcase celebrating the written word, literature and ideas. It brings leading and emerging international, British and Scottish authors and thinkers together to inspire each other and audiences in an extensive programme of public events.


Discussion, performance and interactive events have become prominent features of the Festival, complementing the more traditional interview-style conversations and readings, and contributing to the Book Festival’s reputation as a powerful forum for the public to exchange views with writers and experts on a wide range of issues: social, ethical and political as well as literary and cultural. At the heart of the Book Festival’s activity is an integrated approach to creative learning and education, with the aim of expanding participation in democratic discussion, fostering a love of reading and developing engaged, knowledgeable audiences of all ages and backgrounds.

The Book Festival’s Baillie Gifford Children’s programme of author events, activities and workshops is produced for young audiences of all ages, from babies to teenagers, attracting family audiences of around 20,000 each year. In addition, an extensive schools programme is created for primary and secondary pupils, with around 14,000 school children attending each year.

Photo: City Art Centre, 2 Market Street, Edinburgh

Located in the heart of the capital, with six exhibition galleries, the City Art Centre is Scotland’s emporium of the visual arts. It is both home to the City’s collection of Scottish Art, and one of the UK’s leading temporary exhibition spaces.

Since opening in 1980, the City Art Centre has mounted a huge range of exhibitions, from rare Egyptian antiquities to the most innovative contemporary art, from Michelangelo drawings to Star Trek.

The scale and range of the programme have made the gallery one of Britain’s most visited exhibition centres. The City’s fine art collection consists of around 3,500 works of Scottish art: paintings, watercolours, drawings, prints, photographs, sculpture and tapestries, including works by McTaggart, Fergusson, Peploe and Eardley.

Through purchase funds provided by the Jean E Watson Bequest, the collection has been kept up-to-date, by the acquisition of works by contemporary Scottish artists, including Davie, Blackadder, Paolozzi and Bellany.

In 1997, the collection was further enriched by a substantial gift from the Scottish Arts Council. The holdings also include topographical views of Edinburgh and portraits. Exhibitions drawn from the collection are a regular feature of the City Art Centre’s programme.

The City Art Centre’s licensed café can provide you with a cup of tea or coffee, or a three-course meal.


Housed in the late 16th century Canongate Tolbooth opposite the Museum of Edinburgh, ‘ The People’s Story ‘ is a museum with a difference. As the name implies, it uses oral history, reminiscence, and written sources to tell the story of the lives, work and leisure of the ordinary people of Edinburgh, from the late 18th century to the present day.

The museum is filled with the sounds, sights and smells of the past - a prison cell, town crier, reform parade, cooper’s workshop, fishwife, servant at work, dressmaker, 1940s kitchen, a wash-house, pub and tea room.

These reconstructions are complemented by displays of photographs, everyday objects and rare artefacts, such as the museum’s outstanding collections of trade union banners and friendly society regalia. A twenty-minute video presentation supplements the museum’s storyline.

The museum houses Britain's largest collection of early reform flags and banners: 144 in all. These include banners in support of political reform, trade unions and the anti-apartheid movement. The museum also houses waxworks which illustrate the written histories of the Edinburgh people.

There are three galleries and a film screening room in the museum. The first gallery looks at life in tenement houses in the 18th century. The second gallery houses many banners from the museum's collection and tells the stories of Edinburgh citizens in the 20th century, through waxworks and written histories. The final galleries describe Edinburgh in the mid-to-late-20th century.

View of EDINBURGH from Calton Hill

Edinburgh is one of the most visited cities in Europe. Whether it’s the graceful Georgian and austere Gothic architecture, or the rugged volcanic geography, it serves as an inspirational ground for generations of artists and writers as well as being the world’s festival capital and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It is inevitable for you to come across the view of Carlton Hill at some time in your life; the views are used in numerous films, photographs and paintings of the city. You can enjoy an almost 360-degree view of the city by just hiking five minutes up the hill, and from there, you can easily pinpoint attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, National Monument, Holyrood Palace, Arthur’s Seat, Nelson Monument, sea view and much more.

If you would like a great view of the city, climb up the stone spiral steps of the Nelson Monument. If not, there are perfectly good views from the bottom as well. Walking down from the Nelson Monument, you will come across the never completed National Monument built to commemorate the dead of the Napoleonic Wars. Even though the monument was never completed, its style served as iconic architecture, influencing many recent architects. From here, the walkway to the left will lead you to the famous Dugald Stewart Monument. Next to this monument and the cannon is a great viewing point where numerous photographs of Edinburgh are taken. Be sure to test out your photography skill here and you will be guaranteed a spectacular photo to show off to your friends.

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