What is Edinburgh so Famous for? | The Student Guide

Table of Contents

Choosing your destination for university is an exciting time. If you are looking to study at the University of Edinburgh next year or Edinburgh Napier University, you’ll no doubt be looking forward to your time in this stunning city.

Edinburgh is a real gem of a place to live as a student, full of history, beautiful architecture, fantastic nightlife, food, world-renowned culture, and sport. A capital city that feels old and ancient in the best possible way, but also has a forward-thinking modern approach to life.

Before you move into our wonderful student accommodation in Edinburgh, we wanted to give you some fun facts about the city, what is Edinburgh famous for?

There is a lot to love about Edinburgh and we’ll be sure you’ll agree once you’ve lived here.

1. Festival Fever


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Edinburgh Festival Fringe (@edfringe)

There is no better city on the planet for putting on a festival, there just isn’t. Nothing compares to Edinburgh, and this can be seen in essence with the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Every August the crowds come calling to Edinburgh, taking in theatre, comedy, and live performance in theatres, pubs, shops, on the streets and everywhere and anywhere a performance can take place!

The Comedy Awards which have been running since 1981 under various names (most well-known as the Perrier Award) shine one of the biggest spotlights on Edinburgh. Over the years there have been some incredible winners of the main prize and best newcomer, including The Mighty Boosh, Harry Hill, Dylan Moran, and Hannah Gadsby.

Throughout the year there are some other incredible festivals in Edinburgh too, such as the International Book Festival and the International Film Festival. There is always something exciting happening and that is what Edinburgh is famous for!

2. Harry Potter inspiration


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Elephant House (@theelephant.house)

The Elephant House is the cosy café where J. K. Rowling wrote the vast majority of the early Harry Potter books. The books and the films have been a big part of our culture for the best part of 25 years, entertaining multiple generations of children.

The streets of Edinburgh and the spectacular views of Edinburgh Castle were inspirations to Rowling as she wrote those magical words that would be read by millions of Muggles the world over, and you’ll soon be walking those same streets. It really does show you that anything is possible.

3. The Castle


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Edinburgh Castle (@edinburghcastle)

One of the most visited attractions in the whole of the UK, Edinburgh Castle has a storied history as it looks down from Castle Rock on the city. Its fascinating history includes time serving as a prison during the Second World War, a royal family residence, a military fortress, and it holds the record as the most besieged castle in Europe having been attacked a staggering 23 times.

4. Arthur’s Seat

A dormant volcano that is shrouded in myth and mystery, Arthur’s Seat offers you the very best, breath-taking view of Edinburgh. It takes its name from the legends of King Arthur and is thought to be the location of the legendary Camelot. Give yourself a few hours and choose your climb to the top carefully, it is well worth it for the views!

5. UNESCO World Heritage architecture


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Edinburgh (@thisisedinburgh)

Edinburgh is famous for both the old and the new town being designated UNESCO World Heritage sites back in 1995. It is rare that both the historical centre and the modern areas of a city are as highly regarded, but that’s what Edinburgh brings with its fascinating architecture throughout – combining the medieval architecture of the old town and the Georgian splendour of the new. Edinburgh feels like the centre of a magical other world.

6. The Athens of the North

The Old Royal High School in Edinburgh, known as New Parliament House, was actually based on the Temple of Hephaestus in Athens. This was during the 18th century when Edinburgh was being restyled as the ‘Athens of the North’. As many other cities across the world focused on advancing in industry, Edinburgh faced towards literature, philosophy, and medicine, aiming to become the cradle of new civilisation just as Athens once had been in ancient times. There are pillars and porticos throughout the new town in the Scottish capital, much like you’d expect to see in Athens.

7. The Royal Mile


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Heartbox Scotland (@heartboxscotland)

Stretching right through the very heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, The Royal Mile is known the world over. A famous street that connects Edinburgh Castle at one end with Holyrood Palace at the other (the Queen’s official residence whenever she is visiting Scotland). For centuries this was the main street in the city, and still dominates the idea of Edinburgh in most people’s minds. There are countless independent shops and boutiques, delicious restaurants and cafés, old-fashioned pubs with some of the finest beers to quench your thirst. A bustling mile-long street to get lost in and to find the true Edinburgh.

8. Knighting a penguin

It isn’t April Fool’s Day, the only knighted penguin can be found at Edinburgh Zoo, Brigadier Sir Nils Olav III. The king penguin became a Sir in 2008 in front of 130 Norwegian Army guardsmen. The King of Norway approved the knighthood, and the penguin remains the mascot and colonel-in-chief of the Norway’s King’s Guard!

9. A magical unicorn at every turn


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Kevin (@kevinlux)

The national animal of Scotland is the unicorn, no joke. We thought it was the Loch Ness Monster, but Nessie didn’t cut it. Everywhere you turn in Edinburgh you’ll see unicorn statues, engravings, and the like, making for a fun day out spotting as many unicorns as you can.

10. The home of modern encyclopaedic knowledge


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Edinburgh (@thisisedinburgh)

Before we had the internet the only way to find out information about anything and everything was to look in an encyclopaedia. We’ve already mentioned how Edinburgh turned to innovation, education, medicine, and philosophy whilst other cities were looking at industrialisation, and this can be seen most evidently in the very first publication of an encyclopaedia in the English language, coming out of Edinburgh in 1768. This was revolutionary at the time, providing in-depth descriptions and explanations about all manner of things from around the world. No need to Google anything if you’ve got an encyclopaedia to hand!

11. A secret underground city


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Holly Gadd (@stabbysquirrel)

Discovered in the 1980s, a series of hidden passageways and rooms in central Edinburgh pre-date even the old town and provide a glimpse at an alternative, underground history for the city. These vaults were designed to provide merchants with underground storage but were abandoned when the bad designs led to supplies getting wet. These days, after extensive excavation since the 80s, you can take a tour down below, just be wary of the ghosts and don’t get lost in the labyrinth!

12. A most haunted city

It makes a lot of sense that a city this ancient would have reports of the most ghost sightings in Scotland every year. If you are a true believer in the weird and wonderful supernatural world, then Edinburgh is certainly the place for you. There is a long list of haunted buildings in Edinburgh, with the Castle foremost on the list due to its long history of prisoners and sieges. Greyfriars Kirkyard is the place to go through if you really want a scare, the most haunted graveyard in the world!

13. The best Scotch Whisky experience

Scotch Whisky can only be called Scotch if it is made in Scotland, and it has a real smoky flavour that is brought out through the ageing process in oak barrels. One of the best Scotch Whisky experiences in Scotland is in Edinburgh where you can learn more about the history of this wonderful drink and see how it is made.

14. The Military Tattoo


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by @hiking_30

The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is one of the things that Edinburgh is famous for. It is a musical and theatrical performance involving the armed forces and this one is the largest of its kind anywhere in the world. The tattoo is performed by the British Armed Forces, as well as military bands from the Commonwealth and International armies. You can see this performance during the festival season every August.

15. One of the finest universities in the world!

It seems apt to mention this here, especially if you are going to study at the University of Edinburgh. It is consistently ranked in the top 20 universities on the planet and has been up there since its first opening way, way back in 1583. Many alumni have gone on to become Nobel Prize winners, explorers of space, and Prime Ministers, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found inspiration for the classic Sherlock Holmes here.

Have a look at some of our top tips for students in Edinburgh, famous for knighted penguins, Harry Potter, Arthur’s Seat, Scotch Whisky, a good old haunting around the UNESCO World Heritage streets, and a laugh a minute at the Edinburgh Fringe. Let us know what you think of Edinburgh as a city to live in as a student, and if you find out any interesting tidbits of information that we’ve missed out here, always let us know. Edinburgh is a magical, beautiful, eminently fashionable and interesting place to visit, let alone to spend your university years. Make the most of your time in this fabulous city.