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25 Fascinating Facts About Edinburgh 

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In this article, let’s discuss some magical facts about Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. After all, the city is brimming with breathtaking architecture, regal culture, and arts. 

Facts About Edinburgh

Edinburgh is one of the most beautiful cities in Scotland and the UK. The city’s magnificent mediaeval and Georgian buildings give it such a special charm that you just cannot miss it. This beautiful city is also where where J.K. Rowling wrote much of the early Harry Potter series, as she got inspired from its mystical charm.

So, if you want to learn more about this city, take a look at these 25 fascinating facts about Edinburgh! 

1. Edinburgh Is the Capital of Scotland

Edinburgh is not only the capital of Scotland but also the second-largest city in the country, after Glasgow. It’s been the capital of Scotland since 1437. In fact, it replaced Scone as the capital of Scotland.

25 Fascinating Facts About Edinburgh

Edinburgh became the capital of Scotland after King James I was brutally murdered. So, the throne moved to Edinburgh for safety reasons. 

One of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh is that it has a medieval Old Town and a Georgian New Town. It also has a vibrant community and is a popular tourist destination. 

2. Edinburgh Is the Second-Most Populous City

Here is one of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh! 

Edinburgh is the second-most populous city in Scotland after Glasgow. It has a population of 526,470 people as of 2021.

Although Edinburgh is smaller than Glasgow in size and population, it has played an important role in the country’s political, cultural, and economic landscape. 

3. Edinburgh Hosts the Largest Arts Festival in the World

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the largest arts festival in the world, which is one of the most fascinating facts about Edinburgh. It hosts thousands of shows from all over the world, musicians, comedians, dancers, children’s shows, live performances, circus, opera, and much more!

The festival starts in August every year and lasts for three weeks. It attracts tourists from all over the world who come to enjoy and have some of the most fun in their lives. 

4. Edinburgh Is a Very Green City

If you haven’t fallen in love with Edinburgh already, then you should know that it’s one of top greenest cities in the world. It has 1069 square kilometres of green space for each person in its population. 

In fact, a study by First Mile named Edinburgh the greenest city in the UK in 2019. It has wonderful air quality, low pollution levels, and it’s full of green spaces. Gardens and parks proved to be great for physical and mental well-being. 

5. Edinburgh Castle Is Built on a Volcano

This is one of the craziest and most fascinating facts about Edinburgh! 

Edinburgh Castle is actually built on top of a Volcano. The rock below the castle is a plug of a volcano that is approximately 350 million years old. The highest point of the rock is 426 feet above sea level. The hilltop where the castle was built is named Castle Rock. 

The castle was built in 1103 by King David 1st as a fortress for military reasons. Some of it is still used by the military as an active base today. It’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in Edinburgh. 

6. There Is a Well-Established University in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is home to one of the most prestigious and well-established universities in the world – the University of Edinburgh. Charles Darwin, Alexander Graham Bell, J.K. Rowling, and more famous people went to the University of Edinburgh. 

The University of Edinburgh is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the world. Moreover, it placed 22nd in the 2024 QS World University Rankings. This gem in the heart of Edinburgh has a gorgeous campus and attracts students and visitors from all over the world. 

7. J.K. Rowling Wrote Much of Harry Potter in Edinburgh’s Cafes

If you are familiar with Harry Potter books or movies then you should be familiar with the mastermind behind them, J.K. Rowling. Although she revealed that the birthplace of the series is a flat above a sports shop in Clapham in London, she used to frequent The Elephant House Cafe in Edinburgh in her early writing career. 

J.K. Rowling is a brilliant author, and her Harry Potter series has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions of people around the world. We grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and felt a connection to them that was deep enough to stick with us for the rest of our lives!

8. Edinburgh Is Built on Seven Hills

One of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh is that it is built on seven hills, just like Rome. The seven hills of Edinburgh are Calton Hill, Castle Rock, Corstorphine Hill, Craiglockhart Hill, Braid Hill, Blackford Hill, and Arthur’s Seat. 

Although Arthur’s Seat is the highest hill in Edinburgh, Castle Rock is the most popular and most photographed hill due to the Edinburgh Castle that is built on top of it. If you want a panoramic view of the city, you can climb Arthur’s Seat. 

In fact, there’s an annual race to climb all of the seven hills of Edinburgh! 

9. The Scottish Parliament Building Has Unique Architecture

The Scottish Parliament Building is truly one of the most fascinating facts about Edinburgh. This unique building is located at the foot of Edinburgh’s famous Royal Mile. It was constructed with granite, oak, and steel. Actually, this building is one of the most innovative designs in the world and won many awards for its design!

25 Fascinating Facts About Edinburgh

However, the building also raised a lot of controversies since it was approved. This is because the modern architecture of the building doesn’t suit the rest of Edinburgh’s Old Town. So, what do you think about this unique building?

Sadly, the architect of the building, Enric Miralles, passed away before he could see his brilliant work come to life and inspire many people.

10. The National Museum of Scotland Has Dolly the Sheep

Here is one of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh for all the biology and science nerds reading this article! 

Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned, is located at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. Fun fact – the sheep was named Dolly after the singer Dolly Parton. One of the stockmen who helped with her birth is the one who reportedly suggested this name

Her presence in the National Museum of Scotland has made it a popular tourist destination in Scotland. 

11. The Royal Mile in Edinburgh Is Not One Mile 

We cannot talk about the fascinating facts about Edinburgh without mentioning the Royal Mile! 

The Royal Mile in Edinburgh is one of the most popular and historic streets in the city. It runs between two major destinations in Edinburgh, which are Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. 

However, despite its name, the Royal Mile is not actually one mile in length. It is more than a mile by 107 yards!

12. Alexander Graham Bell Was From Edinburgh

Alexander Graham Bell, who is best well-known for inventing the telephone, was born in Edinburgh in 1847. Thanks to this brilliant Scottish scientist, our world has changed significantly after his invention. 

13. One of the Most Haunted Graveyards in the World Is in Edinburgh

Do you want to know one of the creepiest yet fascinating facts about Edinburgh? 

Edinburgh has one of the most haunted graveyards in the world! Greyfriars Kirkyard that surrounds Greyfriars Kirk dates back to the 1500s and has a lot of creepy stories linked to it. 

Some visitors allegedly left the graveyard with bruises and burns on their bodies! So, visit at your own risk. Moreover, it’s even said that this graveyard inspired  J.K. Rowling while writing her Harry Potter novels. 

14. Edinburgh Was the Center of the Whiskey Boom 

Edinburgh played a significant role in the whiskey boom of the 19th century, which is one of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh. Thanks to the city’s strategic location and access to railway lines and new laws, it became the epicentre of the boom. 

Today, Edinburgh is still a major player in the global whiskey industry and Scottish whiskey is very popular. 

15. 75% of Edinburgh Buildings Are Listed

Another one of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh is that 75% of its buildings are listed. In fact, the city has the highest concentration of listed buildings in the UK.

In the context of the United Kingdom, a “listed building” is one that has an architectural or historic interest. 

These buildings are legally protected and any change to their exterior needs approval from the government. This is done to protect the historical value of these buildings for future generations. 

16. Glaciers Caused the Formation of Edinburgh

Did you know that glaciers helped to create the city of Edinburgh? One of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh is that around 350 million years ago, the erosion and slow movement of glaciers helped form Arthur’s Seat. It’s one of the seven hills that the city is built on. 

17. Edinburgh Was Once Nicknamed “Auld Reekie”

Here is one of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh! 

Edinburgh Was Once Nicknamed “Auld Reekie.” Auld Reekie means Old Smoky in the Scots language. So here’s the story behind this nickname.

Edinburgh was crowded and surrounded by city walls in the 16th – 17th centuries. So, they could not expand the city outside of the walls surrounding the city.

25 Fascinating Facts About Edinburgh

The buildings were tall and the streets were narrow and the chimneys of homes produced too much smoke for such a small area. The air was filled with thick smog everywhere. That’s why the city was nicknamed “Auld Reekie.”

18. Edinburgh Was the First City To Have a Fire Service

Edinburgh has a long history of innovation, and one of the most fascinating facts about the city is that it was the first city in the world to have a fire service. The service was established in 1824 by James Braidwood, and London followed after. 

The fire service in Edinburgh inspired other cities around the world to create their own fire services.

19. Edinburgh Has the World’s Only Knighted Penguin!

Yes, you read that right! Edinburgh Has the only knighted penguin in the world and that is Major General Sir Nils Olav III! 

The penguin was knighted back in 2008 and then promoted to Major General in August 2023. This one deserves to be added to the list of the funniest and most fascinating facts about Edinburgh

20. St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh Isn’t Really a Cathedral

Yes, that’s true, St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh Isn’t a Cathedral. The definition of a cathedral is the seat of a bishop. Today, St. Giles Cathedral doesn’t have any bishops anymore, so it’s considered a historic cathedral but not a real cathedral anymore! 

21. Edinburgh Has Its Own Adopted Dog!

For every dog lover, you should hear the story of Greyfriars Bobby which is one of the most fascinating facts about Edinburgh! 

A man named John got a dog and named him Bobby to give him company during the winter nights. Later on, John got tuberculosis and died and was buried in Greyfriars Kirkyard. However, Bobby refused to ever leave John’s grave even during the coldest nights. 

The gardener of the graveyard tried many times to make leave but he couldn’t. So, he gave him shelter beside John’s grave. There’s a statue of Bobby in Edinburgh today.

22. There Is a City Beneath Edinburgh

Did you know that there is a hidden city beneath Edinburgh? It’s called the Edinburgh Vaults or the Underground City. It’s a network of underground chambers and tunnels that were once used as storage spaces. 

However, criminals started using them for illegal activities. Also, it’s alleged that serial killers might have hidden bodies there.

23. Thousands of Women Were Killed in the Witch Hunts in Edinburgh

Thousands of people were killed in the witch hunts in Edinburgh and most of them were women. They were accused of performing witch activities such as cursing the king’s ships, dancing with the devil, transforming into animals or birds, etc. 

The poor people were burned alive and people now are seeking official apologies for them three centuries later. 

24. Edinburgh Zoo Is the Only Zoo in Britain With Giant Pandas

Edinburgh Zoo is the only zoo with giant pandas thanks to China. In 2011, China sent two giant pandas, named Tian Tian and Yang Guang, to Edinburgh as part of a 10-year loan agreement.

One of the fascinating facts about Edinburgh is that the two giant pandas were a massive success for the zoo and attracted many visitors and tourists. 

However, the two giant pandas are returning to China in December 2023 since the 10-year loan agreement has ended. It was extended two years due to the Covid pandemic. 

25. St. Margaret’s Chapel is the Oldest Building in Edinburgh

The Oldest Building in Edinburgh is St. Margaret’s Chapel, located within the walls of Edinburgh Castle. It’s a grade-A listed building, which means that it’s a building of exceptional interest. 

It was named after Queen Margaret. Her son, King David I built the chapel for her around 1130. One of the best things about St. Margaret’s Chapel is that it’s open to all visitors and still hosts weddings and christenings today. 

Further Reading – Facts About Edinburgh

From the ancient castles to the haunted graveyards, there are countless fascinating facts about Edinburgh. Whether you like history, art, modern or old architecture, literature, or nature, Edinburgh has something for everyone. 

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