The large hill east of the Old Town, Arthur’s Seat, is actually an extinct volcano and the easy climb to its 251-meter peak rewards you with beautiful views. The hill has played a part in the human history of the area for thousands of years – relics of Iron Age civilizations have been found on the hill.
The Edinburgh Zoo is home to more than 1,000 animals in a beautiful parkside setting on the outskirts of the city. One of the main attractions is the daily penguin parade – every day at 2:15pm the penguins are let out of their enclosure to march on the lawn for interactive shows (animal participation is humane and voluntary). Among the other animals at the zoo are the UK’s only koalas, a large collection of primates, and a lorikeet enclosure where you can hand-feed the birds.
Edinburgh’s live performance scene is spectacular. Of course there’s the world-famous annual Edinburgh Festival and Fringe Festival in August, but Edinburgh’s stages are lit up year round. For major hits from London’s West End, go to the Edinburgh Playhouse – Europe’s largest Theatre. The Royal Lyceum Theatre focuses on dramas with a holiday play around Christmas. New Scottish plays are produced at the Traverse Theatre. The Scottish Opera and Scottish Ballet perform at the Festival Theatre.
Starting at the thousand-year-old Edinburgh Castle and running to Holyrood Abbey and Palace, the Royal Mile is the main thoroughfare of the Old Town and contains many of its historical and architectural wonders. The Castle, with its position atop the extinct volcanic Castle Rock is one of the most striking fortresses in Europe and its current buildings, which date to the 16th century, remain in excellent condition. Next to the Castle is Outlook Tower, in which you’ll find the Camera Obscura, a 150-year-old amusement that provides 360-degree views of the city through a series of lenses and mirrors. Animators will “guide” you through the city by way of the Camera Obscura, explaining local history and events along the way
At the other end of the Mile is the royal residence at Holyrood. The Palace contains the Queen’s Gallery of paintings from the Royal Collection. The ruined Abbey on the grounds dates to the 12th century, when legend has it King David I had it constructed in thanks for narrowly escaping being gored by a stag.