Ancient and brooding, yet effortlessly on-the-pulse, the dramatic city of Edinburgh remains a firm city-break favourite. The Scottish capital packs a serious number of tourist magnets into its little centre - but there's plenty beyond. Both categories include their share of must-dos; here's our pick of the best things to do in Edinburgh.
Climb Arthur's Seat for Panoramic Views
In a city well-stocked with impressive vantage points, Arthur's Seat provides the essential panorama. Rising to a height of 250m (820ft), the extinct volcano provides rugged walking and climbing options just a mile from Edinburgh Castle (Londoners: imagine having Box Hill next to the Tower of London). Take one of the interconnecting trails up to the summit, where you'll find the remains of an Iron Age fort. Enjoy the views of the capital skyline, Firth of Forth and rolling Lothians backdrop.
Meet the Giant Pandas at Edinburgh Zoo
They may not be native to Scotland, but Edinburgh Zoo's Giant Pandas are among the nation's best-known residents. Tian Tian and Yang Guang - the only two of their species in the UK - are the star attractions at the zoo, which lies on the slopes of Corstorphine Hill in the west of the city. The zoo's Koala Territory is similarly unique on British shores; while the chimpanzee, tiger and penguin enclosures also receive a high billing.
Stroll up the Historic Royal Mile to the Castle
The gentle uphill from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle is a walk to be savoured, not rushed. Navigating the crowds on this narrowing string of adjoined streets, you'll pass cafes, shops, pubs and museums. And probably a fair few street performers. Look out for the Scottish Parliament, Museum of Edinburgh, St Giles Cathedral and the Scotch Whisky Experience along the way, and of course take time to visit the castle when you reach the end of the road.
Drink a Dram at the Scotch Whisky Experience
On the upper slopes of the Royal Mile you can become better acquainted with Scotland's national drink (hint: not Irn-Bru). Tour experiences are geared at the interested novice; if you're a connoisseur, go for the one of the masterclass sessions. Just a look inside the remarkable marble-and-glass vault of the Whisky Collection, which comprises almost 4,000 bottles of Scotch, is an experience. Almost as good as the tasting.
Head Underground in Mary King's Close
If you're game for underground adventure on the Royal Mile, the reward is some of Edinburgh's most fascinating buildings. The mysterious Mary King's Close, named after a 17th-century burgess (local inhabitant to you) has been hidden from view since the Royal Exchange was built over it more than two centuries ago. Houses, shops and animal pens stand frozen in time in this unique buried attraction - take a subterranean tour to find out how the city's residents once lived and worked.
Watch a Rugby Game at Murrayfield
Scotland's national sport is a source of some debate; most will tell you it's golf - probably fair. But few sports inspire the impassioned atmosphere you'll get here like rugby union. Whether it's Scotland or Edinburgh's Pro14 side playing at home, the characteristic drive and ambitious ball-play of Scottish rugby makes for a great day out. If there's no game on, second prize is a nostalgia-rich tour of the national stadium.
Immerse Yourself in Royal History at Holyrood Palace
The one-time home of Mary Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, the Palace of Holyrood House, is open to the public throughout the year, except when the current Royal Family is in residence. After a look around the 16th-century Historic Apartments and State Apartments, which are still used for official entertaining, you can visit the mighty Throne Room, Holyrood Abbey, Great Gallery and Palace Gardens.
Laugh, Learn and Cry at the Edinburgh Fringe...
The world's largest arts festival puts Edinburgh firmly on the international map, pulling in millions of performers, critics and paying customers from far and wide. The wildly eclectic mix of theatre, comedy, music, dance and spoken word - delivered with universal gusto, yet varying degrees of success - makes the Fringe one of the more remarkable events of its kind. Anything goes in Edinburgh during August - get yourself a festival programme, stick a pin in it and go try something new.
...Or Check out One of the Other festivals
The city has been steadily cultivating a global reputation as a major events host since the inaugural Edinburgh International Festival in 1947. As well as the summer showcase, the Hogmanay celebrations at New Year, Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August and International Film Festival in June all give you a chance to see the city at its most vibrant.
If you're heading to the Scottish capital, check out our hotels in Edinburgh.