Festival and Hogmany are its busiest times, but Edinburgh is worth a visit year-round, writes Linda Macdonald.
Start on Chambers St at the National Museum, having checked out the delightfully bonkers Lewis Chessmen. Cross to Greyfriars on your way to the Grassmarket for fossils, cashmere and gelato. Start up photogenic Victoria St but take the stairs halfway on your left leading you to the Lawnmarket on the Royal Mile. Stop at Gladstone's Land for a glimpse of 17th-century tenement life, then it's all downhill exploring secretive closes, vennels and wynds as you go. Don't miss Cadenhead's — the oldest independent whisky bottler in Scotland, before repenting at Canongate Kirk. Just beyond is the hidden entrance to the delightfully secret Dunbar's Garden. Finish at the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Scottish Parliament.
Conventional wisdom demands a visit to Edinburgh Castle — buy tickets online and miss the queues. Unconventional wisdom says avoid the crowds altogether at the romantic ruins of Craigmillar Castle, southeast of the city centre.
Take to the roof of St Giles' Cathedral for knee-wobbling views and a mind-blowing close-up of the crown spire (must be booked in advance.
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Get a new take on tartan and tweed at Scottish interior and fashion designers ANTA (14) on George St. For chic, label-led boutiques, explore Thistle St (the next lane along).
A brash, flash Edinburgh favourite, it's all glamour and glitz at Tigerlily. Wear your highest heels. Cocktails (around £9) are practically compulsory.
Go to The Dogs on Hanover St for honest Scottish cooking. Expect to pay around £30, including wine.
Alain Roux's new Brasserie Prince adds lustre to luxury at the Balmoral Hotel to go with the spa, stylish rooms and Princes St location. Doubles with breakfast from £415. Alternatively, embrace the joyous eccentricity of 2 Cambridge St. You'll find big brass beds and the city's best breakfast, from £125 for two.
Off the map
Soothe jangled senses at Jupiter Artland (jupiterartland.org; £8.50), a contemporary sculpture garden. It's a 35-minute bus ride from the city centre, but a million miles away (First Bus 27 or X27; £6).
Emirates starts flying daily from Auckland to Edinburgh from October 1, via Dubai. Economy return fares are available from $1599.