Edinburgh, United Kingdom travel tips

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You can save yourself a LOT of time if you plan on visiting Edinburgh Castle by ordering your tickets online ahead of time. Print them out at home from or from your hotel's computer, and you'll avoid the insanely long lines.

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For a very luxurious stay, book a room at The Balmoral.

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Book a stay at the George Hotel.

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Hikers should take advantage of Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat, which can give you an hours' long walk on a good day. Start at the Holyrood car park behind the Scottish Parliament building.

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At the east end of the Royal Mile, you will find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official Scottish residence. It is open daily but check for seasonal closures.

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The National Gallery of Scotland is within walking distance from Edinburgh Castle and is one of Scotland's finest art galleries.

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If you're visiting Edinburgh in August, you must see the Military Tattoo, one of the most remarkable experiences in the city.

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Keep in mind that the enormous clock on the tower of the Balmoral Hotel runs about five minutes fast.

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The Mary King's Close tour is very popular. If you plan on taking the tour, book at least a day ahead.

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Shoppers will love Edinburgh will love the city in January, when apparently all the merchandise unsold during the holidays is offered for bargain prices.

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For a less-creepy trip back in time, try the Literary Pub Tour, a three-hour performance by talented and intelligent actors.

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For a slightly creepy experience, try Mary King's Close tour, a trip back in time that's sure to send a tingle up your spine.

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If the bustle of the city gets to be too much for you, take advantage of Edinburgh's fabulous green spaces. Princes Street Gardens offers a lovely respite from the city.

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If you happen to be in Edinburgh on September 1, take advantage of Doors Open Day, a great opportunity to tour museums which normally charge a fee, and other buildings that are closed to the public.

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For a short, "DaVinci Code"-themed jaunt from the city, visit Roslin. It's seven miles from Edinburgh, and is home to Rosslyn Chapel, and a cheap ride by bus.

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When in the vicinity of Edinburgh Castle, be prepared for one o'clock gun. It's fired every day, and if it catches you off guard, you'll be in for a fright.

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Be sure to explore the little niches off of the Royal Mile; you don't know what kind of hidden gem you might find.

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The view of the city from Edinburgh Castle is phenomenal, but for a different perspective, go to the other end of the city, and view it from Calton Hill.

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If you don't mind climbing stairs, go up to the top of Scott's monument. It involves climbing 228 very narrow stairs, but the view is well worth it.

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For shopping in Edinburgh, check out Princes Street, one of the main thoroughfares and also home to some of the city's trendiest shops.

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