Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland and the seventh-most heavily populated in the United Kingdom. The 2010 mid year population for Edinburgh City had a total resident population of 486,120.
Located in the south-east of Scotland, Edinburgh lies on the east coast of the Central Belt, along the Firth of Forth, near the North Sea. Edinburgh is the seat of the Scottish Parliament. The city was one of the major centres of the Enlightenment, led by the University of Edinburgh, earning it the nickname Athens of the North.
The historical centre of Edinburgh is divided into two parts by the Gardens of Princes Street. These gardens were originally marshlands, and can still be seen as such on earlier paintings of the city. To the south of these gardens is the old city, dominated by the world famous Edinburgh castle, situated on an extinct volcano. The castle looks down on the shopping district of the city, Princes Street, the beginning of the Royal Mile. To the north of the gardens is the New city where you will find modern architecture such as the Scottish parliament buildings and The National Gallery of Scotland. To the west of the castle is the financial district, where the banks and insurance companies fuel the hub of Edinburgh's economy. The West of the city is also home to Edinburgh Zoo.
The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. There are over 4,500 listed buildings within the city. In May 2010, it had a total of 40 conservation areas covering 23% of the building stock and 23% of the population, the highest such ratios of any major city in the UK.
The Church of Scotland claims the largest membership of any religious denomination in Edinburgh. As of 2010, there are 83 congregations in the Church of Scotland's Presbytery of Edinburgh. Its most notable church is St Giles' Cathedral, while St Cuthbert's, situated at the west end of Princes Street Gardens and in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, lays claim to being the oldest Christian site in the city, although its magnificent and unique building designed by Hippolyte Blanc dates mainly from the late 19th century.
Edinburgh has three museums of great importance. The National Gallery of Scotland houses impressive sculptures and European paintings containing the works of artists such as Gauguin, CÚzanne, Monet and Velazquez. The modern Museum of Scotland is devoted to the history, the people and the culture of Scotland. The Royal Museum of Scotland specialises in geology, archaeology, natural history, science, technology and art. The museum holds particular interest to those fascinated by genetics, as it is the home if the sheep 'Dolly', the first mammal clone in the world.
The city is home to the National Library of Scotland, and is not only one of the most important libraries in Scotland, but one of largest in the United Kingdom.
Each summer, the city comes alive with one of the world's largest festivals, the Edinburgh Festival. The three week long event held in August is enjoyed by nearly a million people each year and boasts of wealth of cultural delights including art, theatre, opera, music and dance as well as the traditional Military Tattoo. The most famous of these events is the Edinburgh Fringe (the largest performing arts festival in the world) and the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Other events include the Hogmanay street party, Burns Night and the Beltane Fire Festival. Edinburgh attracts 1 million overseas visitors a year, making it the second most visited tourist destination in the United Kingdom, after London. These New Year's celebrations in Edinburgh take place from December 31 until January 2.
Two football clubs play in the highest Scottish league, the rivaling Hibernian FC and Hearts Of Midlothian. Edinburgh is also home to the Murrayfield stadium, the national Rugby stadium of Scotland.
The city has always been prosperous but its popularity and status has increased since the Scottish Parliament was established in the city in 1999.