13 Cool Facts You Probably Didn't Know About Edinburgh

Discover the mysteries and secret facts of the Scottish capital

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  • 20 July 2018
  • • 4 min read

Edinburgh has got to be one of the most mysterious cities in Europe. Its dark, medieval walls hold so many secrets, most of which we probably don’t even know about. Did you know about Edinburgh’s knighted penguin? Or the misleading Royal ‘Mile’? With the Edinburgh Fringe just around the corner, what better time to learn some more about the city. We’ve got some crazy cool facts about the Scottish capital that, even you who know the city like the back of your hand, might not have known before…

1. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is the largest arts festival in the world

There will be over 3000 shows will be staged with a total of 50,000 performances across 300 venues. The population of Edinburgh doubles in size during Fringe with people travelling from far and wide just to experience it. This festival should be on everyone’s bucket list, this year it kicks off on 3 August. Altogether, Edinburgh's Festivals generate over £260m for the Scottish economy and create the equivalent of 5,242 full-time jobs each year.

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2. The Harry Potter movies were filmed in Edinburgh

Much of J K Rowling’s inspiration for the Harry Potter books derived from Edinburgh. In fact, she wrote the majority of Harry Potter books while living in the city and you can visit some of the coffee shops and hotels such as Elephant House and Balmoral Hotel where she spent time writing the novels. You can visit the film locations including GreyFriars Kirkyard and Victoria Street, or take the Potter Trail, a tour that takes you through the relevant sites.

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3. Over 75% of the city's buildings are listed

Yup, more than 4,500 buildings make the list making Edinburgh home to the most listed sites in the UK after London.

4. The world's one and only knighted penguin lives at Edinburgh Zoo

And his name is Sir Nils Olav. The King penguin’s role includes inspecting the Norwegian Guard on their visits to the Scottish capital and since his knighthood in 2008, he’s since been promoted in the ranks to Brigadier. Only in Edinburgh!

5. Edinburgh wasn't always the capital of Scotland

Weird to think but it’s totally true. Edinburgh replaced Scone as the capital of Scotland in 1437.

6. It's the greenest city in the UK

Edinburgh has more trees per head of population than any other city in the UK. The capital is also home to 112 parks, the lungs of the city.

7. Edinburgh Castle sits on an extinct volcano

Edinburgh Castle sits on Castle Rock, a 700 million year old extinct volcano. Make sure you're here at 1pm to see the 'One O'Clock Gun' fires be shot from the castle. This takes place every day in the capital (except Sundays) where spectators gather in the park to watch.

8. The castle was once home to an elephant

After a long post out in Sri Lanka in 1838, the 78th Highlanders came back to Edinburgh Castle with a surprise… They brought an elephant back with them as their regimental mascot and, in true Scottish style, it quickly developed a love for beer.

9. A unicorn is the national animal of Scotland

Sure, unicorns may not be real but that didn’t stop Scotland choosing the mythical creature as its national animal. The country is famed for its myths and legends, so if one place had to have an unicorn, it had to be Scotland.

10. Edinburgh is the world's number one festival destination

Who knew? We've already talked about The Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August is the biggest arts festival in the world. Then there's the Edinburgh International Book Festival, the largest festival of its kind.

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11. The city is home to the 22nd best university in the world

As of 2018, Edinburgh University ranked 22nd in the best universities in the world and the 6th best university in Europe. The university has many historic buildings based in the medieval Old Town.

12. Edinburgh's landscape was formed by a glacier

The city actually owes the beauty of its landscape to the most recent Ice Age. The obvious tail feature from Castle Rock to Holyrood, the edge of the Royal Mile and the deep valleys on either side of Cowgate and Nor’ Loch were all formed thanks to the miles of moving ice sheets that shaped them.

13. The Royal Mile isn't a mile long

The most famous street in Edinburgh, The Royal Mile, isn’t not actually a mile along. It stretches one mile and 107 yards. So almost.

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