Edinburgh s the capital city of Scotland. It is the second largest city in Scotland and the seventh-most populous in the United Kingdom. The City of Edinburgh Council is one of Scotland's 32 local government council areas. The city council area includes urban Edinburgh and a 30-square-mile (78 km2) rural area.
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. Owing to its spectacular, rugged setting and vast collection of Medieval and Georgian architecture, including numerous stone tenements, it is often considered one of the most picturesque cities in Europe.
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 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.
Edinburgh is drained by the Water of Leith, which finds its source at the Harperrig Reservoir in the Pentland Hills and runs for 29 km (18 miles) through the south and west of the city, emptying into the Firth of Forth at Leith.
Culturally, Edinburgh is best known for the Edinburgh Festival, although this is in fact a series of separate events, which run from the end of July until early September each year. The longest established festival is the Edinburgh International Festival, which first ran in 1947. The International Festival centres on a programme of high-profile theatre productions and classical music performances, featuring international directors, conductors, theatre companies and orchestras.
The International Festival has since been taken over in both size and popularity by the Edinburgh Fringe. What began as a programme of marginal acts has become the largest arts festival in the world, with 1867 different shows being staged in 2006, in 261 venues. Comedy is now one of the mainstays of the Fringe, with numerous notable comedians getting their 'break' here, often through receipt of the Perrier Award.
Equally famous is the annual Hogmanay celebration. Originally simply a street party held on Princes Street and the Royal Mile, the Hogmanay event has been officially organised since 1993. In 1996, over 300,000 people attended, leading to ticketing of the main street party in later years, with a limit of 100,000 tickets. Hogmanay now covers four days of processions, concerts and fireworks, with the actual street party commencing on New Year's Eve. During the street party Princes Street is accessible by ticket only, allowing access into Princes Street where there are live bands playing, food and drink stalls, and a clear view of the castle and fireworks. Alternative tickets are available for entrance into the Princes Street Gardens concert and Ceilidh, where well known artists perform and ticket holders are invited to participate in traditional Scottish Ceilidh dancing. The event attracts thousands of people from all over the world. On the night of 30 April, the Beltane Fire Festival takes place on Edinburgh's Calton Hill. The festival involves a procession followed by the re-enactment of scenes inspired by pagan spring fertility celebrations.
Edinburgh is home to a large number of museums and libraries, many of which are national institutions. These include the Museum of Scotland, the Royal Museum, the National Library of Scotland, National War Museum of Scotland, the Museum of Edinburgh, Museum of Childhood and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.