Don't let the cold put you off! It may conjure up thoughts of winds, rain and snow, but Scotland is one of the world's hottest study abroad destinations - and in Edinburgh it has one of the most enticing and unique capital cities in Europe.

Vickie Chiu spent four years studying for her MA in Business Studies and Law at the University of Edinburgh. She gives Top Universities her top tips on what international students should see, do and eat while studying abroad in the Scottish capital.

width=3001.    Edinburgh Castle

There are not many places in the world where you can shop whilst looking at an ancient castle. Built atop an extinct (we promise) volcano, it's believed that human settlement on the site has been around since 900BC. The castle is now Edinburgh's most popular attraction with more than 1.25 million visitors a year. Every New Year's Eve (or 'Hogmanay' if you're local), thousands brave the cold and gather on Princes Street by the castle for a street party. Bring whiskey or mulled wine to keep warm!


2.    Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Every August, Edinburgh hosts the world's largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For art and theatre buffs, music lovers, locals and tourists alike, this is a great chance to catch unknown acts before they become world famous. Each year, the festival line-up has a selection of comedy, music and theatre, not to mention many street performers. Get your tickets early, or simply walk the streets of Edinburgh as it comes alive with a festival atmosphere.

 width=2253.    Haggis, neeps and... tatties

Otherwise known as haggis, turnips and potatoes, Scotland's most famous dish goes well with a 'dram' of whiskey (are you sensing a theme here?). Despite the common worries surrounding haggis's ingredients (yes, we can confirm it is sheep heart, liver and lungs), you simply can't say you've been to Scotland without trying it. It may sound a bit daunting, but if you try haggis in an authentic Scottish restaurant or (even better) home-cooked by someone who knows how, you'll see why this dish is a traditional delicacy.

 4.    Arthur's Seatwidth=300

Situated next to Edinburgh University's student halls, Arthur's Seat is a mountain which attracts both students and hikers all year round. Another extinct volcano, Arthur's Seat boasts stunning views of the city once you reach the peak. It's an easy walk, but be sure to bring a windbreaker and hold on to the rocks to avoid being blown off the top!


5.    Ghost tours

Not for the faint hearted, ghost tours - organized by Mercat Tours and Auld Reekie Tours - lead you down narrow streets, past historical buildings and into the 'haunted' vaults beneath the city's Old Town. Ghost tour companies keep a record of the hundreds of independent supernatural sightings reported by tourists. Mary King's Close is said to be a haunting hot-spot, but even if you don't encounter anything supernatural, it gives a well-preserved view of 17th Century Edinburgh life.  


6.    Seek out literary inspiration

Many a literary success has come from the top of the UK. Just think of the poetry of Robert Burns, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes adventures, and the children's stories of Joan Lingard. If you're an aspiring writer be sure to visit The Elephant House cafe - J.K. Rowling wrote parts of Harry Potter in its back room overlooking the Castle. Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith, authors of the Inspector Rebus novels and The No.1 Ladies' Detective Agency respectively, are also regular visitors of the café.


7.    Itchy feet?

If phrases like Strip the willow and Gay Gordon intrigue you, find your way to the nearest Scottish country dancing venue, otherwise known as a ceilidh. Before nightclubs came into the world, ceilidhs were the place to meet a nice girl or boy. They are still popular today and are organized regularly at university and formal events, so get your dancing shoes on! Warning... stiletto heels do occasionally come flying off so be prepared for potential injury.

width=3008.    Scotch Whiskey Experience (Backfischfest)

Not that we had to tell you, but Scots love a bit of whiskey. Whether you're a whiskey lover yourself, or you simply want to find out a bit more about this iconic part of the Scottish culture, take the Scottish Whiskey Experience. During this hour-long tour, you can learn about the history of whiskey production since the 15th Century. Over-18s will be allowed to taste a selection of different malts all the way through to the bar at the end of the exhibition.

width=3009.    The National Museum of Scotland

Get to the heart of Scottish history in the heart of Edinburgh's old town at The National Museum of Scotland. With displays and exhibitions that include everything from Arthur's Seat coffins to the Millennium Clock Tower (and let's not forget Dolly the Sheep), the museum is the perfect place to escape a cold winter's day. What's more, it's free, so will fit into your student budget!

width=30010.    Best student bargains to be had...

The Mosque Kitchen is student curry heaven. For £3-5, you get a large portion of chicken, lamb, or vegetarian curry with rice or naan bread. Rated highly by locals and tourists, the Mosque Kitchen is a hidden gem in the Edinburgh dining scene. Read reviews here.

Take advantage of being a student as you can receive a discount of up to 50% on theatre tickets with a student card. Check out what's going on at the Edinburgh Playhouse.

Around Edinburgh

Once you've finished exploring Scotland's capital city, head further afield for more culture, history and maybe even a spot of golf!
1.    Rosslyn Chapel, famous for its intricate interior design and a prominent feature in the novel and blockbuster movie, The Da Vinci Code, is only 30 minutes from the centre of Edinburgh. Hop on a bus and get exploring!

2.    Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster? There are many day tours which take you to the famous Loch Ness in search of the legendary monster. If you're really adventurous, why not try a camping trip around the loch? See details here.

3.    Visit St. Andrews. Only 1.5 hours away from Edinburgh, it's historically rich and full of golf enthusiasts and students. Why? It's the birth place of golf and every year hosts The Open Championship, one of the world's most prestigious tournaments. The town is, of course, also home to St. Andrews University - which is ranked in the top 100 of the QS World University Rankings - and even has a famous prince on its list of recent alumni - Prince William!

4.      Follow the footsteps of Sir William Wallace (made famous by Mel Gibson in Braveheart), and pay a visit to Stirling, where he led the Scots to independence from the English at the Battle of Stirling Bridge. Stirling Castle rivals Edinburgh Castle, as it also sits on a volcanic rock, making it visible for miles in every direction.

5.     Berwick-upon-Tweed (pronounced Ber-rick) sits on the border of England and Scotland, and can't decide which side it wants to be on! It has changed hands 13 times between the English and the Scots and to this day the town is still very much lost about its identity. Pay it a visit and decide for yourself!