Leith (Edinburgh), Scotland, United Kingdom

Two miles distant from its ancient seaport of Leith lies Edinburgh, Scotland's national capital. The Scottish capital since the 15th century, Edinburgh is comprised of two distinct areas - the Old Town, dominated by a medieval fortress, and the neoclassical New Town, whose development from the 18th century onwards had a far-reaching influence on European urban planning. The harmonious juxtaposition of these two contrasting historic areas, each with many important buildings, is what gives the city its unique character.

Always favored by geography, Edinburgh is ideally situated on the Firth of Forth, an inlet from the North Sea, and built on extinct volcanoes surrounded by woods, rolling hills and lakes. On a clear day, there are glorious vistas from each of these hilltops. Looming above the city is the striking fairy tale castle built on the site of a 7th-century fortress. Towards the Middle Ages life within the fortress spilled onto the long ridge running to the foot of Arthur's Seat, which crowns Holyrood Park. The city's most legendary citizens are the arch Presbyterian John Knox and Mary Queen of Scots, who dominated the Edinburgh of the late 16th century. Edinburgh's delightful city center is a joy to explore on foot. Every alley reveals impressive steeples, jagged, chimney-potted skylines, or lovely rotund domes.