Skip to content

Cities

Edinburgh city profile | city data
  • The city’s major Festivals are collectively one of the biggest ticketed events in the world
  • A recent public consultation process, ‘Desire Lines,’ identified an enabling approach to the city’s cultural provision as a fundamental requirement for on-going development and success
  • Culture is one of the pillars of a City Region Deal bid for regional devolution that, if successful, will bring significant infrastructure investment to Edinburgh and 5 partner local authorities in the south east of Scotland

City data: Key facts

  • Geographical area: 263 sq. km
  • Total population: 513,210
  • GDP (PPP) million: $27,958

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital, and its second most populous city. Since the 12th century Edinburgh Castle has stood on the dramatic crag of Castle Rock, with the city’s architecturally striking, densely settled Old Town built around it. By the 16th century Edinburgh had become the capital of Scotland, and a university city. The Scottish Enlightenment of the 18th century was shaped by leading thinkers such as David Hume and Adam Smith, and during this period the neo-classical New Town also took shape. Together with the Old Town it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Today Edinburgh is a city of just over 500,000 people and its population has increased by 12% over the last 10 years. Edinburgh’s workforce is among the most educated in the UK, with 64% holding a degree level qualification. The city has been shaped by its core role as Scotland’s business, political and cultural capital. Scotland’s visitor attractions received over 30 million visits during 2017, with seven of the top 10 most visited being based in Edinburgh, including Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland. Edinburgh is also home to three National Galleries and the National War Museum.

At the centre of Edinburgh’s cultural life are its major Festivals, which have taken place annually for over 70 years. An international cultural brand, the Festivals and the cultural presence they attract all year round place this relatively small city on the world stage. Taken together the Festivals are one of the biggest ticketed events in the world, selling over 2.6 million tickets for over 50,000 events in 2017. A 2016 study estimated the economic impact of Edinburgh’s major festivals at over £280 million. However, the popularity of the Festivals also represents a challenge within the city, which grapples with a doubling of population during the main Festival month of August.

Managing the success and growth of the tourism sector as a whole is another of the City’s key challenges. In some other European countries, the unmanaged growth of tourism has affected both quality of life for residents and the city’s natural environment. While visitor to resident ratios in Edinburgh currently remain below that of these cities, it is important that action is taken to manage these pressures. The issue of a Transient Visitor Levy – or socalled ‘tourist tax’ – for Edinburgh has local political support, renewed since the 2017 Local Government elections.

Edinburgh also faces competing demands for investment and development. Office and hotel developments, and the job opportunities that come with them, are skewed towards the city centre. Physical change has often been driven without input from local communities and the focus on the city centre has delayed new developments in suburban areas, leaving some communities behind. This has taken place amid a climate of wider uncertainty, with reduced public spending across the UK, and economic uncertainty following the Brexit vote, especially among EU workers, who are represented heavily in Edinburgh’s tourism and hospitality sector. Meanwhile, the City faces a need to invest in its cultural venues infrastructure to meet the needs to a growing population. A number of much needed improvements to key venues have been identified. Without such investment, the city is at risk of diminishing its status as a world-leading cultural centre.