The city of Edinburgh is renowned world-wide for its history, architecture, scenery and cultural attractions. Built on a set of hills, it is situated between the Firth of Forth to the north, the Pentland Hills to the south, and the council areas of East Lothian and West Lothian to the east and west. The population today is estimated at over 450,000 and is growing rapidly, predominantly through migration. Known in the 19th century for biscuits, brewing and books, its economy has become oriented towards services, particularly in the areas of finance, science and the professions. Edinburgh is the second largest financial centre in the UK after London and the fourth largest in Europe, including the headquarters of the Royal Bank of Scotland, Standard Life and the Lloyds Banking Group subsidiaries Bank of Scotland and Scottish Widows. Biscuits are still made in the city by Burtons and Nairn-Simmers, but McVities left in 1969. Most of the major breweries have closed, leaving only the Caledonian Brewery in Slateford Road and there are a few modest book publishers. The city also has a significant retail sector, centred on Princes Street, with large shopping complexes including Princes Mall, St. James' Centre, the Gyle Centre, Ocean Terminal and Fort Kinnaird.
There are signs of human activity in the area from at least c.5000 BC with fortifications evident from c.1000 BC. Celtic and Roman occupants were followed by Northumbrians and Scots. In the 15th Century it was made Scotland's capital, but its importance as the political centre of Scotland was later diminished by the Union of 1707 with England. Later cultural and architectural achievements in the 18th and 19th centuries, along with its seven hills, earned it the title 'Athens of the North'. Today, Edinburgh is known world-wide as a tourist mecca, as a major financial centre, and as the site of one of the world's largest international arts festivals, held annually since 1947. In addition, the city's importance as a political centre was re-established with the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 1999.
Edinburgh has four universities; namely Edinburgh (1582), Heriot-Watt (1966), Napier (1992) and Queen Margaret (1998), together with the highest proportion of privately-educated children of any city in the UK, reaching 25% of the total school population distributed across 15 fee-paying schools. Edinburgh also benefits from the only municipally-owned bus company in Scotland.
Seeing Edinburgh from the sky