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The basics
THE UK: Destination Guides

The ultimate student guide to Edinburgh

Edinburgh is Scotland’s capital city and is home to iconic architecture and a multicultural student population. We dig deeper into the city to see why it continues to attract many international students.


The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is the UK’s 3rd most popular study destination for international students. Edinburgh is filled with culture and natural beauty. It is also home to one of the top universities in the world. It’s easy to understand why this city rates so highly. 


From its medieval Old Town to its iconic neoclassical New Town, the city is perhaps most famed for its winding streets and picturesque architecture. But dig deeper, and you’ll find Edinburgh is a vibrant hub of activity, perfect for the student experience.


What is Edinburgh like?

Location and demographics

Situated in central Scotland, on its east coast, Edinburgh lies on the shore of the Firth of Forth. This hilly northern city is renowned for its charming architecture and stunning views. Only 50 miles east of Glasgow, Edinburgh is positioned right on the edge of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, meaning its residents have easy access to the great outdoors.


With a population of 530,000, Edinburgh is significantly smaller than Glasgow. Although compact in size, it certainly offers a lot. Edinburgh has a great community feel and is easy to get around.


Culture and history

Archaeologists have found evidence that the area around Edinburgh has been inhabited for over 10,000 years. However, most people associate the city’s history with its 900-year-old clifftop castle and the medieval Old Town.


These days, Edinburgh has the strongest economy of any UK city outside of London. Its main industries are finance and technology, with a strong tourism sector. Tourists flock to the city for its annual Fringe Festival and New Year’s Hogmanay party. This, combined with its deep history, makes Edinburgh a true hub for arts and culture.


Edinburgh has been home to many people of note, including actor Sean Connery, author Robert Louis Stevenson and inventor Alexander Graham Bell. Did you know that the first Harry Potter book was written in an Edinburgh café? Something about this city breathes inspiration.


Find out more about what makes studying in the UK so exciting.



What universities are in Edinburgh?

The University of Edinburgh is ranked 15th by the QS World University Rankings 2023. A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of universities, this institution has had some seriously influential alumni, including naturalist Charles Darwin and King Edward VII.


Other universities of note in Edinburgh include:



If you’re looking for a way to review and compare universities in the UK, the Complete University Guide League Tables 2023 can help.


What does Edinburgh offer students?

What is transport in Edinburgh like?

Edinburgh is not a large city, so you’ll find it easy to get around on foot or by bicycle. But for those inevitable times when public transport is preferable, buses and trams will get to where you want to be.


Buses run regularly in Edinburgh and are great for your student budget. If you are under 22, apply for an NEC card to entitle you to free bus travel around Scotland. For older students, consider using the TapTapCap contactless card scheme or purchase a student Ridacard season ticket to give you access to travel discounts.


Edinburgh trams run as often as every seven minutes. You’ll need to purchase your ticket before you board, either at a ticket machine on the platform or online. You can also buy a special day ticket for multiple tram and bus journeys over 24 hours.


The train is another option for travel both within the city and beyond. Edinburgh is well-connected by rail to the rest of Scotland and the UK. And for international travel, Edinburgh Airport has direct flights to over 150 destinations worldwide.



What about entertainment and food?

Edinburgh is a top city if you like food. Edinburgh has many options whether you want to try some local Scottish flavours or sample something a little more exotic. From traditional pubs to fine dining, independent coffee shops to chain restaurants, there’s something for everyone.


For evening entertainment, consider heading to one of the city’s famous comedy clubs or going to a gig to enjoy a night of music. Venues in Edinburgh range from small bars to vast concert halls, meaning you can find a vibe that suits you. The city also has plenty of nightclubs so if a night on the dancefloor is your idea of fun, you won’t be disappointed.


What is the accommodation In Edinburgh like?

Studying in the UK, you’ll find that most students choose to live in university-owned accommodation in their first year. Then, the norm is to move out into a private house or flat share for subsequent years. The University of Edinburgh’s accommodation typically costs between GBP 75 and GBP 230 per week, depending on the facilities available and where your halls are in the city.



There are lots of student accommodation options in Edinburgh. When renting privately, do plenty of research to ensure you get a good deal. And remember, living in a house or flat share is not only better for your budget, but it can also be a great way to make friends for life. But if sharing isn’t your idea of fun, renting alone or getting a room in private halls of residence are options.


Discover the best student cities in the UK


Are there public services for students in Edinburgh?

Universities in Edinburgh are well-equipped to assist their overseas students. Speak to your university’s international office, and the staff there will be able to help you with your questions, from visa queries to settling into life in Edinburgh.


Get the information you need about how to apply for a student visa in the UK.


How much does it cost to live in Edinburgh?

The general cost of Edinburgh

Edinburgh does unfortunately have a very high cost of student living. This shouldn’t put you off living in the city. You’ll just need to budget carefully. Don’t forget that you can always consider part-time work to help cover your costs.


Do you need more information on tuition fees in the UK?

Student budget

As an international student living in the UK, you will have to make some payments upfront before you begin your studies, for example, visa fees and a deposit on your accommodation. Once these costs are paid, Heriot-Watt University suggests that students budget for weekly costs of around GBP 210 to GBP 300 to live in Edinburgh.


Read more on student living costs in the UK.


What are Edinburgh’s main attractions?

Studying in Edinburgh isn’t only great for academic purposes. You’ll also be living in a city full of attractions suitable for students. There is more than enough to keep you busy in your free time.


Edinburgh is packed with history and culture, so it is worth paying a visit to one of its museums and galleries (many of which are free!) to get a sense of the city. With three castles and a selection of beautiful monuments, all with their own stories, if history excites you, you’ve come to the right place.


This is also a city famed for its festivities. Home to The Fringe – the world’s largest arts festival – every summer, Edinburgh also hosts annual festivals celebrating literature, music, film, and science, amongst many other things. And you won’t want to miss the famous Christmas markets in December.



If you’re a sports fan, you’ll fit right in Edinburgh. This proud sporting city has teams in rugby, ice hockey, football (soccer) and even American football. Make use of some of Edinburgh’s excellent sporting facilities to stay fit or exercise in one of the city’s many green spaces – a hike to see the views from the top of Arthur’s Seat can be a workout by itself.


On an evening, you’ll find yourself with many options. The city is full of exciting venues where you can enjoy a drink with friends or hit the dancefloor. From traditional pubs to modern nightclubs, there’s something for everyone.


With your newly acquired knowledge of Edinburgh, you may be interested in exploring your student options in the UK. Our course matcher tool can help.


Study in the UK


'Study in the UK' eBook

Enjoy what you’ve read? We’ve condensed the above popular topics about studying in the UK into one handy digital book.

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