UNESCO Creative Cities Network project was launched in 2004 and it celebrates the creativity, history, and dynamic cultures of almost 300 cities globally. I spent two wonderful days exploring world’s first-ever UNESCO City of Literature – Edinburgh as well as the UK’s first and only UNESCO City of Design – Dundee – both form part of Scotland’s UNESCO Trail – the first national UNESCO trail anywhere in the world.
In partnership with VisitScotland
If you have ever visited Edinburgh you’ve probably noticed that literature is steeped in the city’s atmosphere and links to famous writers and books are found in every corner of both Old and New Town. Edinburgh’s literary roots are far and wide, starting with Scotland’s most famous poet Robert Burns and his notable poem ‘Address To Edinburgh’, to many locations across the city where JK Rowling is believed to have gathered inspiration for her prominent fictional characters.
One of the city’s iconic landmarks, sitting proudly in the heart of Edinburgh, celebrates Sir Walter Scott and is the largest monument to a writer in the world. If you’re looking for something different to do, you can climb up the Scott Monument and its 287 steps to admire the views from above whilst learning about the famous writer’s life and achievements.
Take a walk through Victoria Street where Harry Potter fans feel like they just stepped into real-life Diagon Alley. The colourful boutique shop displays are filled with quirky souvenirs with references to the famous witches and wizards.
Edinburgh is rich in independent bookshops where you can find books that are hundreds of years old as well as from the modern era. Explore new and second-hand books, and antique typewriters, climb up the steps to reach for that enticing novel, or simply enjoy a cup of tea while reading the first pages of your new purchase – the bookshop scene in Edinburgh is rich and abundant.
Some of my favourite ones are Armchair Books in Grassmarket and its impressive antique book collection, Golden Hare Books in Stockbridge with a fantastic children’s and young adults’ selection (plus they ship internationally!), McNaughtan’s & Typewronger in Broughton where you can find a variety of typewriters or fix a broken one, and Toppings at the top of Leith Walk which stocks the most abundant selection of all sorts of books.
If you are visiting during late summer, make sure to visit the Edinburgh International Book Festival which runs from August 12th through 28th. You’ll get a chance to take part in talks and readings from famous authors from across the UK, interactive shows and performances, book signings, and discussions.
This was my first-ever visit to Dundee – I was so excited! It’s a very walkable place and I believe it’s the best way to get to know new cities as you discover some nooks and corners that may get overlooked otherwise.
Dundee welcomed me with blue skies and sunshine, turning a cold early spring day into a long and pleasant walk. Dundee was titled UNESCO City of Design in 2014 to celebrate the city’s contributions towards design in various fields such as medical research, comic books, food, video games, and more. As I was walking I couldn’t help but notice colourful interiors, charming structures and interesting facades that really complement the city’s title.
Dundee is home to multiple world-renowned innovations such as the invention of aspirin, biomedical research which has resulted in the production of hundreds of new cancer drugs, comics including the Beano and Dandy, orange marmalade, and video games including Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.
Did you know that Scotland’s first-ever design museum is also located in Dundee? It’s called V&A and is rich in everchanging exhibitions, galleries, displays, and installations. Overlooking the River Tay, it’s an excellent place for a day out with family or friends, as there will be something to see and do for everyone.
After you’ve finished exploring the V&A Dundee museum, step outside and admire the RRS Discovery steamship that launched back in 1901 and was the first purpose-built Antarctic vessel and marked the first British expedition of the modern era to Antarctica.
Enjoying the sunshine, I took a further walk into the city and visited the incredible building that is McManus Art Gallery & Museum which had an array of interesting exhibitions and art installations across several floors. I found this building so architecturally majestic and dramatic – it was easily my favourite site in the city.
After seeing so many impressive sights, I returned home with multiple new impressions and interesting facts I’d learned, it was a full and engaging day. The city truly deserves to be part of Scotland’s UNESCO trail and I look forward to coming back there again soon!