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The 5 Most Scenic Places in Edinburgh

Written on October 27, 2020

The 5 Most Scenic Places in Edinburgh

As one of Europe’s most picturesque capital cities, there is no shortage of scenic spots in Edinburgh. Fortunately, at Invisible Cities, we have the local knowledge to help you get the most out of your city break. Join us today as we explore the 5 most scenic places in Edinburgh. Before you begin, why not take a look at our range of walking tours in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Castle

Looming over the city from Castle Rock, this 12th-century castle acted as a royal residence for around four and a half centuries; its most famous former residents were Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots. A strategic fortress in both a real and symbolic sense, control of the castle historically meant control of the city itself and so this building’s story, perhaps more than any other, is bound to that of the city below. Today, you can get fantastic views over the cityscape and explore the castle’s history with on-site guides. One of the castle’s darker functions over the years has been its use as a military prison, with sometimes hundreds of foreign prisoners being held in its vaults. For those with an interest in some of the more macabre chapters in the city’s past, you may enjoy our local guide Sonny’s Crime and Punishment tour of Edinburgh.

Calton Hill

Part of the city’s UNESCO world heritage site, Calton Hill provides one of the best cityscapes across the city. Lying to the east of Princes Street, the hill is a short walk from the centre. The climb to the top is short but steep. At the top of the hill, relax on the grass with a picnic lunch if the weather’s good and explore the many historic monuments situated here. Notable structures at the top of the hill include the City Observatory, the Nelson Monument, and the infamous National Monument — a memorial to the Napoleonic Wars in the style of Athens’ Parthenon that was left half-finished when the council ran out of money in 1829.

Deane Village

The ‘Water of Leith Village’, as it was once known, is a strange time-capsule of a place. Visitors who stumble upon Deane Village by chance would be forgiven for thinking they have stepped through a portal to a distant time. The site of a mill some 800 years ago, this area has been perfectly preserved and offers a peaceful escape from the often busy city centre. It’s one of the most picture-perfect sections of the city, so bring a camera with you for holiday snaps. Walking by the softly flowing water, you are likely to have the place to yourself, apart from the occasional jogger or dog walker. There are no shops or restaurants in the immediate vicinity, but it’s a fairly short walk from the National Gallery of Modern Art which should also make it onto your must-see list. For visitors hoping to explore the city’s arts and culture scene, you will enjoy tours with our guide Angie who explores the hidden and overlooked creative places the city has to offer.

Arthur’s Seat

Arthur’s Seat is a dormant volcano (don’t worry, it hasn’t been active for millions of years) located just outside Edinburgh’s city centre. It offers matchless views over the city and the surrounding countryside. The hill is part of the larger Holyrood Park which includes glens, hills, lochs, and cliffs. Allow a good couple of hours to make the climb and your way back down, adding more time if you wish to explore Holyrood park more widely. A taste of wild Scotland on the doorstep of the capital.

The Royal Mile

Some locals may grumble at any mention of the Royal Mile as it’s, undoubtedly, the street most geared towards tourists in the whole city and it can get very busy — especially during the Edinburgh Festival. However, like most popular tourist spots, it’s included in the guidebooks for a reason. The street is lined on both sides with historic buildings and gives an excellent feel for how the city would have been in bygone eras. At the top, you have the castle and at the bottom, the Scottish parliament, Holyrood House. Enjoy watching the rush of people from all over the globe pass you by, and when it gets too much for you, get lost on the winding lanes that lead off the main drag. Our local guide Angus gives an excellent tour exploring this area: The Royal Mile Tour – From Huts to High Rise.

So ends our whistle-stop tour of the best scenic spots around Edinburgh. If you have any questions for us, we’d love to hear from you. Reach out to us here.

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Black History Month: The History of Glasgow

Written on October 05, 2020

October is Black History Month. Originally founded to recognise the contributions that people of African and Caribbean backgrounds have made to the UK over many generations, it has now expanded to include the history of not just African and Caribbean people but black people in general.

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Where Are the Best Places to Visit in Manchester?

Written on September 24, 2020

Where Are the Best Places to Visit in Manchester?

A harmonious mix of the old and the new makes Manchester one the most captivating cities in the UK, and in recent years the city has gone from strength to strength, securing its place as one of the top destinations anyone travelling in the UK should visit. Join us as we explore some of our favourite sights to make your trip extra special. If you haven’t done so already, have a look at our Walking Tours in Manchester which are led by local guides with an intimate knowledge of the city. And if you are travelling further north, consider our Walking Tours in Glasgow.

The John Rylands Library

Having been used as a filming location for many period dramas, the John Rylands Library is an enchanting neo-gothic library located in the heart of Manchester. First opening its doors in 1900, the library was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Ryland in tribute to her husband, John, who was Manchester’s first multi-millionaire and a notable philanthropist. The library’s special collections are among the largest in the UK and visitors will be able to see such treasures as a Gutenberg Bible, a First Folio of Shakespeare, and even the oldest surviving fragment of the New Testament. Today, the library is often referred to as being Hogwartsesque for its archways and vaulted ceilings, and it is certainly difficult not to fall under its spell. For book-lovers, we would also recommend taking a short walk to the nearby Chetham’s Library – the oldest public library in the English-speaking world and another Manchester venue sure to teleport you back in time.

Old Trafford

Old Trafford: The Theatre of Dreams. Home of the most successful English team in the history of the beautiful game, this is a must for all sports fans, but there is plenty of interest here to make the visit an enjoyable day out for those who do not follow football. Football stadiums are the gladiatorial arenas of the modern age and this 80,000-seater stadium has brought joy and sorrow to more spectators than most throughout its glorious history. Visitors can expect to be given a fabulous insight into the club’s history by expert guides and will have access to parts of the arena normally reserved only for players – you’ll even be able to walk down the hallowed player’s tunnel, tracing the same path to the pitch as club legends like Ronaldo, Beckham, Cantona, and Rooney. For football enthusiasts, the National Football Museum in Manchester also makes for an excellent visit, being the largest of its kind in the world. And for those more inclined to cheer a Man United defeat than a victory, their cross-town rivals Manchester City also offer a very enjoyable series of tours of their impressive ground, the Etihad Stadium.

Manchester Museum

The Manchester Museum is an excellent attraction for guests of all ages. The largest university-owned museum in the UK, the museum has around 4.5 million items within their collections. Established in 1867, today the museum is one of Manchester’s most popular attractions with over 400,000 visitors each year. The scope of the exhibits on display here is extraordinary and any guest is sure to find displays that will fire their imagination. A visitor favourite is the museum’s 65 million-year-old tyrannosaurus rex, Stan, who has been delighting young and old alike since he first went on permanent display in 2004. Also of particular note is the museum’s Egyptology department which comprises 18,000 artefacts and includes the mummy of a woman name Arsu who lived in Thebes almost 3,000 years ago. This is a treasure trove of wonders.

The Northern Quarter

Known as the bohemian corner of Manchester, the Northern Quarter is an excellent area to explore on foot for independent shops and stylish cafes, bars, and restaurants. The fortunes of this district have been bound to Manchester’s industry over the centuries and the area fell into a steep decline after the Second World War as commercial centres shifted. But over the past couple of decades, enterprising business owners and other creative minds have turned this into one of the most vibrant parts of the city. Manchester is famously the birthplace of bands like Oasis, The Smiths, and Joy Division, and music lovers will find excellent record shops in this area stocked with quality vinyl, while fashionistas will find plenty of vintage clothing stores. The indoor market Afflecks should be on the to-do list of anyone hoping to do some shopping during their stay. For more things to do in this part of Manchester, check out our tour Off the Cobbles with Danny. On this tour, you’ll learn about Manchester from someone who has lived on its streets. Danny likes to convey his enthusiasm for Manchester while also combatting stigmas about homeless people.

The Science and Industry Museum

Another Manchester Museum housed in a stunning building, the Science and Industry Museum is based at what was once the world’s first passenger railway station. In its heyday, Manchester was the piston driving the British Empire and this museum gives a fascinating insight into the city’s achievements, from being the birthplace of the industrial revolution to where Ernest Rutherford first split the atom. There is a range of significant aircraft on display, including a locally built Spitfire and an impressive collection of early locomotives. For guests more interested in the political than the scientific, the People’s History Museum is an excellent alternative. Again charting Manchester’s impact on British (and global) history, the People’s Museum is focussed on the revolutionary spirit of this city which was at the centre of the Suffragette movement and was home to Marx and Engels as they wrote their Communist Manifesto.

This brings to a close our selection of the best places to visit during your stay in Manchester. Do you have any questions for us? Is there something you feel should be included on the list? Please feel free to reach out and contact us anytime, we’d be happy to chat.

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Looking for Things to Do in York?

Written on September 17, 2020

Looking for Things to Do in York?

With a history stretching back to Roman times and a distinctly medieval appearance, it is easy to see why York remains one of our most beloved travel destinations in the UK. Join us as we journey through some of our favourite things to do in York. And if you like what you see, be sure to check out our Walking Tours in York which are run by local people who have experienced homelessness; our tour guides have the insider knowledge to help you get the most from your stay. If you are planning to travel further north after your stay, why not consider our Walking Tours in Edinburgh.

York Minster

Undoubtedly York’s crown jewel, York Minster is one of the largest medieval churches in Europe and perhaps the most beautiful in the whole UK. Tracing its origins back to the 7th Century, the minster (as cathedrals are often called in England) as we know it today was built between the 13th and 15th centuries. The building is enormous and as you stand inside looking at the gothic, vaulted ceilings that seem to extend to the heavens, you find yourself in awe that craftsmen with rudimentary tools were able to construct such a building. The stained glass of the Great East Window is the largest section of medieval stained glass in the world. It has been drawing visitors for centuries and it should be top of your list for your stay in York.

The National Railway Museum

A former winner of the European Museum of the Year Award, this is the world’s largest collection of historic trains and railway memorabilia. Dedicated to exploring the past, present, and future of rail travel, the museum has exhibits spanning 300 years that will interest visitors of any age. With sections of the exhibition space being filled with period items and mock platforms, the museum does an excellent job bringing bygone eras to life. The railway is central to York’s history and this museum provides a fine insight into the role the city played in the development of rail travel. All exhibits come with ample multimedia delving into the history of what’s on display, so rail enthusiasts will want to reserve plenty of time for this excursion. Entry to the museum is free and there are 3 cafes on site for food and refreshment. And if you’re interested in York’s railway history, Gemma from Invisible Cities runs a tour on York’s Railway Heritage. So make sure you check that out.

The Shambles

The Shambles will be especially delightful for first-time visitors to England, as this fairytale street carries all the charm that we associate with historic English towns and villages. Historical documents tell us that tradespeople have been selling their wares on this street since the 11th Century and it was known as one of the city’s marketplaces since the 14th Century. Historically, butchers would have been trading on the street, but today you will find a bookshop, a bakery, and an assortment of independent shops and restaurants. With younger guests, the street will perhaps be best known as a possible inspiration for JK Rowling’s Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books. You will certainly find your imagination come alive as you stroll through this enchanting area of the city which seems to have been suspended in a time long ago.

York City Walls

York has been fortified with town walls since Roman times and today the city can make the boast of having the best-preserved defensive walls of any town in England. The earliest sections of the wall stretch back as far as 71 AD, but the oldest visible feature is the multangular tower which was erected under the reign of Constantine in the 4th Century. Walking these fortifications is an excellent way to immerse yourself in the history of the city while also getting a feel for the lay of the land. Along your way, you encounter some beautifully preserved medieval gatehouses, known as bars. Traditionally these were used to restrict traffic and obtain tolls from passing travellers, but fortunately today your access is free and you are free to explore these historic sites unimpeded! And if you are interested in knowing more about the history of York's Wall, stay tuned as we are developing a new tour. Details to follow soon!

And this brings our guide for things to do in York to a close. We hope this guide has inspired you to make the most of this wonderful city. Remember to have a browse of our own Walking Tours in York before you go, and if you have any comments or suggestions for us, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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Why Your Online Reviews Matter

Written on September 14, 2020

Last week we found out we were a Travelers' Choice Winner with Tripadvisor for 2020 which is an amazing achievement for the whole team at Invisible Cities!

We take a lot of pride in our reviews but also use them as a way to move forward with our guides, trainees and team. We can't thank all the guests who have taken the time to write a few words, enough. It has helped us reach a solid reputation online and of course it helps being more visible online.

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Invisible Cities Launches New Subscription Box

Written on September 07, 2020

Want your little ones to travel but from the comfort of your own home? We got you covered with our brand new subscription box: Invisible Cities World Tour!

The last few months have been a challenge for us all and for those used to travelling the world, even more so. As we all went into lock-down, at Invisible Cities, we created online fun trails for the little ones to discover our cities in a different way. Available to download for free they proved to be a real success so we decided to go even further!

For every box purchased, we also donate activity books and games to children in temporary accommodation or children having a tough time right now. Because we believe everyone should learn in a fun and engaging way, no matter where they live. Through our boxes, we also want to spark love for travelling in children and raise awareness of some of the issues countries are facing: whether it is homelessness and inequalities.

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New T-shirts Printed in York

Written on August 21, 2020

The team at Invisible (York) have been busy setting up a new initiative to design and print t-shirts. The project called Coterminous, brings together established artists and designers with homeless people, ex-offenders and former drug users to create a unique range of t-shirts. Those participants are not only involved in the design process, but also in the printing, distribution and marketing, to create a variety of employment opportunities. Each t-shirt celebrates one of our Invisible Cities on organic fair trade cotton. We interviewed Kenny at Invisible (York) to tell us more!

Where did the idea to produce T-shirts come from and what inspired it?

From an early stage, Good Organisation (Invisible Cities' partner in York) realised that not everyone engaged by the Invisible Cities project had the confidence to act as a tour guide or necessarily wanted their homelessness to be publicly known, and with that in mind, we set up a number of smaller initiatives to support those individuals.

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Meet the Team: Lauren

Written on August 17, 2020

We are delighted to announce that our team is growing. Lauren has joined us at Invisible (Manchester)! Having previously worked in the travel and tourism sector, Lauren will be bringing her expertise and industry knowledge to develop our sales & business strategy. Read below to hear a little more about her first week with us.

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Five Secret Spots in Edinburgh to Visit

Written on August 07, 2020

Five Secret Spots in Edinburgh To Visit

As our walking tours in Edinburgh couldn't be further from traditional, we wanted to offer some additional secret spots to add to your next visit to Edinburgh. And if you'd like some reassurance about taking our tours at this difficult time, find out everything we're doing to safeguard our guides and our guests from COVID-19.

Dean Village

Edinburgh continually ranks among travellers’ top cities to visit, not just in the UK, or even Europe, but globally. The city is vibrant, picturesque, and feels strangely timeless. This is why it has long been known as ‘the Athens of the North’. But if there’s one grumbling complaint that visitors often make of the city, it’s that they wish it was a little quieter, that the crowds were a little smaller. Who can blame them? Haven’t we all found ourselves in places of beauty and been jostled from our daydreams by a newly arrived tour group? Well, if you have felt this in Edinburgh — perhaps during festival season — think of Dean Village as an antidote. Once known as the ‘Water of Leith Village’, this residential area was the site of grain milling for over 800 years. A 30-minute walk from the centre of the city, the area is quaint, tranquil, and fairytale-esque.

Museum of Childhood

Edinburgh’s Museum of Childhood was the world’s first museum dedicated to the subject. This fascinating museum evokes all the wonder and creativity of childhood through a collection of artefacts from between the 18th and 21st centuries. The museum began as the private collection of Edinburgh councillor, Patrick Murray. Today the museum can boast of having more than 60,000 items within their collection. Many facets of childhood experience are explored within the museum, such as schooldays, holidays, and children’s clothing. Multimedia elements help to immerse guests in exhibits. A Victorian street has lovingly been recreated and younger visitors can dress up and partake in games. One of the standout pieces is an enormous doll’s house that contains 2,000 tiny items across its 21 rooms; it has been so finely crafted that it even has functioning lighting and plumbing systems. While a teddy bear brought to Britain by a child refugee from the Kindertransport brings a moment of real poignancy. This carefully curated and well-maintained museum should not be overlooked.

The Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh

Another overlooked place of serenity in Scotland’s capital city, the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh is a place for reflection and leisure. Known locally simply as the Botanics, this enormous collection of plants dates back to 1670, making it the second oldest botanic gardens in Britain. Located in Inverleith, a suburb to the north of the city, the botanic gardens are easily reached on foot from the city centre, but far enough from the city’s main attractions to escape the crowds. This is a place to connect with nature and to allow your thoughts to float free in the calming environment. The site spans an impressive 70 acres, contains 10 glasshouses, and is home to over 100,000 plants. At a time when environmental issues are often at the forefront of our minds, it is deeply encouraging to witness the tender care that staff at the gardens put into their upkeep. From the Botanics, you will be able to enjoy marvellous views across the city, featuring the castle in all its glory.

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