The area sporadically controlled for centuries by Romans and Celts, Edinburgh began its life as a city and as a Scottish city in 1020, when Scottish King Malcolm II permanently annexed the territory to his domain. From its humble beginnings as little more than a fort and monastery on a hill, Edinburgh had been built up by the Scots into a major commercial center by the early Middle Ages, and trade (particularly in woolens) flourished despite nearly constant attacks from English forces. In 1437, its de facto status as Scotland’s capital was made official, and the city became the administrative seat of the realm.

By the 18th century, Edinburgh was bustling and overcrowded, and also one of the cradles of the European Enlightenment, producing some of the period’s most luminous thinkers like David Hume and Adam Smith. It was during this time as well that the New Town was laid out—rationally and on a grid, in accordance with Enlightenment ideals. The New Town drew much of the population away from the crowded streets of the Old Town, but both cities remain as fascinating historical sites to this day.

The 19th and 20th centuries brought a number of important changes for the city. Blossoming into a modern metropolis, Edinburgh is now counted as Europe’s 5th most important financial center. In addition, at the dawning of the new millennium Edinburgh with the reinstatement of the Scottish Parliament 1998, the city is once again the seat of Scottish rule as well as the nation’s commercial capital.