In 2007, the Edinburgh International Festival was voted by the Rough Guide to be the world's top tourist experience.
It is an arts festival with a long history because it was started in 1947 in the dark days after the war by Rudolf Byng of Glyndebourne who wanted to create another operatic centre in Britain. With support from Lady Rosebery and the Lord Provost of Edinburgh Sir John Falconer, he got it off the ground.
Originally scheduled for the last two weeks in August and the first in September, (now the last three weeks in August), Edinburgh's Festival took off from the beginning and attracted top class artists and performers from all over the world.
Other festivals have grown round it - the Film Festival and what became known as the Fringe sprang up in the first year, and they were followed by the hugely popular Military Tattoo in 1950, the Traverse Theatre in 1965, the Jazz Festival in the 1970's, the Book Festival in the 1980's and the Art Festival in 2004. Today the fame of the Fringe overshadows that of the official Festival. During its existence however the official Festival has brought some of the most famous performers in the world to Edinburgh. Margot Fonteyn and Moira Shearer both danced there in the 1950's; Richard Burton read "Under Milk Wood" on the Lyceum stage in the same decade; Kathkeen Ferrier, Maria Callas, Janet Baker and Bryn Terfel have all sung for Festival audiences; Menuhin, Isaac Stern and Brendel have played and Karajan directed the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in Edinburgh.
Artists like Degas (1952), Velasquez (1951), Cezanne (1954) and Braque (1956) have all had special exhibitions of their works mounted in the National Gallery of Scotland during Festival time.
Some critics feel that there has been too little attention to theatre during the last few years but the standard of music and opera remain unmatched.