Motorists might be more familiar with its congested thoroughfares, some of which are among the most polluted in Scotland.

But it seems Edinburgh is rapidly emerging as a green travel mecca.

The fast-growing capital has been named the UK’s most environmentally friendly destination, with researchers singling out biking opportunities, parks and vegan restaurants as reasons to pay a visit.

It is also ranked tenth globally, while San Francisco occupies the number one spot. Other highly placed cities include Buenos Aires, Berlin, Lisbon and Barcelona, as well as more surprising entries such as Rio De Janeiro and Los Angeles.

Welcoming the research, which was carried out by travel specialists Hayes & Jarvis, local authority chiefs in Edinburgh said work to protect and improve the environment was wide-ranging.

Council Leader Adam McVey said: “We’re making every effort to create a more environmentally-friendly future for Edinburgh, which is demonstrated by our commitment to become carbon neutral by 2030.”

Hayes & Jarvis’ ranking was based on creating a “seed list” of the most visited destinations around the world.

Its researchers then tallied the number of environmentally friendly hotels, vegan restaurants, bike tours and nature attractions per million tourists to create an overall index score for each city.

Hotels were included based on whether their commitment to practices such as recycling, local and organic food, and installing electric car charging stations had been enough to secure a GreenLeaders certification on TripAdvisor.

Edinburgh scored 60.2 - only just behind Berlin, Los Angeles and Lisbon which were in seventh equal place with 61.1.

Among its highly rated businesses are vegan restaurants Harmonium, Seeds for the Soul and Henderson’s, and the Ten Hill Place and Nira Caledonia hotels.

It comes after the city announced a £314 million overhaul of its central area which will see priority given to pedestrians and cyclists, and many major streets closed to traffic.

There has also been significant investment in the local cycling network.

However, there are concerns over the state of Edinburgh’s urban environment, particularly the threat posed by air pollution.

Earlier this year, it emerged that Nicolson Street and St John’s Road had both broken legal limits for nitrogen dioxide emissions, and were among the six worst blackspots north of the Border.

Mr McVey said the local authority was determined to drive forward improvements.

“From our ongoing investment in improving cycling and walking infrastructure, including under City Centre Transformation, to our worldfamous green spaces, we’re extremely proud of our ‘green’ credentials,” he said.

“While our efforts right now are obviously focused on protecting our citizens through COVID-19, we know residents don’t want us to let go of our sustainable ambitions while the vast majority of our residents think tackling the climate emergency is an urgent and immediate priority.

“As this research shows, this is also important to the many people who visit Edinburgh each year.”

Sarah Boyack MSP, member for Lothians and shadow cabinet minister for local government said, “This is great news for Edinburgh and for Scotland, more broadly.

“Edinburgh is a vibrant, lively city and it comes as no surprise to see it ranked in the world’s top ten eco friendly destinations.

“Lots of work has been done to improve clean access around the city with investment in cycle lanes, electric trams and, of course, its continuing commitment to be carbon neutral by 2020. It’s a work in progress but it demonstrates real people-friendly policies.

“Above all, Edinburgh is a great place for walkers, from wonderful historical strolls around the Old Town, challenging hikes up Arthur’s Seat and super views from Calton Hill. Not many cities can offer all that in one package.”

A spokesperson for Hayes & Jarvis said: “We are passionate about environmental protection and it is our aim to provide holidays that leave a positive impact on our destinations.

“In ‘Eco Escapes’ we chose to explore metrics that reflect this, such as green hotels, vegan restaurants, nature attractions and bike tours.

“Our project showed that Edinburgh is the go-to destination in the UK for environmentally conscious travellers.” 

To access the full Hayes & Jarvis rankings, visit