by Lisa Grimaldi | August 01, 2008

Glowing tradition: Fireworks mark many of Edinburgh’s events.This month, the Scottish capital once again takes its place as the epicenter of the performing arts world. Since 1947, the city has played host to two equally renowned, but wildly different, events: the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival (taking place this year Aug. 8-31) and its edgier cousin, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Aug. 3-25). The former is heavy on classical music, dance, opera and established artists, while the Fringe fte is a bit more of a free-for-all, showcasing up-and-comers in the wide spectrum of performance art.

Edinburgh’s celebration of things modern and traditional extends to its hotels and event venues. On the traditional side, the legendary Caledonian Hilton Edinburgh is in the midst of a three-year, $44 million refurbishment and expansion. The property, which features 12 meeting rooms, is updating its 230 guest rooms with air-conditioning and high-speed Internet access and will add 50 more rooms. The project also includes the conversion of the hotel’s fitness center into an upscale spa.

The George Hotel, which underwent a $24 million facelift two years ago, is expanding. The hotel has acquired an adjacent building that is being converted into 50 guest rooms (for a total of 250), a gym with treatment rooms, a sauna and steam rooms, and an executive club lounge with outside terraces and panoramic views of Edinburgh Castle. The George offers eight meeting rooms; the addition will be completed in October.

Prestonfield, an upscale, 22-room boutique property, recently added the Prestonfield Pavilion, an event venue that accommodates up to 1,000 for seated dinners. The property also has a circular ballroom that seats as many as 500.

There’s news on the modern hotel front, too: Hotel Missoni Edinburgh will open early next year. The property, the first of 30 being launched by Italian luxury design house Missoni and the Rezidor Hotel Group under the Hotel Missoni brand, will have 136 guest rooms, a restaurant, a bar, a fitness suite and several meeting rooms (at press time, the exact number was not available).

Apex Hotels will open its fourth Edinburgh property in January. The 186-room Apex Waterloo Place Hotel is in a landmark building that dates back to 1819. The property will have a fitness center, a restaurant and six meeting rooms. The largest meeting room will accommodate up to 220 people theater-style.

The 160-room Novotel Edinburgh Park recently debuted. The property offers a restaurant, a bar, an indoor swimming pool, a gym with a steam room, Wi-Fi access and five meeting rooms.

This past spring, Edin-burgh’s planning commission approved the redevelopment of the Caltongate area of the city’s Old Town. Plans include a 200-room, five-star property and conference center, as well as housing, restaurants and leisure facilities.

Royal settings

Two venues with royal pedigrees are getting upgrades. The Royal Deck of the Roy-al Yacht Britannia (the same vessel that took Prince Charles and Princess Diana on their honeymoon and Queen Elizabeth around the world) will be available for private functions by year’s end. The ship, which no longer belongs to the royal family, also offers two other spaces suitable for private groups -- the State Drawing Room and the Dining Room. With the Royal Deck, Britannia will be able to accommodate parties of up to 176 people for seated events and as many as 380 guests for receptions.

The Royal Museum of Scotland closed earlier this year in order to undergo a three-year, $92 million refurbishment. Improvements will add 16 galleries that will allow the historic facility to display twice as many objects than at present. Event space also will get a boost; the museum will be able to host seated dinners for up to 900 people.