name popularly given to the oldest part of Scotland's capital city of Edinburgh

Old Town is the original settlement of Edinburgh. At its core is the Royal Mile, the long street descending east from Castle Crag to Holyrood Palace. This medieval city was cramped for space so it built higher and higher, and stank higher still, hence its nickname of "Auld Reekie". From the 14th century it spread south to Grassmarket and Southside, north to Waverley, and west to Tolcross, and these historic districts are all described on this page.

Along with the New Town, the Old Town was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.

iCentre the tourist office is at 249 High Street, about opposite to St Giles church. It's open M-Sa 9:30AM-1PM, 2-5PM, Su 9:30AM-2PM.

Get in

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Map of Edinburgh/Old Town

See Edinburgh#Get in for long distance routes by air, train and bus. From the airport, take the tram or Airlink Bus 100 (24 hours) to Waverley railway station.

1 Waverley Station is only 100 yards north of Old Town, and St Andrew's Square bus station another 200 yards further north. You then face a gradient to access the Royal Mile, the gentlest being across North Bridge.

Arriving from other parts of the city, most bus routes at some point traverse Old Town or Princes Street past the bus and railway stations.

Don't even think of bringing a car into Old Town unless your destination specifically offers parking. Many streets are traffic-restricted, and during the Festival any vehicle left unattended for 30 seconds will be seized by a Fringe troupe and turned into an off-beat venue. It's actually possible to stage Shakespeare in the back seats of a small car, but subsequently cleaning off the stage blood is tedious. From 1 June 2024, most of the Old Town is in a Low Emission Zone, with camera-enforced penalties for entering in a non-compliant vehicle. Cars built after 2015 are generally compliant, but check online.

Get around

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Walk: distances are short, but factor in the gradients, and streets that bridge Cowgate without an intersection.

High Street, the upper part of Royal Mile, is a pedestrian zone. Frequent buses cross it north-south: at the top from Forrest Rd and George IV Bridge to descend the Mound into New Town, and at South Bridge towards Waverley station. See Edinburgh#Get around for using the buses.

Bus 35 runs along Canongate the lower part every 30 min, from Heriot Watt University west edge of the city through Tolcross, Lauriston Place, Chambers St, South Bridge, Canongate, Holyrood Palace, Abbeyhill and north to Leith. Other services through Tolcross and Lauriston Place go over George IV Bridge to the Mound.

Bus 2 runs from Hermiston west edge of the city every 20-30 min to Haymarket, Lothian Rd, Grassmarket and Potterrow to join Nicholson St by the Festival Theatre and head south.

 
Piper busking on the Royal Mile

Royal Mile

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This is the original spine of the city. Glaciers from the west 20,000 years ago divided at the immovable volcanic plug of Castle Rock, and dumped debris behind as a ridge descending east. Measuring 1.12 miles / 1.807 km, it's the route between castle and palace. The best of it is the upper cobbled, traffic-restricted stretch called Castlehill, Lawnmarket then High Street, down to the intersection with North and South Bridges. Much is Georgian, as a great fire in 1824 destroyed many medieval buildings.

  • 1 Edinburgh Castle, Castlehill EH1 2NG, +44 131 225 9846. Daily: Apr-Sep 9:30AM-6PM, Oct-Mar 9:30AM-5PM. Iconic fortress perched magnificently on a volcanic rock above the city. The castle has been continuously used for 1100 years and is kept in excellent condition; it's still the ceremonial headquarters of the army in Scotland. Highlights include the Great Hall, the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels), the War Museum and the 12th century St Margaret's Chapel. The One O'Clock Gun is fired each day from Mills Mount battery. Audio guides available. It's mobbed with tourists and in summer often sells out, book online well in advance. Adult £19.50, child (7-15) £11.40, conc £15.50, Historic Scotland / English Heritage / Cadw free.    
  • The Esplanade is the parade square in front of the castle, normally free to access in daylight hours, lined with monuments to bygone military campaigns and with good views of the city. However the Edinburgh Tattoo and other events are staged here, so access is restricted then, and views are cramped by temporary banks of seating.
  • Tolbooth Kirk or The Hub is the confident Victorian Gothic church at the foot of Castlehill. It was never consecrated, but held religious and secular meetings and church services in English and Gaelic until 1979. From 1999 it's served as the Festival's offices, ticket kiosks and small performance space.
  • 2 Camera Obscura (World of Illusions), 549 Castlehill EH1 2ND, +44 131 226 3709. M-Th 9:30AM-7:30PM, F-Su 9AM-9PM. Over 150 years old, the Camera Obscura projects light from the top of the tower onto a large dish in a dark room below, displaying a panorama of the city. The effect still works on overcast days or at night but is best in sunlight, when you can use a sheet of paper to "pick up" people seen in the streets and have them scurry in your hand. The tower also houses a gallery of optical illusions that wouldn't be out of place in Blackpool. Adult £22, conc £20, child (5-15 years) £17.    
  • 3 Gladstone's Land, 477 Lawnmarket EH1 2NT, +44 131 226 5856. Daily 10AM-5PM. Thomas Gladstone was a wealthy merchant, and in 1617 he had this house refashioned to accommodate his family and to partly rent out. A "Land" means a tall narrow townhouse from the period when Old Town was cramped and the only space for development was upwards. Typically along the Royal Mile the ground floor was shops and trade, genteel folk lived on the first and second floors, and lower-income residents had to lump up many steps to the upper floors. It's now a museum run by the National Trust for Scotland exhibiting 17th century elite city life, richly furnished and decorated but with no running water. In the 18th century prosperous folk relocated to New Town, where the NTS property at 7 Charlotte Square continues the story. Adult £10, conc £8.50, child £6, NTS / NT free.    
 
St Giles
  • Closes are alleys descending steeply on both sides of the Royal Mile in a fishbone pattern, often named for a famous resident. They've come and gone over the centuries and some 80 still exist. Strictly a "close" was a private entrance with a locked gate, but some were public passageways, and a wynd was wide enough for a horse and cart. They're gloomy beneath the ancient tall buildings, and a favourite of "Haunted Edinburgh" ghost tours.
  • Writers' Museum, Lady Stair's Close EH1 2PA (behind Gladstone's Land), +44 131 529 4901. Daily 10AM-5PM. This museum, in a tall house built in 1622, celebrates three Scottish literary giants: Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. From 1719 the close was the residence of the widow of the 1st Earl of Stair, who ordered the Glencoe massacre. Donation £3.    
  • 4 St Giles, High St H1 1RE, +44 131 226 0674. M-F 10AM-6PM, Sa 9AM-5PM, Su 1-3PM. It's often called a Cathedral, but the Church of Scotland brooks no such episcopal entity, and Charles I dubbing it "cathedral" in 1633 was one reason his head was chopped off. Safer to call it "High Kirk", though they're nowadays lenient with first time offenders. The present building is from 14th century with much Victorian Gothic, notably its crowned spire. Highlight is the Chapel of the Order of the Thistle, Scotland's chivalric company of royal knights. Services are M-F at noon and 9:30AM and 11AM on Sunday, with choral music at 6PM. Free.    
  • Heart of Midlothian is a mosaic set in the pavement outside St Giles, marking the entrance to the former Tolbooth. This originated in the 14th century as the city and national council chamber, but by the 18th century was a dilapidated jail, torture chamber and scene of public executions. Walter Scott's novel Heart of Midlothian describes it during the Porteous Riots of 1736, and he purloined its iron door and key when it was demolished in 1817. It's customary (though discouraged even pre-Covid) to spit upon the mosaic heart for good luck. In the 1870s a group of lads played football in the broad streets hereabout, until a policeman shooed them away to play on the spacious Meadows. They became Heart of Midlothian FC now based at Tynecastle but who have not forgotten their roots, as their players are often seen to spit.
  • Old Parliament Hall is the elegant building behind St Giles. It was built in the 1630s and housed the Scottish Parliament until 1707 when that was superseded by the UK Parliament in London. It was partly built over medieval graveyards, so John Knox (1514-72), founder of the stern Presbyterian church, was buried in St Giles graveyard and now finds himself out in the cobbled square. The Hall nowadays hosts the Scottish Supreme Courts, so there's no entrance unless you're in big trouble.
  • Mary King's Close, 2 Warriston's Close H1 1PG (opposite St Giles), +44 131 225 0672. M-F 9AM-5:30PM, Sa Su 9AM-7:30PM. Mary King (1590-1644) was a clothes merchant and city burgess. She died the year before plague struck and carried off the rest of her family. In 1753 Royal Exchange, now City Chambers, was built over several closes by demolishing their upper storeys, while the lower storeys were used for storage then later blocked off. This means a warren of medieval alleys and low dwellings has been preserved, re-opened in 2003 and visited by guided tour. Almost as weighty as the Exchange is the mass of ghost stories piled on top of the close, woo-ooh! - but the real history is fascinating enough. Book ahead as it often sells out. Adult £21, child £15.    
  • City Chambers is the magnificent mansion set back from High St opposite St Giles, completed in 1760. It was intended as an Exchange but the merchants persisted striking their deals at Mercat Cross across the road. It's now home to City of Edinburgh Council. No tours, and it feels churlish to traipse into this grandeur to complain about your bin collections.
  • 5 Tron Kirk stands at the intersection of High Street and North Bridge. It was completed in 1641 but disused as a church since 1952, and is nowadays an indoor market. The square outside has long been a market - the "tron" was the weighing beam for goods - and gathering place. Traditionally you saw in the New Year at Hogmanay here, but modern crowds are way too big and the council has tried to divert them elsewhere.
  • 6 North Bridge  , completed in 1897, soars for 525 feet (160 m) in three spans above Waverley railway station to connect Old and New Towns. It normally commands excellent views west towards the castle and east along the coast to Bass Rock. Repair work until mid-2024 spoils this as there are construction barriers, and the west side pavement is closed so the east side is crowded.
 
Scotsman Steps, each from a different marble
  • Scotsman Steps at the top end of the bridge are a spiral shortcut to the station, best not attempted with luggage. Since 2011 each of the 104 steps is of different marble representing all the major quarries of the world. It's a mercy they dropped the plan for each step to play a different tune.
  • 7 Museum of Childhood, 42 High Street EH1 1TG, +44 131 529 4142. Daily 10AM-5PM. Concepts and imagery of childhood are ever-changing. See if you can find your (or your grandparents') old toys in the collection, and your place in history. Free.    
  • Canongate is the narrow lower section of the Royal Mile, which lay beyond the city walls and was separately governed by the canons (priests) of Holyrood Abbey at its foot. No extradition, so once you legged it across the boundary, the city bailiffs couldn't touch you. There's lots to see here but it's less scenic, and through-traffic is permitted so it can feel ratty.
  • The Peoples' Story Museum, 163 Canongate EH8 8BN (next to Canongate Kirk), +44 131 529 4057. Daily 10AM-5PM. This is housed in Canongate Tolbooth, the medieval centre for governance and justice (preferably gruesome) as Canongate was a separate jurisdiction until 1856. The museum covers the story of working class life, and of organised labour, from the late 18th century to the present. Free.    
  • 8 Canongate Kirk, 153 Canongate EH8 8BN. Open Su afternoon, otherwise erratic; Services Su 10:30. In 1687 James VII (II of England) chucked the Protestants out of Holyrood to covert it to a royal Roman Catholic chapel, the sort of behaviour that got him ousted from the monarchy the following year. The congregation moved to Infirmary St then to this building on its completion in 1691. From 1952 Queen Elizabeth II regularly attended when at Holyrood, and in 2011 her granddaughter Zara Phillips married former England rugby captain Mike Tindall here. Notables in its graveyard include George Drummond (1788-1866) co-founder of the New Town, poet Robert Fergusson (1750–1774), and economist Adam Smith (1723-90). Memorials also commemorate soldiers dying at Edinburgh Castle, for which this was the graveyard, and coachmen of the London-Edinburgh stagecoach, which had its terminus here. Free.    
  • Museum of Edinburgh, 142 Canongate H8 8DD (opposite Canongate Kirk), +44 131 529 4143. Daily 10AM-5PM. Museum of city history in a mustard-hued mansion built in 1570. Free.    
 
Debating Chamber, Scottish Parliament
  • Dunbar's Close Garden, 137 Canongate EH8 8BW (next to Canongate Kirk). Daily 7AM-dusk. This close was re-modelled in the 1970s to recreate a 17th-century physic and knot garden, a hidden quiet place in the busy city. Free.
  • 9 Scottish Parliament, EH99 1SP, +44 131 348 5200, toll-free: 0800 092 7600. M F Sa and public holidays 10AM-5PM, Tu-Th 9AM-6:30PM. A unique building, designed by Spanish Catalan architect Enric Miralles, completed in 2004. It's either a daring showpiece of postmodern architecture or a national embarrassment or a bit of both, time will tell. Parliament meets Tu-Th and you can watch debates from the Public Gallery, ask for tickets at reception. First Minister's Question Time is normally Th noon-12:45PM, and you need to reserve this up to 7 days in advance. Waiting list places may be available from 10AM on the day, otherwise watch from the Overspill Room. On non-business days (M F Sa) you can view the debating chamber from the Public Gallery without tickets. In the lobby area there are often exhibitions. Free.    
  • 10 Dynamic Earth, Holyrood Road EH8 8AS, +44 131 550 7800. W-F 10AM-5PM, Sa Su 10AM-6PM. Interactive natural history museum exhibiting the forces and features of our planet: volcanoes, polar ice, rainforests and so on. Opened in 1999, it's a tent-like structure on the former site of a gasworks and brewery. Adult £19.50 adults, conc £16.70, child £12.    
  • 11 Holyrood Palace, Canongate EH8 8DX, +44 303 123 7306. Nov-Mar Th-M 9:30AM - 4:30PM, Apr-Oct Th-M (& daily Jul-Sep) 9:30AM - 6PM. The Palace is a royal residence, closed when the king is here for a week in July and for similar state occasions. It's been repeatedly smashed up and rebuilt, and the present building is mostly from the 1670s. Highlights are the grand stair, state apartments, throne room, Mary Queen of Scots Chambers (where bloodstains from the murder of Rizzio are still visible), King's Gallery a sample of the royal art collection, the ruin of Holyrood Abbey, and the palace gardens. Adult £19.50, child or conc £10.50.    
  • Physic Garden by the palace entrance is part of the complex, but free to access same hours.

Grassmarket and Southside

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Debating the spiralling cost of the new Scottish Parliament building

The Old Town spread into the dank hollow south of the castle by the 14th century, and Grassmarket was the livestock market, cheap housing and place of execution. Further extension brought it to the edge of the South Loch, and this district acquired University and civic buildings, mostly Victorian. That loch is now The Meadows, described as part of Edinburgh/South.

  • 12 Grassmarket is a long cobbled plaza, nowadays lined with eating places and accommodation. Until it went swiftly upmarket in the 1980s, this was home to many down-and-outs, notoriously at the flophouse of Number 75 the Castle Trades Hotel.
  • West Port is the west extension of Grassmarket, once a gateway into Old Town. In 1828 it was the abode of Burke and Hare, who preyed upon the vulnerable, got them drunk, suffocated them then sold the fresh bodies to Dr Robert Knox for dissection. Knox paid good money and asked no questions, delighted to buy their goods instead of the pungent merchandise of grave robbers.
  • Tolcross further west is a busy intersection with many eating places. Lothian Road leads down past Usher Hall to the west end of Princes Street in New Town.
  • 13 George IV Bridge. is a high-level road coursing south from the top of High Street and spanning the hollow of Grassmarket. Completed in 1836, it's lined with Victorian and modern buildings such as the two libraries. Victoria Street descends into the hollow, while Victoria Terrace is a walkway above it that loops back onto Royal Mile.    
  • 14 National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge EH1 1EW, +44 131 623 3700. M-Sa 9:30AM-5PM. A venerable reference library, which you need membership to access, but with public exhibitions about literature. "Treasures" is its permanent exhibition. But don't stumble in here mistaking it for Central Library across the street. Free.    
  • Central Library, 7 George IV Bridge EH1 1EG (opposite National Library), +44 131 242 8000. M-W 8AM-10PM, Th-Sa 10AM-5PM. See Edinburgh#Connect for how to access. The internet stations are in the Learning Centre, and the building houses Central Lending Library, Central Reference Library, Central Children's Library, Edinburgh and Scottish Collections, Art & Design Library and Music Library. It has a wealth of material for research such as old newspapers and maps, but births, marriages and deaths are filed at East Register House by the bus station in New Town.
  • 15 Greyfriars Bobby is a Victorian drinking fountain (disconnected) topped by the statue of the dog that for 14 years kept watch at its master's grave in Greyfriars. It was owned by John Gray a nightwatchman; in 1872 it died and was in turn buried there. The statue was erected the following year and has been surrounded by a knot of tourists ever since. The statue depicts a Skye terrier, but original photos indicate Bobby was a Dandie Dinmount.
  • Greyfriars Kirk, Greyfriars Place EH1 2QQ (Entrance by Greyfriars Bobby). M-Sa 11AM-4PM, Su 11:30AM-2PM. This church was built in 1620 on the grounds of an abandoned Franciscan Friary, but seriously damaged by later calamities or Acts of God so the present structure is mostly Victorian. It remains active, as other Presbyterian churches have closed and their congregations moved here. The main visitor interest is the ancient graveyard: notable denizens include the architects William and John Adam, the notorious hell-rake Colonel Charteris, Captain Porteous lynched after he fired on rioters, William McGonagall the worst poet in Scotland, and Greyfriars Bobby plus his owner. The mortsafe kept coffins locked until burial, else the body-snatchers would make off with them. Free.  
 
Greyfriars Bobby
  • Candlemaker Row is the colourful street descending from Greyfriars Kirk to Grassmarket.
  • 16 National Museum of Scotland, Chambers St H1 1JF, +44 300 123 6789, . Daily 10AM-5PM. Superb museum of Scotland's heritage. You enter into the lofty Victorian Grand Gallery, where the millennium clock chimes on the hour. Exhibition halls cover Scottish and world history and culture, science, technology, art and design, and natural history. Dolly the sheep, the 12th-century Lewis chess pieces, and dinosaurs are some of the highlights. NMS also run the War Museum in the castle, the Museum of Flight near Gullane, and the Museum of Rural Life in East Kilbride. Free.    
  • 17 Anatomical Museum, Doorway 3, Medical School, Teviot Place H8 9AG. Last Saturday of Sept-Nov and Jan-May. Large collection of anatomical specimens and life and death masks. Best known is the skeleton of William Burke, hanged in 1829 after he and William Hare killed at least 16 people to sell the bodies for dissection. Limited opening as the area is in continual use for teaching, booking essential. Free.
  • 18 George Square is a secluded square with Georgian buildings on its west and east side - the University bashed down those north and south in the 1960s. Its bosky garden is popular with sun-lounging students, and in August is taken over by pop-up Fringe venues.
  • Middle Meadow Walk west side of the square descends from Forrest Rd onto The Meadows.
  • Quartermile is now the name of the long baronial edifice on Lauriston Place just west of the Medical School. From 1872 to 2003 it was the Royal Infirmary, site of the world's first successful kidney transplant in 1960 and the first coronary care unit in 1964. The Infirmary then moved to Little France on the southeast edge of then city and these buildings have multiple office and academic tenants.
  • 19 St Cecilia's Hall, Niddry Street, Cowgate, EH1 1NQ, +44 131 650 2600. Tu-Sa 10AM-6:30PM. Scotland's oldest purpose-built concert hall, opened in 1763 and still in regular use. It hosts the University of Edinburgh collection of historic musical instruments, crafted 16th to 20th century, many of which (such as the Trompette Demilune) are no longer played. Historic instruments free.    
  • 20 Talbot Rice Gallery, Old College, South Bridge EH8 9YL, +44 131 650 2210. Tu-Sa 10AM-5PM during exhibitions. David Talbot Rice (1903-72) was in the louche crowd at Oxford that inspired Brideshead Revisited and became a distinguished scholar of East Mediterranean and Russian art, with extensive contacts in those parts - how come this fellow was never implicated in a spy ring? His spell as University Vice Principal is commemorated in this gallery with changing exhibitions of contemporary art. It's housed within Old College of Edinburgh University, a fine building built between 1789 and 1827 by Robert Adam and Henry Playfair. The Georgian Gallery has a Playfair interior and a mixture of Old Masters and modern installations. Free.    
 
John Knox holds forth at New College
  • 21 Dovecot Studios, 10 Infirmary Street EH1 1LT, +44 131 550 3660. M-Sa 10AM - 5PM. Tapestry studio and gallery housed in the former public baths. There is a cafe, shop, and viewing gallery where you can look down on weavers at work. Free.    
  • 22 Surgeons' Hall Museums, Nicolson Street EH8 9DW, +44 131 527 1711, . Daily 10AM-5PM. The permanent exhibitions are the Pathology Museum, the History of Surgery and the Dental Museum. Not suitable for children under 10 as the exhibits include human remains. Adult £9.50, conc £6.    
  • 23 Edinburgh Central Mosque, 50 Potterrow EH8 9BT, +44 131 667 1777. Daily noon-11PM. Stately mosque and minaret completed in 1998 in a modern variant of Turkish style. You can generally look in between prayer times. Free.  

Waverley

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The railway tracks now carve between Old and New Towns. But just as the Old Town spread south into Grassmarket, it also spread north into the downbeat district of Waverley, part low-rent housing and part stinking midden, until the railway obliterated most of it. "The Mound" is the spoil heap from building New Town that became a thoroughfare from Old Town.

  • 24 City Art Centre, 2 Market St H1 1DE, +44 131 529 3993. Daily 10AM-5PM. Four-floor gallery run by the city council. They rotate artwork from their extensive Scottish collection and have changing exhibitions. Donation £3.    
  • Fruitmarket, 45 Market Street EH1 1DF (facing City Art Centre), +44 131 225 2383, . Daily 11AM-6PM. Gallery of contemporary art, refurbished in 2018. From 1936 to the 1970s this was where soft fruit and veg were traded, handy for the trains and delivery vans. Free.    
  • 25 Stills, 23 Cockburn Street EH1 1BP, +44 131 622 6200. Tu-Sa 11AM-5PM. Photography gallery with three exhibitions a year. They also support photographers through courses and hire of equipment, darkroom and digital lab. Free.
  • 26 Museum on the Mound, The Mound EH1 1YZ, +44 131 243 5464. Tu-F 10AM-5PM, Sa 1-5PM. Museum about money and coins, in the basement of the Palladian pile of the former Bank of Scotland headquarters. Scotland developed a banking sector in the 18th century to support long-distance trade, and still prints its own banknotes. Free.    
  • New College looks down upon the Mound. It was opened in 1846 as the seminary for Free Church ministers and is now part of the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity. You can look in on the courtyard, where the statue of John Knox is launching into another polemic against women: "For their sight in civile regiment, is but blindness: their strength, weakness: their counsel, foolishness: and judgement, phrenesie . . . "

Holyrood Park

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The crouching lion of Arthur's Seat

This scenic park south and east of Holyrood Palace was created by King James VI in the 16th century. It's dominated by the volcanic mount of Arthur's Seat, and ringed by small lochs. All park roads are closed to vehicles Sa Su 8AM-3:30PM though cyclists are still permitted, and traffic can go as far as the car parks at Broad Pavement, Meadowbank and Duddingston. The High Road (the loop of Queen's Drive over the east flank) is only open to vehicles Tu-Th 9:30AM-3PM and is one-way clockwise. Roads may be closed at other times for events such as marathons and the annual toad migration: in March they emerge from hibernation on the hill and crawl down to the lochs across the roads.

  • 27 Arthur's Seat   broods over Old Town and is visible from afar as a crouching lion. It's the main vent of a volcano that erupted 340 million years ago, with side vents adjacent (Whinny Hill or Lion's Haunch) and at Calton Hill and Castle Rock. It's 823 ft / 251 m high, and the simplest ascent is from the east, a ten minute stroll from Dunsapie Loch car park on the High Road. Feel free to approach instead from the city-facing west, the "Gutted Haddie" steep scramble, with the tourist ahead knocking cobbles down on your skull. The view from the top takes in the city, the Firth of Forth and hills of Fife, and the line of other volcanic plugs out to the Bass Rock that spurted from the same fault movement. The connection with King Arthur is tenuous: early Britons spoke a language closer to Welsh than Gaelic, and Arthur is first mentioned in the saga of Y Gododdin recounting heroism (and heroic mead-drinking) in these northern hills.
  • 28 Salisbury Crags are basalt cliffs to the west, dramatic seen from the city at sunset, upthrust millions of years after the volcano was extinct. They are suffering erosion, and since a rockfall in 2018 rock climbing is no longer permitted, and the "Radical Road" path between cliff and talus slope is closed.
  • 29 St Anthony's Chapel is a scenic but scrappy 14th century ruin, with only one wall remaining. It stands above St Margaret's Loch, created in 1856 as Prince Albert thought it would improve the view.
  • 30 Duddingston  : see Edinburgh/East for this charming hamlet and small loch at the southeast edge of the park.
 
Grand Gallery of the National Museum of Scotland
  • 1 The Edinburgh Dungeon, 31 Market Street EH1 1DF, +44 131 240 1041. M-Th 11AM-4PM, F-S 11AM-5PM. "Haunted House" experience, where you take a 70 min tour through 11 shows and 2 rides loosely based on Scotland's horrible history: William Wallace, Mary King's Ghost, cannibal Sawney Bean, Burke and Hare and more. Adult £19, child £15.
  • The Scotch Whisky Experience, 354 Castlehill EH1 2NE (opposite Camera Obscura), +44 131 220 0441. Daily 10AM-5PM. Tour of the history and craft of whisky distilling, with expert guides - the basic or "silver" tour works well for beginners. They have a huge selection; the core of it is the 3384 bottles collected by Brazilian whisky enthusiast Claive Vidiz. Basic tour £23 adult, £21 conc, £10 child.  
  • Walking tours explore the The Royal Mile and its dark alleys and even darker history. They include Literary Pub Tour, Walk Food Tour, Cadies and Witchery, City of the Dead, Local Eyes, Witches Tour[dead link], City of Edinburgh Tours, Mercat Tours and Auld Reekie Tours.
  • Monkey Barrel Comedy, 9 Blair Street EH1 1QR (next to ibis Royal Mile), +44 131 460 8421. Venue 6PM-midnight. Intimate comedy venue with several acts each night. Drink and some food available. Adult £8, student £6.
  • Stramash is a live music venue at 207 Cowgate, at the foot of Blair St, on two levels with a capacity of 900.
  • 2 Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT, +44 131 529 6000 (Box office). Large performance venue, home of the Scottish Ballet and Scottish Opera. It also hosts contemporary dance, ballet, musicals and panto.
 
Stairwell within Usher Hall
  • Reid Concert Hall, Bristo Square EH8 9AL (east side of Anatomy Museum), +44 131 651 2189. General Reid (1721-1807) endowed the School of Music at the University of Edinburgh. They put on occasional free lunchtime concerts here, especially on 13 Feb, Reid's birthday. You may also be able to look in on their collection of antique instruments.  
  • 3 Usher Hall, Lothian Road EH1 2EY, +44 131 228 1155 (Box office). Box Office M-Sa 10AM-5:30PM, Su 1-2PM. The city's main concert hall, capacity 2200, and home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. It was completed in 1914, funded by Andrew Usher the whisky distiller and blender.    
  • Edinburgh Filmhouse opposite Usher Hall was an arthouse cinema, but folded in 2022. It's now received fresh funding and may re-open in late 2024.
  • Royal Lyceum, 30b Grindlay St EH3 9AX (south flank of Usher Hall), +44 131 248 4848 (Box office). Box Office M-Sa 10AM-5PM. Completed in 1883 and little altered since, this is home to the Royal Lyceum Theatre Company.    
  • Traverse Theatre, 10 Cambridge St EH1 2ED (north flank of Usher Hall), +44 131 228 1404 (Box office). Since 1992 this has hosted Traverse theatre company, dedicated to new works.    
  • King's Theatre, 2 Leven Street. Closed until 2025.
  • 4 Cameo Cinema, 38 Home St H3 9LZ, +44 207 326 2649. Mainstream, arthouse and alternative films, with an Edwardian interior.    
  • 5 Odeon Cinema, 118 Lothian Road EH3 8BQ, +44 333 014 4501. Mostly mainstream movies.
 
Victoria Terrace above Victoria St
  • Supermarkets: no big ones here, but smaller outlets for food such as Tesco Express line Nicholson St and Tolcross, mostly open daily. The nearest big mall is Cameron Toll 3 miles south.
  • Small independent shops are found around Victoria Street, Grassmarket and Cockburn Street; those on the Royal Mile are often tourist-traps.
  • Red Door Gallery, 42 Victoria Street EH1 2JW (opposite Bow Bar), +44 131 477 3255. Daily 10AM-6PM. Arts and crafts and giftware.
  • 1 Armstrongs, 83 Grassmarket EH1 2HJ, +44 131 220 5557. M-Sa 10AM-5:30PM, Su noon-6PM. A local institution, this has a huge stock of vintage clothing and uniforms, including pre-hirpled kilts.
  • Underground Solu'shn, 9 Cockburn Street EH1 1BP (20 yards down from Stills Gallery), +44 131 226 2242. M-F 9AM-6PM, Sa 10AM-6PM, Su 11AM-5PM. A great little record store dealing mainly in dance/electro music.
  • Cadenhead's Whisky Shop, 172 Canongate EH8 8DF (50 yards up from Canongate Kirk), +44 131 556 5864. M-Sa 10:30-5:30PM. This Campbeltown-based firm is an independent bottler of whisky and other spirits (a rarity nowadays), so they do bespoke sales and samplers.
  • 2 Focus, 270 Canongate EH8 8AA, +44 131 557 0901. M-Sa 10AM-6PM, Su noon-6PM. Skatewear and skateboard store, friendly knowledgeable staff.
  • Farmers Market is held Sa 9AM-2PM on the NCP car park on Castle Terrace, 100 yards east of Usher Hall.
 
Central Mosque

Budget

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Inexpensive eating places cluster along South Bridge / Nicolson Street / Clerk Street (one long street, the old road to Carlisle), along Forrest Rd, and at Tolcross to the west.
  • The Piemaker, 38 South Bridge EH1 1LL (opposite ibis South Bridge), +44 131 531 5795. M-Th 10AM-8PM, F Sa 10AM-9PM, Su 10AM-6PM. This has a wide range of delicious pies and savoury pastries, piping hot. They're mostly a takeaway and don't deliver, but have a few seats inside.
  • 1 Kebab Mahal, 7 Nicolson Square EH8 9BH, +44 131 667 5214. Daily noon-11:30PM. Good halal curries, kebabs and tandooris, no alcohol.
  • Mosque Kitchen is at 31 Nicholson Square (across from Kebab Mahal), open daily 11:30AM-10PM.
  • The Original Mosque Kitchen, 50 Potterrow EH8 9BT (behind Central Mosque, or enter from Nicolson Square), +44 131 629 1630. Daily 11:30AM-7:30PM. Inexpensive chicken or vegetable curry.
  • 2 Tempting Tattie, 18 Jeffrey Street H1 1DT, +44 131 629 5252. M-Th 11:30AM-8PM, F-Su 11:30AM-6:45PM. Inexpensive takeaway for trad baked potatoes.
  • Oink are a budget chain serving pulled pork sandwiches, nothing else, no chips, no crisps, no sides. They're at 34 Victoria Street opposite Bow Bar, 82 Canongate by the Scottish Parliament, and Hanover St in New Town. They're all open daily from 11AM until they sell out mid-afternoon.
  • 3 Kampong Ah Lee, 28 Clerk Street EH8 9HX, +44 131 281 6172. W-M noon-3PM, 5-10PM. Tasty Malaysian dishes such as Roti Canai, Satay, Nasi Lemak, Laksa and Rendang.

Mid-range

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Talbot Rice Gallery
  • The Everest, 52 Home Street EH3 9NA (50 yards south of Cameo Cinema, Tollcross), +44 131 229 1348. Su-Th 3-10:30PM, F Sa 2-10:30PM. Good inexpensive Nepalese and Indian food.
  • Petit Paris, 38-40 Grassmarket EH1 2JU (central in Grassmarket), +44 131 226 2442. Su-F noon-3PM, 5-10PM, Sa noon-10PM. Traditional French restaurant complete with chequered tablecloths and whitewashed walls.
  • 4 David Bann, 56-58 St Mary's Street EH1 1SX, +44 131 556 5888. Daily noon - 9:30PM. Imaginative and tasty vegetarian food, with lots available for vegans or GF.
  • Whiski, 119 High Street EH1 1SG (next to Radisson Blu), +44 131 556 3095, . Daily 10AM-1AM. A bit touristy, but a good choice for Scottish food, drink and music. Hundreds of whiskies available, bar staff happy to advise. Live music every night from 9:30PM, try to sit up front for this.
  • Nok's Kitchen, 5a Johnston Terrace EH1 2PW (below Tolbooth Kirk / The Hub), +44 131 225 6633. Daily noon-9PM. Decent Thai food with vegetarian options. They add 10% service to the menu prices.
  • Ondine, 2 George IV Bridge EH1 1AD, +44 131 226 1888. Tu-Sa noon-3PM, 5:30-9:30PM. Quality seafood, but overpriced for what you get.
  • Kanpai Sushi, 8-10 Grindlay St EH3 9AS (opposite Lyceum Theatre), +44 131 228 1602. Tu-Sa noon-2PM, 5-10PM. Small portions of sushi and other Japanese food, and pricey, but speedy service and memorable quality.
  • 5 Taxidi Greek Bistro, 6 Brougham Street EH3 9JH (Tollcross), +131 228 1030. M Th F 5-9PM, Sa Su 12:30-9PM. Excellent Greek food, not your stereotyped taverna.
  • 6 Gurkha (formerly Bombay Bicycle Club), 6 Brougham Place EH3 9HW, +44 131 229 3839. Tu-Su 3PM-10:30PM. Traditional Indian and Nepalese restaurant.
  • 7 Kalpana, 2 St Patrick's Square EH8 9EZ, +44 131 667 9890. Daily noon-10:30PM. Long-established quality vegetarian Indian restaurant serving curries, thalis and tandooris.
  • Tanjore, 6 Clerk Street EH8 9HX (Two doors down from Kalpna), +44 131 478 6518. Daily noon-2:30PM, 5-10PM. One of the few places in Edinburgh serving South Indian food such as Dosas, Uttapams, Sambar and other Tamil specialities.
  • 8 MUMS (Monster Mash Café), 4a Forrest Road H1 2QN, +44 131 260 9806, . M-Sa 9AM-10PM, Su 10AM-10PM. Classic British comfort food: haggis, fish & chips, sausage & mash, stews, or shepherd's pie. Lots of veggie choices, no reservations.

Splurge

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  • The Witchery by the Castle, 352 Castlehill EH1 2NF (opposite Camera Obscura), +44 131 225 5613. Daily noon-11PM. By the castle entrance, The Witchery serves top-class food in an elegant candle-lit restaurant. They've now added rooms, flamboyantly camp. B&B double £550.
  • Timberyard, 10 Lady Lawson St EH3 9DS (beyond West Port), +44 131 221 1222. Th 5-11PM, F-Su noon-3PM, 5:30-111PM. Outstanding Scottish cuisine in a 19th century warehouse, with extensive wine list. One Michelin star, the head chef is Jimmy Murray.

Drink

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Sandy Bells on Forrest Road

Pubs

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Royal Mile and Grassmarket pubs are often tourist traps or mobbed with stag and hen parties getting ratted. Here are some worth visiting:
  • The Jolly Judge, 7 James Court EH1 2PB (off Lawnmarket next to Gladstone's Land), +44 131 225 2831. Tu W noon-11PM, Th-Sa, M noon-midnight, Su 2PM-11PM. Cosy independent pub with a good selection of beer and whisky. One of the few pubs on Royal Mile that's not a tourist trap.
  • Albanach, 197 High St EH1 1PE (corner of Cockburn St), +44 131 220 5277. Su-F noon-midnight, Sa noon-1:30AM. Cosy Belhaven pub with food and whisky.
  • Doctors, 32 Forrest Road H1 2QN (opposite Medical School and Anatomy Museum), +44 131 225 1819. Su-Th noon-11PM, F Sa noon-1:30AM. Now a Belhaven pub, this is a welcoming place with good ales and food. It was a few yards from the former Royal Infirmary, within bleep range and sprinting distance for the junior doctors.
  • Sandy Bells, 25 Forrest Road H1 2QH (opposite MUMS), +44 131 225 2751. M-Sa noon–1AM, Su 12:30PM–midnight. Likewise frequented by medical students, this has live folk music every night.
  • 1 The Pear Tree, 38 West Nicolson St EH8 9DD, +44 131 667 7533. Daily noon-1AM. Popular with students, this has a large beer garden and outdoor big screen for TV sports.
  • 2 The Kilderkin, 67 Canongate EH8 8BT, +44 131 556 2101. M-Sa 11AM-midnight, Su 11AM-8PM. Fair selection of cask ales and whisky, the food is so-so and the warmth of welcome varies. This is the original of a chain that now includes The Windsor on Elm Row, Blue Blazer on Spittal St and and Bennets at Tolcross.
  • 3 The Bow Bar, 80 West Bow EH1 2HH, +44 131 226 7667. Daily noon-midnight. Old-style boozer with a large selection of whiskies, selection of guest ales, and no background music.
  • 4 Bennets Bar, 8 Leven St EH3 9LG, +44 131 229 5143. Daily noon-1AM. A good old-fashioned pub, now part of Kilderkin group, with a wide selection of real ale and whisky. It was traditionally the place for pre / post-theatre drinks, but Kings Theatre next door is closed until 2025.

Nightclubs

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Burke (right) and Hare got you drunk
Mostly along Cowgate, running east from Grassmarket beneath George IV Bridge and South Bridge.
  • The Bongo Club, 66 Cowgate EH1 1JX, +44 131 558 8844. Tu-Sa 11PM-3AM. A café-bar and live music venue.
  • 5 Cabaret Voltaire, 36-38 Blair Street EH1 1QR, +44 131 247 4704. Th-Sa 7PM-3AM. Atmospheric basement vault with regular gigs.
  • 6 Dragonfly, 52 West Port H1 2LD, +44 131 228 4543. W-F, Su 4PM-1AM, Sa 2PM-1AM. Well-hidden but popular cocktail lounge.
  • The Jazz Bar, 1a Chambers Street EH1 1HR (next to ibis South Bridge), +44 131 220 4298. M Tu 7PM-midnight, W-F Su 5PM-3AM, Sa 2PM-3AM. Live music every night, majoring on jazz; early shows are generally free, later gigs individually priced. Limited food or seating.
  • The Liquid Room, 9c Victoria Street EH1 2HE (just above Bow Bar), +44 131 225 2564. F Sa 11PM-3AM. 800-capacity live music venue.
  • Wash Bar, 11-13 North Bank Street EH1 2LP (Behind Museum on the Mound), +44 131 225 6193. W 4PM-1AM, Th-Su 2PM-1AM. Modern pub, mostly a local crowd, TV sport, no food.
  • 56 North, 2 West Crosscauseway EH8 9JP (Block south of Pear Tree), +44 131 662 8860. Daily 11AM-1AM. Cocktail bar incorporating South Loch gin distillery.
  • Holyrood distillery is at 19 St Leonard's Lane, see Edinburgh/South#Drink.

Sleep

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The Scotsman on North Bridge

Budget

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  • 1 Motel One Edinburgh Royal, 18 Market St EH1 1BL, +44 131 220 0730. Comfy efficient place by the station, great value. They have another branch by the bus station. B&B double £80.
  • 2 Kick Ass Greyfriars (previously Budget Backpackers), 37-39 Cowgate EH1 1JR, +44 131 226 6351, . Cheerful friendly staff and modern amenities. Offers dormitory beds and 2-4 bed private rooms. Dorm £16 ppn.
  • Kick Ass Grassmarket is their other hostel at 2 West Port EH1 2JA, similar price and quality.
  • High Street Hostel at 8 Blackfriars St is the best of those on that street, descending behind Radisson Blu. Others at its foot on Cowgate are A&O Hostel and Edinburgh Metro.
  • Castle Rock Hostel, 15 Johnston Terrace EH1 2PW (just below Castle and The Hub), +44 131 225 9666. Clean spacious hostel with 300 beds on the hill just below Castle Esplanade. Dorms from £12 ppn.

Mid-range

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Radisson Blu has a retro-antique facade
  • 8 Edinburgh Holyrood Hotel (formerly Macdonald Holyrood), 81 Holyrood Rd EH8 8AU, +44 131 528 8000. Now part of Marriott chain, this is under renovation but remains open. B&B double £100.
  • Apex Grassmarket, 31-35 Grassmarket EH1 2HS (central in Grassmarket), +44 131 300 3456. Comfy place to stay with great views of the castle. B&B double £70.
  • Apex City of Edinburgh, 61 Grassmarket EH1 2HJ (next to Apex Grassmarket), +44 131 243 3456. Similar price and quality to their branch at No 31. B&B double £70.
  • Hotel du Vin, 11 Bristo Place EH1 1EZ (100 yards south of Greyfriars Bobby), +44 131 285 1479. Great comfort, service and location beyond its price bracket. B&B double £130.
  • 9 Novotel, 80 Lauriston Place EH3 9DE, +44 131 656 3500. Mid-range chain near Tolcross. B&B double £110.
  • Premier Inn has another hotel at 82 Lauriston Place next to Novotel. Similar quality and price to their branch on Market St.
  • 10 DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Edinburgh City Centre, 34 Bread St EH3 9AF, +44 131 221 5555. Comfy hotel near Usher Hall, short walk to the castle. B&B double £130.

Splurge

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  • 11 The Scotsman, 20 North Bridge EH1 1TR, +44 131 556 5565. This iconic building stands like a castle guarding the entrance to Old Town from North Bridge. From 1904 to 2001 it housed The Scotsman newspaper, with editors and reporters above, printing presses below, and newspapers loaded onto trains from the basement. After they moved out it became an upscale hotel, charmingly refurbished within and scoring highly for comfort, service and location. B&B double £230.    
  • 12 Hilton Edinburgh Carlton, 19 North Bridge EH1 1SD, +44 131 472 3000. Great location, service and comfort mostly good, some construction noise. B&B double £330.
  • 13 Sheraton Grand Hotel, 1 Festival Square EH3 9SR (facing Usher Hall), +44 131 229 9131. Part of Marriott chain, great location and for most visitors great comfort, but housekeeping is too erratic for what you pay. B&B double £160.
  • 14 Radisson Blu Hotel, 80 High Street EH1 1TH (jcn of Royal Mile and North Bridge), +44 131 557 9797. Great location, comfort and service. The hotel was built in 1990, but with a retro-antique facade to blend with neighbouring buildings. B&B double £350.
  • Cheval Old Town Chambers, 323 High St EH1 1PN (opposite St Giles), +44 131 510 5499. This knock-through of medieval tenements was designed as luxury serviced apartments, but has added common areas to create a townhouse hotel. B&B double £250.
  • Radisson Collection Hotel, 1 George IV Bridge, +44 131 220 6666. Closed for refurbishment.

Connect

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Public libraries have internet stations and other resources, but you need a card to access them - see Edinburgh#Connect for how to do this.

Central Library (above) is the only one in Old Town, at 7 George IV Bridge opposite the National Library. There are some 30 branches across the city.

Go next

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  • All of the city can be easily reached from Old Town, but the obvious area to explore next is New Town, with Princes Street its main boulevard.
  • South Edinburgh starts from the Meadows. Quieter parts are Blackford Hill and the Pentlands rearing up at the city's edge.
  • Bus 29 and trains towards Tweedbank take you to the National Mining Museum at Gorebridge.


Routes through Old Town
New Town  NW   SE  South EdinburghDalkeith



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