Edinburgh area guide

  • 28th Oct 20
Edinburgh area guide

The capital of Scotland, Edinburgh is one of the most stunning cities in the world. Cosmopolitan and surprisingly compact, the inspiring architecture of the city sits side by side with stunning Edinburgh Castle. What’s more, it is renowned for excellent schools, green spaces and plenty to do, making it ideal for professionals and families alike. 

Princes Street
Dramatic views, elegant Georgian streets and the spectacular backdrop of Edinburgh Castle makes Princes Street a shopping destination like no other. From high street to designer shops and boutiques, this is a match for any city’s main shopping thoroughfare.

Old Town 
This is where you can trace Edinburgh’s history. The most notable places include the Royal Mile, a medieval thoroughfare stretching from Edinburgh Castle downhill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. Discover the museums and a whole host of visitor attractions including both old and new parliaments, law courts, a cathedral and churches and a range of eateries. Old Town also includes the Grassmarket, one of the most vibrant and lively areas of the city. Here you will find designers, artists and independent shops as well as some of the best restaurants and bars in the city. 

West End
This bustling centre features contemporary, independent retailers as well as being Edinburgh’s theatre district. Home to the King's Theatre, Traverse Theatre, The Lyceum and Usher Hall plus other entertainment venues like Edinburgh Filmhouse, this is the place to visit for a dollop of culture. Other attractions include the glamorous Waldorf Astoria Hotel where you can enjoy a sumptuous afternoon tea or fine dining in one of the restaurants.  

In recent years, Fountainbridge has undergone large scale redevelopment. First was the creation of the Edinburgh International Conference Centre back in 1995, designed by the architect Sir Terry Farrell. Birthplace of Sir Sean Connery, this is an area that celebrates the arts with two of Edinburgh’s best independent cinemas; The Filmhouse and The Cameo. The King’s Theatre is just along the road and features pantomimes every Christmas and is an Edinburgh International Festival venue in the Summer. If you want to relax, take a visit to the One Spa, located within the Sheraton Hotel and enjoy the outdoor heated pool and a state of the art thermal suite.

Leith is the old maritime centre of Edinburgh and today is home to exciting waterfront developments and the award-winning Royal Yacht Britannia. Its shipping days may be behind it but it boasts a diverse range of popular dockside cafes, restaurants and bars with of course, stunning waterside views.

To the north of the city centre, you can find bohemian vibes in Stockbridge. Young professionals, actors, musicians, writers and artists have made the area their home, creating a close knit community. Straddling the Water of Leith, which also houses the ancient water mills of Dean Village, the area stretches all the way to the Royal Botanic Garden.  As well as a mix of jewellers, gourmet food shops and cosy cafes, there is also a weekly market with artisan bakers.

Edinburgh’s first real suburb, the Southside is located south of the Royal Mile taking in the university buildings. Lots of pubs and restaurants catering to students as well as many buildings and architecture of historical importance such as the Festival Theatre.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe
Visitors flock from around the globe for a chance to experience the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For three weeks in August, the entire city is lit up with an explosion of creative energy where you can watch everything from comedy to tragedy with huge dollops of magic, musical theatre, dance and everything else in between. The Fringe dates back to 1947 when eight theatre groups turned up uninvited to perform at the (then newly formed) Edinburgh International Festival, an initiative created to celebrate and enrich European cultural life in the wake of the Second World War. Today, you can find emerging talent together with established acts all enjoying the spectacle that is the Fringe.  

Transport links
There are very good transport links into and across the city of Edinburgh. The main train station is Waverley, which offers direct trains to London every hour and to Glasgow every 15 minutes. There is a good bus service both day and night and WiFi friendly trams run 14 kms from York Place in the city centre to Edinburgh Airport in a journey time of approximately 35 minutes. Flights to Edinburgh arrive into Edinburgh Airport, which lies to the west of the city in Ingliston. For both visitors and residents alike, a convenient way of travelling across the city is by the new cycle hire scheme. The network of cycle hire locations across the city is being continually expanded.


There’s something for all tastes and budgets in terms of shopping in Edinburgh. From high street to high end, there are beautiful boutiques and traditional stores and everything in between.

Princes Street: shops line just one side of the street to give uninterrupted views of the ancient castle and lush green spaces. Here you will find all your favourite high street shops such as Zara, Primark, Top Shop as well as the historic Jenners store.

George Street: running parallel to Princes Street, George Street is home to more upmarket retail stores. A fashion hub with brands such as All Saints, Hollister and Kooples.

Multrees Walk: home of luxury shopping with the likes of Celine, Victoria Beckham, Gucci, Marc Jacobs and Stella McCartney.

The Grassmarket: independent shops with antique and vintage finds. You can discover unique pieces from Scottish designers, artisans and independent boutiques.

Ocean Terminal: state-of-the-art leisure and retail complex designed by Sir Terence Conran, including more than 75 stores, bars and restaurants, a gym and a 12-screen cinema.

The Gyle: flagship shopping centre close to the airport spanning 20 hectares with 27,870sq m of retail space.

Waverley Mall: located with direct access onto both Princes Street and into Edinburgh Waverley Train Station, this recently converted mall has everything that you could want in terms of fashion, food and gifts.  

Edinburgh is well known for its educational establishments. There’s a good choice of both state and private and six diverse universities offering an extensive range of courses. Popular private schools include Mary Erksine’s and Stewarts Melville, together with St. George’s School for Girls. Close by are The Edinburgh Academy and Fettes College located in and around Stockbridge. Blackhall Primary, Wardie Primary and Cramond Primary are all highly sought-after state schools. On the south side of the city, private schools such as George Heriot’s, George Watson’s and Merchiston Castle School get good results. In the state sector, Sciennes Primary, Bruntsfield Primary, South Morningside Primary, Boroughmuir High and James Gillespie’s High Schools all have good reputations.


Top attractions

BT Murrayfield Stadium: Home to Scottish Rugby, it can seat over 67,000 people and provides one of the quintessential Edinburgh experiences. Book a Stadium Tour for all the behind the scenes action.  

Edinburgh Zoo: Open for more than 100 years and home to over 1,000 rare and wonderful animals. Expect to see the cheeky chimpanzees on the Budongo Trail and Penguins Rock, the revamped outdoor penguin pool. Most famously, the zoo is home to the only giant pandas in the UK. The female is called Tian Tian (Sweetie) and the male is Yang Guang (Sunshine).

Edinburgh Castle: this is the number one visitor attraction in Scotland and offers uninterrupted views of the city. Explore some of the oldest and most important buildings of the city, including St Margaret's Chapel, The National War Memorial and the Half Moon Battery.

Our Dynamic Earth: learn about the creation of our planet and travel through time to explore Earth’s past, present and future.

The Edinburgh Dungeon: actor-led experience taking you through Edinburgh’s grisly history.

Camera Obscura: delighting visitors since 1835, this is Edinburgh’s oldest visitor attraction filled with illusions, tricks, puzzles, hands-on experiences and unbelievable effects.

The Scottish National Gallery: fine art works from Rembrandt, Monet and Raphael located in the heart of Edinburgh at The Mound.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery: located in New Town and home to more than 3,000 portraits.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: just outside the city centre, the gallery boast three main spaces hosting a permanent collection, changing exhibitions and displays, and an expansive park full of interesting sculptures.

Royal Botanic Garden: stunning botanic gardens as well as the chance to discover exotic plants in the Glasshouse.  Visitors can also enjoy the gardens restaurant, cafeteria or coffee shop and purchase plants and gifts in the gift shop.

The Royal Yacht Britannia: the Queen’s floating place for more than 40 years, Britannia is now moored permanently beside Ocean Terminal in Leith and is open to visitors to look around.  


Famous faces from Edinburgh

  • Sean Connery – actor
  • Alexander Graham Bell – inventor
  • Gail Porter – TV presenter
  • Iain Glen – actor
  • Irvine Welsh – author
  • The Proclaimers – musicians
  • Ronnie Corbett – comedian and actor
  • Sir Chris Hoy – cyclist
  • Michael Gove – politician


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