Centuries worth of cultural capital, a sprawling old town standing tall in the midst of a rugged landscape and the accompanying old-world charm are all the things that have made Edinburgh a beloved holiday destination world over. And there's more to the Scottish capital than what just meets the eye; be it the afternoon strolls along the quaint Leith Walkway, or catching a theatre performance at one of the several ornate halls, or shopping at the indie village boutiques, you are unlikely to run out of things to do!
The city bounds cover the central business districts, village suburbs and the portside neighborhood - all of which have easy access through Edinburgh's efficient public transport system. No part of the city is really off bounds, and your options in terms of choosing a neighborhood to base yourself in are truly endless. And that's where we step in. Here, we have listed some of the best neighbourhoods of Edinburgh and what they might have in store for you traveller!
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The beating heart of the city and the site of the historic Edinburgh castle, Old Town is the obvious choice for first time travellers. And there's a good reason for that! The appeal of the crown jewels and other age-old relics showcased in majestic castle complexes aside, the neighborhood packs a punch even in its most ordinary quarters. But before we get to any of that, here's another reminder of just how unmissable the National Museum and Holyrood Abbey, with its adjoining palace and Queen's gallery are!
The neighborhood's old-world charm shines in its rustic cityscape, characterised by cobblestone streets and enduring stone housing. The Grassmarket, right at the foot of the Edinburgh castle offers a complete gourmet experience: with its countless options of traditional pubs and terrace cafes. A quick walk and you will find yourself surrounded by obscure-looking museums and souvenir shops around the Royal Mile, one of the most popular walking tour areas in all of Edinburgh.
Centrally located, Old Town is one of the most easily accessible parts of the city. It is also home to some of the biggest names in the business when it comes to hotels and accommodation options, making it one of the best neighbourhoods for luxury stay. If anything, the streets here can get extremely crowded at the peak of the tourist season, so time your visit accordingly.
Standing in stark contrast with the historic city centre is the quaint Georgian-era New Town. This part of the city replaces the cobblestone streets for broad leafy avenues and the stone housing for stylish terraced houses, contributing to a completely different vibe for the two adjacent neighbourhoods. If you are the type of traveller who would love to stay right in the midst Edinburgh's most affluent quarters and still somewhat avoid the bustling crowds, New Town is definitely the place for you.
The neighborhood affluence reflects in the entertainment options, which are largely made up of chic shopping districts and a few famed art galleries: the Scottish Portrait Gallery, the Scott Monument and the National Gallery. You can spend your evenings shopping around the Princes and George Streets, or catching a performance at the 1920s theatre Edinburgh Playhouse, or simply taking in sweeping views of the city from the lush Calton Hill.
New Town, expansive as it may seem, is fairly easy to commute through. Most major landmarks lie on the withe rod the two major thoroughfares: Queens Street and Princes Street. The neighborhood's proximity to Old Town is only added plus. It also has one of highest concentrations of hotels, with plenty of accommodation options available in all budget ranges.
Once a separate village altogether, the hip area of Stockbridge was eventually made into a suburb of Edinburgh. And it has become one of the most beloved parts of the city, largely because of its ability of having retained its free-spirited village-like vibe. The cityscape is mixed (which brings together modern-looking single storey buildings and moss-covered stone walls), businesses equally eclectic (cozy cafes, pawn shops and speciality stores all run by young entrepreneurs) and come together nicely to help Stockbridge stand out amongst all Edinburgh neighbourhoods.
The weekly Stockbridge market, hosted at the Jubilee Gardens also captures the village charm exceptionally well; drop by for the local vendors selling a range of fairs including fresh produce, souvenirs and locally beloved street snacks. The outskirts of Stockbridge are rather quiet and minimalist, with the top draw being the 12km long Leith Walkway - the perfect spot for getaway strolls and morning bicycle rides. The lush Royal Botanical Garden and Inverleith Park also make for highly sought after family outings spots!
The neighborhood is fairly close to the city centre and only about a 20 minute ride from the Edinburgh Airport, making it fairly straightforward to access wherever you are in the city. While staying in Stockbridge, you might want to skip finding a big hotel in favour of a nice homestay to make the best of its village atmosphere.
And located just west of the city centre is the small neighborhood of West End. Carrying much of Stockbridge's eclectic vibe, this area is home to both some of the biggest manors and mansions of Edinburgh as well as humble working quarters. And then there are the unique plusses that come with West End; the red and white tram cars run along the major neighborhood avenues, while guided walking tours will help you maneuver through the smaller, more obscure-looking streets!
With several old Georgian houses restored with age-appropriate furniture, West End's showcase of masterfully decorated indoors remains largely unmatched throughout Edinburgh. The public squares and streets host regular book fairs and festivals, and are always bustling with local crowds - as are the neighborhood's several traditional pubs and gastrobars. The vibe around Charlotte Square and West End Station is especially trendy, as most of the drinking holes and neighborhood eateries are centred around the two.
West End has easy access from all major neighborhoods on the list; the neighborhood lies just west of the New and Old Town boundaries and a little south of Stockbridge, so you will not have to worry about missing out on the big draws. It also stands out as one of the most affordable areas, as backpackers throng the several hostel accommodations on offer.
Keep heading south and you will once again find yourself immersed by a village-like vibe, somewhat akin to Stockbridge. That's when you know that you have arrived in the neighborhood of Morningside - otherwise an upmarket residential area, but one that has captured the fancy of the city's boho crowds like no other. Streets that are lined with thrift stores, indie boutiques, charity shops and popular takeout joints reveal a lesser talked about side of Edinburgh and should definitely not be missed!
Morningside, alongside its similarly upmarket Bruntsfield are also popular with the lovers of cinema and performing arts. Three major centres: the art-deco movie theatre-cum-dining hall of Dominion Cinema, the sandstone-heavy performance hall Church Hill and the more mainstream and grandiose King's Theatre all stand beside the same central avenue that runs through the two sister neighbourhood, so you will have plenty of viewing options to choose from.
The two neighbourhoods are renowned for their fashionable residential colonies, so you might want to try and spend some extra time looking for a Airbnb or homestay to best enjoy the luxuries. There's only one major thoroughfare that runs through both Bruntsfield and Morningside, so navigating locally will not be difficult at all.
Leith, which makes up the city's portside area is the most cosmopolitan of all Edinburgh neighbourhoods. Having served as the region's major port since antiquity, Leith has captured the essence of all the people and cultures that have arrived here through the years. And that dynamism best reflects in the neighborhood's gastronomy. Countless waterfront restaurants line the shoreline and offer a taste of global cuisine - the area really comes to life after sundown, with crowds coming in for evening drinks and social gatherings in huge numbers.
The Royal Yacht Britannia showcases the region's cultural capital and offers an insight into the royalty's lifestyle. Visiting local businesses is another great way to explore Leith's rich fabric, as many establishments still celebrate the industrial past of the neighborhood. Most notable of these are the Biscuit Factory and the Pitt market that offer a slew of vendors selling fresh produce, local snacks and beer in an industrial mixed-use space as well as the likes Georgian Antiques, known for housing ornate furniture in a grand warehouse setting,
The neighborhood is obviously the closest to Edinburgh port, but other parts of the city including the Old Town and the airport could feel a little farther out. The efficient transport system has, however, made commuting hassle free and you should not face any trouble at all. Not to mention the expansive Leith Walkway, which has made the walk between Leith and the city centre an absolute delight anyway!
And for the last neighborhood on the list, we bring to you the university district of Southside. The go-to destination for a majority of Edinburgh's Gen Z population, this is the part of the city that has an unparalleled sense of frenzy in its atmosphere. The blocks around the university are always bustling with activity - be it the courtesy of cafe-hopping university crowds; the performers/ ardent audiences of the local student theatres and concert halls; or the general loiterers at the bookstores and libraries, the atmosphere is always very vibrant and very busy all the time.
And talking of some particulars: there's a few great ramen and noodle bars around Nicholson Street, while Mexican joints and breweries dot the area around South Clerk Street. There's also a few great live music venues in the vicinity of the latter; out of the available options, the Queen's Hall, a jazz and occasional rock venue housed in a former chapel is the clear standout. Southside does boast of such great green spaces as the George Square Gardens and the expansive Holyrood Park, just in case the busy streets begin to feel too much after a while.
Southside lies just southwest of the city centre and can be reached by following the Holyrood Road. Hotels in the vicinity can be a bit pricey, but you should not have too much trouble finding a reasonably priced option either.
And that's our complete list from Edinburgh, traveller. Take a look and have a great time planning your next vacation; Auld Reekie awaits!