Edinburgh Area Map
When visiting Edinburgh, first-time travelers will be able to easily differentiate between Old Town and New Town. New Town's planned streets, squares and public greens occupy Edinburgh's northern section. And tucked into medieval Old Town and Georgian New Town, a number of interesting districts and neighborhoods can be found.
This street, running parallel to Princes Street Gardens, is New Town's main thoroughfare. A shopping street with British department stores like Marks & Spencer, and Scottish specialty stores such as Jenners, Princes Street also affords beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens. The resplendent Balmoral Hotel resides on Princes Street, too.
Just a couple of blocks north of Princes Street is George Street, another shopping street, filled with high-end boutiques, independent shops, pubs and cafes. If you meander east down George Street, you'll run into St. Andrew Square, which is just a block away from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery and the Queen Street Gardens off of North David Street.
Located north of Edinburgh Castle, New Town's Stockbridge is located along the Water of Leith and is known to have a more village-feel that the bustling city center. A handful of cafes, pubs and antique boutiques – including some second-hand shops – line the neighborhood. For an idyllic Scottish scene, replete with lush greenery and winding waterways, travelers recommend strolling or biking along the Water of Leith walkway to the old mill town of Dean Village.
New Town's Dean Village is located southwest of Stockbridge and northwest of the Edinburgh Castle. An old milling community, the village maintains a sense of history with some of its original architecture intact (one of the old mills can be found under Dean Bridge), while also welcoming innovation. Dean Village is home to the free Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the affiliated Modern Art Two (previously known as the Dean Gallery).
Princes Street Gardens
Filling the gap between New Town and Old Town, the verdant Princes Street Gardens used to be a polluted loch. But thankfully the Scots drained the Nor Loch and turned the wasteland into a sloping meadow speckled with trees and flowerbeds. Today, the 29-acre west gardens and the nearly 9-acre east gardens – collectively known as the Princes Street Gardens – play host to picnics and concerts, especially during Hogmanay.
And from late November to early January, the gardens are transformed into a winter carnival, outfitted with an ice skating rink, a Christmas market, and a huge Ferris wheel, to name a few attractions. Also, make sure to check out the Scott Monument – a Victorian Gothic memorial to Scottish author, Sir Walter Scott. If you climb the 287 steps to the highest deck, you'll enjoy a sweeping view of Edinburgh.
Connecting the Edinburgh Castle to the west and the Holyroodhouse Palace to the east, the Royal Mile spans four streets and is known for its deluge of historical attractions. Along the Royal Mile is the modern Scottish Parliament building; the centuries-old St. Giles' Cathedral; the Witches' Well, a cast-iron fountain that memorializes 300 alleged witches who were burnt to death at the stake in the 16th century; as well as numerous wynds and closes plentiful with pubs, restaurants and shops. Note that this area tends to be a tourist trap, too, but experts and recent travelers say it's a must-visit for first-time Edinburgh travelers. You can also take in the view through Edinburgh's Camera Obscura and World of Illusions.
Beyond Holyroodhouse Palace is Holyrood Park, a sprawling swath of Scottish mountains and moorlands. The most popular hike is the summit trail to Arthur's Seat. Plan to take your camera because Arthur's Seat affords a breathtaking view of the Scottish countryside.
Grassmarket and Cowgate
Located to the south of the Royal Mile in Old Town, the Grassmarket and Cowgate areas are known for their compilation of pubs, clubs and live-music venues. Although only a block away, you're likely to find fewer crowds in this area, not to mention Greyfriars Kirkyard and Bobby memorial, whose tombstones are said to have served as inspiration for the names of some "Harry Potter" characters.
Outside of the City Center
East of Edinburgh's city center is Calton, home to the famous lookout point, Calton Hill, which is rumored to be one of writer Robert Louis Stevenson's favorite places to take in the city. The Hill is what helped Edinburgh earn the distinction of the "Athens of the North." The park is filled with monuments galore, including the National Monument, also known as "Edinburgh's Disgrace," the Burns Monument and Nelson's Monument.
Edinburgh's old port town, Leith, is just about a couple miles north of Princes Street and rests on the bank of the River Forth. With its proximity to the North Sea, Leith has a handful of quality seafood-centric restaurants and pubs. It's also home to the famous floating royal residence, the Royal Yacht Britannia.