A GUIDE TO EDINBURGH'S OLD TOWN
Edinburgh’s Old Town is usually the first stop on every first-time visitor’s itinerary. Why?
This is the area of Edinburgh where spooky stories dominate the cobbled streets and dark underground life of Scotland’s capital.
It is also where you will find The Royal Mile, which surprisingly isn’t quite a mile long!
Many of Edinburgh’s top attractions lie on The Royal Mile or just off it, making it a sensible place to stay if you are short on time and want to pack lots in.
Most of the walking tours and bus trips leave from The Royal Mile, so if you plan to learn more about Edinburgh’s history, visit the Harry Potter locations or get out to visit Scotland’s coasts, Highlands and islands, the Old Town is a good location to base yourself.
Here’s our guide to hotels, hostels, Airbnbs and B&Bs in the Old Town.
GETTING TO THE OLD TOWN
From Waverley Train Station, there are four ways to get to High Street on The Royal Mile by foot.
Make your way to the Market Street exit of the station, cross the road and walk up the infamous Fleshmarket Close stairs to Cockburn (Co-burn) Street.
This close is also the name of a famous Ian Rankin crime novel! There are a couple of pubs on Fleshmarket Close if you need a breather and some Dutch courage.
Another option is to avoid the steps and head along Market Street to the corner where you can walk up Cockburn Street, passing all the cute cafes and shops to High Street on The Royal Mile.
The third option is to cross the road at Market Street and head left past Brewhemia to The Scotsman Steps. This is a local secret! 104 steps will take you up to North Bridge, turn right for the High Street.
Finally, bypass The Scotsman Steps and keep walking up the curve of Jeffery Street and you will find the High Street. Phew! I’m knackered thinking about it.
If you have luggage, you may want to grab a taxi outside of the train station on Market Street.
The Edinburgh Tram doesn’t reach the Old Town and the public buses from Princes Street still require walking.
If you plan to do a lot of tourist attractions, save your feet and hide from the rainy weather using the Edinburgh Hop On/Off Bus.
GET YOUR BEARINGS
On The Royal Mile, you have Edinburgh Castle at the top on Castlehill.
The street becomes Lawnmarket before High Street but they all run into one so you would never know the difference.
Three-quarters of the way down The Royal Mile, the street becomes the Canongate and at the bottom, you find the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood Park.
Let’s start at the top!
From the Lawnmarket with Edinburgh Castle behind you, head to George IV Bridge where you will see the popular Harry Potter location, The Elephant Cafe, and Greyfriars Bobby, our Everything Edinburgh logo.
From here you can visit the National Museum of Scotland and check out the views of the city from the roof for free!
Next, wind down Candlemaker Row to the Grassmarket.
Take the road up West Bow into Victoria Street to see the pastel buildings featured in lots of Edinburgh pictures.
Turn left to meet the High Street again and then right to see all the Edinburgh tourist spots on The Mile including:
- David Hume’s Toe
- St Giles Cathedral
- Heart of Midlothian
- Mary King’s Close
- Mercat Cross
- Parliament Square
- Museum of Childhood
- John Knox House
- Scottish Storytelling Centre
- The World’s End pub
- Canongate Tolbooth clock
- The ivy heart at Chessels Court
- Dunbar Close Gardens
- Museum of Edinburgh
- The People’s Storytelling Museum
- Canongate Kirk
- Scottish Parliament
- Holyrood Palace and Abbey
- Queen Mary’s Bath House
- Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags
- St Anthony’s Chapel ruins on Arthur’s Seat
From the list of things to do in Edinburgh’s Old Town, you can see why you need at least a full day to get a feel for the old city and its attractions!
PRACTICAL INFORMATION ABOUT THE OLD TOWN
Select the titles or images below to find out about our favourite restaurants, pubs, things to do in the Old Town and places to stay.