A Guide to Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle. Fountain. Day.

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Princes Street Gardens is a popular park in Edinburgh.

This Edinburgh’s World Heritage Site is sandwiched between Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town, the garden is split in two.

This is where the infamous Nor Loch was located, the dumping ground that possibly gave the city the nickname, Auld Reekie.

The busiest of the two is East Princes Street Gardens which is close to Edinburgh Waverley Train Station.

Edinburgh Waverley Shopping Centre Station

West Princes Street Gardens is located between The Mound, which leads up to The Royal Mile, and buzzing Lothian Road.

Edinburgh Castle overlooks the gardens and during spring photographers use the beautiful cherry blossom trees to frame the Castle.

You can read more about the cherry blossoms in Edinburgh here.

Edinburgh Castle on cliff with rows of cherry blossoms trees and benches underneath

In autumn, there are few lovely frames to capture too! Walk along Princes Street for these shots.

Edinburgh Castle Autumn Red Trees Leave

Entering Princes Street Gardens

There are various entry points to the gardens:

  • Waverley Bridge by Princes Street
  • Market Street close Edinburgh Dungeons
  • The Mound
  • Princes Street
  • King Stables Road

The park closes overnight for public safety.

Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh Map

West Princes Street Gardens

There is lots to see in West Princes Street Gardens, including St Margarets Well, The Ross Fountain (below) and the a series of monuments.

Edinburgh Castle. Fountain. Day.

One of the most unique things about West Princes Street Gardens is that it houses the world’s oldest floral clock, which dates back to 1903.

Since 1903, the Flower Clock has been planted and today it uses around 30,000 plants.

Each year the design of the floral clock celebrates an individual or group who has contributed to the city, such as the NHS workers.

You can find the clock at the north-east corner of West Princes Street Gardens just before you cross the road into East Prices Street Gardens.

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Flower Clock Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh Ronan
Garden Clock Princes Street Garden Autumn

It is worth taking a walk around the gardens to find the photogenic Gardener’s Cottage aka as Great Aunt Lizzie’s House from the BBC show, Teacup Tales.

Edinburgh Park Nature Gardeners Cottage Princes St Garden

Located throughout this garden are a number of monuments such as a memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson, the Scottish novelist who wrote a very significant book about Edinburgh, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Learn more about Jekyll and Hyde in our spooky Edinburgh legends guide.

Robert Louis Stevenson Memorial Princes Street Gardens

There is also a bronze elephant titled ‘Never Forget’ which is dedicated to the children of the Mortonhall baby ashes scandal.

Never Forget Elephant Princes Street Gardens

East Princes Street Gardens

East Princes Street Gardens is the busiest garden.

Tourists can mostly be found around the Scott Monument area, looking to climb the 287 steps for views of the city, or at the Waverley Bridge entrance, waiting on a bus tour to start.

On sunny days, workers and groups of friends enjoy lunch and people watching.

From the garden you are access the The Royal Scottish Academy and you are close to the Scottish National Gallery.

Scott Monument Princes Street Gardens Edinburgh New Town Piper_

Princes Street Gardens in December

In winter, Princes Street Gardens comes alive in the late afternoon and evening as this is where you will find the Edinburgh Christmas Market festivities.

One of my favourite spots is the Johnnie Walker Bothy which has the best views of the twinkling market lights and mulled wine or whisky of course!

Princes Street Gardens also plays its part during Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations at the end of December.

On the 31st, bands take to the Ross Bandstand to play to local and international crowds who are raring to ring in the new year.

Did you know that Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is the biggest street party in the world?

Edinburgh's Hogmanay Fireworks. Festival. Night.

Museums at Edinburgh Princes Street Gardens

The Royal Scottish Academy (RSA) and the Scottish National Gallery are located in separate buildings in between the East and West Gardens.

Both are free to enter unless there is an exhibition at the RSA.

Read next | Free things to do in Edinburgh

In February, the RSA showcases award-winning graduates handpicked from Scottish art schools.

My cousin, and Everything Edinburgh writer, Katherine Fay Allan’s exhibition ‘The rest of us, we just go gardening’ was presented at the RSA in 2020.

A very proud moment for my family.

There are lovely views of the gardens from the Gallery Cafe (Contini). These views are best served with a cup of tea and scone with jam.

Scottish National Gallery Contini Food Edinburgh Museum Princes Street

Princes Street Gardens Facilities

There are toilets dotted around both parks. Disabled access toilets require a radar key.

Princes Street Gardens Toilet Edinburgh Map

You can purchase snacks, lunch and drinks at Sir Walter’s Cafe in the Gardens which is a cute kiosk with outdoor seating in East Princes Street Gardens.

There is also a cafe with outdoor seating in the West Garden close to the Ross Fountain.

Princes Street Gardens Cafe Scott Monument

Princes Street Garden Rules

  • Dogs must be on leashes at all times.
  • Ball games are prohibited.

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2 thoughts on “A Guide to Princes Street Gardens in Edinburgh

  1. Malcolm Lugton says:

    Its a long time (mid 1960’s) since I last visited the city – so this guide has been useful!! I am aware that benches in the gardens are normally dedicated to deceased family or friends. My grand parents had a bench dedicated to them which I saw during that last visit. Is there any way of finding out if that bench still remains? And if so, where is it located?

    • Everything Edinburgh says:

      That’s a lovely thing to read. I think Edinburgh Council would be the best people to start with. I hope you have success.

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