Though full of charm, history, and amazing places to eat and drink (you’ll never run out of brunching opportunities!), Edinburgh is hardly the largest of cities. So, it might surprise you to know that the city is actually made up of several unique neighborhoods, each with its own quirks and style. You may not be familiar with some of them, and you’d not be to blame! Tourists tend to stick to the center, and with good reason - with the museums, attractions, and great restaurants in the center you’d be perfectly entertained staying put, but the more local areas of Edinburgh and their individual vibes are really what makes it! So here are some of Edinburgh’s top areas to stay!
New Town is classic Edinburgh city centre. It’s just by Waverley Station and the National Gallery, and filled with stunning Georgian Architecture. Along its two main streets, Princes St and George St, you’ll find all the shops you would expect from a city centre. George St is much more up-market. The top designer stores and high-end boutiques are clustered just off it. Although some of you might groan at the idea of traipsing around New Town shopping bags in hand, fear not. Scattered along George St, and its side streets especially, are fantastic independent eateries like Urban Angel, which will not disappoint.
What’s more, New Town is home to Edinburgh’s own Chihuahua café. Yes, you did read that correctly! You can also take a trip up Calton Hill to view some surprising and impressive monuments, and take in spectacular views of the coast.
If New Town is perhaps a tad too shopping oriented for you, Old Town is definitely where your budding inner tourist will get their fix. Old Town boasts the same awe-inspiring architecture as New Town but is somehow even more charming, with its winding streets and endless closes. Harry Potter fans will probably feel as though they have stepped into Diagon Alley, and you can even find the grave stones of Voldemort’s parents in Greyfriars cemetery. Old Town is also home to the Royal Mile, and off it, plenty of tourist traps – the castle, Mary King’s Close, Camera Obscura, and gift shops galore.
The National Museum is just a few mins walk from the Mile, and you can also follow winding streets down to the Grassmarket and its quirky collection of shops, pubs and restaurants, including Mary’s Milk Bar if you dare to brave an ice-cream in the cold! If you’re feeling active, head up Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of Edinburgh, reaching all the way out to sea. And if you happen to find yourself in Edinburgh during the Fringe, Old Town is by far the place to be. Every pub, café, spare room and police box (really!) become a Fringe venue, and the Meadows are full of disposable BBQ-ers enjoying the surrounding street performances.
photo credit: edinburgh.org
Bruntsfield and Morningside
Just a short walk from the center, these two neighborhoods are perfect for the days when you want to have a relaxed potter about or grab coffee, brunch or beer, but don’t want the full excitement of the city center. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty to explore. If it’s a sunny day, wander along Bruntsfield Links situated just by the Meadows. If it’s not, jump from independent boutique to boutique and shelter from the weather in pubs like Montpeliers or brunch spots like Honeycomb & Co. The buildings are less grand than in the center, but they are certainly old and beautiful. Morningside especially is made up of elegant mansion-style houses, with churches and the like nestled in between.
Quite like Bruntsfield and Morningside, Stockbridge is essentially a fancy little village within Edinburgh, which boasts some of the quaintest independent shops and foodie places in the city. Put it this way, the charity shops feel more like boutiques than your typical bric-a-brac situation. It has a lovely, though definitely affluent community feel. You can get involved every Sunday at the Stockbridge Market, where you’ll pick up an impressive tapenade or two, and perhaps sample some of the giant vats of paella being prepared on-site, and mix in with the locals and their Labradors and spaniels. There are plenty of warm pubs dotted around, perfect for a tipple after strolling around the Water of Leith walk and into Dean Village, or the Royal Botanic Garden.
Leith and Portobello
Leith is all about gastronomy. The Kitchin, for example, and other Michelin starred restaurants grace Edinburgh’s port, and you’ll also find The Royal Yacht Britannia docked in the harbour, providing a wealth of maritime history and kid-friendly activities. Technically speaking Leith and Portobello aren’t super close together, and it might take you an hour or so to stroll between them. If you do, you’ll walk right along the coast and end up at Edinburgh’s beach (yes, beach, who knew!) Portobello. Admittedly, in Edinburgh we’re not often graced with sunbathing weather, but even just a clear day is made better by strolling along the sands and taking in the fresh sea air. Plenty of pubs and cafés line the beach if you need somewhere to warm up after a lap.
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