Within Edinburgh you’ll find a number of self-contained communities, each with its own distinct character and village-like feel. These ‘villages’ are well worth discovering for yourself and, while many of them are surprisingly close to the city centre, they are a world away from what you might expect from the Capital.
Old Town – With a fascinating history that’s impossible to ignore, every one of the tightly packed buildings in the Old Town has earned its place in history. The Royal Mile makes up the main spine of the area, running from Edinburgh Castle at the top to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Scottish Parliament at its foot, surrounded by steeply sloping streets and mysterious wynds. By the 18th Century the cramped conditions of the High Street had prompted the need for expansion, and saw plans for a New Town come together.
New Town – In 1766 a competition for the best architectural scheme for the proposed New Town was held. Six plans were considered, and James Craig's scheme was chosen. The elegant Georgian architecture this involved now provides the backdrop to a number of equally stylish shops, bars and restaurants. Although nowadays Princes Street is commonly regarded as the main street of this scheme, George Street was the backbone of the plan; it was built, at 100 feet wide, 20 feet wider than either Princes Street or Queen Street.
West End – Perfect for boutique shopping and plenty of eating and drinking options, the cobbled streets of the West End are only a few minutes walk from Princes Street. Two of the best for retail indulgence are William Street and Stafford Street with a number of independent stores offering everything from interiors to exclusive designer clothes, quirky jewellery and vintage eveningwear.
Grassmarket – Once a medieval market place and site for public executions, the area is now known for eating, drinking and independent shops all in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Executions ceased in the Grassmarket in 1784 but names of some of the area's pubs reflect its bloody history, such as The Last Drop and Maggie Dickson's. Now its cobbled streets, traditional buildings and quirky shops, pubs and restaurants make the Grassmarket a magnet for visitors.
Stockbridge – Cross George Street and wander down Frederick Street and Howe Street and you’ll soon discover Stockbridge. Filled with vintage clothes shops, unusual art shops and fabulous jewellers you can easily while away the afternoon here. The area is a real magnet for shoppers and also boasts many antique and craft shops, perfect for picking up a unique memento of your visit. Take a break from shopping to enjoy a bite to eat in one of Stockbridge’s many bars or coffee shops.
Leith – Edinburgh’s city quarter by the sea is a great place for eating, drinking and shopping. It is also home to The Royal Yacht Britannia. Only ten minutes from Edinburgh's city centre, historical Leith is full of cultural influence and historical architecture yet calm with waterfront serenity. The area bustles with restaurants, bars, bistros and boutiques and includes the stylish Ocean Terminal shopping complex. Browse the shops, take a walking tour, search for your favourite Scotch whisky or indulge your passion for fashion.
Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags – Enjoy what is arguably the best view of the city from the top of Arthur’s Seat (823 ft.), an extinct volcano that dominates the Edinburgh skyline. Less than a quarter mile south east of Princes Street it can be climbed from almost any direction, although the easiest and simplest ascent is from the East, where a grassy slope rises above Dunsapie Loch.
For the less adventurous, views of the city can be enjoyed from the Salisbury Crags; a cliff face that sweeps towards Arthur’s Seat. After your climb enjoy well-deserved refreshments at the Sheep Heid Inn − the oldest pub in Edinburgh. This hidden gem can be found in the little village of Duddingston behind Arthur’s Seat.