Edinburgh Old Town
Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital city, is renowned for its rich history and picturesque buildings, with the Old Town area being the notable highlight.
The Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways, and hidden courtyards, all centred around the Royal Mile and the Cowgate, Grassmarket, and Holyrood areas.
Located in the heart of Edinburgh, the Old Town stretches along a hill that starts at the looming Edinburgh Castle and finishes at the regal Holyrood Palace, enveloped by the New Town to the north and the sprawling green expanse of Holyrood Park to the south.
The history of the Old Town is as fascinating as its geography. It dates back to medieval times and its layout and architecture are largely preserved from the 16th and 17th centuries, especially on the Royal Mile – the main artery of the Old Town – which is lined with historic tenements, churches, and closes (narrow alleyways).
Geographically, Edinburgh’s Old Town is characterized by Castle Rock, a rugged, steep-sided ridge formed by volcanic activity where the formidable Edinburgh Castle now sits. The Royal Mile slopes gently eastward before the topography rises again in the form of the monumental Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park.
The Old Town is a treasure trove of tourist attractions. Edinburgh Castle offers stunning views of the city while the Royal Mile is home to the 12th-century St Giles’ Cathedral, the Museum of Edinburgh, and the Real Mary King’s Close, a historic underground close preserved almost as it was in the 17th century.
At the eastern end of the Royal Mile is Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland, and across the road is the Scottish Parliament Building, a modern architectural marvel that offers free tours to inquisitive visitors.
Just a stone’s throw away is Holyrood Park and Dynamic Earth which can easily be combined with the National Museum of Scotland and Greyfriars Kirk as well as the Camera Obscura and the Scotch Whisky Experience – all of which are amongst the most-visited tourist attractions in the city.
And let’s not forget the numerous festivals that are staged in the Old Town including the world-famous Royal Military Tattoo and the Fringe Festival which transform the area into a carnival of arts and culture every summer.
Find places to visit and things to do in Edinburgh’s Old Town with these visitor guides.
- Tag: Family Attractions
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions – located near Edinburgh Castle – is one of the oldest purpose-built attractions in Scotland. Visitors can experience six floors of interactive displays with exhibits that showcase optical illusions including holograms, a mirror maze and a spinning vortex tunnel.
- Tag: Castles
Edinburgh Castle is Scotland’s most-visited attraction, drawing over 2 million tourists annually. The castle is located on Castle Rock at the upper end of The Royal Mile, approximately one mile from Holyrood Palace. The castle boasts cafés, a restaurant, museums, exhibitions, and displays including the Honours of Scotland (the nation’s crown jewels). Discover this incredible…
Greyfriars Bobby has long been a part of Edinburgh folklore and is famous the world over, but what’s the real story behind the tale of the faithful Skye Terrier? Discover the history behind Scotland’s most faithful canine companion with this complete guide to Greyfriars Bobby, Edinburgh’s famous Skye Terrier who lived in Greyfriars Kirk graveyard…
Greyfriars Kirk is located opposite The National Museum of Scotland in the centre of Edinburgh’s Old Town. The kirk features a large graveyard, a museum, and the grave of Bobby, the faithful Skye terrier. Discover this popular historic attraction with this guide which includes an overview, useful visiting advice, and 360° photos.
Holyrood Palace, located at the bottom of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, is the official Scottish residence of the British Monarchy. The palace was built in the 12th century and is located next to Holyrood Abbey and Holyrood Park. Discover everything you need to know about Holyrood Palace in this complete visitor guide.
John Knox House dates back to 1470 and can be found on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The building is now a public museum that depicts the story of the Scottish enlightenment and the battles between Knox, Mossman, and Queen Mary through a series of displays and artefacts.
- Tag: Museums & Galleries
The Museum on the Mound is located in the Bank of Scotland building in the centre of Edinburgh. The free museum delves into the history of money in a collection of money-themed artefacts and displays that cover trade, art and design, technology, crime and much more. Discover the Museum on the Mound with this complete…
In this post, we’ll explore the Parish Church of St. Cuthbert in Edinburgh, a stunning architectural marvel nestled in the heart of Scotland’s capital on the westernmost edge of Princes Street Gardens. Boasting a unique blend of architectural styles, the church has undergone several renovations over the centuries and is now one of the most…
St. Giles Cathedral has been a focal point for religious activity in Edinburgh for over 900 years, although the present structure that we see today can trace its roots back to the 14th century. Due to its central location on The Royal Mile, St. Giles has become a popular tourist attraction and is an ideal…
As you walk around the city of Edinburgh you may notice sections of an immense fortified wall in seemingly random locations. The Flodden Wall is the protective boundary wall that once played a pivotal role in the city of Edinburgh’s history. Although many parts of the wall have been demolished there are a few sections…
Edinburgh’s Grassmarket is a bustling square in the heart of the city’s Old Town. This historic site is surrounded by classic tenement buildings that line the roads along the iconic West Bow and Victoria Street but it’s best known for the lively pubs and restaurants that offer superb outside seating areas. The Grassmarket is one…
The Real Mary King’s Close is a tourist attraction located in the middle of Edinburgh’s historic Royal Mile. The attraction allows visitors to step beneath the streets of Edinburgh into an underground labyrinth where the stories of the city’s past residents unfold through a series of exhibits and displays.
The historic Royal Mile in Edinburgh connects the Palace of Holyrood at the bottom to Edinburgh Castle at the top, on a road that is one mile in length (hence the name). The road runs through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town and is one of the top tourist destinations in the city thanks to…
- Tag: Family Attractions
The Scotch Whisky Experience is located a short distance from Edinburgh Castle esplanade on The Royal Mile. The attraction takes visitors on a tour of Scotland’s whisky industry with an interactive whisky barrel ride, a guided tour of the world’s largest whisky collection, and bespoke whisky tastings. Discover The Scotch Whisky Experience with this guide…
The Scottish Parliament Building is situated opposite Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. It is the seat of the Scottish Government and is open daily for guided tours. The building is a triumph of design but it has drawn a great deal of criticism over its cost which was more than ten times over the original budget.…
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