A bustling centre with a glorious network of Georgian streets, the West End sits in the western New Town and is home to some of the very best contemporary independent retailers in the capital. Not one to be overlooked, it should definitely be added to your bucket list of places to see in Edinburgh.
Tucked away just behind Shandwick Place, the West End Village is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. At the very heart of the village lies both William Street and Stafford Street, where the colourful, stylish boutiques and some much-loved pubs and bars combine to create a bohemian feel to this part of Edinburgh. This is a delightful area to explore for both locals and visitors alike.
The West End of Edinburgh is defined by the landmark red sandstone building, originally The Caledonian railway hotel. This grand lady has recently been rebranded and refurbished as A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, offering traditional luxury in its rooms and dining with the UK’s first Guerlain Spa.
Over in the grand Charlotte Square, you can step back into the past when you visit The Georgian House. Located at No 7, the house belonged to John Lamont, 18th Chief of the Clan Lamont, and his family until 1815 and has been perfectly restored show a typical Edinburgh New Town House of the late 18th to early 19th century. Wander around upstairs to admire the elegant surroundings of the gentry or go downstairs to see where the servants ran the house.
Next door to The Georgian House look out for Bute House, the official office of Scotland's First Minister. While you can't go inside we recommend you stand back and admire the house's spectacular Georgian facacde with it's towering pillars and grand doorway.
Head west along Shandwick Place and you'll come to the historic Haymarket Station, which has recently been extensively redeveloped and provides convenient access for West End commuters and city centre travellers.
Out towards Haymarket, visitors will see the impressive BT Murrayfield Stadium dominating the skyline. Home to Scottish Rugby, it can seat over 67,000 people. Heading to Murrayfield for a match and soaking up the incredible atmosphere is definitely one of the quintessential Edinburgh experiences. When there's not a match on though you can get a behind the scence experience of this awesome sports ground with the Stadium Tours.
Moving further away from the city centre, travel west towards the airport on Corstorphine Hill and you'll come across Edinburgh Zoo. This is one of Edinburgh's most popular attractions, open for over 100 years and home to over 1,000 rare and wonderful animals including the cheeky chimpanzees on the Budongo Trail, Penguins Rock - the new revamped outdoor penguin pool, and of course giant pandas, TianTian and Yang Guang!
The heart of West End shopping can be found along in two picturesque streets, William Street and Stafford Street. This cobbled oasis of independent retailers and stylish boutiques features Studio One with its classy home accessories, lighting, photo frames and wooden animals, gift and stationery haven Paper Tiger.
Eating and Drinking
The West End is a hive of unique eating and drinking spots, each with their own individual personality. If you fancy a bit of pampering, no visit to Edinburgh would be complete without experiencing a relaxing visit to The Sheraton Grand Hotel and Spa. Offering fantastic dining and drinking at their restaurant and bar One Square with an impressive variety of over 70 gins – including one of their very own!
Talking of gin, be sure to enjoy a cheeky glass in the intriguing Heads and Tales bar tucked under Rutland Place. As this is the home of the iconic Edinburgh Gin, you enjoy your refreshing G&T while you watch the next batch of gin being distilled nearby. Or if you fancy creating your own, make sure you book yourself into one of the Distillery Tour Experiences.
Whigham’s Wine Cellars is a classy joint with its candle-lit basement surroundings which often hosts jazz sessions and wine tasting nights. If whisky is more your thing then head over to Teuchters where they have an extensive selection to choose from.
For a taste of Paris in the heart of the Scottish capital head to Galvin Brasserie de Luxe which serves classic French dishes using great Scottish produce. If it's a special occassion visit the Brasserie's sister restaurant The Pompadour to enjoy truly elegant food in beautiful surroundings.
For more informal dining, burger and cocktail fans are in for a treat at Sygn, while Ghillie Dhu is an impressive venue serving up towering burgers and spiced-up haggis as well as music and weekly ceilidhs. Next door is The Rutland which encompases The Huxley a thoroughly modern bar restaurant and Edinburgh’s first steak restaurant, Kyloe Grill.
So the secret’s out! The West End is a hidden gem bursting with places to explore. Go west for a fascinating array of independent boutiques, award-winning retailers, buzzing bars and contemporary restaurants.
Looking for more? Take a look at our recommended itineraries for further inspiration of places to visit and things to do in Edinburgh >