Palace of Holyrood House
©VisitScotland, Kenny Lam

Heritage City Guide

Accredited in 1995 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, Edinburgh’s impressive architecture seamlessly blends the character of the medieval Old Town with the splendor of the Georgian New Town.

Let us take you on a journey through the narrow alleyways, across cobbled courtyards and into the majesty of the impressive Georgian streets.

The Royal Mile

Edinburgh Castle
View from top of Mary King's Close,© The Real Mary King's Close

Threading its way through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Royal Mile is topped and tailed by Edinburgh Castle at its crest and the Palace of Holyroodhouse at its base. A stroll along this famous street reveals an assortment of treasures to explore.

Take a step back in time with a visit to Gladstone’s Land and see what life would have been like in 17th century Edinburgh. Enter Makars’ Court, a tranquil courtyard with carved paving stones celebrating writers from the 14th century right up to the current day and it is here you will find the Writers Museum. This fascinating attraction contains the works of some of Scotland’s greatest writers including Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson. Further down the Royal Mile you can visit John Knox House which dates back to 1470. This is the only medieval building remaining in Edinburgh and is associated with the Scottish Reformation and subsequent abdication of Mary Queen of Scots. As you wander along, take a moment to step off the main thoroughfare and explore the many closes, narrow alleyways and wynds. The Real Mary Kings Close is a warren of dark, underground passageways which winds its way below the city streets. A guided tour will reveal tales of murder, plagues and unsolved mysteries.

Just down the street, St Giles Cathedral rises ahead. Dating back to 1120 it was constructed during the reign of King David I and is well worth a visit for its stunning architecture and colourful stained glass windows. Outside, see if you can spot the Heart of Midlothian, a heart-shaped mosaic marking the position of the 15th century Old Tolbooth. In addition to being a Tolbooth, it also served as a tax office and prison. Such was the disdain of the residents at the time to this building of authority that they would spit on it, starting the tradition which can be seen to this day of people spitting on the heart. Today, spitting on it is meant to bring good luck!

The Scottish Parliament sits near the foot of the Royal Mile. Its contemporary architecture is in stark contrast to the ancient and historical buildings close by. Open on certain days for free guided tours and talks, it also has an excellent exhibition, café and gift shop. Directly opposite the Parliament is the impressive Palace of Holyroodhouse. The King’s official residence in Edinburgh, it is open to visitors at various times throughout the year. Guided tours through the grounds and Royal Apartments are a superb way to learn about royal history over the centuries.

Discover more about the must-see attractions in this popular part of the city in our Guide to the Royal Mile 

Calton Hill

Calton Hill, Lady taking picture
Calton hill with forth bridge in the background
Dugald Stewart Monument

Calton Hill sits to the east of Princes Street and in addition to the panoramic views which can be seen from its summit, it also boasts some of the capital’s most magnificent landmarks.  These include the National Monument, Nelson’s Monument, the Dugald Stewart and Robert Burns Monument.

The Grassmarket


One of the oldest parts of the capital, this vibrant hub retains its historical character whilst offering a wealth of independent shops, boutiques and eateries for today’s visitor. 

Discover more about this lively area in our Guide to the Grassmarket 

New Town

Scott Monument
Front entrance to Assembly Rooms.
Princes St Gardens Ross fountain

Edinburgh’s New Town is a perfect example of Georgian town planning. Designed in 1767, it is the epitome of grandiose elegance with its classic terraces, gardens, squares and quiet lanes. Take a stroll through the carefully sculpted terraces of Princes Street Gardens and marvel at its impressive monuments and statues. To the east of the gardens is the 61 metre high Scott Monument. Dedicated to Edinburgh-born author Sir Walter Scott, it is one of the world’s largest monuments to a writer. Why not take a guided tour to learn more about Scott and his legacy, and be rewarded with breathtaking views of Edinburgh from the third floor viewing platform.

Charlotte Square and St Andrew Square sit at opposite ends of Edinburgh’s popular George Street with its fashionable shops and restaurants.  A visit to the Georgian House in Charlotte Square will give you a peek at life over 200 years ago, while The Assembly Rooms were originally built as an entertainment venue for Edinburgh residents and are still used today for concerts, performances and exhibitions. 

Explore more about this stylish part of Edinburgh in our Guide to the New Town 

Dean Village

Dean Village, coloured houses
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Water of Leith Sculpture

A short walk from the bustling streets of the city centre sits the peaceful and picturesque Dean Village. In years gone by this village, which sits on the Water of Leith, was a hub of activity renowned for its water mills. Today, you can still see remnants of the past with mill stones and carved plaques. The impressive Dean Bridge, designed by Thomas Telford, traverses the water and standing on top of the bridge you can see the backdrop of the high-rise Georgian apartments and their substantial back gardens which roll down to the water’s edge. 

Nearby sits the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art with its unique sculpture park and collection of world-renowned contemporary art. Composed of two beautiful classical buildings, check out their website for current and upcoming exhibitions, talks and events.

Discover Edinburgh’s Unique Characters

From the bustling city centre to tranquil shorelines, Edinburgh is blessed with an eclectic mix of neighbourhoods.