Edinburgh has a host of districts - some of which appear to be only a few streets, and many that can be folded into the broader areas of Old and New Towns.
Old Town -- This is where Edinburgh began. Its spine is the Royal Mile, a medieval thoroughfare stretching for about a few kilometers from Edinburgh Castle downhill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Royal Mile is one boulevard with four segments bearing different names: Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street, and Canongate. "This is perhaps the largest, longest, and finest street for buildings and number of inhabitants in the world," wrote English author Daniel Defoe. Old Town also includes the Grassmarket and Cowgate.
New Town -- Situated north of Old Town, the first New Town bloomed between 1766 and 1840, and is one of the largest Georgian developments in the world. It grew to encompass the northern half of the heart of the city. Home to at least 25,000 residents, it's also the largest historic conservation area in Britain. New Town is made up of a network of squares, streets, terraces, and circuses (circular open spaces where several streets meet), reaching from Haymarket in the west almost to Leith Walk in the east. New Town also extends from Canonmills in the north to Princes Street, its most famous artery, on the south.
Stockbridge -- Part of New Town today, northwest of the castle, Stockbridge was once a village, and it still rather feels like a small town near the heart of the city, with its own tight-knit community. Straddling the Water of Leith, it is a good place for visitors to the city to relax, with some friendly cafes, pubs, restaurants, and shops.
Haymarket & Dalry -- West of the city center by about a few kilometers, these two districts may be off the beaten path for most visitors. Haymarket centers on the railway station (an alternative to Waverley for travelers to and from Glasgow or places much further north). Near the station is the Scottish national rugby stadium: Murrayfield. Dalry is slowly being gentrified.
Tollcross & West End -- Edinburgh's theater district and conference center are located in the area west of the castle. While the West End neighborhoods near Shandwick Place are rather exclusive, the district of Tollcross might appear a bit rough by contrast. However, it is rapidly changing, with redevelopment moving it upmarket.
Marchmont -- A kilometer or two south of High Street, this suburb was constructed between 1869 and 1914, offering new housing for people who could no longer afford to live in New Town. Its northern border is the Meadows. Sometimes visitors go south to this neighborhood for affordable B&Bs and guesthouses.
Bruntsfield -- This suburb to the west of the Meadows is named after Bruntsfield Links. Now a residential district, it is where James IV gathered the Scottish army he marched to its defeat at Flodden in 1513.
Church Hill & Morningside -- South of Bruntsfield, Church Hill has the area nicknamed "holy corner" because of the concentration of churches at the junction of Bruntsfield, Colinton, and Chamberlain roads. Morningside is probably the poshest old suburb in the city, with leafy streets. If you venture this far, be sure and visit the historic pub Canny Man.
Calton -- Encompassing Calton Hill, with its Regent and Royal terraces, Calton skirts the so-called Pink Triangle. Edinburgh has a lively and engaged gay population, which focuses socially on an area from the top of Leith Walk to Broughton Street. It is not, however, a dedicated gay district such as San Francisco's Castro or Christopher Street in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. It is just part and parcel of this lively area with its bars, nightclubs, and restaurants.
Leith Walk -- Not precisely a neighborhood, but the main artery that connects Edinburgh's city center to Leith. Off it are Easter Road (home of Hibernian Football Club) and the districts of Pilrig and South Leith. An honest cross-section of Edinburgh can be seen during a walk down Leith Walk.
Leith -- The Port of Leith lies only a couple of kilometers north of Princes Street and is the city's major harbor, opening onto the Firth of Forth. The area is currently being gentrified, and many visitors come here for the restaurants and pubs, many of which specialize in seafood. The port isn't what it used to be in terms of maritime might; its glory days were back when stevedores unloaded cargoes by hand.
Newhaven -- Newhaven is a fishing village west of Leith. Founded in the 1400s, this former little harbor with a bustling fish market was greatly altered in the 1960s. Many of its "bow-tows" (a nickname for closely knit, clannish residents) were uprooted, like the Leithers, in a major gentrification program.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.