Central Edinburgh is divided into the Old Town, where the city began, and the larger New Town, where it expanded in the 1700s. Many visitors find lodgings in New Town and tend to visit Old Town for sightseeing, dining, and drinking (note that the local parlance generally drops the definite article "the" when referring to the Old Town or the New Town; henceforth so shall I). There are hotels, however, in the historic core of the city on High Street and in the Grassmarket.
Almost everyone planning to travel to Edinburgh has heard of the Royal Mile, the main thoroughfare of Old Town, running from Edinburgh Castle in the west to the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the east. Because of its once smoky skies, Old Town earned the city the nickname "Auld Reekie." Today, the air is fine and the district is chock-a-block with tourist attractions, shops, and sidewalks full of out-of-town visitors for most months of the year. Both British royalty and Scotland's Parliament (revived in 1999) are based in Old Town, as are city government offices and the country's legal elite. An altogether more infamous street at the southern base of the castle is the Grassmarket, where convicted criminals were once hanged on the gallows - now it's home to restaurants, pubs, and hotels.
New Town is actually fairly old. North of Old Town, on the other side of the Princes Street Gardens, New Town was first settled in the 18th century -about one decade before the American Declaration of Independence was signed. By the end of the 1700s, classic squares, streets, and town houses had been completed, and the first New Town was soon expanded with more Georgian designs. New Town's development was part of a "Golden Age of Edinburgh."
New Town is the city's main shopping precinct today, with broad sidewalks and smart shops, bars, and restaurants. Its busiest boulevard, Princes Street, offers panoramic views of Old Town and Edinburgh Castle. Parallel to Princes Street is New Town's second great boulevard, George Street, which begins at St. Andrew Square and runs west to Charlotte Square. You may also hear a lot about Rose Street, a narrow car-free lane between Princes and George streets - with many more pubs, shops, and restaurants.
Edinburgh's Southside and West End are primarily residential. The former is home to the well-regarded University of Edinburgh (founded in the 16th century) and the sprawling park known as the Meadows. The West End includes the last of New Town developments started at the beginning of the 19th century. It has theaters, several small B&Bs, and swank boutique hotels, as well as the city's most exclusive central neighborhoods.
North of the central city is Leith, Edinburgh's historic port where the Water of Leith (a small river that meanders through the city) meets the Firth of Forth. Leith briefly served as the Scottish capital, and its strategic location attracted Oliver Cromwell's invading forces to build a citadel here. It remained an independent burgh until the 20th century. Fans of Irvine Welsh (the author of Trainspotting) will know that it has a rough and tumble reputation. But today most of its shipping and the sailors have gone, and lots of luxury apartments are being built. But it hasn't lost all of its atmosphere, and it offers a good selection of restaurants and pubs. Leith is also the home of the Royal Yacht Britannia.
Finding an Address
In Edinburgh, roads can change names for no apparent reason. To complicate matters, the city - with the exception of Old Town - is checkered with squares, terraces, and circuses that can interrupt whatever street you're trying to follow. Also the same name can be used for a lane, street, terrace, crescent, avenue, road, square, or garden: Make sure that you've not confused Argyll Place with Argyll Street.
House numbers can run sequentially on straight streets or clockwise or counterclockwise on circuses or squares - if they are numbered at all. Get a map. If you're looking for a specific location, get the name of the nearest cross street.
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.