Edinburgh was everything that I was hoping it would be and more. I enjoyed my first round so much that I came back again a couple years later. Much of my love for this city was the majestic Old Town neighborhood, and the Royal Mile. Although New Town Edinburgh was quite exciting too, and where I had stayed during my visits. I suppose I love both sides just the same.
“Old Town” and “New Town”, are the two sides of the urban sprawl of Edinburgh. They are vastly different from each other, but historic none-the-less. Both sides of this legendary city are equally significant to Edinburgh, and were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995- Old and New Towns of Edinburgh.
If you are looking to visit Edinburgh and are wanting recommendations, here is a list of a few of my favorites from both Old Town and New Town- Enjoy!
Old Town Edinburgh is the oldest part of the city and the most intriguing, with its medieval streets and many Scottish reformation-era buildings. The Royal Mile is Old Town’s main thoroughfare, which is a succession of streets that lead from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle.
Edinburgh Royal Mile information – Edinburgh’s Majestic Royal Mile | Discovering Scotland
Mary King’s Close
The most interesting element of the Royal Mile is that the current buildings are built upon the first incarnation of Edinburgh. The original city lays underneath and fortifies the Royal Mile to make it level. There is a partial underground neighborhood below the Royal Mile, Mary King’s Close, with buildings, rooms and narrow streets.
If you are interested in visiting the close, there is a tour that will take you underground from their shop location along the Royal Mile. I had taken the tour and although the jokes were a bit corny, I found it very educational and fascinating to explore the original city, and the poor conditions that people once lived in. For tour information – The Real Mary King’s Close
At the end of the Royal Mile, high on top of Castle Hill is Edinburgh Castle. It was built during the 11th century on top of an extinct volcano plug, which strategically overlooks the city of Edinburgh. Castle Rock created a natural defense position with steep cliffs along the north and south, and a high acescent from the west. The easiest approach is from the east which is along the Royal Mile, and through the old town. Although the castle’s location is strategic, it is known as the most besieged place in Britain.
For Castle information – The Extraordinary Edinburgh Castle | Discovering Scotland
The Elephant House
One of Edinburgh’s most popular cafe’s is The Elephant House, which was made famous as the birthplace of Harry Potter. This is where J.K. Rowling sat for hours in the back room, overlooking Edinburgh Castle, and wrote her early novels.
Although the Elephant House is known as Harry Potter’s ‘birthplace’ and many tourist visit for that reason, this location is still an excellent café. Even if you are not part of the Harry Potter fan base, you can still venture in for a delicious meal or a cup of coffee.
For my complete review and blog – Lunch Break at Harry Potter’s “Birthplace” | The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland
Along the Royal Mile there are small passage ways called ‘closes’, which is the Scots term for alleyway. The closes are entrances that lead away from the main thoroughfare to smaller courtyards with homes and businesses, as well as connecting to other streets.
While visiting Edinburgh, I became fascinated with these closes and wandered through the ones that were not locked. There are whole other little neighborhoods through the closes, and if you are exploratory it is an exciting way to delve behind the main buildings of the Royal Mile.
New Town Edinburgh is completely different from the medieval streets of Old Town. This newer section of the city was built between 1767 and 1850, to ease the congestion and over crowdedness of Old Town. It began its construction across the former Nor Loch, which was a former man made loch (lake).
By the time New Town was starting to take form, the wealthy had already made their way down to the newest section of Edinburgh. The town planning is still considered a masterpiece by today’s standards, and retains many neo-classical and Georgian architecture.
Princes Street Gardens
Princes Street Gardens in New Town is a tranquil and charming park that divides New Town and Old Town. It lies at the base of the hill upon where Old Town stands, and along Princes Street, which is New Town’s main shopping street.
Princes Street Gardens was opened in the 1820s after the extensive draining of the Nor Loch and the construction of New Town. Today, the garden is the best known park in Edinburgh and draws in visitors and locals alike, who are looking for a quiet moment away from the busy city.
If you looking to do a little or a lot of shopping in Edinburgh, your best option is Princes Street. I know I had done some retail therapy while on Princes Street, as well some delicious dining. It has been the main shopping street in Edinburgh for years, with several department stores, a mall, restaurants, and hotels.
Waverly Market Shopping Center on Princes Street
Afternoon Tea at The Balmoral Hotel
I do love the luxurious Balmoral Hotel on Princes Street. This Victorian beauty along Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare is a legendary hotel with a landmark clock tower. It was first opened in 1901 under the name of North British Station Hotel, and 90 years later in 1991 it was reopened as The Balmoral. Actor, Sean Connery, who was Edinburgh-born, did the official Balmoral re-opening, which followed a £23,000,000 hotel refurbishment.
Inside the Balmoral is Palm Court, which offers a magnificent Afternoon Tea. It was the first thing I did on my first visit to Edinburgh, after checking into my hotel. Tea at the Balmoral Palm Court was one of the best Afternoon Teas that I have been to so far, and I have experienced many!
For more information ➡ A Classic Scottish Afternoon Tea | The Balmoral in Edinburgh
There is no leaving Edinburgh, no shifting it around. It stays with you, always.– Alan Bold
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📸 All photos are taken by me and are my intellectual property – Trixie Navarre
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