Places To Stay In Edinburgh – Old Town
This week in our ‘Places To Stay’ series is one of Edinburgh’s most popular gems – the Old Town.
An official UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, Edinburgh’s Old Town is oozing with history. With its narrow closes, historic buildings, and some of the city’s oldest attractions, this famous part of Edinburgh is just begging to be explored.
Edinburgh’s Old Town
The Old Town forms one of the largest parts of the city centre as well as being one of the most visited. Despite being a busy tourist area, there are dozens of places you can escape to only a few minutes walk from the hustle and bustle.
Perhaps one of the most concentrated areas in the capital in terms of shops, bars, and visitor attractions, it’s nearly impossible to narrow down a list of our favourite things about the Old Town. So think of this as more of a snapshot – a guide you might use if you only had a couple of days to see the city.
We’re sure you’ll love this stunning part of the capital as much as we do, so continue reading to discover something to see, something to do, and something to eat (as well as some beautiful homes you can stay in!) during your next visit to Edinburgh’s Old Town.
Something to See
The Royal Mile
The Royal Mile is a must-see for anyone visiting Edinburgh, so we simply couldn’t write this post without including it! The stunning architecture of this historic site is not to be missed.
The streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town are often busy, but never more so than in August during the Edinburgh Festival. Nevertheless, no matter what time of year it is, the Royal Mile is almost always at its quietest in the early hours of the morning. So we recommend starting your day with a walk down this famous Edinburgh street – which runs through the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, connecting the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, perched high on a base of volcanic rock, with the regal Palace of Holyroodhouse, resting in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat.
Also, be sure to visit the extremely picturesque Victoria Street, which you can access through Upper Bow – a narrow street leading from the Royal Mile to a set of stairs which will take you down to one of Edinburgh’s most famous spots.
Hidden havens off the Royal Mile
As well as walking the length of the Royal Mile, we highly recommend going off the beaten path and exploring its numerous closes. A “close” is an alleyway which often leads to a courtyard or garden, and these are often some of the best places to snap a beautiful photo or two. A few highlights to note include Advocates Close, White Horse Close, Dunbar’s Close, and Chessel’s Court.
Some of our favourite places to visit in Edinburgh lie hidden in these beautiful closes. We recently wrote a post about our favourite Hidden Havens Of Edinburgh’s Old Town featuring some of the city’s most tranquil spots.
Something to Do
Visit some of Edinburgh’s lesser-known museums
Some of Edinburgh’s most well-known attractions can be found in the Old Town, but perhaps surprisingly, the same goes for the some of the city’s lesser-known spots.
Hidden in the Old Town, you’ll find some of the capital’s smaller museums, which are often overlooked but house a vast array of hidden treasures. This includes Camera Obscura, The Museum of Childhood, and The People’s Story, among many others. Several of these museums are free to enter, making them even more attractive for anyone seeing the city on a budget.
At The Writers’ Museum, located within the picturesque Makar’s Court, artefacts evoke the illustrious lives of Scotland’s best-known writers; mainly Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Museum on the Mound is located in the historic Bank of Scotland Head Office where you can learn about the Bank of Scotland and some of its famous customers. This museum also houses a fascinating collection of some of the nation’s oldest coins and banknotes.
On the corner of Niddry Street and the Cowgate, less than 200 metres down from the Royal Mile, you’ll find Saint Cecilia’s Hall. Within this stunning Category A listed building, you can hear live eighteenth-century music a purpose-built concert hall as well as view a fantastic collection of instruments in the adjoining music museum.
To help you explore more of the city’s lesser-known collections, we’ve written a post all about The Best Lesser-Known Edinburgh Museums.
Something to Eat
If there’s one thing the Old Town has, it’s good food and lots of it! Narrowing down this list was difficult. So we’ve picked three of our favourite spots for coffee, ice cream, and lunch or dinner.
Coffee at The Milkman
There are countless cafés and coffee shops dotted throughout the Old Town, including some of our favourite spots in the whole city. One of the best places to enjoy a hot drink in the Old Town is the cosy and undeniably stylish Milkman café. Located on charming Cockburn Street, this coffee hot-spot serves delicious espresso and teas alongside a range of tasty homemade treats. The best part, however, is the view. Try to grab the bench in the window if you can, where you can watch the world go by for hours…
Ice cream at Artisan Gelato
Another Cockburn Street favourite is Artisan Gelato. Ever since opening their doors less than two years ago, they’ve been a total hit with locals and tourists alike. You’ll find authentic Italian gelato, delish milkshakes, and homemade cones in this traditional ice cream parlour, all made fresh on the premises. Pop in for an afternoon treat after a long day of shopping or sightseeing in the Old Town. And with plenty of seating, there’s room for everyone!
Seafood at The White Horse
The White Horse Oyster & Seafood Bar on Canongate is a fantastic place to eat the freshest Scottish seafood and shellfish. Situated on the site of the oldest inn on the Royal Mile, this seafood restaurant serves small plates and incredible sharing platters alongside tasty tipples. So if you’re looking for somewhere to enjoy fresh oysters and champagne, you can’t go wrong at the White Horse!
Somewhere to Stay
It will come as no surprise that Edinburgh’s Old Town is a great place to stay during a visit to the city. You’ll have spectacular architecture, rich history, and fantastic museums right on your doorstep. An abundance of cafés and restaurants close by also makes the Old Town an attractive location. Princes Street can be reached by foot in mere minutes and well as all of the New Town attractions.
Here are three beautiful Old Town places you can call home during your next stay in Edinburgh.
Guests love our home in St Mary’s Street, situated in the heart of the Old Town. Because they regularly give us great feedback about staying there, it is in our Dickins Most Loved Collection. We can understand why they love it because we do too!
Sitting on the first floor, this apartment feels special as soon as you open the front door. There’s something wonderfully grown-up and luxurious about the space – a child-free zone in which to kick back and relax. The bedroom has double doors which open the room up into the wonderful sitting room. There are Matisse and Picasso prints on the walls. The kitchen feels surprisingly enormous and is fully equipped if you’d like to cook at home. The dining table seats six comfortably, so you can even entertain dinner guests during your stay.
We love this home so much that we featured it exclusively in a blog post here: Our Homes From Home – St Mary’s Street.
One-bedroom home – sleeps two.
Another popular place in the Dickins collection is this home on West Bow. Nestled at the bottom of Victoria Street in the Grassmarket, this stunning flat is in a vibrant spot with some wonderful restaurants, cafés and bars right on your doorstep.
This contemporary apartment has been beautifully renovated to a high standard. There are gorgeous wood floors throughout, which give this apartment a wonderful sense of space and light. The open plan sitting room/kitchen is spacious and has a large skylight. There are a fabulous bathroom and a pretty double bedroom located at the back of the apartment. This apartment is kitted out with some great mod-cons including a Sonos sound system, WIFI, and a flat-screen TV.
One-bedroom home – sleeps two.
At the opposite end of the Royal Mile is this charming and cosy home on Holyrood Road. With gorgeous views of Arthur’s Seat, it’s the ideal peaceful location right in the middle of the city.
Situated directly next to the Scottish Parliament, the Royal Palace of Holyrood, and Dynamic Earth, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better location. And with Arthur’s Seat right on your doorstep, you’ll have a most unique opportunity to view this great city.
Two-bedroom home – sleeps four.
These are only three of our lovely Old Town homes. You can view the full collection here.