Wondering where to stay in Edinburgh? One of the UK’s most beautiful cities, named Europe’s city of culture in 2018 and one of the top ten most haunted cities in the world, Edinburgh tops a lot of best-of lists. Gothic and medieval architecture abound, independent shopping at every turn, winding cobbled streets to wander, and a truly Scottish drinking scene, Edinburgh won’t leave your heart after you’ve visited.
If you love literature, you’re in luck; as the world’s first UNESCO city of literature, there’s no shortage of bookshops, famous literary sites, literary museums to explore. One of the most iconic symbols, of course, the towering Walter Scott statue, the largest monument to a writer in the world, that has people climbing 287 steps to visit.
Harry Potter fans can take the wizarding tour of the city and view the famous sites that inspired J. K Rowling including Greyfriars Kirkyard, a graveyard where you’ll spot many of the character names amongst the headstones, or The Elephant House Cafe where she wrote the earlier books. You can even take the exciting highlands Harry Potter Express train tour.
One thing can definitely be said: Edinburgh loves its festivals and whatever time of the year you go you’re bound to catch something exciting on. The big ones are the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which brings over half a million visitors to the world’s biggest art festival, The Jazz and Blues Festival where you can enjoy music in seriously cool and quirky venues, and The Royal Military Edinburgh Tattoo for an exciting display of bagpipes and choreography from over 48 countries held in the spectacular Edinburgh Castle. The Scottish international Storytelling Festival truly transports you to another world and the Christmas Market and Hogmanay Street party that finish off the year are both legendary.
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Where to stay in Edinburgh [2020 Guide] For first time visitors - Contents
Where to stay in Edinburgh
Never far from the history that permeates the city, Edinburgh is split into 32 small neighbourhoods but the main focus is on the central five districts (about 40 km of the entire 320km of Edinburgh) where everything happens.
There’s great public transport in the city but it’s also the place where it’s a pleasure to walk since everything is so beautiful. None of these main areas is more than a 30-minute walk from the centre. There’s an incredible amount to do in Edinburgh and it’s very much a place that suits everyone from young to old, choosing the right place to stay can be a challenge but this guide will point you in the right direction.
Where to stay in Edinburgh - Stay in Leith for a great foodie scene
If you are on a quest to sample some of the best and most unique traditional Scotish and Brithish food, Leith is the perfect neighborhood for you.
Situated alongside the old harbour area, Leith has a lot to offer in terms of food, cafes and bars.
Why stay in Leith
The food and drink hub of Edinburgh, it has a totally different vibe to the rest of the city that people find difficult to leave. Once a more undesirable area, it's recently become gentrified and is now one of the most eclectic and exciting areas in the city, set beautifully along the waterfront.
Leith offers everything from fine-dining at Michelin star restaurants like The Kitchin and Martin Wishart to cute cafes, artisan coffee houses, and eateries.
It's also one of the more budget places to stay in Edinburgh, and in a good location for getting around the city. Split into Leith Walk and Leith Docks. Leith Walk is lined with shops, restaurants, bars, and independent bookshops.
There are beautiful apartments, mews dwellings, and yachts lining the harbourside. It's also the most multicultural part of Edinburgh and a perfect way to catch a real slice of authentic life in the city.
Things to do in Leith
- Sample one of the many local microbreweries
- Browse contemporary art at The Custom House
- Enjoy a seafood meal on the harbourside
- Browse The Scottish Design Exchange for local crafts and gifts
- Visit the Royal Yacht Britannia and the Queen's cabin
- Shop at Georgian Antiques, the biggest antique store in Scotland
- Eat vegan street food at Leith Market on Saturdays
- Buy books and music at quirky Vinyl Villains, Elvis Shakespeare, and Mcnaughtan's Bookshop
- Drink cocktails in a China Teapot at Roseleaf Bar
Where to Stay in Leith
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Where to stay in Edinburgh - Stay in Stockbridge for the village charm and bohemian vibe
Another fantastic area to walk around and explore in Edinburg during your stay is Stockbridge. A bit more hipster than Leith, offering many great spots to have lunch or an afternoon coffee. At night, it's worth coming back for a pint in one of the pubs.
Why stay in Stockbridge
Just North of the city centre and close to the picturesque Waters of Leith and ancient water mills of Dean Village is a beautiful spot to explore. This residential and lively bohemian neighbourhood is one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Edinburgh, home to artists, poets, and writers.
If you love independent shopping, cute cafes, delis, cheese shops and local breweries you'll be very much at home here. It's a particularly affluent area in the city but has a village feeling which makes the whole area incredible charming.
Once a separate community entirely, it merged with the main city in the 19th century and now boasts many of the most famous restaurants and pubs in the city. The architecture is attractive and suits the arty vibe that the whole district is famous for. An easy place to get lost and see where you end up.
Things to do in Stockbridge
- Enjoy delicious food at the famous Sunday Famer's Market
- Stroll along The Water of Leith, one of the city's most iconic walks
- Catch a literary event or shop at Golden Hare Books
- Visit The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
- Admire the nature at the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh
Where to Stay in Stockbridge
Where to stay in Edinburgh - Stay in the Old Town for the historical centre
The Old Town is the heart of Edinburgh with many tourist attractions, restaurants and bars. The famous Royal Mile starts here and stretching all the way to the New Town.
Mostly recommended for first time visitors, the Old Town can take days to be fully explored.
Why stay in Old Town
There are so many reasons to make this your base while in Edinburgh. Close to all the action and the major tourist attractions, you'll never be short of things to do. In fact, many people find themselves ignoring the rest of the city because they're not done with Old Town yet. It's the most haunted part of Edinburgh and the historical and cultural heart of the city.
Stunning gothic architecture, medieval castles, the city dates back to the 12th century and certainly looks the part. If you like taking pictures, then the cobbled streets and well-preserved buildings will have you truly inspired. You can really explore the heritage of the area here and get lost in the city's long history.
One wonderful thing about the UK is its abundance of free museums and Edinburgh is no exception. The Old Quarter has the most museums in the city and no doubt there's one suited to every type of interest.
The Old Quarter is also home to the city's best nightlife partly due to easy access to The Royal Mile, a buzzing street in the heart of the Old Town. Rows of brightly coloured pubs, bars, restaurants interspersed with tartan shops, reminding you of Scottish culture at every turn. Not just for drinking, The Royal Mile hosts the glorious St Giles Cathedral and just in front is the Heart of Midlothian, the site of the old tax box - it's not uncommon for people to spit on the heart on the way past out of tradition.
Things to do in the Old Town
- Visit Edinburgh's towering castle
- Take a ghost walk of the city
- Try the Mary King's Close tour and learn about the plague
- Enjoy the Royal Mile's Museum of Childhood
- Walk to North Bridge or Calton Hill for incredible city views
- Explore the royal residence of Holyrood House, once home to Mary Queen of Scots
- Visit the National Museum of Scotland
- Be inspired by Scotland's famous authors at The Writer's Museum
- Walk the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle
- Be mind-blown at Camera Obscura, six floors packed with crazy illusions
- Enjoy the Queen's Gallery at the Royal Collection
- Wander the colourful Victoria Street en route to the Grassmarket Neighbourhood
- Take a trip to St. Giles' Cathedral and take the rooftop tour for bird's-eye views of the city
- Tour Pickering's Gin Distillery then drink it on tap at The Royal Dick pub
Where to Stay in the Old Town
Where to stay in Edinburgh - Stay in the Grassmarket Neighborhood for the Medieval market & nightlife
The Grassmarket area is home to the main market of Edinburg since 1477. Although the market is still in operation today, the place is slowing giving space for new developments, restaurants and shops.
If you are after the nightlife scene, you will find pubs and nightclubs in this area with great music and various performances.
Why stay in Grassmarket Neighborhood
Technically part of Old Town and an easy walk between the two, this unique neighbourhood has a long history and is a popular food and drink spot that locals love to gather at.
The Castle itself overlooks the bottom of Grassmarket and it's a beautiful photo spot. Once a medieval market and a public execution spot, it's also become something of an event and nightlife hub area.
You can go wild at clubs like the five floored Espionage or dance the night away in the caverns of Hive or enjoy a traditional night at the vibrant pubs like the Last Drop, or channel your inner Gatsby at glitzy bars like the Dragonfly Cocktail Bar for 20s elegance. Most of the venues in the area host live bands and various performances so if you love nightlife then sending your day on The Royal Mile and the evening here will offer no end of fun.
Things to do in Grassmarket Neighborhood
- Enjoy the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour and drink like your favourite authors
- Learn about the Whisky Process at the Scotch Whisky Experience
- Visit the White Heart Inn, Edinburgh's oldest pub, a favourite of poet Robert Burns
- Go vintage clothes shopping (and maybe find a cheap kilt) at Armstrongs
- Get lost in the shelves of Armchair Books and The Old Town Bookshop
Where to Stay in Grassmarket Neighborhood
Where to stay in Edinburgh - Stay in the New Town for the best shopping experience
The New Town, also known as the City Centre or downtown is a relatively new area. You will find the Parliament and the The Queen's Gallery here.
Upscale shopping streets with restaurants and bars will make your visit more relaxing here.
Why stay in New Town
Near Old Town, this is the part of the city that was rebuilt after the great fire of 1824 that wiped out most of the buildings in the area. It's still very much the heart of the city and is situated under the castle which is a grand view as you exit the main train station.
The New Town is home to the Scottish Parliament, and with its Georgian planning and elegant buildings, you can see why this area is named the ‘Athens of the north.
You'll find most of the city's newer shopping here located on Princes Street, and the Princes Street Gardens are one of the main attractions in the area. For luxury shopping then the Multrees Walk and Jenners' department store are an experience in themselves.
With easy access to Old Town, The Royal Mile, and the pubs of Rose Street mean you'll never be short of exciting things to do.
Things to do in New Town
- Take a tour of Edinburgh's 120 underground caverns and vaults
- Get frightened at the Edinburgh Dungeon
- Laugh the night away at The Stand Comedy Club
- Visit the hidden speakeasy Panda & Sons
- Step back in time at The Georgian House
- Take photos on the olde-worlde Circus Lane
Where to Stay in New Town
Morningside and Bruntsfield
Where to stay in Edinburgh - Stay in the Morningside and Bruntsfield for a Quaint and upmarket area with shops and bistros
A bit further out of the city to the South, Morningside and Bruntsfield is a nice, quiet neighbourhood with many stores, tea and coffee houses and boutique stores.
It's about 30-45 mins walk to the centre or 15 mins ride on the bus.
Why stay in Morningside and Bruntsfield
For an upmarket stay in one of the most quaint and well-to-do neighbourhoods in Scotland then the areas of Morningside and Bruntsfield could be exactly what you're looking for.
Just South of the city centre and brimming with tea shops, bistros, and boutique stores you have everything on your doorstep in this peaceful neighbourhood.
The scenic parks and pretty churches are nicely complemented by the Victorian and Georgian architecture and tree-lined streets of the area.
One of the quietest neighbourhood in the city, it's ideal if you're looking for a relaxing break or like to be away from the bustle of the city while you're' away.
Things to do in Morningside and Bruntsfield
- Visit the award-winning The Edinburgh Bookshop
- Stroll through and have a picnic at The Meadows
- Catch a film at Edinburgh's last family-run cinema at the Streamline Moderne Dominion Cinema
- Visit Morningside Road for local arts and crafts shops
- Purchase local art at The Morningside Gallery
- Drink at The Canny Man named ‘the best pub in the world' and dating back to 1871
- Visit the city's ‘Wild West' street, an old film set hidden in the backstreets
Where to Stay in Morningside and Bruntsfield
We are sure you will love the city, once you decided where to stay in Edinburgh. If this is your first visit, make sure to take a long walk through the street of Edinburgh.
You can also spend half a day visiting the Royal Botanic Gardens Of Edinburgh featuring one of the most well-kept palm houses in the UK.