Home > Best Places to Stay in Edinburgh
Updated: December 29, 2019
The Best Areas To Stay in Edinburgh
There is no single “best” neighborhood to stay in Edinburgh, and since most of the main attractions are within walking distance of each other, you can easily stay in several different neighborhoods without missing out on the sights. Edinburgh’s “downtown” comprises of Old Town – the city’s medieval heart – and New Town, separated from Old Town by the main thoroughfare of Princes Street, with easy tram connections from the airport to the Edinburgh Waverley train station and bus routes to all corners of the city. While most attractions are concentrated in and around Old Town and New Town, there are some further out that can easily be reached by efficient public transport.
Similarly, while Old Town and New Town have the lion’s share of accommodations, Edinburgh’s best hotels are not focused in one neighborhood, and it’s easy to find great lodgings for all budgets in several different areas.
The historic Old Town comprising Edinburgh’s most famous street – the partially-pedestrianized Royal Mile, which runs from Edinburgh Castle to the Holyrood Palace, sits on a hill above New Town and is as central as it gets. A number of museums and other attractions aside, there’s excellent and diverse dining here for every budget and plenty of bars and pubs to discover in the tiny lanes branching off the Royal Mile. There are several excellent high-end hotels here, as well as mid-range options, and even a couple of budget picks just down the hill. It’s a very walkable neighborhood, with attractions in New Town and Southside within easy strolling distance, and handy public transport connections from Princes Street down the hill to other parts of Edinburgh. This area is excellent for families due to its proximity to attractions.
Just north and downhill of Old Town, New Town is also super-central, with excellent transport connections, wide streets lined with handsome Georgian architecture and high-end boutiques, and narrow lanes dotted with cafes and bars. The Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery are the main sights here, and there’s a greater selection of mid-range and budget accommodations (including some chains), as well as several luxury hotels. Edinburgh Waverley train station is located here, with links to London, Glasgow, and other major cities.
Dean Village, a 10-minute walk or short bus ride northwest of New Town, is a slice of village tranquility just minutes away from the bustling city center, with cobbled streets and a riverside path bordering the Water of Leith. Accommodation is scarce: there are several mid-range hotels here and one high-end option. Dining options are non-existent but there are plenty of restaurants to choose from in nearby New Town.
A little further north of Dean Village, Stockton is a 15-minute downhill walk from New Town. A former village absorbed into the city, it offers a slice of authentic Edinburgh life alongside a smattering of decent cafes, restaurants, and pubs. Buses run frequently to New Town and to Leith.
Leith is Edinburgh’s port, furthest out from the center but with good bus connections to New Town. Besides Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia, it has a lively restaurant and bar scene along with a handful of mid-range hotels.
Southeast of Old Town and an easy stroll from the main attractions is Southside, home to the University of Edinburgh. Further south is the largely residential Newington; both have convenient access to Holyrood Park and the hiking destination of Arthur’s Seat, and there are a few B&Bs and mid-range chain hotels here. Further south still, Prestonfield is an exclusive residential neighborhood that’s home to Edinburgh’s best-known luxury hotel.
Southwest of Old Town, Bruntsfield and Morningside are also largely residential, with more bargain accommodations (mostly B&Bs) but less convenient for sightseeing.
The Best Places to Stay in Edinburgh
Best Areas in Edinburgh for…
- Best Areas in Edinburgh for Sightseeing: Old Town, New Town, or Southside
When it comes to sightseeing, Old Town has the easiest access to Edinburgh’s biggest attractions – Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyrood, and National Museum of Scotland. That said, New Town is an easy walk away and benefits from better shopping and easier transport links to Leith (and Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia) and the airport. From Southside, the Old Town attractions are also easily reachable on foot, plus it’s closer to Holyrood Park (for Arthur’s Seat) and has easy bus connections to New Town and Leith.
- Best Areas in Edinburgh for Nightlife: New Town, Old Town, Or Southside
Edinburgh doesn’t lack live music bars, arts venues, and theaters, and there are several areas where there’s a good concentration of nightlife venues. In Old Town, catch live jazz, blues, funk, and more at the Jazz Bar; nightly folk music at Sandy Bell’s, or hit the dance floor at Cabaret Voltaire or The Bongo Club. In New Town, head to the Traverse Theatre for challenging, contemporary drama; the Jam House for live R&B, soul, swing and more; indulge in cocktails at Tigerlily, Tanic, The Bon Vivant, and The Bramble Bar; or hit The Oxford Bar for real ales. In Southside, there are numerous watering holes to suit diverse tastes, both off the main South Bridge thoroughfare and the surrounding side streets. There’s Brewdog and its craft beer, folk music at The Royal Oak, gin cocktails at 56 North, and a wonderful beer garden at The Royal Dick Bar.
- Best Areas in Edinburgh for Food and Restaurants: New Town, Old Town, or Leith
There are three main foodie areas in Edinburgh. Old Town has its share of acclaimed restaurants, from the Modern Scottish cuisine of the award-winning The Witchery by the Castle and Angels with Bagpipes to Scottish classics paired with whisky at Amber and Whiski Rooms, as well as high-end Italian restaurants, Indian-style tapas places, French bistros, and organic delis. The New Town dining scene is also impressively diverse: destination restaurants such as 21212 and Le Roi Fou sit alongside the charcoal grill and Middle Eastern meze of Baba, Scottish cooking enhanced by the use of foraged ingredients at Forage and Chatter, innovative Thai at the stylish Time 4 Thai, plus meze bars, seafood restaurants, and high-quality, wallet-friendly chains such as Dishoom and Wagamama. Leith also has its share of acclaimed restaurants – from the Michelin-starred take on Scottish cuisine at The Kitchin and elegant French cooking at Restaurant Martin Wishart to farm-fresh brunches at Ostara and several other sleek bistros. In Leith, there’s an added bonus of river views, as many of the restaurants overlook the Water of Leith.
- Best Areas in Edinburgh for Families: Old Town, Stockbridge, or Morningside
Family-friendly accommodations can be found all over Edinburgh, so it depends whether you want to have the main attractions – including the child-friendly Edinburgh Castle, Dynamic Earth, Museum of Childhood, and the National Museum of Scotland – on your doorstep, or whether you’d prefer to be further out, away from the crowds and with plenty of green spaces where the kids can play. For the former, Old Town is absolutely ideal; for the latter, tranquil Stockbridge with its proximity to the Royal Botanic Garden, or relaxed Morningside with its family-run cinema and plenty of child-friendly cafes fit the bill.
- Best Areas in Edinburgh to Stay for First Timers: Old Town or New Town
If it’s your first time in Edinburgh, then Old Town is the best neighborhood to base yourself in. It’s as central as can be, just a few minutes’ walk from the trams of Princes Street and Edinburgh Waverley train station, and features many of Edinburgh’s must-see attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood. It’s also the center of action during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, has restaurants and bars to suit all tastes, and a full range of accommodations for all budgets. New Town is also a great option since it’s just a short walk from Old Town, and is great for public transport connections, drinking, dining, and lodgings.
- Most Romantic Areas in Edinburgh: Old Town or Prestonfield
Charming historic and luxury hotels, enchanting restaurants, and romantic things to do are easy to find in Old Town. The largely pedestrianized Royal Mile and the narrow lanes that branch off it lend themselves well to strolls with your other half, and there is no shortage of atmospheric hotels, such as Witchery by the Castle, or excellent dining. Tranquil Prestonfield may lack in attractions, but its hotel, Prestonfield House, is frequented by royalty and celebrities and is an ultimate romantic destination in itself.
- Best Areas in Edinburgh for a Local Vibe: Southside, Stockton, or Morningside
It’s hard to get more ‘local’ than Stockton, with its tranquil village feel and plenty of character – from the lively farmers’ market, second-hand shops, and pubs on the main street to the annual rubber duck race on the Water of Leith. Bruntsfield & Morningside is another good choice, with its strong literary links, classic neighborhood pubs, and independent boutiques. Finally, Southside has an edgy, youthful vibe to it, thanks to the proximity of the University of Edinburgh, and you can rub shoulders with local students at inexpensive bars, ethnically diverse eateries, and specialty coffee shops.
- Safest Area of Edinburgh
Edinburgh is a compact and generally safe city and its safest neighborhoods tend to be the most affluent ones. Old Town, New Town, Dean Village, Stockton, Southside, Newington, and Prestonfield are safe to walk around any time of the day.
- Unsafe Area of Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s roughest and most economically deprived neighborhoods are Muirhouse, Granton, and Pilton, west of the Leith port area, as well as Niddrie, east of Prestonfield; all are outside the main tourist areas. It’s a good idea to exercise caution in parts of Leith late at night as well.
The 7 Best Neighborhoods in Edinburgh for Tourists
1. Old Town
On a hill above New Town and centered on the Royal Mile – Edinburgh’s most famous historic street – Old Town is the most atmospheric part of the city. Besides the medieval architecture and tiny lanes hiding eccentric museums and excellent bars, most of Edinburgh’s must-see attractions are concentrated in this part of town: Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyrood are found at either end of the Royal Mile, with the Scottish Parliament Building, Museum of Edinburgh, Writers’ Museum, and Museum of Childhood in between. There’s a diverse and excellent dining scene here and numerous accommodations to suit all budgets, and in spite of Old Town’s popularity during the day, at night the neighborhood is quiet. During the Edinburgh fringe festival in August, the Royal Mile is inundated with actors and street performers.
2. New Town
Just to the north of Edinburgh Waverley train station and downhill (and separated) from historic Old Town by Princes Street Gardens, New Town is an attractive grid of wide streets lined with Georgian and Neoclassic architecture and smaller pedestrian lanes where you’ll find some excellent cafes, pubs, and bars. Flanked by an attractive square at either end, George Street is renowned for its high-end fashion boutiques, and its adjacent streets feature some of Edinburgh’s best dining. Neighborhood attractions include the Scottish National Gallery, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, and the imposing Gothic Scott Monument that looms above Princes Street. Princes Street is also Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare, with its trams connecting the city center to Edinburgh Airport.
A 15-minute walk northwest of New Town, the former outlying village of Stockbirdge retains a low-key community feel while being within easy walking distance of many of Edinburgh’s main attractions. Largely residential Stockbridge’s accommodations are few but high quality, and it is centered around the main Raeburn Place high street which is lined with delis, cafes, charity shops, and pubs. There’s a lively farmers’ and street food market by the Water of Leith on Sundays, and the Royal Botanic Garden is just a short walk north.
Sitting on the shores of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh’s port dates back to the 14th century. Besides the HMY Britannia – Her Majesty’s yacht turned museum – the lively port area is short on attractions but big on atmosphere. Where the Water of Leith flows into the Albert Dock Basin, the tangle of narrow streets is lined with a mix of old and contemporary architecture and features some of the city’s best restaurants such as The Kitchin, Restaurant Martin Wishart, and The Ship on the Shore. There are some excellent cocktail, ale, and whisky bars along the shores of the Water of Leith, too, as well as a lively market on Saturdays and pre-loved and vintage stores along Leith’s Walk. The attractions of central Edinburgh are easily reachable via buses #22 and #36.
5. Dean Village
With its quaint cobbled streets, age-old, creeper-covered houses, and the slow-flowing Water of Leith beneath beautiful stone bridges, this former grain-milling village is a world away from the bustle of central Edinburgh while being only 10 minutes on foot from New Town. It’s a quiet and largely residential neighborhood and a pleasure to explore on foot, with a couple of attractions of its own, including the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art and the peaceful riverside path that meanders west. The nearest dining options are in New Town.
6. Southside, Newington, & Prestonfield
Adjacent to each other, Southside and Newington are located south of Old Town and are bisected by the main thoroughfare of South Bridge that becomes S Clark St and then Newington Road. The two neighborhoods are flanked by the vast, hilly Holyrood Park to the east, popular with hikers and home to Edinburgh’s famous vantage point of Arthur’s Seat. The University of Edinburgh is located in this part of town and there’s a youthful feel to the many bars, coffee shops, and ethnic eateries that dot the two neighborhoods. Just to the south of Holyrood Park is Prestonfield, one of Edinburgh’s most exclusive residential neighborhoods, complete with the city’s most famous hotel. Neighborhood attractions include the National Museum of Scotland, Surgeons’ Museum, and the Anatomical Museum, while the Royal Mile and New Town are a longish walk or easy bus ride away.
7. Bruntsfield & Morningside
Southwest of Old Town, the adjoining neighborhoods of Bruntsfield and Morningside have a trendy village vibe to them, at once low-key and hip. Though largely residential and upmarket in character, they have their share of good cafes, restaurants, and legendary pubs, and Morningside has gained literary fame through the characters of Maisie the Cat and Miss Jean Brodie. You’ll find plenty of vintage stores here, and Morningside is also home to the only family-run cinema in town – the art deco Dominion. Numerous buses connect Morningside Road/Bruntsfield Place to New Town.