Geography

City Centre

People walking down a street with historic buildings in the background.
Edinburgh's Royal Mile.

I felt that I had seen, not one, but two cities - a city of the past and a city of the present - set down side by side, as if for purposes of comparison, with a picturesque valley drawn like a deep score between them.

Hugh Miller, 19th century geologist

Internationally recognised for its history and architecture, Edinburgh's city centre is the political and judicial heart of Scotland, home to the Scottish Government, Scottish Parliament, Supreme Courts of Scotland, and the official residence in Scotland of Queen Elizabeth II. It is one of the key economic drivers of Scotland, supporting over 100,000 jobs, and one of the country's most popular visitor destinations. It is a living city centre, home to 30,000 residents, schools, libraries, and some of Edinburgh's finest parks and green-spaces, including Princes Street Gardens and Calton Hill.

Edinburgh's city centre is made up of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (collectively inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995) and the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The Old Town

The medieval Old Town of Edinburgh features some of Scotland's oldest surviving buildings. At the heart of the Old Town is the Royal Mile, the traditional "spine" of Edinburgh, which climbs from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to Edinburgh Castle. To its south is the lively Grassmarket district, home to many pubs and independent shops as well as CodeBase, the UK's largest tech incubator. Other flagship Old Town attractions include the National Museum of Scotland, the Usher Hall, the Museum of Edinburgh, the National Library of Scotland, the Scotch Whisky Experience, Camera Obscura, and the Edinburgh Dungeon.

The Old Town is home to the Scottish Parliament and the Supreme Courts of Scotland, along with multiple University of Edinburgh facilities and Edinburgh Waverley, the city's principal rail station.

The New Town

The New Town of Edinburgh dates from the late-1700s. Instantly recognisable by its precisely laid-out streets and orderly sandstone Georgian townhouses, the modern day New Town is both a thriving commercial district - with a rich mix of offices, hotels, shops, and restaurants - and a highly desirable residential neighbourhood. The main thoroughfare of the New Town is Princes Street, which features landmarks such as the Scott Monument, the Scottish National Gallery, and the Balmoral Hotel. Other popular New Town attractions include Calton Hill, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the Old Royal High School, and Princes Street Gardens.

Current major investments in the New Town include Edinburgh St James - a transformation of the East End of the New Town that will deliver 79,000 square metres (850,000 square feet) of prime retail and leisure space - and New Town North, a proposed new mixed-use community. 

Other city centre neighbourhoods

The West End of the city centre features period offices, boutique hotels, independent shops, and elegant bars. Landmarks include the former Donaldson's School, now a high quality residential development.

The Exchange District is Edinburgh's bustling central business district, home to many of the city's modern office buildings (including the headquarters of Scottish Widows) and to the Edinburgh International Conference Centre, the city's world-class conference venue. Two flagship developments underway in the area - The Haymarket Edinburgh and Exchange Place 2 - will deliver significant new modern office space and hotel bedrooms. The area is serviced by Haymarket rail station and Edinburgh Trams.

Dean Village and Stockbridge are two popular residential neighbourhoods to the northwest of the New Town. Dean Village features characterful homes alongside the Water of Leith, as well as the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Stockbridge is a bohemian neighbourhood known for its many independent shops and eateries, along with Raeburn Place, the world's oldest international rugby ground.

Quartermile is a new neighhourhood on the site of the former Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh. It features luxury flats and modern office space popular with tech companies, along with the University of Edinburgh's new £120 million Edinburgh Futures Institute.  

George Square is the main campus of the University of Edinburgh. Among its facilities are the University's Main Library, the Informatics Forum (home to the University's School of Informatics), and the Bayes Centre (the University's artificial intelligence and data science hub), along with the McEwan Hall, the University's ceremonial graduation hall.

Fountainbridge is an emerging neighbourhood in a former industrial area on the southwestern edge of the city centre, adjacent to the Union Canal. It features a mix of traditional and modern residential uses, student accommodation, and modern offices, along with Boroughmuir High School (one of Scotland's finest state schools), Fountain Park leisure centre, and the Edinburgh Printmakers cultural hub. Massive investment currently underway by Moda Living, Vastint, and the City of Edinburgh Council is delivering hundreds of new homes along with new office space and retail space.

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