Exploring Edinburgh's Neighbourhoods
From natural beauty to much-loved city attractions via some one-of-a-kind locations, we take a tour around Edinburgh's neighbourhoods
Edinburgh is a city of contrasts – old and new, urban and leafy, lively and tranquil. Luckily, it manages to pack this diversity into an extremely walkable format, allowing you to flit between its various faces fairly easily. With that in mind, we’ve put together a whistle-stop trail across the city to highlight what makes its neighbourhoods stand out.
We’ll start in Corstorphine in the west of the city, where a woodland walk up Corstorphine Hill – one of seven across Edinburgh – offers an excellent vantage point across the city. Back on ground level, head to Edinburgh Zoo for an enormous range of wildlife and educational exhibits. Check out the recently-added giraffes, then look out for the Giraffe About Town art trail as you continue through the city.
Heading towards town, Gorgie and Dalry offer a mix of much-loved local institutions and new favourites. There’s a thriving food scene on Dalry Road, with organic supermarket Locavore handling the produce and Pizzeria 1926 serving the city’s best pizza. Love Gorgie Farm – free, and open 7 days a week – offers the chance to get up close and personal with some farmyard critters, and the Union Canal celebrates its 200th birthday with Edinburgh Art Festival activity throughout August.
On the other side of the canal you’ll find Bruntsfield and Morningside, areas with a community feel and some pleasingly strange touches. There’s nothing else in the city quite like the Wild West Street (pictured above), a set of cowboy-inspired façades off Morningside Road that look like they’ve fallen out of a Sergio Leone western. Bruntsfield offers some great independent shopping and eating – Thorne Records offer a huge selection of vinyl and Artisan Roast brews excellent coffee.
Tollcross borders the Old Town, but it has a character all of its own. A pair of Edinburgh institutions anchor the area – the century-old Cameo Cinema with its ornate columns, and the King’s Theatre, open since 1905 and now features a John Byrne artwork in its domed ceiling. The West End strikes a nice balance between bucolic scenery and city centre action. The Dean Village is a photographer’s dream, and a walk down the Water of Leith will lead you to the excellent Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art; Cairngorm Coffee on Melville Place will sort you out with an excellent flat white, and some of the city’s finest tacos can be found at Taco Libre on Shandwick Place.
The New Town and Stockbridge (pictured) are two neighbourhoods which work excellently as a pair. Explore the cobbled streets and Georgian architecture of the New Town, heading downhill from Princes Street until you’re rewarded with the cafes, bars and boutiques of Stockbridge. Visit on Sundays and you’ll find Stockbridge Market, with a huge range of artisan food and drink to peruse; Inverleith Park nearby is a great place to chill out, and the Royal Botanic Gardens across the road is full of incredible plantlife.
Keep heading north and you’ll arrive in Leith, a hugely diverse neighbourhood with enough activity to fill an article all by itself, but a couple of highlights sum up its enduring appeal. Leith Theatre opened its doors 90 years ago, and after community action and work by Hidden Door Festival and the Edinburgh International Festival, it’s now one of the crown jewels of the city’s music scene. Down the street, Alby’s has established itself as one of Edinburgh’s best lunch spots in recent years – their doorstop-esque hot sandwiches are ideal fuel for exploring.
At this point you have a choice – head left and you can check out South Queensferry, home to the iconic UNESCO heritage site Forth Bridge and the new Queensferry Crossing, stopping for an excellent burger at Canadian diner Down The Hatch at Port Edgar. Go right from Leith and you’ll reach Portobello. The seaside suburb has an excellent beach (pictured above) with a reinvigorated promenade and a thriving artistic community. Returning to the city, the Southside’s mix of communities from around the world make it something of a foodie haven. You’ll find excellent family-run restaurants serving Korean, Thai, Indian and Chinese dishes at incredible prices; head over to the Meadows for a lie-down on the grass afterwards.
Our neighbourhood trail finishes in the heart of the Old Town. For a more continental feel, go to the Grassmarket with its buzzy outdoor bars, independent boutiques and excellent ice cream at Mary’s Milk Bar, all in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. For a closer view of some of the city’s most iconic buildings, spend some time on the Royal Mile. The street takes you from the Castle and St Giles’ Cathedral to the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Park. At the foot of the Mile and discover the natural beauty of the Crags and Arthur’s Seat. Climb to the top and you’ll be met with an incredible view across Edinburgh… ideal for planning where to go next.
Explore 13 of Edinburgh’s unique neighbourhood areas. Plan your visit at edinburgh.org/neighbourhoods