One of the most iconic and photographed places in Edinburgh is the stunning Old Town- home to Edinburgh Castle, the Grassmarket, Holyrood Palace, numerous museums and the Scottish Parliament to name but a few. It is a vibrant and bustling place- particularly in the summer months when the Fringe is in full swing and the streets are buzzing with city dwellers and tourists galore. If you’re planning a couple of days in Edinburgh then the Old Town is definitely a good place to start, with so much history and sites to explore.
Not far from the Castle, is the colourful and lively Grassmarket. Originally, the Grassmarket was a marketplace for horse and cattle and then in the early 19th century it became renown for its public executions. There is still a market area there today selling an array of foods, clothes and other necessities. Victoria Street, just up from the Grassmarket, was also the main inspiration for J K Rowling’s Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter Series. It is also home to a number of boutiques, art shops and pubs.
Some of my favourite indie shops around the Old Town include The Red Door Gallery (find out more here), Godiva – a lovely vintage clothes store, Ij Mellis Cheesemonger – the cheese shop of dreams and Armchair Books (find our more here).
There are also some great pubs in this area of the Old Town including The Last Drop, The Wee Pub and Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar. If you’re heading to this latter bar, be sure to stop by Greyfriars Bobby’s monument and rub Bobby’s nose for good luck!
There are so many incredible (and free) museums to visit in Edinburgh Old Town that it’s difficult to pick just a few to recommend here. For science lovers, the National Museum of Scotland is worth stopping by, if you’re into literature than the Writers’ Museum is well worth the visit and if history is more your thing than stop by John Knox’s House or even the National Library. You could easily spend a weekend just going around all the museums but these are perhaps some of the best picks that Edinburgh Old Town has to offer!
I will be completely honest and say that this is definitely not my favourite building look-wise from the outside. However, it is brilliant that you can enter the Scottish Parliament and watch sessions in progress and learn a little about the history of the Scottish government. The inside of the building is really spectacular- it’s light, airy and architecturally stunning. It is open throughout the week and is definitely worth popping into, especially if you have an interest in politics and/or history.
The Royal Mile
There are so many points of interest along the Royal Mile that it’s worth walking from the very top to the bottom of this historical road. Start by the castle, which is so majestic and always a hive of activity, boasting beautiful views of the city. Then have a wander down, past the Edinburgh boutiques selling cashmere scarfs, touristy nick-nacks and the like and have a look at the many beautiful closes of Edinburgh Old Town. If you want to pick up some Scottish shortbread or other Scottish gifts than Thistle Do Nicely is quite a good option (fairly good quality and not too expensive) and the Fudge Kitchen is well worth popping into. Not only do they do free fudge samples but they also make the most incredible fudge and you can see the chefs making it at the back of the shop! The Scottish Parliament Building, Holyrood Palace and Arthur’s Seat are right at the bottom of the Royal Mile which are all absolutely worth exploring.
Other places that I would definitely recommend if you have a bit more time include; The real Mary Kings’ Close and some of the many art galleries. There are some absolutely gorgeous cafes and restaurants dotted along the Royal Mile which are definitely worth a visit too!