Edinburgh/New Town

The New Town (so-called) of Edinburgh represents the historical extension of the Scottish capital to the north of the Old Town that occurred during the Georgian Period of the late 18th century. Built on a regular grid pattern, the New Town is Edinburgh's main shopping and commercial district, north of Princes Street Gardens.

Along with the Old Town, the New Town was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1995.

Understand

James Craig's plan for the New Town
Princes Street with the Commencement of the Building of the Royal Institution - Alexander Nasmyth's 1825 view
Moray Place

By the 1700s Edinburgh was becoming increasingly crowded within the walls of the Old Town. The Act of Union with England in 1707 meant that there was no longer a need for the protection of city walls. In 1752, following the collapse of a six storey building, a pamphlet was published proposing an extension to the city. In 1766 a design contest was held to select a design for the extension, the New Town. The contest was won by a young architect, James Craig.

After review by a committee, James Craig's modified plans were accepted by the town council in 1767. This covered the area of Princes St, George St and Queen St, and is essentially the layout that you can see today. It took until 1820 for the building of this area to be completed, with the area initially being mainly expensive homes, with a few public buildings. Homes were built by different builders with the designs having different details. Initially the residents returned to the Old Town for work and to shop in the markets. Charlotte Square at the western end of George Street is the finest of the streets from this phase. The building elevations in Charlotte Square were all designed by the famous architect Robert Adam, and the design of the square is largely unchanged from this era (except for the addition of some dormer windows and one recent building in the original style on a vacant plot).

The northern New Town (north of Queen Street Gardens) was built between 1802 and 1823. This area remains largely unchanged apart for the addition of a few modern shop fronts. Great King Street is the best street to walk along to get the original atmosphere.

Later extensions of the New Town were the Moray Estate, which was designed by James Gillespie Graham in 1822. In this area, Moray Place is a particularly fine complete circle of houses, almost unchanged from the 1800s.

The West End (locally considered separate from the New Town) was built slightly later, with much of the building being in the 1860s and 1870s. A key landmark in this area is St Mary's Episcopal Cathedral, which was built between 1874 and 1917.

Shared private gardens were a major part of the the plans. Some of these (Princes Street Gardens and St Andrew's Square) are now run as public parks. However many remain in private hands, with nearby residents paying a subscription for the gardens maintenance. Queen Street Gardens, the Dean Gardens, and the centre of many squares and crescents are examples of this. In addition many townhouses have private gardens hidden at the rear.

The original area between Princes Street and Queen Street is now mainly used for shops and offices and many of the original buildings have been replaced. The area to the east of St Andrew's Square was redeveloped for the building of the St James shopping centre, and is the only part of the New Town where the original street pattern has disappeared. The rest of the New Town is still mainly residential, although in many cases the original townhouses have been divided into flats.

Get in

Princes Street, National Gallery of Scotland and Calton Hill as seen from the castle

The New Town is right in the centre of Edinburgh. Walk out of the bus or train stations and you are in the heart of the New Town. If you are coming from outside Edinburgh see the Get in section of Edinburgh.

By car

Generally bringing a car into the New Town is best avoided due to the road complexities and the difficulties in finding parking. If you are lucky to find an on street parking space it will cost £3.20 per hour for a maximum of 3 hours. There are two carparks near the east end of Princes Street - St James Centre and nearby Elder St, each costing £3.10 per hour / £15.20 for 24 hours.

By train

Waverley station is right in the heart of the New Town. Haymarket station is on the west edge of the district.

By tram

There are tram stops at Haymarket, West End, Prince Street (near The Mound), St Andrews Square, and the terminus at York Place.

By bus

Most (but not all) Lothian bus routes pass through the New Town. Many of these go along Princes St, and will say so on the destination board. Others may say George St. or Mound.

Get around

Many people are happy to get around by walking, but it is nearly 2 miles between the furthest points in this district. The northern New Town is downhill from the central area.

There are very frequent buses on Princes St., and a reasonable service on Howe St., Dundas St., Leith Walk, Queensferry St., Regent Rd. and Shandwick Place. Trams can also be used to get around, but as there is around 10 minutes between trams it may be better to take more frequent buses.

See

The Scott Monument
Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Building One)
Dean Village

Do

The home of the British Prime Minister? No, just the door of a typical Georgian townhouse in the New Town

Buy

The New Town is home to most of the shopping in Edinburgh, split across a number of distinct areas:

Princes Street

Princes Street marks the southern edge of the New Town, and is the main shopping street in Edinburgh. It runs through the middle of the city from Waverley train station to Lothian Road. It contains large chain stores such as HMV for music, Topshop and H&M for clothes, tourist oriented shops, and department stores.

George Street

George Street houses generally more upmarket shops and boutiques, as well as a number of bars and restaurants. It runs parallel to Princes Street, about 200m to the north.

Multrees Walk

Multrees Walk is at the north-east corner of St Andrew Square, at the east end of George Street. Melt your credit card here.

West End Village

West End Village is centred around William Street and Stafford Street, at the west end of the New Town and only a couple of minute's walk from Princes Street. The area is home to a mix of smaller shops, good for unusual designer (women's) clothes and accessories, and interior design. There's some nice places to eat as well.

Broughton Street

Broughton Street, Boho area, at the north east of the New Town, with a great variety of shops, delis, bars and restaurants. Locals know all about it, visitors often miss it.

Leith Walk

Leith Walk joins Edinburgh to Leith, so the top half is in the New Town, and the bottom half is in Leith. Leith Walk has an amazing variety of independent shops. There is also an array of Polish grocers (Polski Sklep). Locals claim there is nothing you can't buy somewhere on Leith Walk (even if it's illegal!). Have fun trying to prove this wrong!

Eat

Budget

Mid Range

Splurge

Drink

George Street

George Street hosts many of Edinburgh's trendier bars. These tend to be popular with the besuited after work crowd on a Friday. Not traditional Edinburgh bars but probably more typical of modern Edinburgh.

Rose Street

Traditionally this narrower pedestrianised street between Princes St and George St was the street to drink in the centre of town, but it has become less popular as new places have opened elsewhere (mainly on George St). It still has several pubs with long histories, and gets visited by stag and hen parties.

Thistle Street and Young Street

Thistle Street and Young Street, which run parallel to George Street 1 block to the north have an interesting selection of more traditional pubs.

Broughton Street

Broughton Street on the north east side of the New Town has a wide range of bars. Gay, gay-friendly, traditional, trendy, there's at least one bar on Broughton Street to suit all tastes, and many of them also do good food (it's a popular venue for breakfast at the weekend).

Cumberland Street

Cumberland Street runs west-east from Dundas Street to Dundonald Street

West Register Street

Tiny West Register Street is hidden away behind Burger King at the east end of Princes Street. It's well worth seeking out as it is home to several interesting bars.

Sleep

The Balmoral Hotel - the clock is a couple of minutes fast to help travellers catch their trains

Budget

Mid-range

Splurge

Connect

Internet

Go next

Map of central Edinburgh districts


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.