History & Ancient Sites

Edinburgh Old Town Vs. New Town

When you visit Edinburgh, you’ll discover that the city has two different sections: Old Town and New Town. They are different in size and in age. The city’s history began 1,000 years ago when Edinburgh Castle was built upon a volcanic peak. It served as a natural defense against invaders, and the town spread out beneath it.

These early medieval neighborhoods form Edinburgh’s Old Town. The area is a maze of narrow alleys that twist and curve. There are steep staircases leading up to towering, stone structures. Some of the most notable buildings include St. Giles Cathedral, John Knox House, Canongate Kirk, Edinburgh Castle, and the Gothic Assembly Hall. Wander through courtyards and secret gardens tucked into narrow closes off the Royal Mile. If you’re feeling adventurous, tour the ancient, subterranean lanes.

By the mid-18th century, Edinburgh needed revamping. It was overcrowded, becoming a health hazard, and wealthy residents were moving to London. First off, the city’s swamp was filled, and it was planted with various shrubs and trees. It became the Princes Street Gardens, and it’s the dividing line between Old Town and New Town. The building of New Edinburgh began in 1767 and it continued until 1850. The well-to-do moved out of the old city center and were happy in their gracious homes.

Edinburgh’s New Town is considered to be a perfect specimen of Georgian planning. Today, the area retains its charm, and the neighborhoods must be maintained according to the time period’s code. Dozens of aging, private gardens have locked gates, making them mysterious and atmospheric.

Old Town and New Town Edinburgh were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Climb to the top of Calton Hill, and you’ll have a breathtaking view of Edinburgh. It’s the highlight of a memorable Scotland vacation.

Scotland and Ireland are a perfect combination. Ask your Destination Expert about a guided vacation that includes the best of both, from city to country!