Welcome to the website of Edinburgh Old Town Association, which is for anyone interested in the historic heart of Edinburgh, so please explore...

Read our views on:
Demise of the Old Town Community Council, community green spaces, closed path in Princes Street Gardens (again), party flats and A-boards, family firms, St Cecilia's Hall 250th anniversary, owl and pussycat in Cockburn Street and many other topics in recent newsletters.

Edinburgh Old Town

The Old Town of Edinburgh runs from the Castle in the west to Holyrood Palace in the east and from Princes Street Gardens in the north to the University of Edinburgh in the south and covers the extent of the city until its expansion in the 18th century. Below are some notes on things to do drafted by people who live there. There are also the 'obvious' attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, St Giles Cathedral and Holyrood Palace.

Things to do in Edinburgh

If you don't know Edinburgh at all, an open-top bus tour will give you your bearings, an idea of the city's topography and an introduction to its history. There are several different tours, including one concentrating on the World Heritage Site; tours start at Waverley Bridge. The Old Town is best explored on foot and there are many walking tours competing for your custom; many focus on the ghoulish side of Edinburgh's history, so choose with care. Try the Enlightenment Tour of the Royal Mile or the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour which combines literature with alcohol every evening.

Art & Culture

Permanent national collections and consistently excellent temporary exhibitions at the National Gallery of Scotland (don't miss the Impressionists on the first floor towards the rear) and the National Museum of Scotland (if the artefacts get too much, chill out in the roof garden). The City Art Centre hosts exhibitions from around the world or drawn from the city's collections. There are also the Writers' Museum, Lady Stair's Close, off the Lawnmarket (displays about Robert Burns, Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson); the Museum of Childhood, High Street (nostalgia for adults); the Museum of Edinburgh, Canongate (development of the city), The People's Story, Canongate (social history of Edinburgh) and exhibitions at the National Library of Scotland. The Queen's Gallery at Holyrood has exhibitions featuring the treasures of the royal collection. The Dovecote Tapestry Studios in Infirmary Street has exhibitions of crafts and design as well as being a fascinating example of the reuse of a Victorian swimming baths.

Nature and Gardens

Climb Arthur's Seat (our own volcano). Relax in Princes Street Gardens or many of the small green spaces tucked down closes. Greenyonder Tours do walking tours of city centre gardens. The kirkyards at Greyfriars Kirk and Canongate Kirk are also worth visiting; both have good views, greenery and interesting monuments.

Architecture and Topography

Wander down the Royal Mile from Castle to Palace, climb Calton Hill for the panorama of the Old Town (for even better views climb the Nelson Monument, not free). Admire the 105 marbles of the Scotsman Steps between North Bridge and Market Street (for a list see page 9 of the September 2011 Newsletter). The quad of the monumental Old College (Robert Adam and William Playfair) is open to the public. On weekdays, the public may enter Old Parliament Hall (behind St Giles, free) and mingle with the lawyers while admiring the 1638 timber roof; you may even sit in on a trial (ask at the desk). Guided tours of the Scottish Parliament are free but must be booked in advance.

Science & Technology

The National Museum of Scotland has natural history, science and technology in a stunning building (just given a £46 million make-over). The Museum on the Mound (history of banking – go and see if it has been brought up-to-date!) and the Museum of Surgery in Surgeon's Hall (not for the squeamish!) give a different view of Edinburgh.

Explore further by checking out books on the Old Town, or find out about us, even join us...