Located in the Lothian region is the city of Edinburgh, the capital and second-most populous city of Scotland as well as the country’s center for education, tourism, government and finance. The historic and vibrant Scottish city is known for its cultural attractions, world-renowned museums and major festivals. Additionally, it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the United Kingdom; Edinburgh ranks second in most visited cities in the U.K., welcoming nearly 5 million visitors yearly.
Figuring out where to stay in Edinburgh depends on the purpose of your visit: are you a first-timer who’s mainly going sightseeing? Or are you arriving in the city for a work trip and would like to stay near where your meetings are? Are you a solo traveler or will you be traveling with your family? Do you have a certain budget for your stay? These are just some of the factors to take into account when planning your trip to the Scottish capital.
Each neighborhood in Edinburgh has its own distinct charm; it really all boils down to your personal preference. To help you make the right decision on where to stay in Edinburgh, we’ve put together this list of top areas to stay in the city and information on what each of them has to offer. Regardless of where you end up staying, you’ll have a more convenient trip if you carry fewer items than needed. Luckily, there are multiple locations for luggage storage across Edinburgh where you can drop off your bags and other belongings.
Old Town - The best area for first-timers and for sightseeing
When thinking about where to stay in Edinburgh, Old Town is almost always the first option that comes to mind. The medieval Old Town is the oldest area of the city and makes up one-half of the Edinburgh City Centre (together with New Town). A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is the best area for first-time visitors because of its central location, which is close to all the most famous landmarks in the city.
Edinburgh Old Town is home to most of the city's major tourist attractions, including the famous Royal Mile. Arguably the most renowned thoroughfare in the city, the historic Royal Mile is the street where you can find the world-famous Edinburgh Castle, the Scottish Parliament and the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen’s official royal residence in Scotland.
Other points of interest and interesting museums found within the Old Town include the National Museum of Scotland, St Giles Cathedral, Camera Obscura, Museum of Childhood and Writers’ Museum. Because the area is popular among tourists, there’s no shortage of places to stay in Edinburgh’s Old Town. Here, you will find a range of accommodation options – from quaint inns and hostels to a five-star luxury hotel.
New Town - The best area to stay in for shopaholics
New Town is the other half of the Edinburgh City Centre and is among the most popular areas in all of the city. Contrary to its name, New Town isn’t actually new; this part of the city has been around since the late 18th century and boasts a fantastic range of neoclassical and Georgian-style buildings and architecture. Because it is centrally located, the New Town area also houses some of the best hotels in the city.
Also a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, Edinburgh New Town has some well-known city landmarks and attractions, including the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, the viewpoint at Calton Hill (where you get incredible views of Princes Street and surrounding areas), the Scottish National Gallery and the Balmoral Hotel (with its iconic clock tower located above the Edinburgh Waverley train station), to name a few.
However, perhaps what New Town is best known for is its abundance of retail options. Considered Edinburgh’s main shopping district, New Town has everything from international chains, department stores, upscale brands and locally-owned boutiques. The most-well shopping destination here is Princes Street, which is home to several local and international shops and even a Jenners department store.
Apart from Princes Street, other buzzing retail destinations within New Town include the Multrees Walk on St. Andrews Square, the St. James Quarter and the Waverley Mall near the Edinburgh Waverley station. After a long day of shopping, head over to George Street, where you will find multiple restaurants and bars.
Stockbridge - The best area to stay in for families
Located north of the city center, just a short walk from New Town, is the small but charming neighborhood of Stockbridge. A former separate community on the Water of Leith, the village merged with the rest of Edinburgh during the 19th century and instantly became one of the most elegant and sought-after districts in the city, with its lovely cobbled streets and magnificent Georgian townhouse architecture.
Despite its proximity to the city center, Stockbridge feels like it's miles away from the city's hustle and bustle. Because of this slow-paced and relaxing vibe, the area has become the ideal choice for locals who want some serenity and for tourists traveling with their families. The neighborhood is also the location of some of Edinburgh’s most renowned family-friendly attractions, including the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh Zoo, the Inverleith Park and the Stockbridge Market.
Accommodations in Stockbridge are plentiful, although there aren't many hotels in the area compared to other parts of the city. Instead, the popular options here are bed and breakfasts and stylish apartments for rent.
Leith - The best neighborhood for foodies
Sitting at the end of Princes Street, approximately 3 miles outside of Old Town, is the historic neighborhood of Leith. Dating back to the 12th century, Leith is the city’s historic port that played a vital role in importing goods into the country. While the neighborhood continues to function as a port, Leith is now more renowned for being one of Edinburgh’s trendiest districts.
The neighborhood has a number of noteworthy landmarks. One of the most popular attractions found in Leith is the Royal Yacht Britannia, a vessel that was used to sail the royal family around the world for more than four decades before being permanently retired at Ocean Terminal. Other points of interest in the neighborhood are the Ocean Terminal Shopping Center and the Leith Walk, one of the longest streets in the city and the main street connecting the port to the central area of the city.
Leith is also a foodie haven; the neighborhood is home to a majority of Edinburgh’s most prominent restaurants, including some Michelin-star recipients. The restaurant scene in the area is extremely impressive and diverse; you can find all types of cuisine from traditional Scottish fare and European cuisine to Mediterranean and Asian flavors.
Accommodations in Leith range from affordable inns to more upscale hotels, making it easy to find a place to stay that falls within your budget.
Grassmarket - The best neighborhood for nightlife
While it is technically part of Edinburgh’s Old Town, the Grassmarket neighborhood boasts a unique atmosphere that makes it stand out on its own. Small but distinct, the district is a well-beloved area among locals and tourists alike. If you like to drink, party and socialize, then Grassmarket is the perfect area for you.
The neighborhood has a long and colorful history; the area was once used as a public execution site and a medieval market before becoming the food and drink destination that it is now. At present, Grassmarket is a nightlife hotspot and is home to a number of Edinburgh’s famous nightclubs, bars and pubs, including the city’s oldest pub - the White Heart Inn.
The neighborhood is also known for offering a range of drink-related tours, such as the Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour, where you can “drink like your favorite authors”, and the tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience, where you get to learn about the history and process of making whisky.
Grassmarket accommodations range from budget-friendly hostels and B&Bs to international boutique hotels such as the Hotel du Vin.
Southside - The best area for discovering hidden gems
For those looking to escape the touristy areas while still having easy access to central Edinburgh, then the Southside area is probably the best option. Sitting just a short distance from the city center, Southside is actually composed of two neighborhoods – namely Bruntsfield and Morningside. The area is the go-to spot for travelers who are looking for a more relaxed cultural experience and wanting to discover some hidden gems while in Edinburgh.
Southside is the perfect place to explore if you’re looking for something more eclectic; the area is filled with vintage shops, artisanal bakeries, ethnic eateries and other independent businesses. Other interesting attractions include the Surgeon's Hall Museum, The Queen’s Hall and the iconic Dominion Cinema, an independent, family-run cinema that has been around since 1939.
The accommodations at Edinburgh range from cheap to expensive, depending on where you decide to stay. There are plenty of low-cost hostels as well as luxury homes and hotels in the area to choose from. Note, however, that Southside is a hub for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which means the prices for accommodation skyrocket during festival season.
Newington - The best area for an authentic "local" experience
If you are looking to get a taste of the authentic local culture, then Newington is your best bet on where to stay in Edinburgh. Conveniently located south of Royal Mile and reachable via a 20-minute stroll, Newington is a serene, active community that feels worlds away from the tourist traps of the city. The area is home to an impressive array of restaurants, cafés and pubs, most of which are frequented only by locals.
One of the things that Newington is known for is its lovely green spaces. The prominent Holyrood Park is found within Newington and is a top hangout spot for locals living in the neighborhood. One of the popular activities to do here is to hike up Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano and the highest point in Edinburgh, where you can get unparalleled views of the city.
Aside from its noteworthy landmarks, Newington is also the venue for two of the city’s biggest events – the Edinburgh Science Festival and the Edinburgh International Magic Festival. Because of its proximity to major city colleges, you can expect the area to get busy during school season. Alternatively, student residences are turned into affordable accommodation during the summer season.
West End - The best area for travelers on a budget
Head west towards the end of Princes Street and you will find yourself in one of Edinburgh’s best kept secrets – West End. The primarily exclusive residential area is known as one of the most affluent neighborhoods in Edinburgh and boasts a great selection of independent boutiques, trendy restaurants, movie theaters and other fine establishments. The West End also encompasses Dean Village, a historic village where milling of water mills once took place.
Despite being branded as the wealthiest part of town, there is another side of West End that most tourists do not know: it is here where you can find some of the cheapest accommodations in all Edinburgh. West End is home to a range of backpacker hostels as well as affordable "aparthotels" that won't break the bank.
It's really no surprise why Edinburgh is one of the UK's most popular tourist destinations; the lovely Scottish capital is a treasure trove of impressive architecture, impressive museums, world-renowned festivals and so much more!
One thing to remember is that the city is compact and most neighborhoods are walking distance from each other or can easily be accessed via public transportation (check out our guide on how to get around Edinburgh to know more). You can take this into consideration when figuring out where to stay in Edinburgh.