Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town

Experience the Old Town and New Town at Parliament House

The historic city centre of Edinburgh is split into two distinct parts, the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town. Together they make up a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today we are going to take a look at both areas in more detail and some of the historic attractions you can see during a visit.

The skyline of Edinburgh, viewed from Calton Hill

Interestingly, Parliament House Hotel is rather unique, in that it combines architectural styles from both the Old Town and New Town. Our building is made up of several townhouses, connected together. Numbers 9 to 13 were built in the 1760s, in the tenement style of the Old Town. While number 15 was built in 1908, in the classical style of the New Town. Which makes this a fascinating, quirky place to stay, full of history. Book a room today and explore the history of Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town with us …

The Old Town

The Old Town, as you might have guessed, is the oldest part of Edinburgh. Centred around a street one Scots-mile in length, with royal buildings at either end – Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Hence its name, the Royal Mile. The oldest surviving structure in the Old Town is St Margaret’s Chapel, a tiny church at Edinburgh Castle, which dates from around 1130. The area also encompasses the Grassmarket, Cowgate and West Port.

In medieval times, the town was contained inside city walls, which meant it could only expand upwards, not outwards. So it would have been a dark and over-crowded place to live, with tall tenement buildings and narrow, winding streets. Today, the buildings are not quite as tall as they once were, but the winding streets and many early buildings and landmarks remain. Walking these ancient cobbled streets really does feel like stepping back in time!

Night time, Barrie's Close in Edinburgh's Old Town

For those interested in history, the Old Town is a treasure trove of popular attractions and hidden gems. Here are some our favourite historic attractions in the Old Town, where you can learn more about this fascinating area:

St Giles Cathedral on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh

The New Town

Although it’s called the New Town, it’s not so new anymore. This part of town was built in stages during the 18th and 19th centuries. The area is noticeably different to the Old Town. The streets are straight and wide. The Georgian architecture is very grand, with buildings built in a neo-classical in style, inspired by ancient Greece. In fact, this gave Edinburgh its nick-name, “The Athens of the north”.

The area sits north of the Old Town. Princes Street is the principle street, which lies parallel to the Royal Mile. In between is the beautiful public park, Princes Street Gardens. Other prominent streets in the New Town include George Street, Queen Street, St Andrew Square and Charlotte Square. Also, neighbouring Calton Hill is home to some monuments built in the 18th and 19th centuries, in a similar style.

Looking down Princes Street in Edinburgh

The New Town is filled with statues and impressive landmarks, and is an enchanting area to explore. Here are just some our favourite historic attractions in and around the New Town, where you can discover more:

Statue of Sir Walter Scott, part of the Scott Monument

So, stay at Parliament House and explore the best of the Old Town and New Town. Not only are we within walking distance of both areas, but our hotel building is the perfect marriage of both architectural styles. Take a look at our special offers and book your stay today!