Edinburgh remains the best destination in Scotland for discovering the history and culture of the country. Getting around is easy but deciding where to stay in Edinburgh will require a little more planning.
As the capital of Scotland for over five centuries, Edinburgh has grown to encompass some of the surrounding villages and burghs. The skyline provides a glimpse of the mixture of ancient structures and modern developments.
Closer to the ground, you’ll find narrow alleyways leading you to the various little neighbourhoods and main attractions in the city.
Some of these neighbourhoods cater to the younger crowd while others provide access to the city’s top landmarks, such as Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace.
No matter where you go, you’ll find eclectic shops and friendly locals. Every nook and cranny in Edinburgh is interesting and full of surprises.
Staying near the major attractions saves time during your trip. Staying further from the centre allows you to experience local life and explore interesting neighbourhood shops and pubs.
Need help choosing a hotel? Get your search started with this guide to the best places to stay in Edinburgh…
Where to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland: A complete guide to the best neighbourhoods and areas for travellers
Edinburgh is relatively compact but incredibly diverse. The neighbourhoods and districts provide a wide variety of experiences to suit any traveller.
From the medieval buildings in Old Town to the Georgian architecture of New Town and the bustling port of Leith, you have plenty of places to stay.
The most popular tourist areas include the central districts of Old Town and New Town but the city offers many other areas to explore. You may prefer the artsy shops to the west of the central districts or the vibrant nightlife near the port area.
No matter where you stay, you’ll find that Edinburgh offers a lively, upbeat atmosphere. It’s a fun city with many hidden gems to explore.
Some of the best areas to stay in Edinburgh include:
- Old Town
- New Town
- Dean Village
✔ Best area to stay for culture and history
As you may expect, Old Town is where you’ll find some of the oldest buildings in the city. It’s the most iconic area and home to the top things to see & do in Edinburgh.
The district is flanked on the eastern end by Holyrood Palace, where Queen Elizabeth II stays during her trips to the city. On the other side of the district, you’ll see the spires of Edinburgh Castle marking the western edge of Old Town.
Between these two major attractions, you’ll get to explore a wide variety of historic buildings, museums, and galleries. This stretch of the city is called the Royal Mile. As the main tourist area, it’s also full of souvenir shops that sell everything from kilts to tartan blankets.
The old-world charm of this neighbourhood should appeal to architecture enthusiasts. It’s also the best place to stay for first-time visitors as you can easily reach any other spot in the city from this central area.
If you want to visit as many attractions on your Edinburgh itinerary as you can, consider staying in Old Town.
Recommended hotels in Old Town
You have many choices for accommodations in Old Town. It’s the busiest tourist area and provides a large number of small, luxurious hotels. If you decide to stay in this area, start searching for accommodations and book early, especially during the busiest tourist seasons.
- Motel One Edinburgh-Royal: Located on Market Street, this hotel is a short walk from Princes Street Garden, Edinburgh Castle, and many of the other top attractions. The surrounding area includes many small pubs, cafes, and souvenir shops. You’re right in the centre of some of the main tourist traps.
- Radisson Blu Hotel: This hotel is on High Street in the middle of the Royal Mile. It’s a central location, just a block from Tron Kirk and Royal Mile Market. Besides being close to the action, the hotel offers contemporary rooms, an indoor heated swimming pool, and a complete fitness suite.
- The Witchery by the Castle: Walk out the doors and reach the Esplanade in front of the castle within seconds. This hotel was featured in several major magazines. Celebrities have even chosen this location for their Edinburgh vacations. The only drawback is the limited number of rooms.
✔ Best area to stay for sightseers and architectural enthusiasts
New Town is one of the more eclectic neighbourhoods in the city. Despite the name, this district isn’t that new.
It has many historic buildings and great examples of neoclassical architecture. Take a stroll along Princes Street or Castle Terrace Down to see streets lined with photogenic structures.
Parts of New Town have a more bohemian feel with streets full of younger people enjoying coffee and drinks at the various cafes and pubs. At night, it becomes one of the more vibrant parts of the city, rivalling the nightlife in nearby Leith.
New Town is one of the more convenient areas to stay in during a trip to Edinburgh. It’s just north of Old Town with many hotels located one or two blocks from the older district.
Along with history and nightlife, New Town offers a chance to relax. It has several large public parks including the sprawling Queen Street Gardens and Royal Terrace Gardens.
If you’re having trouble deciding where to stay, New Town provides the best mixture of features, including shopping, nightlife, dining, sightseeing, and relaxing gardens.
Recommended hotels in New Town
As with Old Town, New Town has a large selection of some of the best hotels in Edinburgh. You can find everything from hostels to four-star hotels housed inside historic buildings. Almost all the available options are just a short walk from Old Town and Dean Village, allowing you to get around the city quickly.
- Kimpton Charlotte Square Hotel: Located on the western end of New Town, this hotel is just a few metres from Princes Street and George Street. Easily travel between Old Town and New Town. Besides providing a convenient location, this hotel has elegant furnishings and a fridge with complimentary fresh milk.
- Principal Edinburgh George Street: This classy four-star hotel is in the centre of New Town in an 18th-century building. The exterior blends in with the surrounding historic sites including St. Andrews and St. George’s West. The interior was recently refurbished with a combination of traditional and modern décor.
- Frederick House Hotel: This is another four-star option with a central location. It provides convenient access to the rest of the city and comfortable accommodations with all the creature comforts including free WiFi, TVs, and a fridge.
✔ Best area to stay for local seafood and nightlife
Leith was its own village before joining Edinburgh in 1920. It’s the port district located at the Water of Leith and north of Old Town.
As with Old Town and New Town, Leith has many historic attractions with parts of the harbour, which dates back to the 14th century.
Thanks to its seaside location, Leith is known for having the best seafood in the region. You can enjoy local seafood at any number of fancy little bistros along the waterfront. The restaurants in the area offer fresh fish specials based on the catch of the day.
As with many port districts, it also has the liveliest nightlife. The pubs and bars near the waterfront become the busiest parts of the city at night.
The establishments provide a mixture of charming local character and hipster atmosphere. Leith has many traditional Scottish pubs where you’ll find old-timers sipping on whisky along with more modern clubs catering to young locals.
Keep in mind that Leith is further from the centre of the city compared to other neighbourhoods. It’s a 45-minute walk or 25-minute bus ride to Old Town. Luckily, this gives you a chance to get away from the biggest tourist traps.
Recommended hotels in Leith
Leith offers some of the most modest accommodations and hostels. It also has a few luxury apartments and mid-range hotels. Some of the best options are near the waterfront, giving you a view of the port from balcony terraces.
- Malmaison Edinburgh: Located on the banks of the Forth in Leith, this boutique hotel provides an authentic old-world setting with modern features. The building is old but the rooms have luxurious beds, satellite TVs, and CD players to help you relax between sightseeing adventures.
- Holiday Inn Express Edinburgh: This hotel features eccentric modern décor in the rooms and main lounge area, creating a bright and lively atmosphere. It’s also got all the modern comforts that you need to feel at home, including free WiFi, wall-mounted TVs, and USB chargers.
- Rooms at GPO: This hotel is further from the waterfront and closer to Old Town. As it’s not close to any of the major attractions, it tends to offer lower rates. The exterior is rather bland and the rooms are modest but it’s a great location for those who want to see more of the city.
✔ Best area to stay for local culture and boutique shopping
Dean Village is another area that was once its own village before becoming part of Edinburgh. It still retains its own unique atmosphere.
While the previous neighbourhoods have become bustling areas with loads of tourists, Dean Village has a more rural feel. Many of the residential buildings in the area were built in the 19th century and are more spaced out compared to other parts of the city.
Winding your way through this charming village, you’ll get to experience how Edinburgh likely appeared over 100 years ago.
Dean Village has its own collection of interesting attractions, including Dean Bridge. Spanning 136 metres, this lengthy bridge was completed in 1831 and takes you across the Water of Leith to St. Bernard’s Well and Well Court.
Well Court is a set of tenement flats built in the 1880s and featuring a large communal courtyard near the Water of Leith. It was restored about a decade ago and is now open to the public.
This quieter neighbourhood also has streets lined with boutique stores and little coffee shops. It’s a quaint neighbourhood that should appeal to those wanting to experience the local culture.
Recommended hotel in Dean Village
Dean Village is mostly a residential neighbourhood and doesn’t have a lot of options for accommodations. In fact, the village only has about three hotels. This area also tends to get fewer tourists so booking early isn’t always necessary.
- The Bonham: As one of the highest-rated hotels in the area, this option has many features to help it stand out. Enjoy views of the city from any hotel room and authentic Scottish cuisine with a European twist at the on-site restaurant. It’s also just a kilometre from Edinburgh Castle.
- Thistle Hotel: Located on a quiet street inside a historic Georgian building, this three-star hotel is about a kilometre from the shops of Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle. It’s also in the centre of Dean Village, allowing you to explore more of this little neighbourhood.
- Cityroomz Edinburgh: Housed in a historic building and featuring eclectic décor, this hotel is just outside the eastern edge of Dean Village but it’s still within walking distance of Well Court. It’s also a short walk from both New Town and Old Town, making it one of the more convenient three-star hotels.