Old Town

This is where Edinburgh began, 900 years ago and the area still has many of the city's major tourist sites. Its spine is the Royal Mile, a medieval thoroughfare stretching for about a few miles from Edinburgh Castle downhill to the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Filling the gap between New Town and Old Town, the verdant Princes Street Gardens offers a sloping meadow speckled with trees and flower beds. The 29 acre west gardens and the nearly nine acre east gardens, collectively known as the Princes Street Gardens, play host to picnics and concerts, especially during Hogmanay. And from late November to early January, the gardens are transformed into a Winter Wonderland, replete with an ice skating rink, a Christmas market, a huge Ferris wheel and a number of winter theme plays. Splitting the Princes Street Gardens, The Mound is an artificially raised area, which now supports the National Gallery of Scotland, the Royal Scottish Academy, the Bank of Scotland and the General Assembly Hall of the Church of Scotland. The city's main transportation hub, the Waverley Train Station, is also located here.

Connecting the Edinburgh Castle to the west and the Holyroodhouse Palace to the east, the Royal Mile spans four streets and is known for its overflow of historical attractions. Along the Royal Mile is the new Scottish Parliament building, the 17th century St. Giles Cathedral, the Witches' Well, a cast-iron fountain that memorializes 300 alleged witches who were burnt to death at the stake in the 16th century as well as numerous wynds and closes plentiful with pubs, restaurants and shops.

Located to the south of the Royal Mile in Old Town, the Grassmarket and Cowgate areas are known for their compilation of pubs, clubs and live music venues.

New Town

Situated north of Old Town, New Town is perhaps the pinnacle of Scottish Enlightenment, the squares and streets, created in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, have an unparalleled Georgian elegance. New Town is made up of a network of squares, streets, terraces, and circuses, reaching from Haymarket in the west almost to Leith Walk in the east. New Town also extends from Canonmills in the north to Princes Street, its most famous artery, on the south. This is an area for walking and gawking. At its southern extent, Princes Street, running parallel to the boundary-forming Princes Street Gardens, is New Town's main attraction. A shopping street with British department stores like Marks and Spencer, and Scottish specialty stores such as Jenners, Princes Street also affords views of Edinburgh Castle and the Princes Street Gardens.

Just a couple of blocks north of Princes Street is George Street, another shopping district, which is filled with high end boutiques, independent shops, pubs and cafés. On the west end of the street lies Charlotte Square, which holds the St. George's Church-turned-West Register House, where you can find your family crest. If you meander the other way on George Street, you'll run into St. Andrew Square, which shelters the department store, Harvey Nichols, the Melville Monument, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and the start of the Edinburgh financial district.

South Edinburgh

With the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links, then Blackford Hill and the Braid Hills ebbing towards the Pentlands, South Edinburgh doesn't lack for green spaces. It's also home to some attractive neighborhoods - Bruntsfield, Marchmont, Morningside - and some of the city's more exclusive streets. South Edinburgh is populated by much of the city's younger set since it houses several universities.

West Edinburgh

The West End can be thought of as the city's cultural center, as it boasts many of the city's arts venues such as Usher Hall, The Filmhouse, the Royal Lyceum and the Traverse Theatre. The Village hosts art festivals and crafts fairs. The northern half of West End lies in Edinburgh's World Heritage Site, this area of the city contains many buildings of great architectural beauty, primarily long rows and crescents of Georgian terraced houses. Further west of the city center, are the Edinburgh Zoo, the Murrayfield Rugby Stadium, as well as the Union Canal, which links to more than 32 miles of waterways perfect for boating along or walking beside. Haymarket centers on the railway station (an alternative to Waverley for travelers to and from Glasgow or places much further north).

Leith and the Coast

Edinburgh's centuries-old port town, Leith is just about a mile north of Princes Street and rests on the bank of the River Forth and is the city's major harbor, opening onto the Firth of Forth. It's been transformed since the 1980's and is now a center for fine dining and café-bars. Like its coastal neighbors Granton and Newhaven, it's undergoing massive residential development; further east, Portobello is the city's beach suburb.