Edinburgh’s New Town, the centre of the Enlightenment

The Neoclassical architecture around the New Town inspired the city’s nickname Athens of the North.

The centre of the Enlightenment

Your visit to Edinburgh might start in the Old Town, but make sure to check out the New Town as well, built during the 18th century as a result of the Scottish Enlightenment. Here, you can roam the streets that were once home to the wealthy intellectuals of the city, who moved here to escape the overcrowded Old Town.

You will see examples of Neoclassical architecture around the New Town that inspired the city’s nickname at the time, the ‘Athens of the North’. You might also notice that it is designed around a symmetrical, geometric plan, in accordance with the Enlightenment philosophy of rationalism.

Due to the contrast with the Old Town, the two areas were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995.

Georgian House in Edinburgh

Spaces to relax

As well as the beautiful architecture to admire, you will also find plenty of green areas to relax in around the New Town. Take a wander through Princes Street Gardens, built on a the former site of a loch, and have a look at The Mound, the artificial hill connecting the Old and New Town.

Around the Gardens, you can also admire the Scott Monument, or visit the Scottish National Gallery, home to the country’s largest collection of fine art.

You can also take a walk up Calton Hill, at the east end of the New Town, which has various monuments on top to see. Don’t miss the National Monument, an unfinished replica of the Athenian Parthenon!

From Calton Hill, you can also take in some of the best views of Edinburgh, including the Old and New Towns, and Holyrood Park.

New Town of Edinburgh

The city’s best shopping

If you want to do some shopping in Edinburgh, the New Town is the place to go. Princes Street and Rose Street are home to many large, international brand names, and nearby on Multrees Walk, you can find several designer outlets.

And while shopping, you can enjoy amazing views of the Old Town, as Princes Street has no buildings along one side of the street!

You’ll also find many excellent pubs and restaurants in the New Town, particularly on Rose Street, and you can continue on into the night at the many bars and clubs located on George Street.

New Year Eve in the New Town of Edinburgh

Access the rest of the city

From the New Town, you can easily begin exploring the north of Edinburgh, which has plenty more to see!

Check out Stockbridge, one of the most interesting neighbourhoods to explore, especially its Sunday morning farmers’ market. Nearby, you will also find the Royal Botanic Gardens, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

You can even venture further afield, by following the Water of Leith, a river crossing the north of Edinburgh, with a walkway next to it, which is just a 15 minute walk from the New Town.

You can follow this all the way to Leith, another exciting area to explore, and home to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

Edinburgh's New Town


The New Town is right in the centre of Edinburgh, the area surrounded by Princes Street Gardens, Queen Street Gardens, Calton Hill and the West End.

Get directions to Edinburgh's New Town.

Find many more curiosities and anecdotes about Edinburgh in our tours around the city.