A guide to Edinburgh's New Town

  • Edinburgh Guide
  • 16 February 2011
A guide to Edinburgh's New Town

Charlotte Square

The largest example of Georgian town planning in the world

Sitting elegantly to the north of Princes Street Gardens is Edinburgh’s grand and leafy New Town, the largest example of Georgian town planning in the world, which provides a well-ordered contrast to the chaos of the city’s medieval Old Town.

Despite its name the area dates back to 1766, when a competition was held to design a new area to alleviate overcrowding and house the city’s wealthier residents. The simple, symmetrical grid layout of 27-year-old architect James Craig’s winning design means the New Town a is still easy to navigate on foot - the best way to get a feel for the opulent neo-Classical architecture that gave Edinburgh its ‘Athens of the North’ reputation.

Start off in Charlotte Square - designed by Robert Adam and now home to the city’s annual International Book Festival in August - then prepare for a spending spree down Princes Street or the more exclusive George Street, once the capital’s main financial district and now home to a number of upmarket shops, bars, restaurants and clubs. Then on to St Andrew Square and its gardens, which are watched over by the Melville Monument; like most of the New Town’s communal gardens these were once open only to the wealthy residents of the surrounding streets, now they are open to all and are the perfect place for a spot of people-watching.