Posted: 9/15/23 | September 15th, 2023
Edinburgh is fabulous. Famed for its beauty, museums, castle, historic university, and literary past, it’s also a moody city but with a cozy feel. I think Edinburgh is a magical destination, from the pubs with live music to the cafés where you just want to snuggle up with a book to the cobblestone streets that seem to shine brighter on a cloudy day.
It’s also pretty compact and easily walkable. That’s great for travelers. And considering that everything you might want to see or do is within a small area and easily connected by bus, there are only a few areas in which to stay. (Of course, you could stay farther out and then take the bus, but I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s not worth the extra time and potential taxi/bus costs.)
Here’s a breakdown of the three neighborhoods you should stay in and my favorite accommodations in each:
Where to Stay in the Old Town
This area is the main center of the city. Here, along the Royal Mile, you’ll find a lot of the main tourist sites, historic streets to wander, and a number of cool bars and restaurants. This is the oldest part of town (hence the name), and it’s where most people stay. You’ll be in the center of the action and, while prices are little higher than elsewhere, you’ll likely spend most of your time wandering the area, so it’s super convenient.
Best places to stay in Old Town:
- BUDGET: Castle Rock – Located near the castle, this hostel is simply gorgeous. It’s an old beautiful house with lovely wood interiors, stone staircases, and a very historic, royal feel. It felt like being in an ancestral family mansion. I love that the staff organize events and dinners. In the dorms, the mattresses are comfortable and there are plenty of outlets to charge your devices. It’s one of my favorite hostels in Europe.
- MIDRANGE: Stay Central Hotel – Just three minutes from the Royal Mile, this three-star property is located in a 17th-century building that’s been completely modernized with flat-screen TVs, tea/coffee makers, and rain showers in each room. I like that the rooms are bright and clean.
- LUXURY: Cheval Old Town Chambers – This stylish five-star hotel offers modern luxury apartments, making it the perfect choice for groups or travelers who simply need more space. I really like that beds are incredibly comfortable. There’s also a fitness center and rooms come with a washer and dryer.
Where to Stay in the New Town
This is the lower section of town, built on the outside of the castle area. Dating to 1767, it is the more “modern” part of the city, with neatly laid-out streets (as opposed to all the winding cobblestone lanes of the Old Town). Here you’ll find beautiful town squares and parks, a lot of shopping, and more accommodation options. It’s a cheaper part of the city to stay in, but it’s not as quintessentially charming as the Old Town.
Best places to stay in New Town:
- BUDGET: Haystack Hostel – Located near both the bus and train stations, this hostel has a fully equipped kitchen and a chill common room with lots of board games. The dorm beds are basic (simple metal bunks with thin mattresses), but there are lights, curtains, outlets, and lockers for each bed. It’s a small, quiet hostel with an intimate atmosphere, so I found that it’s easy to relax and meet people.
- MIDRANGE: Yotel – This four-star hotel is clean and modern, with spacious rooms and super comfortable beds. There’s a gym and bar on-site and a full English breakfast each morning. The rooms are small, but I didn’t want for any extra space. Though located on the farther end of the area, the hotel is just a 15-minute walk to the Royal Mile.
- LUXURY: Gleneagles Townhouse – An ornate and lavish five-star property, this hotel boasts beautiful rooms bedecked with antique furniture and historic designs. There’s a delicious breakfast each morning, a bar and gym on-site, and a spa and wellness center with a relaxing sauna. The beds are wonderfully plush and comfortable too.
Where to Stay in the Southside/University
I view this area as a separate part of town, though others might lump it in with the Old Town. It’s pretty close to the historic center but I think a far enough walk that it has its own vibe. Given that it’s the location of the university, it has a lot of cheap restaurants and pubs, and is close to the famous lookout, Arthur’s Seat. I like staying here, because there are fewer tourists, so it has a more local vibe to it.
Best places to stay in Southside/University:
- BUDGET: Argyle Backpackers – This laid-back hostel is located in an old townhouse. It feels more like you’re staying with a friend than in a hostel, as everything is cozy and homey (or “homely,” as the British say). It’s located on a quiet residential street just a 10–15-minute walk from the Old Town. I like that there’s a kitchen for cooking and a relaxing backyard space where you can hang out and meet other travelers. The staff are super lovely and really make you feel at home.
- MIDRANGE: The Salisbury Hotel – This boutique townhouse hotel in a quiet setting is just a five-minute drive from the Royal Mile. There’s a simple breakfast buffet offered each morning, and the friendly staff go out of their way to make you feel welcome. The rooms all have original Georgian features, and there’s even parking available if you have a vehicle.
- LUXURY: Prestonfield House – This uber-luxurious, five-star hotel is wildly lavish; I love the really ornate decor. The rooms all have antique furnishings and the on-site restaurant hosts a posh afternoon tea. I think it’s the perfect choice for a luxe retreat or romantic getaway.
Edinburgh is small, so there are not a lot of places to explore. More distant neighborhoods do have hotels, and prices drop a lot the farther out you stay, but you’ll spend more of your trip on the bus (or too much money on Ubers) and away from the city’s best things to see and do. When visiting Edinburgh, just look at these three neighborhoods and pick the one that suits your plans best. You won’t go wrong.
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Book Your Trip to Edinburgh: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner to find a cheap flight. They are my favorite search engine because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance protects you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
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