Edinburgh’s Old Town is deservedly a visitor honeypot, its tall and crowded medieval buildings, ancient closes and wynds provide intrigue and a great way to get a feeling for ancient city life. While the Georgian New Town was planned to the north (1767), the accurately named “Southside” was opened up by development of South Bridge (1788) – a modern highway of its day, built to link the Old Town’s High Street with the University buildings on the south side of the city. Start in the Southside and head north in this walk….


The Queen's Hall

85-89 Clerk Street, EH8 9JG

Festival Theatre Edinburgh

13-29 Nicolson Streer, EH8 9FT

Surgeons' Hall Museums

Nicolson Street, EH8 9DW

Dovecot Studios

10 Infirmary Street, EH1 1LT

National Museum of Scotland

Chambers Street, EH1 1JF

Scottish Poetry Library

5 Crichton’s Close,  EH8 8DT

1: The Queen’s Hall

The Queen’s Hall (described as “intimate, memorable, unique”) has been creating music memories for 40 years and is Edinburgh’s best mid-sized live music venue, hosting world-class artists from all musical fields: classical, jazz, folk and roots, rock and pop and Americana. But is started life as the church of Newington and St Leonard’s in 1823. It is now one of the busiest venues in the city, so pop into the Box Office to pick up a ticket and start your walk north.

2. Festival Theatre and opposite, Surgeons’ Hall Museums

You could head north and keep to Clerk Street to reach the Festival Theatre. Or take a short detour, heading to George Square and adjacent Bristo Square, the centre of all things University. The magnificent McEwan Hall was presented to the University in 1897 by William McEwan, founder of the brewing company and used for graduations.

Wiggle east through Nicholson Square and back to “Clerk St” – although it is now Nicholson Street at this point. (Confusing, we know…)

Go into the Festival Theatre to soak up the vibe of this important theatre – the stage is the third largest in the UK. It is home to Scottish Ballet, Scottish Opera and a key venue for the National Theatre of Scotland, the National Theatre and the Edinburgh Festivals (the venue for opera and ballet, large-scale musical events, and touring productions). If you’re not here for a show, enjoy the great café.

3. Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Cross the road to the curious and fascinating Surgeons’ Hall Museums to understand and experience the 500-year historical journey of surgery and its advances to today. One of the oldest museums in the UK, the collections grew from 1699 after ‘natural and artificial curiosities’ were sought. The experience is both gruesome (learn the facts about murderers and body snatchers Burke and Hare who supplied cadavers for budding surgeons) and enlightening (try your hand at the latest surgical techniques.) If you fancy staying near the theatre, choose Ten Hill Place Hotel, owned by the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, just behind the museum.

4. Dovecot Studios, Infirmary Street

Another block along Nicholson Street towards town, turn right down Infirmary Street to a hidden gem: Dovecot Studios is a world-renowned tapestry studio in the heart of Edinburgh and a landmark centre for contemporary art, craft, and design. The vaulted halls of the studios were formerly home to Edinburgh’s Infirmary Street Baths, the first of their kind in the city. Today the gorgeous iron arches rise above the tapestry studio which is open to visitors, and with a calendar of exhibitions and events, Dovecot is a must-see for any supporter of making and the creative arts.

5. National Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street

The continuation of Infirmary Street (almost), after crossing Nicholson Street, is broad Chambers Street.  Walk along it for 150m to the UK’s most popular museum outside of London. 

Egyptian mummy masks, Japanese tea ceremonies, Britain’s oldest aircraft, the Lewis chess pieces and… a 50-million-year-old fossilised bat? The sheer variety of exhibitions, events and activities at this marvellous museum make it worth a visit all by itself.  The National Museum of Scotland offers an astonishing array of exhibits, covering everything from dinosaurs to Dolly the Sheep, Iron Age gold torcs to contemporary fashion and style. There is — literally — something for everyone.

Scottish Poetry Library, along the Royal Mile

The walk to the remarkable Scottish Poetry Library could take you just 12-minutes (back to Nicholson Street – but here called South Bridge and then the Royal Mile, away from the Castle).  But you will no doubt be waylaid: the Museum of Childhood may beckon. 

Want to stay?  You’ll pass The Radisson Blu Hotel, Edinburgh City Centre which boasts a pool – not many of those in the heart of a medieval city.

Stick to the Royal Mile and when you are opposite the impressive Canongate Church (where Adam Smith lies buried) take in the Museum of Edinburgh, then turn right onto Crichton’s Close.

The Scottish Poetry Library brings people and poems together and is the world’s leading resource for Scottish poetry.   Visit the award winning building for an unusual experience providing creative engagement with poetry.   It is also home to 5 of the ten mysterious book sculptures which popped up across the city, referencing great Edinburgh writers like Edwin Morgan, Robert Louis Stevenson, Conan Doyle and Ian Rankin.

The Queen’s Hall

Clerk Street

Phone: 0131 668 2019

The Festival Theatre

13-29 Nicolson Street

Phone: 0131 529 6000

Surgeons’ Hall Museums

Nicolson Street

Phone: 0131 527 1711

Dovecot Gallery

10 Infirmary Street

Phone: 0131 550 3660

National Museum of Scotland

Chambers Street

Phone: 0300 123 6789

Scottish Poetry Library

5 Crichton’s Close

Phone: 0131 557 2876