Headed to Scotland and wondering where to stay in Edinburgh? Discover my favorite areas to stay in the city center and the best hotels in each!
Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities and a place I've returned to many times. After collectively spending about 6 weeks here, I can honestly say I fall more in love with the city each time I visit.
The old-world architecture, stunning views, proximity to the breathtaking beauty of the Highlands, the beloved Scottish people and their wee accent, and of course the ties to Harry Potter make this an unforgettable destination.
When discussing where to stay in Edinburgh, I first want to stress the importance of staying in the city center. To give an idea, locate the Scottish National Gallery as your central point of reference. You'll want to stay within a radius of 15 minutes' walking distance from there.
Edinburgh is a pedestrian city. As long as you choose a central location, you can walk to all the top sights, attractions, and restaurants.
Half the fun of visiting Edinburgh is walking around the city and from sight to sight. It's a gorgeous city and the architecture is stunning. There's a bustling mix of tourists, locals, and students. If you choose to stay outside my central point of reference you not only lose precious sightseeing time but a lot of the atmosphere and overall city experience.
There's something about being a 5-minute walk from the local cafe for your morning cappuccino and close to picturesque spots like Victoria Street (aka inspiration for Diagon Alley in Harry Potter). Being close to these sights can make or break your trip. Victoria street gets insanely crowded by 9:00 am. If you're within walking distance, you can easily get up early and experience that spot empty by 8:00 am.
I've made a point to stay in various locations throughout the city and have my favorites.
This post will take you through the best areas to stay in Edinburgh that are within 15 minutes of the city center core. You'll learn the best luxury hotels in each neighborhood as well as mid-range options.
This map shows the best areas to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland. Click the icon in the very top left to see a list view of each pinned location. Click the top right button to enlarge the map. Click the star to save to your own Google Maps account. To access this map once saved (after clicking the star), open Google Maps (on your phone/computer/tablet), click the menu button, go to "your places", select "maps", and you will see this map listed.
- Blue - mid-range hotels
- Red- luxury hotels
Old Town - Grassmarket (red area)
Where to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland for first-time visitors and those looking to be close to the action and sights
This is one of my favorite areas to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland. Grassmarket is located in Old Town and is below the castle. So depending on where you stay, you might even get some fantastic castle views.
I particularly gravitate to this area because it's close to Victoria Street. One of the most photographed and beautiful streets in Edinburgh. Many say this street inspired JK Rowling for Diagon Alley with its multicolored buildings. This street gets very crowded past 9:00 am. Staying at a nearby hotel means you can enjoy the views and get some photos sans crowds.
Another famous spot in this area is The Vennel. It's a "hidden" stairway that lends gorgeous views of the castle.
For my fellow joggers, Grassmarket is a great base as you're close to the Meadows, my favorite area to go jogging.
Choosing a hotel or rental in the Grassmarket area will mean you are within walking distance of everything...top sights, restaurants, cafes, etc., and you get to enjoy a lively atmosphere.
Best luxury hotels in Edinburgh - Grassmarket
- Virgin Hotels Edinburgh - this hotel just opened. I haven't stayed but did a walk through and it was gorgeous. I will definitely try to book this hotel next time.
- Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa - this is the furthest I would go from Grassmarket. The location is nice because it feels a bit removed and is quiet, yet still walking distance to everything.
Best mid-range hotels in Edinburgh - Grassmarket
New Town - Princes Street (purple area)
Where to stay in Edinburgh to have a luxury stay and still be minutes from the action
Most hotels in Old Town come with small rooms. New Town on the other hand is where you'll find a nice selection of luxury hotels with larger rooms.
Where Old Town is made of twisting, cobblestoned streets and leaning buildings, New Town feels very Georgian. Straight lines, wide streets, and a grid-like city plan. While New Town has a number of museums, from a tourist perspective you'll be spending more time in Old Town. This may mean staying in New Town is a good thing. Do your sightseeing in Old Town and spend the night in New Town. New Town has most of your shopping and has an excellent selection of restaurants and coffee shops.
I prefer to stay on or around Princes streets. The further north you go towards Queens Street just means a longer walk to reach Old Town. Just keep in mind that Princes Street can be very busy and noisy. You'll want to make sure you're at a nice hotel that has thick windows and soundproofing.
Best mid-range hotels in Edinburgh - New Town
Best luxury hotels in Edinburgh - New Town
Royal Mile (grey area)
One of the best areas to stay in Edinburgh if you want to be in the heart of the action and don't mind a little noise
The Royal Mile is the very heart of Edinburgh. An ancient stretch of road that goes from Holyrood Palace to Edinburgh Castle. It's called the Royal Mile because this has been the processional route for royalty for hundreds of years.
Many of Edinburgh's top sights are along the Royal Mile. Holyrood Palace, St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh Castle, Mercat Cross, The Scotch Whiskey Experience, Scottish Parliament Building, John Knox House, and several famous pubs including The World's End.
The area surrounding the Royal Mile is one of the best places to stay in Edinburgh if you want to be steps from all the top sights and in the heart of the action. For obvious reasons, hotels in the area are sparse, come with small rooms, and are expensive.
The only time I would not recommend staying around the Royal Mile is during festival season in August. It will be packed and loud. Booking a hotel here will mean you're constantly navigating your way through the crowds that swarm the Royal Mile this time of year. A headache in the making and something that would get real old real fast.
BEST luxury HOTELS IN EDINBURGH - ROYAL MILE
Best mid-range hotels in Edinburgh - Royal Mile
Calton Hill (blue area)
Where to stay in Edinburgh if this is a return visit and you want something a bit more quiet/removed, but still close to the sights
Those that have already visited Edinburgh and are looking for something different will want to venture a tad farther from my earlier recommendations. Calton Hill is a great option. It's more removed from the city center, yet still within walking distance.
Calton Hill is a gorgeous spot offering incredible views of the Edinburgh skyline.
Compared to more centrally located hotels, these hotels are a bit easier on the wallet.
Best luxury hotels in Edinburgh - Calton Hill
Best mid-range hotels in Edinburgh - Calton Hill
Honorable Mention: Dalkeith Road Bed and Breakfasts
Where to stay in Edinburgh for an affordable stay in a cozy bed and breakfast
Edinburgh has become pretty expensive when it comes to lodgings. If you're not able to find something in your budget in the above areas, look around the intersection of Dalkeith Road and Prestfield Road. This pocket is filled with quaint bed and breakfasts.
Many come with views of Arthur's Seat; Edinburgh's highest point and an extinct volcano.
Jake and I stayed here on our first trip to Edinburgh. We came for festival season in early August and the hotels were outrageously over our budget at the time. We found Gil Dun Guest House (now closed), and it was great.
We would Uber to the city center first thing in the morning. Because we didn't want to waste time Ubering back and forth, we planned our entire day, packed up our backpack, and wouldn't return to the bed and breakfast until after dinner time.
It usually took no more than 8 minutes via Uber. We also walked home a few nights when we weren't in a rush. The walk took about 25 minutes at a brisk pace.
While you do lose some of the charm of staying in the city center, Dalkeith Road bed and breakfasts are a wonderful backup option for something more affordable. The area felt very safe and had a quiet neighborhood vibe.
Summary of where to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland
I hope this post steers you in the right direction regarding where to stay in Edinburgh, Scotland. These are my personal favorite pockets and some of the best hotels in Edinburgh.
The Grassmarket area (just below Edinburgh Castle) is my top pick for first-time visitors since you're steps away from all the top sights and the area is lively without being too much.
New Town, around Princes street, is where you'll want to head if you're looking for a luxury stay. This area has several gorgeous hotels that are minutes from top attractions and the heart of the city.
Calton Hill is great if you've been to Edinburgh before and want a location a little less hectic. This is one of the best areas to stay in Edinburgh for my budget-minded travelers that still want to be in the city center.
The area surrounding the Royal Mile is for those that want to be in the heart of the action and don't mind being in a noisy, busy area.
The neighborhood around the intersection of Dalkeith Road and Prestfield Road is an affordable alternative filled with bed and breakfasts. This area is a 20 to 30 minute walk from the city center or an 8-minute Uber.
After many visits to Scotland, these are my top picks for where to stay in Edinburgh!