For all its steep roads and hidden alleyways, Edinburgh is not a difficult place to navigate. Most newcomers gravitate to two areas, the Old Town and the New Town. The former funnels down from the castle on either side of the High Street, better known as the Royal Mile. Princes Street Gardens and Waverly station separate the oldest part of the city from the stately New Town, known for its neoclassical architecture and verdant gardens. To the north, the city sweeps down to the Firth of Forth. It is here you will find the port of Leith with its trendy pubs and fine-dining restaurants. The southern and western neighborhoods are mainly residential, but are home to a few attractions such as Edinburgh Zoo.
Old Town. The focal point of Edinburgh for centuries, the Old Town is a picturesque jumble of medieval tenements. Here are prime attractions such as Edinburgh Castle and the newer symbol of power, the Scottish Parliament. Amid the historic buildings you will find everything from buzzing bars and nightclubs to ghostly alleyways and vaults.
New Town. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries to prevent the wealthier residents of overcrowded Old Town from decamping to London, the neoclassical sweep of the New Town is a masterpiece of city planning. Significant sights include the National Gallery of Scotland and Calton Hill, which offers some of the best views of the city from its summit. The city's main shopping thoroughfares, Princes Street and George Street, are also found here.
Haymarket. West of the Old Town and south of the West End is Haymarket, a district with its own down-to-earth character and well-worn charm. It's close to Edinburgh's second train station.
West End. Edinburgh's commercial center has boutiques aplenty as well as the Edinburgh Zoo.
Southside.Mostly residential, the Southside makes a good base for budget-conscious travelers. It's where most of the students live.
Leith. On the southern shore of the Firth of Forth, Edinburgh's port of Leith is where you'll find the now-retired Royal Yacht Britannia, along with some of the city's smartest restaurants and bars.
Side Trips: West Lothian and the Forth Valley, Midlothian and East Lothian. Known collectively as the Lothians, the areas of green countryside and seafront villages around Edinburgh are replete with historic houses, castles, towns, and museums. They are quick and easy to reach by car, bus, or train, making them welcome day-trip escapes from the summer festival crush.