The Tab’s guide to Edinburgh’s different neighbourhoods
You’ll be holding walking tours in no time
Moving to a new city can be daunting even at the best of times, let alone when you’ve signed your soul away to it for the next four years of your life.
One of the hardest things to overcome is putting those DofE map reading skills to use and trying to figure out where you are, and where you’re supposed to be going.
While Edinburgh may be a small city, it’s still a city nonetheless. This means that there are plenty of areas to find and explore, but at the same time it can all feel a bit overwhelming when you first arrive.
This is totally normal and everyone will be feeling the same way, but just in case, we’ve written a guide breaking down all of Edinburgh’s different neighbourhoods and what to expect from them.
So, if you’re new to this wonderful city but don’t have a clue what’s what, this one is for you.
Old Town is probably the Edinburgh you’re already somewhat familiar with, either from visiting or from pictures. In fact, they may as well rename it Tourist Town.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing as one can only assume you chose Edinburgh partly because of how damn beautiful it is – and Old Town is the definition of beauty. However, there is so much more to see than just the Royal Mile and Castle.
Of course, you will become even more familiar with Old Town as time goes on, as it’s where the main uni campus is located, along with the most popular bars and clubs.
For many Freshers, Newington will be the first neighbourhood you familiarise yourself with as it’s home to Edinburgh’s biggest student halls, Pollock.
But once you work past your fear of people wearing flares and starting sentences with the word ‘rah’, you’ll find Newington has a lot to offer. There are restaurants with practically any cuisine you can think of – such as Tibetan, as well as numerous shops, supermarkets, cafes and bars to blow your student loan on.
You’ll also never be more than two metres away from a fellow student in Newington, and that’s a fact.
There’s one word for Marchmont, and that word is ‘nice’. And I don’t mean that in a bad way at all, it genuinely is a really nice area. There are a number of independent coffee shops, restaurants and supermarkets, making it the ideal place to live if you want a slice of slow living.
Marchmont is also just a short walk from the library and George Square, which means it’s one of the most sought after areas for student flats, and therefore one of the most competitive.
Bruntsfield is Marchmont’s even bigger and slightly fancier neighbour. I don’t think it can get more middle class than this. Think independent boutiques, brunch hotspots and bagels.
As Bruntsfield is only a walk through The Meadows away from uni, it’s a bit of a student hub but with a bigger price attached. This could very well be the only time in your life you’re able to live in a room with a fireplace, bay windows and cornices – so take advantage.
Ngl, you probably won’t go to Morningside too often unless you fancy a trip to Waitrose or a nice walk. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes to try, but seeing as you have to pass through Bruntsfield on the way first, you’ll probably have already found somewhere to stop for lunch before you even get there.
Unlike the quiet streets of Marchmont, Tollcross is a lot more lively and bustling with multiple streets filled with bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. It also has a couple of theatres and cinemas which are perfect for those rainy Edinburgh days.
Due to its prime location near The Meadows and ECA, Tollcross is another place that students tend to live in during their time at Edinburgh.
Despite its name, New Town is still pretty old as it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its beautiful Georgian streets. This also means it’s expensive.
You do find the odd student who lives in New Town but honestly it’s a lot further out than the likes of Newington and Marchmont, plus even pricier. However, it is home to some of Edinburgh’s prettiest streets and is definitely worth exploring on a sunny afternoon.
If New Town is old money then Simpson Loan is new money. Think boujee, modern flats with glass balconies.
While most of us mere mortals will never actually see inside one of these luxury apartments, I’d highly recommend spending a pleasant afternoon in Lister Square enjoying a coffee or bubble tea, watching the roller skaters whizz past you in a show of hand-eye coordination you can only dream of.
So The Meadows isn’t technically a neighbourhood, but it is the centre of everything. Sailors once navigated using the stars, Edinburgh students navigate using The Meadows.
If you’re ever lost, head to The Meadows and you’ll soon find the right path back to Marchmont, Bruntsfield, Newington, Tollcross, Simpson Loan or uni, as they all surround the green space.
On sunny days I guarantee you’ll be spending all your time on the grass either pretending to study or, much more likely, cracking open the tinnies while attempting to get a tan in Scotland.
Leith is probably somewhere you’ll explore once you’ve conquered the areas around The Meadows first, but it certainly shouldn’t be forgotten.
Home to hipster joints, quirky shops, delicious seafood and an Aldi, Leith has a completely different vibe to the rest of Edinburgh. And for any avid duck watchers out there, The Shore is the perfect place to sit and relax in the sun, watching them swim past.
One of the best things about living in Edinburgh is how close you are to the beach. Portobello is a mere bus or bike ride away, and will soon become a favourite place of yours I’m sure.
Even if you don’t fancy an ice cold dip, you’ll find plenty of independent shops, cafes and restaurants on the high street, as well as an arcade and even more food places on the beach promenade.
In the evenings you’ll often see people gathered around a fire on the sand, and in the summer barbecues are a popular activity.