Princes Street Gardens

The lovely Princes Street Gardens lie in a valley previously occupied by the North Loch, drained during the construction of the New Town of Edinburgh.

TravelCurious Tip

Try to coincide you visit with either December’s Christmas fair or August’s Edinburgh Festival celebrations

Princes Street Gardens is a public park in the heart of Edinburgh, set under the looming Castle Rock. It was built in two phases in the 1770s and 1820s following the draining of the Nor Loch and the construction of New Town, where the philosopher David Hume lived. The loch was an artificial bog that at one time formed part of the defences of Edinburgh Castle, but in later years it made expansion to the north difficult and was thoroughly polluted by sewage flowing from the Old Town.

The park is divided by The Mound into the East Gardens and the West Gardens, both of which house an array of monuments. Among those in the East Gardens are the Scott monument, a Gothic spire built in 1844 to honour Sir Walter Scott, and a commemorative stone to honour volunteers from the Lothians and Fife who fought in the Spanish Civil War.

On the other side in the West Gardens you can find the world’s first floral clock, who design changes every year, and also the Ross Bandstand, which is location of the Edinburgh Festival Fireworks Concert, as well as where the city’s Hogmanay (New Year’s) celebrations take place.

Blood from a stone

In Princes Street Gardens there is an 11th cenutury Swedish runestone, designated U 1173 in the Rundata catalogue. Originally from Lilla Ramsjö, it was donated to Scotland by Sir Alexander Seton of Preston and Ekolsund. Its transcription reads: “Ari raised the stone in memory of Hjalmr, his father. May God help his spirit.”

Nearby Attractions

See all attractions in Edinburgh
The Royal Mile
The picturesque historic thoroughfare of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
St Giles’ Cathedral
St Giles’ Cathedral has been at the spiritual heart of Edinburgh for over 900 years.
John Knox House
Rumoured to have been the home of the 16th century Protestant reformer, this historic house tells the story of the Reformation and life in Edinburgh 400 years ago.
Rose Street
Famous for centuries of drinking establishments, Rose Street is one of Edinburgh's most famous places for a pub crawl or a few after-work drinks.
Parliament Square
The historic hub of the Old Town of Edinburgh.
Royal Mile Closes
The Closes of the Royal Mile are historic narrow alleyways named after their owners.

Related Tours

Edinburgh in a Day: Full-Day Private Tour with Edinburgh Castle
With one dormant volcano, seven hills, clusters of cobbled streets and tantalising vistas waiting around every bend, Edinburgh is a fabulous place for a wander - especially with a private tour guide. Discover the history and beauty of Edinburgh's cobbled streets as you explore Medieval Old Town and Neoclassical New Town. Take a stroll down Edinburgh's streets and alleys, discovering its fascinating history and rich culture, with highlights including the Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh Castle and much more.

On your private, full-day tour you will:

  • Walk the iconic Royal Mile, a remarkable street housing Europe's original ‘skyscrapers’;
  • Enjoy a breathtaking view from Calton Hill;
  • Venture into the beautiful neoclassical New Town;
  • Stroll through the beautiful Princes Street Gardens;
  • Explore Heriot Row, one of Edinburgh's most attractive and fancy streets;
  • Walkthrough Charlotte Square gardens are one of the most pretty squares in Edinburgh and designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site;
  • Visit Edinburgh Castle and learn about the fascinating history of this mysterious castle, including many bloody battles, such as the War of Independence between Scotland and England in the 14th Century;
  • Stop for a lunch break at the famous Grass Market
  • Walk by Victoria Street and see one of the most photographed locations in the city and hear about Harry Potter stories;
  • Explore the National Museum of Scotland, from artistic explorations by Leonardo da Vinci to the Burke and Hare murders;
  • Walk by the historic 15th-century John Knox House, home to an influential church leader of the Protestant Reformation in Scotland;
  • See the famous restaurant Dome and explore St Giles Cathedral, the cradle of the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century;
  • Admire the Palace of Holyroodhouse, home of Mary Queen of Scots, and hear about political controversy outside the Scottish Parliament.

A tour of Edinburgh would not be complete without a visit to Scotland’s most famous historic attraction: Edinburgh Castle. Here you will learn about the fascinating history of this mysterious castle. Stop to enjoy lunch at your leisure (price not included). Your guide will be happy to point out the best place whenever you're ready to give your legs a rest and grab a leisurely bite. 

You will have the chance to view the Scottish Parliament, one of the most controversial buildings in Scotland given its construction going 10 times over budget, and admire the grand Palace of Holyroodhouse, 16th century home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots. The breathtaking view from Calton Hill will make you fall in love with the Scottish capital forever.

Venturing into the beautiful neoclassical New Town, built in the 18th Century, enjoy a true marvel of urban planning. As you walk through the main streets and squares of Edinburgh's New Town, you will find yourself impressed by the lavish 18th-century neoclassical and Georgian architecture. Enjoy a leisurely stroll in the beautiful Princes Street Gardens, which lies at the centre of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site. 
The Best of Edinburgh: Private Walking Tour with Edinburgh Castle
On this half-day walking tour of Edinburgh, you will discover some of the most important historical sites of Scotland, including the world-famous Royal Mile, a guided tour of Edinburgh Castle, and a medieval labyrinth of cobblestone alleyways and tenements that comprise this UNESCO World Heritage Site

On your private walking tour, you will: 

  • Enjoy a breathtaking view from Calton Hill with your private tour guide;
  • Admire the Palace of Holyroodhouse and hear about political controversy outside the Scottish Parliament;
  • See the historic John Knox House and hear about its history;
  • Walk along the iconic Royal Mile, and discuss the history of Edinburgh's Old Town;
  • Walk by the City Chambers, the place of the City of Edinburgh Council and its predecessors;
  • Walk by Victoria Street and see one of the most photographed locations in the city and hear about Harry Potter stories;
  • Explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral, known also as the High Kirk of Edinburgh, founded in 1124 by King David I;
  • Enjoy a 30-minute tour of Edinburgh Castle, with a long rich history as a royal residence, military garrison, prison and fortress;
  • End your tour at Edinburgh Castle, where you can continue to explore at your own leisure. 
On your private tour, your expert guide will take you into Old Town’s maze of streets and concealed courtyards, where you will learn about the city’s ‘closes’- cramped alleyways, and ‘wynds’ - narrow lanes between houses. 

Hear about the many characters who lived and died here, including Deacon Brodie, town councilman by day and master thief by night, who inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's novel The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

You will also have the chance to explore the imposing St Giles Cathedral – the seat of Scottish Christianity for over nine centuries and the cradle of the Scottish Reformation during the 16th century.  

Found on the High Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town, it dominates the city’s skyline, with its crowned steeple making a distinctive signature. The current building dates from the 15th century, but there has been a church on the site since early in the 12th.

A tour of Edinburgh would not be complete without learning about Scotland’s most famous historic attraction: Edinburgh Castle. Your guide will take you on a brief private tour of the castle, before leaving you to explore it at your own pace. 
Off The Beaten Path Edinburgh: Dean Village Private Walking Tour
Dean Village is one of the oldest villages that lay around the original Royal Burgh of Edinburgh with a history going back centuries, this area has been named in maps and documents since 1535. On this tour, you will learn some of the hidden stories of Dean Village and uncover some secrets behind this fascinating part of the city.

On your private, guided tour of Edinburgh with a local, you will:

  • Take a stroll down Dean Village where you will see the charming cottages, grand Georgian homes and monuments that make this small village historically unique;
  • Step off the beaten tourist path to explore this little oasis, a medieval site which was once known for its milling community that now features large villas and adorable cottages dating back to the 17th century;
  • Hear about the traditions of this unique part of Scotland’s capital city, as your tour guide shares stories about its famous residents, from Adam Smith to Robert Louis Stevenson;
  • See the old water mills, statues, and wells, truly making you feel like you’re outside the city, though you’re still right beneath the city centre;
  • Enjoy the cobblestone streets, colourful mews houses, and the Water of Leith, which makes it feel like a fairytale place untouched by the modern world;
  • Pick up invaluable recommendations, advice, and tips for the best pub fare and whiskies in town as you explore highlights and off-the-beaten-track side streets;
  • End your tour at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which showcases an outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art, including a centenary Joan Eardley display.

Edinburgh’s modern-day authors, including JK Rowling, Alexander McCall Smith, Irvine Welsh, and Ian Rankin helped secure its place at the forefront of European culture when UNESCO awarded the Scottish capital with the first City of Literature Award in 2004. 

For visitors, strolling Edinburgh is a joy, especially Dean Village, where handsome medieval buildings, cobblestone streets, spire-topped churches and historic Edinburgh Castle are backdropped by Pentland Hills.

Enjoying a private, guided tour with an Edinburgh local will help you discover the sights that tourists so often miss on its windy streets and punishing hills. From fairies to unicorns, hear the intriguing backstories and fantastical stories which bring Scotland to life. 

There is no substitute for spending an afternoon with a true Scot, who will not only help you swerve the tartan-splashed tourist traps and overpriced wool-ware but who will show you the best places to pick up authentic mementoes and one-of-a-kind whiskies. 

Your tour is immersive - bringing meaningful and like-minded interesting people together that would never meet if you stuck to the main tourist drag. Experience the humour, subtle nuances, social conventions and psyche of a place over a beer or coffee, and then jot down your guide’s real version of “the must-do Edinburgh.”  

On your visit to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (Modern One), you will enjoy the home to Scotland’s outstanding collection of modern and contemporary art, including works by Carrington, Dali, Magritte and Miro.
Taste the Best Scottish Ales: Rose Street Private Pub Tour
Embark on a journey through time & heritage, from old to new within the heart of Edinburgh, home to many of the UK’s oldest drinking establishments, with local pubs (or ‘locals’) at the heart of communities all over the city. The city’s Rose Street is one of the most famous streets in Scotland, and for good reason – this intimate and friendly lane has played host to many great people over the years. Its pubs are still alive today with great stories, great beers and amazing food.

On your Rose Street private pub tour, you will:

  • Enjoy a walking tour of the famous Rose Street area in Edinburgh;
  • Stop at many traditional taverns and soak up the cosy, old-fashioned atmosphere of Edinburgh’s historic pubs;
  • Learn about the history of traditional Scottish whisky and the cultural identity it has in Scotland;
  • Taste Scotch whiskey from independent distilleries, single malts craft blends and more;
  •  Enjoy the pub aroma of brass polish, yeast, hops and malt intermingled with the honeyed smell of Scotch whiskey and smouldering, smoky embers;
  • Visit three of the best-selected of the city’s 700 pubs (that’s one every 83 metres) in a population of 500,000;
  • Sip a pint of Scottish beer such as Belhaven Scottish Ale and Scottish Oat Stout;
  • Hear fascinating tales of Edinburgh’s centuries-old pub culture;
  • Enjoy a tasting of either a local beer, house wine, or a wee dram (single shot) of whisky at each of the three pubs;
  • End your tour outside the entrance of Calton Hill, where you can climb up to continue exploring at your own leisure.

From the Middle Ages’ spit-and-sawdust pubs that provided merriment for the poor, to 19th-century inns that offered an ear to life’s successes and misfortunes, pubs have been a cornerstone of Scottish society for centuries, serving as default venues for every occasion. 

Rose Street, a narrow traffic-free stone stretch running parallel to the main thoroughfare, is Edinburgh’s drinking heartland. Every pub in Rose Street has a tale to tell, from the bizarre and macabre to the curious. It is also famed in local lore for its drinking game – the Rose Street Challenge – in which pub-goers are dared to take a wee dram at every bar.

On your Tour of Edinburgh’s Historic Pubs, swerve the mediocre and over-hyped to seek out pubs with authentic character. Your tour guide - a local expert - will take you to three of the best pubs on Rose Street, where you will enjoy a pour of whiskey or a pint at each stop (up to three drinks included). 

Nothing evokes bygone bars like the unmistakable smell of brass polish, yeast, hops and malt intermingled with the honeyed smell of Scotch whiskey and smouldering, smoky embers in the grate. 

Perchance you’ll enjoy a tipple at The Abbotsford Bar, built-in 1902, and famed for its eye-catching centrepiece island bay crafted from dark-brown Spanish mahogany, divided into small serving ports by intricately carved railings. Another curious haunt, Milnes of Rose Street, has been a popular poetic pit stop with generations of quill-wielding Scottish writers since 1910. 

With its mind-boggling array of whiskeys, Scotts is the oldest drinking establishment on the block, pouring its first pint in 1790 - when George III was on the throne. Quirky artefacts ensure the decor is as oddball as its name, which honours a thirsty local man from centuries past who shovelled horse dung off the streets. 

No matter where you choose to pop into, each Rose Street pub will have a rich story to share with you.


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