Old Town

The site of a cattle market from the 15th century until the start of the 20th century, the Grassmarket has always been a focal point of the Old Town. It was once the city's main place of execution, and over 100 martyred Covenanters are commemorated by a monument at the eastern end, where the gallows used to stand. The notorious murderers Burke and Hare operated from a now-vanished close off the western end.

Nowadays the broad, open square, lined by tall tenements and dominated by the looming castle, has many lively pubs and restaurants, including the White Hart Inn, which was once patronised by Robert Burns. Claiming to be the city’s oldest pub in continuous use (since 1516), it also hosted William Wordsworth in 1803. Cowgate – the long, dark ravine leading eastwards from the Grassmarket – was once the road along which cattle were driven from the pastures around Arthur's Seat to the safety of the city walls. Today it is the heart of Edinburgh's nightlife, with around two dozen clubs and bars within five minutes' walk of each other.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Old Town attractions

1. Flodden Wall

0.08 MILES

At the western end of the Grassmarket, a narrow close called the Vennel leads steeply up to one of the few surviving fragments of the city wall that was…

2. Scotch Whisky Experience

0.09 MILES

A former school houses this multimedia centre that takes you through the making of whisky, from barley to bottle, in a series of exhibits, demonstrations…

3. Greyfriars Kirkyard

0.11 MILES

Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of Edinburgh's most evocative cemeteries, a peaceful green oasis dotted with elaborate monuments. Many famous Edinburgh names…

4. Camera Obscura & World of Illusions

0.11 MILES

Edinburgh's camera obscura is a curious 19th-century device – in constant use since 1853 – that uses lenses and mirrors to throw a live image of the city…

5. Highland Tolbooth Kirk

0.12 MILES

Edinburgh's tallest spire (71.7m) is at the foot of Castlehill and is a prominent feature of the Old Town's skyline. The interior has been refurbished,…

6. George Heriot’s School

0.13 MILES

One of the most impressive buildings in the Old Town, this school was built in the 17th century with funds bequeathed by George Heriot (goldsmith and…

7. Greyfriars Kirk

0.17 MILES

One of Edinburgh's most famous churches, Greyfriars Kirk was built on the site of a Franciscan friary and opened for worship on Christmas Day 1620…

8. Gladstone's Land

0.17 MILES

One of Edinburgh's most prominent 17th-century merchants was Thomas Gledstanes, who in 1617 purchased the tenement later known as Gladstone's Land. It…