by Connor Mollison


The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh are one of the most beautiful cityscapes in the world, inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1995. The unique character of the city comes from the striking contrast between the medieval Old Town and the Georgian New Town, with each area containing many significant historic buildings.



Edinburgh has been the Scottish capital since the 15th century. It has two distinct areas: the Old Town, dominated by a medieval fortress; and the neoclassical New Town, whose development from the 18th century onwards had a far-reaching influence on European urban planning. The harmonious juxtaposition of these two contrasting historic areas, each with many important buildings, is what gives the city its unique character.

Official website

Did you know..?

In c.1130 King David I established the town of Edinburgh as one of Scotland’s earliest royal burghs, protected by its fortress on Castle Rock.

The oldest building in Edinburgh is St. Margaret’s Chapel, located within the walls of Edinburgh Castle. It is Category-A listed and was likely built during the reign of St. Margaret’s son David I (1124 to 1153).

The Royal Mile, the principal street in the Old Town, still retains its medieval ‘fishbone’ pattern of closes and wynds.

The Canongate area of the Old Town did not become part of the City of Edinburgh until 1856.

Around 49% of Edinburgh is made up of green space. This includes public and royal parks, burial grounds and kirkyards, allotments and community gardens, the formal gardens of the New Town and hidden courtyards of the Old Town.

Edinburgh is often known as the ‘Athens of the North’ because of the influence of Greek architectural styles on key buildings in the city, especially in the New Town, such as Thomas Hamilton’s Old Royal High School.


Location: Lothian region, Scotland

Country: United Kingdom

Year of Inscription: 1995

UNESCO Criteria: (ii), (iv)

Contact information:

For more information about Edinburgh, visit the website or contact visitor information on +44(0)131 473 3820

photo credit © Crown Copyright HES