• Registration Year


  • Registered Sector

    Old and New Towns of Edinburgh

  • Historical Function

    Education and culture.

  • Administrative Status

    Capital of Scotland.

Location and site

Edinburgh is located in the southeast of Scotland in the Lothian region, on the south side of the Firth of Forth River; the port of Leith, on the Firth, is linked to the city. Its topography, made up of crests and small valleys running parallel to the sea, is dominated by a promontory.

Urban Morphology

Together the Old Town and the New Town form an integrated ensemble. While there is a contrast between the irregular medieval layout of the Old Town and the geometric plan of the New Town, parks are a major component in both. Two arteries define the city's layout. The first, High Street, runs along the highest crest, linking the two poles of the Old Town: the esplanade of the castle and the site of the former Holyrood Abbey and the palace. The second, Prince Street, runs parallel to High Street but for a longer distance, along a ravine, bordering the New Town and offering magnificent views of the Old Town.

The entire city of Edinburgh is constructed of stone. The castle on its promontory, the Neo-Gothic spire of Toolbooth Saint John's Church and the tower of Saint Giles Cathedral dominate the urban landscape that extends into the New Town, with its elegant and very rational arrangement of Classical and Neoclassical buildings. In the Old Town, several buildings restored by Sir Patrick Geddes at the end of the 19th century have survived.

Registration Criteria

The Old Town and the New Town of Edinburgh present an impressive fusion of two very different urban phenomena: the organic growth of the medieval period and the urban planning of the 18th and 19th centuries. The successive expansions of the New Town and the high quality of the architecture have established standards for Scotland and beyond. (II) and (IV)

Historical Reference

  • The site has been populated since prehistoric times. At the end of the reign of Malcolm III (1058-1093), a palace was erected within the fortress. The kings of Scotland resided in Edinburgh.
  • During the reign of David I (1124-1153), trade with Europe developed. Edinburgh, which received its first charter, was named a royal burgh. Around 1125 the construction of Holyrood Abbey, located 1.5 km. from the castle, determined the direction of its urban development.
  • Under James II Stuart (1437-1460), Edinburgh became the official capital city of Scotland. It was surrounded by a defensive wall.
  • Following invasions by the English in 1544 and 1547 and the French occupation of 1548-1560, activity resumed in the city. The University of Edinburgh was created in 1582 and the merchant elite and the nobility contributed to the city's architectural richness in the 17th century. After 1621 roofs were to be covered in slate or tiles and as of 1674 stone was used for exterior walls.
  • When the Kingdoms of Scotland and England united in 1603, the crown was relocated to London. Although the creation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707 led to the suppression of the Scottish parliament in Edinburgh, it did not prevent urban expansion from proceeding at a spectacular rate.
  • Between 1767 and 1890, the New Town continued to develop with seven major projects in succession. Edinburgh became a centre of intellectual life in Europe.
Mr. Frank Ross
Lord Provost of Edinburg
City of Edinburgh Council
City Chambers High Street
EH1 1YJ Edinburgh, United Kingdom
+44.131 529.4000
+44.131 529.4010
Mr. William Garrett
Planning Group Leader
Edinburgh City Council
Waverley Court 4 East Market Street
EH1 1ZJ Edinburgh, Scotland
+44 131 469 3636