Inspiration

Gothic, Georgian and glass: Edinburgh’s architectural marvels

Alice Cottingham Profile Image

Alice Cottingham

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

As a city where history and creativity meet, it’s no wonder that Edinburgh is famed for its architecture. Any visitor will know the familiar feeling of looking up in awe as they wander the city's streets and the sharp-eyed will notice two distinct parts. UNESCO says the city "represents a remarkable blend of two urban phenomena: organic medieval growth and 18th and 19th century town planning". We’ve spoken with some of the people who know the city best, our owners and team, to gather their favourite architectural marvels for anyone visiting.

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The New Town

You’re unlikely to come to Edinburgh and miss the New Town, which makes up one half of the city in juxtaposition to the medieval Old Town. But dig a little deeper into the interesting architectural history and you could spend days uncovering its past. The Georgian New Town (which is actually not that ‘new’ at all, having being built in the 18th century) was designed and built over 50 years, with several owners and their architects. You might be surprised to learn that there is a ‘first’ New Town, designed by 26-year-old James Craig, which includes the grand Charlotte Square; one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture. Take a stroll through the surrounding streets which lead to Prince’s Street and Gardens, the former boundary of the ‘new’ part of the city.

The Georgian House Museum

Recommended by Pierson, owner of Apartment on Cheyne Street

If your stroll around New Town has left you feeling inspired, take a trip to the Georgian House Museum which has been brilliantly restored to all its early 19th-century glory. This grand house was designed by acclaimed architect Robert Adam and was a true statement of luxury for the original owners. Stepping inside, you can explore the drawing and dining rooms as well as taking a look at the servant’s quarters.

The National Museum

Recommended by Christopher Wilson-Elmes, Sawday’s copywriter and Edinburgh resident

The National Museum on Chambers Street is worth a visit in itself, but architecture lovers will be in for a particular treat. It’s design references much of Scotland’s history and landscapes, whilst also being an impressive feat of engineering. The building was originally designed by Captain Francis Fowke, influenced by Crystal Palace, and was completed in 1888, opening as The Edinburgh Museum of Science and Art. Slender columns, rounded arches, curving staircases and a very grand roof made of wood and glass are all typical of Scottish design at the time. In 1999 the building was redeveloped, so you can look forward to plenty of modern architectural features too – look out for the glass curtain wall which bridges the old and new parts.

Glenogle Swim Centre

Recommended by Pierson, owner of Apartment on Cheyne Street

Make like a local and start your day with an early morning swim at the Glenogle Swim Centre – Stockbridge’s beautifully restored Victorian swimming baths on the grand Saxe-Coburg place. You’ll spot the red sandstone building from afar, and inside you’ll feel transported back to the late 19th century, when the building was designed by Robert Moreham, Edinburgh’s City Architect. The baths were restored by the community in 2008. After your swim, wander through the Stockbridge Colonies – an example of early Victorian key worker housing.

 

Explore our collection of special places to stay in Edinburgh > 

Alice Cottingham

Sawday's Expert

Alice is part of our awesome PR team and is always one step ahead when it comes to finding up-and-coming destinations. While her focus is Europe-wide, she's got a soft spot for UK towns and villages with a strong independent feel, especially foodie ones. She loves a hotel with a great restaurant, a B&B that does a brilliant breakfast or anywhere she can stroll to local shops and cafes. Triple points if there's an honesty bar or a good cocktail list.
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