Edinburgh has been the capital of Scotland for more than 500 years and is renowned for its writers, artists, philosophers and scientists. It was home to economist Adam Smith, philosopher David Hume and authors Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson, among many others.
Edinburgh is built on an extraordinary landscape of hills and valleys, formed millions of years ago by volcanoes and ice sheets. Together, these factors have created a truly distinctive skyline and stunning views, which are recognised around the world.
The city’s unique character comes from the contrast between the Old Town and the New Town, each of which contains many significant historic buildings. More than 75% of all buildings within the World Heritage Site are listed for their architectural or historic importance.
The medieval Old Town retains its distinctive pattern of narrow passageways known as closes and wynds. The New Town, designed in 1767, is the largest and best-preserved example of Georgian town planning in the UK.
Edinburgh lies in the heart of Scotland. It sits on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth.
The city was originally founded on and around the Castle Rock.
Today Edinburgh spans seven hills:
- Arthur’s Seat
- Blackford Hill
- the Braid Hills
- Calton Hill
- the Castle Rock
- Corstorphine Hill
- Craiglockhart Hill
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Coordinator
City of Edinburgh Council
4 East Market Street
2 Inscription and significance
UNESCO inscribed the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh as a World Heritage Site in 1995.
The Outstanding Universal Value of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh lies in the way they dramatically reflect significant changes in European urban planning.
The World Heritage Site encompasses the:
- inward-looking and defensive medieval city
- expansive Enlightenment planning of the 18th and 19th centuries in the New Town
- 19th-century rediscovery and revival of the Old Town, with Scottish Baronial architecture adapted for an urban setting
The New Town's planning and architectural quality set standards for Scotland and beyond. Edinburgh had a major influence on the development of urban architecture and town planning throughout Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Download the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site: Statement of Outstanding Universal Value [PDF, 175KB]
3 Visit the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
Among the many historic places to visit in the heart of Edinburgh are:
- Gladstone’s Land – a 17th-century merchant’s apartment in the Old Town
- the Georgian House – an 18th-century residence in the New Town
- Edinburgh Castle – at the crown of the Old Town and overlooking the New Town
The Museum of Edinburgh on the historic Canongate has collections that show how the city has developed up until the present day.
Find out more on the Edinburgh World Heritage website.Download the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh leaflet in various languages
4 Management of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site is managed by a partnership involving:
- City of Edinburgh Council
- Edinburgh World Heritage
- Historic Environment Scotland
- other key stakeholders
Statement of Outstanding Universal Value and management plan
Each World Heritage Site has a Statement of Outstanding Universal Value, which:
- clearly states the reasons for the site’s inscription on the World Heritage List
- identifies what must be protected, conserved and managed to protect its Outstanding Universal Value for the long term
UNESCO also requires each site to have a management plan. This provides a shared framework for a site’s active:
Visit www.ewh.org.uk to download the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management Plan.
Download the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site: Statement of Outstanding Universal Value
Download the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Management Plan 2017–2022