1 Overview

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.

Location

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

Contact

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh World Heritage Site Coordinator
City of Edinburgh Council
Waverley Court
4 East Market Street
Edinburgh
EH8 8BG

Email: worldheritage@edinburgh.gov.uk

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:

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.

View images of the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh on the Scottish Ten website.

Download the Old and New Towns of Edinburgh leaflet

The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (English)
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (French)
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (Gaelic)
The Old and New Towns of Edinburgh (German)

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:

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:

  • conservation
  • management 
  • enhancement

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 2011–2016

Share