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Though it is today considered a single city, Edinburgh is in fact composed of a number of distinct districts that have grown together over the centuries. Today, each one has a history and personality all its own. Much of the centre of Edinburgh is now a World Heritage Site.
Old Town – The heart of medieval Edinburgh and the primary focus of commerce and culture well through the 18th century, Old Town retains much of its ancient charm, despite being stuck in the center of a modern metropolis. Walking down the High Street, you'll pass a number of tourist shops. Look beyond them and you'll see loads of lanes running off the main street. Try visiting Gladstone's Land near the top - it gives a good insite into how people used to live. On your way down, of you're feeling hungry, you can get a great (and huge) burger from Wannaburger. Alternatively, down near the bottom of the hill, you could try Clarinda's - a traditional tea shop that does excellent soup and scones. During the festival in the summer the High Street is packed full of street performers. Pretty atmospheric but incredibly busy. At the bottom of the High Street, why not go into the Parliament. Although there has been much debate over the exterior of the building, few would dispute that the interior is pretty impressive. Most impressive of all is the philosophy behind the architecture - it's designed to encourage the people of Scotland to participate in the political process, constantly reminding the politicians of why they are there and who they serve.
New Town – Designed in the mid 18th century by James Craig and built to help alleviate crowding and congestion in Old Town, New Town is now the primary shopping and entertainment destination in Edinburgh. Situated in New Town are many of the city’s best and most crowded shopping streets, including the celebrated Princes Street. The New Town was built in phases, with the part from Princes Street to Queen Street being the oldest. Secondly came the bit from Queen Street northwards to Fettes Row. The streets are punctuated by private gardens and it's a lovely area to wander around and admire the architecture. Dundas Street and Howe Street have some nice shops, mainly galleries and boutiques.
Leith - Incorporated, with quite a bit of controversy, into Edinburgh proper in the early 1920s, Leith is the city’s primary port and historical hub of trade and retains an identity unique from the city at large. Though the dock front area declined following World War II, it has undergone a major revival in recent years, and has benefited tremendously from the prosperous cruise industry that docks in the district. The Queen's former Royal Yacht (HMY Britannia) can be visited; the entrance is through the Ocean Terminal shopping centre (take any bus going to "Ocean Terminal").
Portobello - formerly a separate burgh, but still with its own strong local identity. Once a major seaside resort, the beach is now much less crowded in the summer. This is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Grab an ice cream, walk along the promenade and take in the great views out across the form on the wonderfully clean mile of golden sand.
Swanson Village, a collection of white thatched cottages that were restored in the early 1960's sits on the foot of the Pentland hills on the southern boundery of the city and was first made famous for supplying the city with its first piped fresh water supply. Swanston springs were owned by the 'Trotters of Mortonhall' who took the 'theft ' of their water by the City Council to court but lost, so they planted the 'T' wood next to Swanston springs so the people of Edinbugh could see whose water they were stealing and drinking. If you look due south from the Castle Esplanade you can still see the 'T' wood at the base of the Pentland hills. Swanston is also famous for being the summer residence of the Stevenson family where Robert Louise Stevenson spent many happy years. The family rented 'Swanston Cottage' a rather nice residence (certainly no cottage) named by the City Councilors when the built Swanston Springs.
Stockbridge - With the Water of Leith running through it, Stockbridge is an attractive part of the City. There are some interesting little shops on St Stephen Street - antique shops, galleries, etc. There are quite a few cafes, bars and restaurants about. Anne Street in Stockbridge is one of the most attractive (and expensive) residential streets in the city.
Duddingston - with its 12th century parish church and the historic "Sheep Heid" pub, Duddingston Village is a tiny but very attractive area of the city. It can reached by walking through Holyrood Park (or by the number 42 bus).
Cramond - a historic area on the banks of the Firth of Forth.
Queensferry - Catch the bus out to South Queensferry for an excellent view of the Forth Bridges.