Nestled below Edinburgh Castle, the Grassmarket epitomises Edinburgh’s fairytale charm. Locals and tourists alike flock to this charming part of the city for its pubs, restaurants and shops, or simply to take in the view.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this historic part of Edinburgh’s Old Town is one of the most visited areas in the city. To help you make the most of your visit, here’s our local guide to the Grassmarket:
Formed in the mid 15th Century, the Grassmarket was home to bustling weekly cattle and horse markets until the early 20th Century. The animals would graze nearby while awaiting their sale, and thus the nickname ‘Grassmarket’ was born.
Beginning in the 17th Century, the city authorities also used the eastern part of the market for public executions. The unexpected survival of a couple lucky criminals, including fish hawker Maggie Dickson, has inevitably contributed to much of Edinburgh’s spooky folklore. You can follow in the footsteps of the condemned at some of the Grassmarket’s aptly-named pubs, including The Last Drop, where those about to face the gallows were allowed one last drink.
Greyfriars Bobby – This loyal Skye Terrier spent an impressive 14 years guarding his owner’s grave in the late 1800s. Famous in his own time, the pooch (or at least his commemorative statue) is still a major tourist attraction today. The bronze version of Bobby sits at the top of Candlemaker Row, just outside the entrance to Greyfriars Kirkyard.
Medieval Gallows – The area where the Grassmarket’s public executions took place is still marked today. Find the site of the gallows, marked in stone near the bottom of Victoria Street, and put yourself in the shoes of criminals past.
The Cadies and Witchery Tours – For something even spookier, try this chilling ghost tour. Led by the ‘ghost’ of highwayman Adam Lyal, executed in Edinburgh in 1811, this tour takes you through Edinburgh’s gruesome past. The tour’s headquarters are located just off the Grassmarket on West Bow.
Bomb Site – Outside the popular White Hart Inn you’ll find a small stone monument marking the location where a Zeppelin Airship L14 dropped a bomb on the city. The World War One air raid occurred on the 2nd of April 1916 and is an often overlooked part of the Grassmarket’s history.
Walking the many hills of Scotland’s capital never fails to work up an appetite, so you’ll want to find somewhere cosy to refuel. The Grassmarket’s many gastropubs and restaurants are the perfect place to go to fill the void.
You can choose from Italian, French or traditional Scottish cuisine and take your pick of cosy pub grub or fine dining. Just off the Grassmarket on Victoria Street, Maison Bleue is a local favourite.
For an extra succulent lunch, go for a pork sandwich from Oink (and be sure to admire what’s in the window).
The Last Drop – Located next to where the public gallows once stood, this appropriately named pub is an ideal place to meet up with friends for a cosy, candle-lit pint.
Under the Stairs – This hidden, basement pub is one of the Grassmarket’s hippest drinking establishments. For a taste of London-like coolness, without the pretension, it’s a fantastic place to start your night.
Dropkick Murphys – One of Edinburgh’s only late-night (open until 3am) options that isn’t a ‘club’, Dropkick Murphys has everything you’ve come to expect from a great Irish pub – live music, dancing, lively crowds – but in an extra spectacular, cave-like setting.
The Grassmarket is ideal for shoppers who seek out unique items that you ‘just can’t get anywhere else’. If you want to live and look like a local, be sure to step into Walker Slater, the stylish Scottish tweed specialists. Or, if you’re on a mission to bag a bargain, W. Armstrong & Sons is another well-known Edinburgh institution and one of the city’s best vintage clothing shops.
For the freshest local goods, including organic vegetables, fresh fish and artisan breads, weave your way through the stalls of the Grassmarket’s weekly farmers’ market, held every Saturday from 10am-5pm.
This large, luxury studio apartment is right in the heart of the city, with Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile and the National Museum just a few minutes’ walk away. It’s exquisitely decorated throughout and boasts a Super king size bed with no less than 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.
Making use of the comfy double sofa bed allows four adults to sleep comfortably in this gorgeous home away from home.
This ground floor apartment is actually a converted stable, giving it unique, local character. It comfortably sleeps four and is fitted with plenty of subtle luxuries, including a Super king size bed and under-floor heating in the bathroom.
The charming apartment sits at the base of Edinburgh Castle and is just around the corner from a number of superb restaurants, including Thai Orchid on Johnston Terrace and Maison Bleue on Victoria Street.