Compare Balmoral and Caledonian Historic Luxury Hotels in Edinburgh

Which Hotel is Better, Caledonian Hilton or Balmoral Rocco Forte?

Thinking of staying at one of the two landmark, 5-star historic hotels in Edinburgh, the Caledonian Hotel and the Balmoral Hotel Hotel?

Both hotels are rich in history and tradition as they are the two original Edwardian railway hotels built in the late 19th century-early 20th century and they are a natural choice for many first time visitors and repeat visitors looking to book a five star luxurious and historic Edinburgh hotel.

But despite their traditional similarities, each hotel has their own distinct atmosphere so which one would we recommend?

Guide to Edinburgh 5-Star Hotels

Comparison of Balmoral Hotel and Caledonian Hotels in Edinburgh

  • Balmoral and Caledonian are the two historic turn-of-the century-railway hotels in Edinburgh City Centre.
  • Both of these famous hotels enjoy a prime location at opposite ends of Princes Street, the main street in Edinburgh.
  • Both offer 5-star luxury accommodation and extensive spa and leisure facilities.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh, Balmoral Hotel or Hilton Caledonian Hotel

The Balmoral

Luxurious and very famous railway hotel with lots of character and history.

Location: Princes Street

The historic 5-star Balmoral Hotel is located at Number 1, Princes Street and is right next to Waverley train station. Originally called the North British Hotel and known by many as the grand old lady, the hotel was designed by the leading Scottish architect William Hamilton Beattie and was built between 1895 and 1902. So technically, it is both a Victorian and Edwardian hotel.

The hotel was renamed The Balmoral in 1988 after a major refurbishment and now belongs to the prestigious Rocco Forte collection. From the outside, it is an imposing and traditional building, famous for its 195 foot high clock tower which is traditionally set two minutes fast for the benefit of travellers on their way to the station.

The Balmoral offers 168 rooms and 20 suites, styled by the famous Olga Polizzi, each decorated in an elegant yet contemporary design with an eye on its traditional Scottish heritage. The Balmoral Superior Deluxe Double and Balmoral Superior Deluxe King rooms, as well as many of the suites have beautiful views over Edinburgh Castle.

Recent awards won by the Balmoral Hotel include:

  • AA Inspectors' Choice Five Red Star Award at the 2010 AA Hospitality Awards
  • Conde Nast Traveller's annual "Gold List" 2010
  • Scotland's top Day Spa (UK category) in the Conde Nast Traveller Readers' Spa Awards 2008

Average room price for five star Balmoral Hotel for 1 night Average room price per night: £150-£374 ($236-$588) - Check availability at The Balmoral

The Caledonian

Elegant and historic railway hotel with Hilton-standard amenities and facilities.

Location: Princes Street

The landmark 5-star Caledonian Hotel is located about 1.2 km (just under a mile) West of the Balmoral, also on Princes Street. It takes about 12 minutes to reach the entrance of Edinburgh Castle on foot due to the geography of the area but physically, the Caledonian is closer to the castle than the Balmoral AND it offers better views.

This historic hotel was built in 1903 as the station hotel for the Princes Street station (now demolished) which was run by the Caledonian Railway (hence the name). It is a large and impressive building made of red sandstone with 254 rooms and suites. They are modern and elegant, some with great views over the city or Edinburgh Castle.

Recent awards won by the Hilton Caledonian include:

  • Outstanding Service Hotel Awards in Edinburgh from the HotelClub Hotel Awards 2010

Average room price for the Hilton Caledonian for 1 night Average room price per night: £109-£301 ($171-$473) - Check availability at The Caledonian

Caledonian and Balmoral Comparison

Hotel Bars and Restaurants Comparison

There are 5 eating and drinking options at the Balmoral Hotel apart from in-room dining:

  • The Michelin starred Number One restaurant, which uses fresh Scottish ingredients
  • The less formal Hadrian's Restaurant for Scottish and international cuisine
  • The opulent Bollinger Bar at Palm Court
  • The contemporary Balmoral Bar featuring a cocktail tasting menu
  • The Drawing Room which serves coffee and afternoon tea

There are 4 eating and drinking options at the Caledonian Hotel apart from 24h in-room dining:

  • The formal Pompadour Restaurant which serves modern Scottish cuisine and offers stunning views of Edinburgh Castle
  • The less formal brasserie-style Chisholm's Restaurant which is actually located in the old railway station building
  • The Caley Bar which has over 250 malt whiskies to choose from
  • Henry J Beans American diner

Hotel Leisure Facilities Comparison

The Balmoral has the award-winning Balmoral Spa, which includes the following facilities:

  • 15-metre indoor swimming pool
  • Finnish sauna and Turkish steam room
  • Gym and exercise room
  • Candle-lit, scented relaxation suite and luxury treatment rooms
  • Spa treatments for the face and body by ESPA, Ytsara and Sundari

Note: Use of the spa is chargeable, although day-use is complimentary with one treatment.

The Hilton Caledonian offers the LivingWell Health Club which includes:

  • 12.5 metre indoor pool and jacuzzi
  • Sauna and steam room
  • Beauty salon
  • Gym with personal trainers
  • Ocean Rooms Spa which offers Thalgo, Dermalogica and Mama Mio Maternity spa treatments

Conclusion - Where to stay, Caledonian or Balmoral Hotel

Deciding which of the two most famous historic five star hotels in Edinburgh to stay in is tough and is based largely on personal preference and budget. Both are fantastic hotels to stay in but the Balmoral is the more popular of the two hotels on most review sites.

However, the Balmoral is also the more expensive of the two. Whichever hotel you end up choosing, try and get a room overlooking Edinburgh Castle. In fact, since you are going to splash out on a room at one of these famous luxury hotels you should certainly consider a room with a view towards Edinburgh Castle. Note: Rooms with views of Edinburgh Castle are the more expensive ones.

Also note that apart from the basic room rate you will have to pay for extras such as Wi-Fi and parking if required. But whichever one of the two hotels you choose, you can look forward to a historic and luxury 5-star stay in Edinburgh.

Book the Caledonian

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