Princes Street Gardens

Most scenic city centre gardens in Europe

Princes Street Gardens are people's every day refuge at lunchtime or whenever they want to get away from the noise and rush of Edinburgh. You can relax on the green grass and wait for the One O'Clock Gun to fire from the Castle, admire the view or feed the countless pigeons.

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Princes Street Gardens in the heart of Edinburgh's City Centre were once a lake called Nor' Loch. The Loch, which had been the trash dump of Edinburgh for centuries was drained in order to improve access from the New Town to the Old Town. Later, the Nor' Loch was transformed into the beautiful Princes Street Gardens we see today.

Most tourists refer to this green space as Princes Street Garden instead of Gardens. This green space on the south side of Princes Street is divided in two by the street known as the Mound. The two parts, East Princes Street Gardens and West Princes Street Gardens have a unique character and both have lots of things to see.

The railway runs secluded behind a row of trees in the Gardens. Introduced through Princes Street Gardens in 1846, it's impressive in the way it was made so that it never disturbs the peace of the Gardens. If it weren't for the sound of the train engines, you would never know a railway passes through.

If it's a nice day then it's worth spending it in the gardens. There isn't much to do as such but if you want to read, have lunch or simply relax after a hard day's shopping or sightseeing, that's the place to go to. You can buy ice-cream, rolls and sandwiches in the Gardens itself but they're quite expensive. You can save money by bringing your own food or buying it from shops in Princes Street.

What to see in East Princes Street Gardens

Scott Monument

The Scott Monument is the most impressive monument along Princes Street and marks the entrance to the Gardens. This dark neo-gothic monument dedicated to Sir Walter Scott is the world's largest monument ever to be built in memory of a writer. The view from the very top is simply breathtaking. At a few pounds the ticket, this historical attraction is a must see for everyone.

National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Scottish Academy

With the Playfair Project recently completed, the new link between the two galleries is now open. The open space in front of the Galleries has become one of the best viewpoints in Edinburgh with amazing views over Princes Street Gardens, the Balmoral Hotel and the Old Town.

You can glide your eyes over the entire panorama starting with the Scott Monument, the Balmoral Hotel in the distance, the whole of East Princes Street Gardens, North Bridge in the distance and the buildings from the Old Town at the far right.

What to see in West Princes Street Gardens

West Princes Street Gardens are generally less crowded than the East Princes Street Gardens despite it being the ideal place to admire the Castle up close.

The Floral Clock

One of the main attractions in the Gardens is the floral clock. It is made up from thousands of flower types and in 2002 it was redone on the special occasion of the Queen's Golden Jubilee. The Floral Clock is the oldest in the world. Its mechanism consists in a mechanical cuckoo calling the hour and is a great picture subject.

Ross Band Stand

During the summer, the Ross Band stage in Princes Street Gardens is used as a venue for different shows and concerts. Most events are part of the Edinburgh Festival and Hogmanay -- New Year's celebrations. You might even get a free sample of whisky to warm up on chilly summer nights.

Ross Fountain

This lovely fountain in West Princes Street gardens is particularly interesting when used as a foreground for taking pictures of Edinburgh Castle.

Princes Street Gardens at Christmas

At Christmas, the Gardens host a traditional German Christmas Market, the Edinburgh Wheel and a large outdoor ice rink part of the Winter Wonderland. The East Princes Street Gardens become the heart of winter festivities in Edinburgh.

West Princes Street Gardens are home to Santa's Reindeer Garden as well as horse and carriage rides and lights are hanging in every tree.

The Gardens must be returfed every early spring because of the damage caused during the holiday season to the grass. This makes Princes Street Gardens a less than pretty sight until returfing is completed, usually between February and March.

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