Discovering the architectural gems in Edinburgh
This city has more listed buildings than any other city in the world. It is partly built on an extinct volcano (a fact that your feet will feel during your city walks) and is famous of its gin, bagpipes and hidden closes. Time to discover the architectural gems of Edinburgh!
I hear you thinking: closes, what do you mean? While walking through the old town of Edinburgh, you will see a lot of street names like ‘Advocate’s Close’ and ‘Fountain Close’. Those closes were narrow alleyways which led to hundreds of tenements. In fact, the term ‘Close’ comes from the walls of the alleyway being so close to you.
Perhaps the most famous close is the ‘Mary King’s Close’. It is a close underground where people in the 17th century were put into quarantine. Yes, they were ahead of their time. At that time, the plague was reigning over Mary King’s Close while the richer people were literally living above them. From an architectural point of view, the tenements underground were very interesting. The number of floors could go up to eight, where the highest ones were completely made from wood. Some say these tenements can be seen as the world’s first skyscrapers (Chalmers, 2017), although they never saw a piece of the sky.
Chapel of Saint Albert the Great (own picture, 2022)
Another architectural tour de force is the Chapel of Saint Albert the Great. I have to say, I did not find this chapel as easy as I expected. It is hidden behind some walls in a street parallel to the main street of the Edinburgh University. The oak-lined timber roof has a very natural look which merges beautifully with the nature in its surroundings. The contrast with the typical Georgian houses in the background makes it even more interesting to look at.
Circus lane (own picture, 2022)
My favourite place to visit was Circus Lane. I actually walked through this street twice, because I liked the picturesque feeling of it. This lane was built in the 1760s during the Georgian period (Pearce, 2021). During that time, only the wealthiest citizens of Edinburgh could afford a house in this area. Many of them possessed a horse and carriages, which is why Circus Lane is built. This lane was meant for the stables of the horses, storage of the carriages and living spaces for the staff.
National Museum of Scotland (own picture, 2022)
Last but not least: the museums. There are many of them and the great news is: most of them are free to visit! The National Portrait Gallery has an extraordinary ceiling which is worth visiting on itself. If you go to the National Museum of Scotland, you will find a collection of literally everything. However, if you want to learn more about the history of music, don’t forget to visit this hidden jewel: the St Cecilia’s Hall & Music Museum. It has the most instruments in one place I’ve ever seen and a volunteer full of enthusiasm will guide you through the museum.
That is something I experienced in general: all the people are extremely helpful in Edinburgh. Citizens are always searching for a way in which they can help you out. Besides, the air is so clear to breathe in. It is the perfect place to come to rest and discover the rich history and architecture of Scotland.
Chalmers, T. (2017). The Story Behind Edinburgh's Mary King's Close. Retrieved from:
Pearce, S. (2021). Circus Lane Edinburgh – The Ultimate Photography Guide & How to Visit. Retrieved from: