Bustling Princes Street is Edinburgh’s primary retail strip, with high-end boutiques and sprawling department stores straddling its northern edge while lush parkland lines the southern fringe. Regardless of whether or not you’re in Edinburgh to shop, Princes Street is a must-visit destination. The historic strip is home to several important monuments and attractions, including the verdant Prince Street Gardens that afford sweeping views of the castle.

The street also showcases the city’s eclectic architecture, with an array of intriguing edifices dating from Georgian times to the modern era. Of course, the shopping on offer here is second to none, with Scotland’s most sought-after array of chic boutiques and shops. Hungry travelers will find a selection of fine gourmet digs, and there’s a smattering of cozy British pubs for the pint-swilling crowd.

Princes Street in Edinburgh - one of the highlights of 5 Things to Do For New Year's Eve in Edinburgh and 14 Best Places to Go Shopping in Edinburgh (Read all about Edinburgh here)

What are the highlights and features of Princes Street?

For the non-shopaholic traveler, Princes Street’s appeal lies in its spectacular setting and historical monuments. Edinburgh is one of the most picturesque major cities in the UK, and Princes Street is fundamental to its aesthetic appeal. While most main streets feature stores on both sides, the gorgeous Princes Street Gardens line the southern edge to make this retail strip unique.

The gardens were created in 1820 after draining the Nor Loch lake, which was formerly used to defend the castle from foes. These days, the lush 37-acre expanse separates the Old Town from the New City and serves as the ideal spot for a leisurely stroll.

On the gardens’ western edge, the Ross Fountain is a spectacular sight to behold and a popular meeting point for locals. The stunning cast-iron structure was installed in 1872 after being showcased in the Great Exhibition of London. Opposite the fountain lies the imposing Parish Church of St Cuthbert, a late Victorian-era building famed for its byzantine fittings and spectacular stained-glass windows.

Another striking building on Princes Street is the elegant 5-star Balmoral Hotel at the eastern end of the street, built to accommodate well-heeled railroad passengers. Next door, Waverley Station is the capital’s historic main train station, complete with its own bustling retail space and a tremendous glistening glass roof.

Shopping, eating and drinking on Princes Street

Princes Street is so much more than a historical monument – it’s a modern space to eat, shop, and be merry.

The most notable retail space is the Jenners department store, a majestic Renaissance-style building that stocks a smorgasbord of high-end goods. If it’s style and fashion you’re after, typical high-street brands like Topman, Topshop, Swarovski, Zara, Marks & Spencer, and Boots lie peppered around the strip. And for the budget shopper, downmarket chains like Poundland, Bargain Books, and Primark are on offer as well.

As for dining options, Waverley Mall connects to the train station and houses several stores plus your usual array of fast-food outlets. On Princes Street itself, Sir Walter Scott Tea Room does elegant traditional fare, while Costa Coffee is your best bet for espressos.

What are good things to know about Princes Street?

Princes Street stretches for under a mile from Lothian Road to Leith Street, officially separating the Old Town from the New City. Much of the street is limited to buses, taxi cabs, and streetcars – private vehicle traffic is only permitted on the eastern end to reduce congestion.

Waverley Station provides easy access to streetcars around the city and long-distance trains, while many of Edinburgh’s bus routes pass through the strip.

Visiting during the winter? The Princes Street Gardens host a magical Christmas market complete with seasonal stalls and a family-friendly ice skating rink.

Princes Street in Edinburgh

Location: Princes St, Edinburgh EH2 2DF, UK

Open: 24/7

Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer