In the past seven years, I’ve met visitors from all over the world in our small boutique on William Street. We often have a good laugh about the ‘lovely’ Scottish weather and a nice talk about jewellery. The conversation often leads to one final question – ‘ so, where would you recommend us to go next?’ Yes, where exactly? At this point, I pull out a rather useless tourist map showing nothing beyond Dean Village and direct them to Stockbridge - the lovely and compact residential community well known for its independent cafés, interesting local shops, and good restaurants.
But the truth is, Edinburgh has so much more to explore on foot than just Stockbridge. As a local small business owner, I’ve built more awareness of the old and new shops in the city than the majority. I like stroll around the new town and old town discovering new shops and streets, having a tea in a small coffee shop and having a chat with the owner. So here I will share five of my favourite streets in Edinburgh for boutique shopping.
About the Map
I decided to put together this little walking map to help people explore Edinburgh beyond the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle, and to discover small local shops in the less visited streets and hidden corners.
I carefully selected five areas near the city centre where you will find a good selection of independent boutiques, pubs, shops offering local produce as well as some old buildings that have historic and architectural interest. All are a walkable distance from Princes Street.
Image of the 5 areas on one map.
A: Rose Street ; B: Thistle Street ; C: William Street; D: Stockbridge ; E: Broughton Street
* In part A, I will introduce Thistle Street, William Street and Stockbridge. Rose Street and Broughton Street will be included in part B.
B: Thistle Street
Thistle Street, named after the national flower of Scotland is a narrow street discretely located behind George Street. It has rather fascinating history. An interesting article about the history of Thistle Street can be found here. https://ewh.org.uk/street-stories/thistle-street/
Walking route to Thistle Street
When it comes to shopping, the west end of Thistle Street starting from Frederick Street has a lot to offer while the east end is a lot quieter. It’s the home of some long established pubs and fashion boutiques such as Jane Davidson, Covet and Joseph Bonnar (antique jeweller). As you will notice, Thistle Street doesn’t appear to profit from the busy footfall on George Street around the corner, but the longstanding businesses on this tiny street enjoy a strong core of customers from the city and beyond.
The street is right in the city centre, easy to walk to from any direction in the city centre, a stone’s throw from George Street. There is a good selection of fashion boutiques, local tailor; independent wine shops, and bars. Some of the buildings have a historic interest.
It’s a short street, which won’t take more than 10 mins to walk through. There aren’t many seating areas outside to enjoy a drink but there are plenty of places nearby.
C: William Street
Tucked away just behind Shandwick Place, the prestigious West End is one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems. This historical area of the city has many buildings of great architectural beauty, primarily itslong rows and crescents of Georgian terraced houses.
At the very heart of the West End area lie both Stafford Street and William Street - the only street which has a continual commercial ground floor of 19th century character in the West End. Now they’re home to colourful, stylish boutiques, galleries and some much-loved cafes and bars. William Street is also a popular filming location and with its Georgian frontage shops it is easily put back in time.
Walking route to William Street (West End)
William Street has been our home for us- Lily Luna for the last 7 years and hopefully for many more years to come. Although small in size, the shop has a rich and ever growing numbers of contemporary jewellery collections from Independent European makers and beyond. It’s definitely a treasure trove for jewellery lovers. If you find yourself in the area, do pop over to pay us a visit.
If you want to explore a bit more of the West End than just the shops , I would highly recommend you to visit the very grand looking building standing at the end of Melville Street- St.Mary’s Cathedral, and the Scottish Contemporary Art Gallery near Dean Village.
William Street is also within range of the city centre, and it takes about 5 minutes to walk there from the west end of Princes Street. Apart from the good selection of independent boutiques and cafés we mentioned earlier, the local community is also been keen on organising seasonal events. There has been a vintage car street event in June along Alva and William Street over the last two years and it’s scheduled to return next year (2020) as well!
As is the case with Thistle Street, William Street is also a fairly short street to walk along and has limited seating areas outdoors. The West End BID group and the local council have been in discussion to increase the sitting spots in the area.
Stockbridge market and walking route to Stockbridge
You can easily find lots of information on the internet about Stockbridge. It used to be a village hundreds of years ago but now it’s a vibrant and popular residential area. There are many local shops, restaurants, and cafes on its main street, Raeburn Place, as well as some less known side streets like St.Stephen Street and Circus Lane (One of the most photogenic streets in Edinburgh). It’s a quite compact area, and shouldn’t take more than 1 hour to walk around.
Pros: a good variety of shops in the area from antique shops to art galleries. Lots of cafés and good restaurants in which to enjoy a nice meal or a drink. Great local farmers’ market at the weekend to get some fresh local produce!
Cons: The area can be quite busy during the weekend; over the last few years, more cafés (The late time I counted, there were 14!) and charity shops have opened in Stockbridge than anything else, so there’s a bit less variety than formerly.