The NEW TOWN, itself well over two hundred years old, stands in total contrast to the Old Town: the layout is symmetrical, the streets are broad and straight, and most of the buildings are Neoclassical. Originally intended to be residential, today the New Town is the bustling hub of the city’s professional, commercial and business life, dominated by shops, banks and offices.
The existence of the New Town is chiefly due to the vision of George Drummond, who made schemes for the expansion of the city soon after becoming Lord Provost in 1725. Work began on the draining of the Nor’ Loch below the castle in 1759, a job that took some sixty years. The North Bridge, linking the Old Town with the main road leading to the port of Leith, was built between 1763 and 1772 and, in 1766, following a public competition, a plan for the New Town by 22-year-old architect James Craig was chosen. Its gridiron pattern was perfectly matched to the site: central George Street, flanked by showpiece squares, was laid out along the main ridge, with parallel Princes Street and Queen Street on either side, built up on one side only, so as not to block the spectacular views of the Old Town and Fife.
The layout of the greater New Town is a remarkable grouping of squares, circuses, terraces, crescents and parks along with Charlotte Square and the assemblage of curiosities on and around Calton Hill. However, it also contains assorted Victorian additions, notably the Scott Monument on Princes Street, the Royal Botanic Garden on its northern fringe, as well as two of the city’s most important public collections – the National Gallery of Scotland and, further afield, the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.