Pros: Funky, quirky shopping. Great nightlife
Cons: Very rowdy
Well I expect you can buy marijauna but the grass they used to sell here was for feeding livestock.
For at least 500 years the Grassmarket was the site of an open air market, although this ceased in 1911. The tradition has been restored in recent years, however, with a fair taking place on the first three Saturdays in August to coincide with The Festival.
The Grassmarket is immediately recognisable as a market-place, enclosed as it is by buildings on all four sides, surrounding a large open area which in turn is overlooked by the castle towering high above.
Four roads lead into it:
From the west, the Portsburgh Port was at one time the western gate to the city, and it was this gate through which Robert the Bruce entered after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314.
At the western end of the Grassmarket, the name of King's Stables Road recalls that this was the area in which the royal stables attached to the castle once stood.
At the eastern end of the Grassmarket, at the foot of West Bow is the Bowfoot Well which was the first outlet for piped water in Edinburgh in 1674.
Also at the east end of the Grassmarket, near the foot of Victoria Street, a small garden, a plaque, and stone markers in the centre of the roadway commemorate the place of execution where many Covenanters were put to death because they would not renounce their Presbyterian faith.
The Grassmarket was also the scene of public hangings and the site of the gallows is now marked by a plaque.
The Last drop is a pub which is only a few steps from the site of the gallows.
Before Victoria Street was constructed in the nineteenth century visitors followed the West Bow which zig-zagged steeply up to The Royal Mile. Victoria Street is still known to local folk as the West Bow.
Some of the fine houses which lined this route can still be seen at the foot of the street.
It was in the Grassmarket in 1736 that an Edinburgh mob lynched Captain Porteous, the commander of the Town Guard. Porteous had ordered the guard to fire upon a crowd with fatal results. He was put on trial and convicted of murder - but then he received a reprieve from London. Incensed, the mob dragged Porteous from the Old Tolbooth, which stood in the Royal Mile near St Giles', purchased a rope in the West Bow, and hanged him in the Grassmarket from a dyer's pole.
(Served him right)
On the north side of the Grassmarket, one of the many hostelries is the White Hart Inn, where Robert Burns found lodgings in 1791 during his final visit to Edinburgh. It was during this visit that his farewell to 'Clarinda' (Mrs Agnes MacLehose) inspired him to compose 'Ae Fond Kiss'.
The Grassmarket was also the haunt of the infamous murderers Burke and Hare. During 1827 and 1828 they suffocated close on twenty men and women in their lodgings in Tanner's Close, in the nearby West Port. This was their way of providing bodies for the university's lecturing anatomists, who didn't ask too many questions.
Burke was hanged at the Lawnmarket and ironically, his body was dissected at the university; Hare escaped the rope, having turned King's evidence after their arrest
At the western end of the Grassmarket, the name of King's Stables Road recalls that this was the area in which the royal stables attached to the castle once stood. And in the Vennel, which, by a flight of steps, to Lauriston, it is still possible to see a stretch of the Flodden Wall, hurriedly constructed by the town following the disaster on Flodden Field in 1513, when it seemed likely that the English would follow up their victory with the sacking of Edinburgh.
On leaving the Grassmarket at its eastern end we enter the Cowgate. The line of this ancient thoroughfare, once a path along which cows were driven to pasture, follows the south flank of the Old Town ridge as far as St Mary's Street, running parallel to the Royal Mile.
Also at the eastern end is Candlemaker's Row where the statue of Greyfriar's Bobby can be found at the top of the street.
On the northside of the Grassmarket there are steps which lead up to the castle. Don't even think about it unless you are in good shape. They'll damn near kill you!
Some pictures of the Grassmarket;
For the adventurous, a trip to Victoria Street, the West Bow, Candlemaker Row, Grassmarket and the West Port is essential. This delightful area sometimes goes unnoticed by those who stick close to the Mile yet it is rich in the unexpected: luxurious leather luggage, Scottish silver and goldsmiths.
There is a shop on West Bow which sells every kind of brush imaginable, one of a kind. It's next door to a cheese shop.
There are also antique prints, stylish raincoats, polished Scottish stones, designer knitwear, objects from almost every corner of the world and even fossils off the shelf.
You can discover Byzantium, a shopping experience located in an old church building - a collective of stalls with antiques, clothes, books, rugs, prints, and a coffee shop in the gallery.
The Grassmarket is the place to go if you just have to have that Afghan coat, winklepickers or those Loon pants, with a couple of Retro shops selling clothes from the 50's ,60's, 70's and 80's.
If you crave for that elusive gift or a self-indulgence this area is bound to satisfy your need. Beside the exclusive antique shops with the beautifully polished furniture you will find kite, juggling, yoyo and circus shops.
And if that's not enough, Aztec tiles, furniture from south America, jewellery from Nepal lie cheek by jowl with postcards, gadgets and gizmos, stained glass, pottery and traditional Scottish gifts: and even more clothes and exotic sweaters.
Don't forget the West Port either for a wealth of books both new and antiquarian.
Eating and drinking
This is a busy area for nightlife with many pubs, clubs and restaurants. It can be rather rowdy in the evenings with a young, boisterous crowd.
During the day it is much more sedate with one side of the Grassmarket given over to European style pavement cafes.
There are eateries of all kinds in the area: from takeaways and simple cafes to world class gourmet restaurants.
This site lists some of the pubs in the area:
This is an area quite often overlooked by visitors to the city which is a great shame. It has a very bohemian atmosphere and is well worth exploring.
It is very safe during daylight hours but at night it can be a bit wild - all part of the experience.
Some other reviews on Edinburgh;
Thanks for reading