Victoria Street, to the North, curves down from George IV Bridge to connect to the Grassmarket; West Port and King Stables Road connect the Grassmarket with the nearby Lothian Road.
The main approach from the West to the Old Town, the Grassmarket is still very well conserved with many historic buildings, and an open, cobbled market square, which allows pubs and restaurants to spill out onto the pavement. There are also a number of small retailers in the area.
Some of Edinburgh's tallest buildings are in the Grassmarket, with some having eight or nine stories, each story of around 9 or 10 feet.
The area's historic role as a marketplace continues to some extent with public fairs, market stalls, craft fairs, and festival events, such as at Hogmanay and the Edinburgh Jazz Festival mardi gras in July.
The Grassmarket was also the location for public executions. James Andrews was the last person hanged here on 4 February 1784, for a robbery in Hope Park, but Grassmarket bars still trade on the area's notoriety, the most obvious being the Last Drop.
The Grassmarket's close proximity to the entrance of the old fortified city and the fact that it is situated in a low-lying valley, that would have been accessible by livestock and carts, meant that there was probably a market here as early as the 1300s.
Look out for the Bow Well which was the first piped outlet of running water in 1681.
Recent Grassmarket upgrades and conservation work:
- Gilmour's Close - a project to adapt a listed building in the Grassmarket into affordable housing, incorporating innovative energy saving measures.
- The Bow Well - one of the key historic monuments of the Grassmarket has been restored as part of the Twelve Monuments Project.
- Temporary interpretation panels installed to explain the Edinburgh World Heritage project at Gilmour's Close, a podcast and heritage trail of the Grassmarket available from Edinburgh World Heritage.