Universityland: A Guide to Edinburgh University’s Central Campus

“Welcome to Universityland: home to an institution that has been influencing the world since 1583. This is the University of Edinburgh.”

Briana Pegado

Join the former president of Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA) Briana Pegado on a walk around the University of Edinburgh’s central campus, as she shows you some of the university’s most important buildings. This article is adapted from our ‘University land’ Trax, created by Briana. You can check it out on Spotify, or on our free app

1. Bristo Square

“Bristo Square was always a thoroughfare through to everything good: a little portal out of Universityland into the actual city.”

Briana Pegado

Home to the famous McEwan Hall, EUSA’s Teviot Row House and Potterrow, Bristo Square is the gateway in and out of the rest of the campus. It is also known as the adopted home of Edinburgh’s skateboarding community and has become the inspiration and birthplace of local businesses such as clothing brand Pieute and the Focus skateboard shop. 

As Briana remembers, “when the square was set to be refurbished in 2015 and skateboarders were asked to make themselves sparse, a short-lived protest movement erupted around the square to save its history. Posters, signs and caps reading “Make Bristo Skate Again” were particularly popular. The square has since re-opened, and the new design has not warded skateboarders away. They are just cleverer about what props they bring to make the space board-able.”

2. McEwan Hall

Image by Edinburgh First

“The Hall’s alcoholic origins are rarely questioned today, but given it is the main graduation hall for Edinburgh university – its merry beginnings are highly appropriate for its modern use.”

Briana Pegado

McEwan Hall was presented to the university by famous politician and brewer William McEwan in 1897, costing the equivalent of £14.8 million to build in today’s money!

The building is known for the beautiful frescoes painted in the Italian Renaissance style by William Mainwaring Palin, to be gazed upon by students taking their final exams and on their graduation day (see below).

3. Teviot Row House

Image by Renee MacKenzie

Built in 1899 in the 16th Century Scots’ Palatial style, Teviot Row House is the oldest purpose-built students’ union in the UK. During term time, it is a lively hub of student activity, as there are a multitude of bars and restaurants open for students to enjoy, as well as a wide range of events, talks and socials to attend!

Teviot is also home to Edinburgh University’s Students’ Association (EUSA). As Briana explains, “beyond putting on club nights, running important campaigns for students’ welfare, supporting student-run clubs and societies, running an advice place for students’ support, and hosting student council – the students’ association maintains an important role as a union representing students’ interests to the university, local government, city, Scottish and UK governments.”

4. Potterrow

Image by EUSA

“Potterrow is another students’ association venue, and it is also the new well-being centre, the Chaplaincy and the school of Philosophy.”

Briana Pegado

By day, the domed glass ceiling and cosy interior make Potterrow feel like a large greenhouse, and it’s a great place to steal away to have some lunch or do a bit of studying between lectures. By night, Potterrow is home to the infamous BIG CHEESE! Love it or hate it (and many do both) the Big Cheese is a student night known for its cheesy music, and it is the most well-attended student night in the city. 

5. George Square & George Square Gardens

Originally built as a residential area for Edinburgh’s upper class, George Square today is the beating heart of Edinburgh’s central campus. Once the birthplace or residence of many noble characters including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Walter Scott, the beautiful Georgian homes lining the square are now used as offices for University departments, or to host seminars or classes for students. 

Briana’s favourite part? “The beautiful oasis in the middle of the square – George Square Gardens. Hidden inside is a tiny labyrinth which is a pattern woven into little tiles of concrete, hidden away by bushes.”

We hope you’ve enjoyed this walk around Edinburgh University’s central campus with Edinburgh alumni and former EUSA president Briana Pegado.

If you’re looking for more university-related content, then check out Brianna’s full ‘Universityland’ Trax, available Spotify, and on our free app