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Neoclassical Capital: 12 buildings that made Edinburgh the ‘Athens of the North’

Edinburgh’s city fathers looked to the architecture of Ancient Greece in a concerted and prolonged effort for the Scottish capital to become accepted as one of modern Europe’s foremost intellectual centres.

Leading architects of the Georgian era including Robert Adam, William Henry Playfair and Thomas Hamilton were enlisted to make the dream of an “Athens of the North” become a reality and the innumerable Greco-Roman stone-carved pillars, pilasters, pediments and porticos they envisioned continue to stand proudly to this day. Here are a dozen such examples responsible for Edinburgh achieving its famous moniker.

The Old Royal High School at Regent Road, built between 1826 and 1829 to the designs of Thomas Hamilton on the south face of Calton Hill as part of Edinburgh's Acropolis.

1. Old Royal High School, Regent Road

The Old Royal High School at Regent Road, built between 1826 and 1829 to the designs of Thomas Hamilton on the south face of Calton Hill as part of Edinburgh's Acropolis.
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Construction of Old College was carried out in stages between 1789 and 1827, with the landmark dome completed in 1887. Architects including Robert Adam and William Henry Playfair were involved at the design stage.

2. University of Edinburgh Old College, South Bridge

Construction of Old College was carried out in stages between 1789 and 1827, with the landmark dome completed in 1887. Architects including Robert Adam and William Henry Playfair were involved at the design stage.
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Generally referred to as Surgeon's Hall, the building was completed in May 1832 to the designs of William Henry Playfair.

3. Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Nicolson Street

Generally referred to as Surgeon's Hall, the building was completed in May 1832 to the designs of William Henry Playfair.
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The National Monument designed by Charles R. Cockerell and William H. Playfair and built from 1823. It was intended to 'erect a facsimilie of the Parthenon' in Athens, however money for the project ran out over the course of the decade and to this day the monument remains unfinished.

4. National Monument of Scotland, Calton Hill

The National Monument designed by Charles R. Cockerell and William H. Playfair and built from 1823. It was intended to 'erect a facsimilie of the Parthenon' in Athens, however money for the project ran out over the course of the decade and to this day the monument remains unfinished.
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