Lothian Road and Festival Square will be the first areas tackled by a task force being led by city council design champion Sir Terry Farrell.
It suggests the existing dual carriageway should be reduced to one lane each way, creating space for cafes, trees, sculptures and fountains.
The plans also include a pedestrian crossing between Festival Square and the Usher Hall. A four-month public consultation will now be held and a detailed blueprint is to follow in the spring.
Edinburgh City Council planning leader Trevor Davies said that the aim is to make areas such as Picardy Place and Leith Walk more welcoming.
"We want to give Lothian Road more of a feel that the High Street has now and encourage people to sit, relax and enjoy the space," he added.
However, the Automobile Association has questioned the practicality of reducing traffic on what is one of Edinburgh's main arterial routes.