Edinburgh's Best Bars and Pubs
Pubs are a strong part of Scottish culture. They are social places to hang out and exchange ideas and it is said that the number of pubs in Edinburgh's Old Town is one reason the eighteenth century Scottish Enlightenment began. While there are many pubs and bars in Edinburgh, we list here the best pubs and bars for glamorous cocktails, fine whisky selections as well as a good traditional pint.
One of Edinburgh’s most attractive pubs, immortalised in Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street located on a World Heritage site is deservedly popular with its old school charm. Black Isle Blonde available on tap and a superb Sunday roast that it is best to book in advance. From the hanging baskets and beer garden outside to the warren of rooms inside with their simple, traditional décor, you can tell this is a highly civilised pub. The Cumberland remains dedicated to offering good real ales on tap, a decent wine list and a sizeable whisky list. The food menu offers everything from sandwiches and burgers to pan-fried hake fillet and caesar salad, with roast beef on Sundays.
It is not particularly easy to find this cocktail bar, since it is hidden in one of Edinburgh’s Queen Street cellars. Yet, it is worth searching out for their cocktails that include retro classics as well as fabulous new inventions. Our tips are the Campbeltown made with single malt whisky, Cherry Heering and green chartreuse or a Mint Choc Flip. The bar staff can also create a cocktail especially for you. There are DJs every Friday and Saturday night.
The Last Word Saloon
Warm, modest and dark, making reading quite difficult, this is best best of Edinburgh’s bars for a discreet drink. Their cocktail ‘Who Dares Wins’ made from gin, lemon juice, home-made almond syrup and kummel is recommended, though there is a punch of the day and a takeaway cocktail too. The staff are friendly and obliging and it has a great neighbourhood feel.
The Devil’s Advocate
Hidden down a narrow, medieval close opposite St Giles' Cathedral this is one of Edinburgh’s top pubs. There is a large terrace and deck that neighbours an allotment garden providing fresh produce for the kitchen that produces some fine dishes. With a vast choice of whiskies, a good wine list (available by half-bottle and glass) and interesting cocktails, including the ‘Howitzer' made with whisky, citric acid, ginger syrup, house blended tea and soda.
It’s hard to believe that one of the city’s grandest bars was once the branch of a bank. Visiting bars like this feels like a special event, even if you are stopping just for a coffee. The bar also offers afternoon tea, a light lunch or something a little more substantial. With its central location, the Dome is a favourite meeting place for Edinburgh folk of all types so it can get busy.
The Café Royal
Stylish and ornate with its Royal Doulton ceramic mural of great inventors, stained glass and gilded plasterwork, so well maintained they all look good as new, this Victorian bar opened in 1863 and is enduringly popular. Settle into spacious leather booths and choose your drink from one of the few cask ales available, a reasonable whisky selection and dine from one of the best bar menus in Edinburgh, consider a dozen oysters and a glass or two of white wine.
The Bow Bar
Among Edinburgh’s best whisky destinations, The Bow Bar has the look of a more traditional Scottish pub. What makes this one of Edinburgh’s best bars is that is has more than 300 whiskies from familiar names to real rarities. It also stocks a fine range cask ales and craft keg and has an impressive selection of bottled beers, including the Maui Brewing Coconut Porter. You are certain to find a beer you like, even if you are not much of a beer drinker. Like all the best bars it gets busy, with standing room only after work when the lawyers have finished for the day, but if you are looking for a quiet Saturday morning pint, this is the best place to be.