Perhaps you’re planning a stag party or hen party…Edinburgh is one of the UK’s most popular destinations for hedonistic weekend breaks!
For a city of only 477,000 people, we have an exceptionally high number of pubs, bars, clubs and music venues.
How do they all survive? Well…one reason is, the people of Edinburgh have a real appetite for fun and love to let their hair down!
Another reason is the hoards of party-animals from elsewhere who are drawn to Edinburgh to see if its reputation lives up to its billing Garavan’s Bar!
With such a huge variety to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where to go. That’s where this page comes in. I will split this page into six sections to keep things clear and to-the-point – trendy bars, traditional pubs, themed bars, student bars and sports bars.
Of course, I cannot cover absolutely every noteworthy pub and bar in the city of Edinburgh. Not even a 70 year old local man could manage that! However, I have selected a decent number of excellent pubs and bars in Edinburgh that will get you started and give you a flavour of what’s available in this great city.
Out of sheer respect for the history and culture of my home town, I will begin with our quite spiffing traditional pubs.
As a general rule of thumb, you will find traditional pubs dotted all over town, however, there is an over-proportionate number in the Grassmarket, on the Royal Mile and on Rose Street directly behind Princes Street.
What was once a place of execution, the Grassmarket is now a haven for intimate, cosy pubs each with an amusing name and character. Hopping from pub to pub is a simple task as the Castle side of the Grassmarket is practically an uninterrupted terraced building of different traditional pubs. Don’t like one? Go next door!
A two-minute saunter from the Grassmarket towards the Cowgate and up Candlemaker Row will take you to the Greyfriars Bar.
Located opposite Greyfriars Bobby, this pub is the best place in town to learn about the story of Bobby, Edinburgh’s most loyal dog and sample some traditional ale while munching on cracking sandwiches. It is certainly one of the most famous pubs and bars in Edinburgh.
From there, walk up George IV Bridge towards the Royal Mile where you will find Deacon Brodie’s Tavern on the corner. Named after the man who inspired Robert Louis Stevenson to write the novel ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde’, Deacon Brodie’s Tavern is about as traditional as it gets and is popular with tourists and locals alike. Don’t forget to read the intriguing story of Deacon Brodie on the outside wall!
If you’re still standing, take a stroll down the Royal Mile where there are plenty of traditional pubs and cafes to choose from. That might be enough for one day, but if you’re well-trained or in training, head on over to Rose Street behind Princes Street.
Rose Street is somewhat legendary as it has the highest concentration of pubs and bars in Edinburgh with cosy little emporiums on both sides of the street. Rumour has it that you will be given the freedom of the city if you can finish one drink in every pub on Rose Street within 24 hours.
At the East End of Princes Street behind Burger King (don’t scroll down just yet) is the Cafe Royal, a beautifully ornate bar with the serving area in the middle, impressive paintings on the walls and brass fittings everywhere. This would be a great choice for an afternoon pint or bite to eat with your partner or a couple of friends.
Although George Street and the West End are renowned for their up-market hangouts and places in which to be seen, trendy bars are dotted all over Edinburgh.
Hudson’s at the West End next to the House of Fraser department store has only been open a few years and is a stylishly decorated bar with hotel rooms upstairs. They usually keep the lights down low which can create a slightly sultry mood. This could be a good date-bar. If your date isn’t holding your attention, there are numerous TVs on the walls showing the latest sport!
A walk across Charlotte Square will take you to the start of George Street, Edinburgh’s hub for trendsetters. Bars such as Browns, Candy Bar, All Bar One and Le Monde are particularly popular. Many of George Street’s bars set tables and chairs outside on the wide pavements when the weather is nice.
Le Monde has three distinctive areas each incorporating the styles prevalent in Paris, Vienna and Milan nightspots.
Two of my favourite bars in Edinburgh, Amicus Apple and Oloroso are located on Frederick Street and Castle Street respectively which are perpendicular to George Street.
However, their locations and approach couldn’t be more different. Amicus Apple is set in the basement of its building and Oloroso is a rooftop bar. With stunning views of Edinburgh Castle, Oloroso is the kind of bar you go to with your partner for a romantic drink to enjoy the open air and breathtaking views.
Amicus Apple, while fairly relaxing during the day, is a real party location at night with regular themed parties and lots of crazy fun. A quiet drink at their tables outside on a summer’s day comes highly recommended!
If you are willing to venture a little further out of the way, I can highly recommend Medina on Lothian Street around the corner from the Museum of Scotland.
I can only describe Medina as a kind of North African hippy-den with style. They don’t do tables and they don’t do chairs. Instead they have loungers, beds and tiny stools with holes to hold your drinks. Expect deep reds, oranges and browns in the furnishings, walls and ceiling. I cannot think of a better place in Edinburgh for a cosy drink with your partner.