Pubs in the UK are so different than bars in others parts of the world. Not just a place to drink, but to visit with friends and neighbors, to get some home made fare to eat and to enjoy live music. But there is a feel to them that is so different and so nice. One city that has some excellent pubs and bars is in Scotland in the city of Edinburgh. Located in the Central Belt region of the county, Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and one of the designated “creative cities” by UNESCO as a “City of Literature”. The city itself is one of the most aesthetically interesting with old Georgian buildings all over the city juxtaposed with modern 20th century designs. The massive castle on the hill overlooking the city adds to its grandeur and leads one to believe that the age and beauty of the city is truly something that is everlasting. Edinburgh is one of the few cities in the world where the old and the new towns are entirely dedicated as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Edinburgh is home to over 1 million and is one of the UK’s most desirable places to live according to a YouGov poll and is home to a plethora of festivals and events yearly that range from jazz and blues, to tattoos, to the internationally acclaimed “Fringe” festival. Edinburgh is a fun city with some of the best pubs and bars in the UK. Check out some of these best places to grab a drink in Edinburgh.
The Last Drop
Located in the Grassmarket area, The Last Drop brings a little dark humor to the city. The name is a play on the square located just outside that was one of the city’s last hanging grounds. Don’t expect some gloomy vibes inside however as the place is tons of fun and good times bringing in both locals and tourists alike. There are a wide variety of beers available on tap here including some from all around the UK and a few local craft ones as well. On a summer’s day enjoy a pint outside while taking in views of Edinburgh Castle or stop by at night when things get a little rowdy and boisterous. They also serve a variety of food options from classic Scottish dishes like haggis or mac and cheese for the less traditionally inclined.
The Bow Bar
A local favorite drinking spot since 1987, The Bow Bar is one of those places where you’re going to get traditional UK pub feelings but it doesn’t mean that the place is too stuffy either. Located in the Royal Mile area of the city, The Bow Bar is down to earth and relaxing with big leather chairs and booths that make it ideal for chatting with friends after work or stopping by after exploring the city. Where The Bow Bar really stands out is its huge variety of drink options. With over 310 varieties of single malt to choose from as well as six kegs and 50 international beers to choose from, you will never run out of drinks to try here. Make sure to buy a hearty pie or snack while you try a few of them.
There are a lot of bars around the world that aim to have 1920s motifs and atmospheres. The roaring 20s aesthetic has been pretty popular as of late but there are a few bars where the 20s motif is actually authentic. Sandy Bell’s is one of those bars. The bar has been open since the 1920s and quenching local thirst for almost over 100 years. It goes without saying that the bar is beloved amongst locals and the old-school feel of the place makes it one of the most unique places to grab a drink in the city. Despite the bar being opened since the 20s, Sandy Bell’s saw most of its heyday in the 60s with the revival of Scottish folk music. That tradition of live music still persists at Sandy Bell’s’ where live traditional music is still played on occasion.
The bar features wood panels and a carved bar along with a long list of scotch options and beer to choose from. If you’re hungry, the food options here are hearty and filling and the music makes the place come alive.
The Voodoo Rooms
The Voodoo Rooms are one of Edinburgh’s newest and coolest spots in the city. The property offers a bar and restaurant so there’s tons of food options around for you as well if you’re looking to grab a meal. The place is located right in the heart of the city but it’s still relatively tucked away and not so much at the forefront of the city’s nightlife making The Voodoo Rooms a bit of a low-key place. The Voodoo Rooms are both a bit of a hidden gem and an award-winning spot making it a bit of oxymoron.
The Voodoo rooms really shine with the eclectic décor and fun atmosphere. Bringing the aesthetic and motifs of turn of the century style bars The Voodoo Rooms have an underlying tiki theme complete with ornate gold trimming and black paneling. The cocktail menu here shines the brightest with a long list of expertly crafted cocktails that are delicious and will make you feel like you’re in a classy cocktail bar of old.
Only the oldest-school of bars get to be named after people and Bennet’s Bar is one of those places. While Sandy Bell’s is an original 1920s bar, Bennet’s is also a classic bar that brings the old-school vibes in a cozy and welcoming place. Bennet’s Bar is a Victorian-age place that has been opened since 1839 and despite its high-brow Victorian aesthetic, the bar these days lacks any sort of pretension. It’s a fun space that is full of antiques that really ties the Victorian motif together but it is also a casual place where the choices of single malt are near endless. There are even original structures in the bar like the “snug” , a little private booth that was mostly used for people who didn’t want to be seen in pubs (like priests or policemen) to drink. You can even order from the bar directly from the hatch.
Take a trip down south to Italy at one of Edinburgh’s coolest and most chic wine bars. While there are plenty of classic UK-style pubs in the city, Divino Enoteca brings in the suave and chic style of a modern Italian wine bar. The wine bar is a state of the art establishment that takes their wine just as seriously as you’d find in Italy – maybe even more so. Their bar has an enigmatic wine dispenser that provides the bottles and the wine a high-level of protection from oxidation so every glass will taste just the exact way it’s supposed to. The selection of wines here is justifiably very large and even if you’re no sommelier, the staff here knows their stuff so don’t be afraid to ask questions about what to order. Since this is an Italian-style wine bar, you can rest assured that there is also food served here that is just as delectable as their wines. Grab a booth or a table or post up at the marble topped bar and sip on a selection of great wines.
While there are plenty of bars and pubs around in the city with an old-school feel, the city does have plenty of modern spaces as well. Holyrood 9A is a cool and modern pub that really leans on the modern in comparison to some other pubs around Edinburgh. The place brings in a younger clientele and is a popular after-work spot so expect some happy-hour fun and an eclectic young professional vibe here.
What makes Holyrood 9A such a popular place is the food and drinks here and that’s why people keep coming back. There are over 20 varieties of beer on tap along with a vast menu of cocktails and even more whiskeys to try. If you’re with friends order a snack flight board to share or if you’re more into being selfish their burgers are made with fresh local ingredients and are some of the best in the city.
Located in New Town Pickles is a cute and quirky kind of place that is a very unique pub in Edinburgh. You might walk by and pass it and not even know it. Pickles is pretty small and doesn’t really stand out in any way, and perhaps in a backwards sort of way, that is exactly what makes it stand out. Pickles is small, informal, and welcoming and when we say small, it is very small. With enough room to seat around 30 people the pub is a very tight place that caters to a lot of locals and regulars. The decor is quaint and the furthest thing from ostentatious with fairy lights and wooden tables being the lighting and sitting structures. What it lacks in pretension it does make up in drink choices. They have a pretty wide selection of beer and available considering the size of the pub and the choices are quality as well. While there isn’t much of a food menu there are some snacks available like Scottish cheeses and Edinburgh-made pâté.
Deacon Brodies Tavern
Bringing back the old-school Edinburgh pub vibes is Deacon Brodies Tavern. Located just a stone’s throw away from the Edinburgh Castle it’s almost a tradition to visit the castle and stop by Deacon Brodies Tavern for pint afterwards. Because of its location in proximity to some popular landmarks the bar is a relatively popular spot for tourists. But the pub itself has a pretty interesting story.
Deacon Brodies Tavern was named after a local cabinet maker William Brodie. Brodie was also a deacon and being a hardworking member of Edinburgh society as well as a man of god, many saw Brodie as the ideal citizen. By day, Brodie was a blue-collar hardworking handyman but by night he was a compulsive gambler and adulterer. Over time his gambling debts caught up to him and he took to burglary to pay off his creditors. Brodie was caught and in 1788 he was hanged for his crimes. It is said that the respectable façade of Brodie and his real more nefarious nature was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll And Mr. Hyde.
The pub itself opened in 1806 making it a truly old drinking tavern with high ceilings and a wide range of ales on tap. The pub is vibrant with music and high-spirits constantly ringing through the area. Deacon Brodies Tavern leans on the classic feel of the 1806 establishment complete with original features, dark wood paneling, and interesting décor on the walls.
The City Café
Part kitschy American-style diner bar during the day and at night, the place comes alive to be more of a bar and popular spot to pre party before hitting up other bars or clubs nearby. The place is popular with younger crowds and who can blame them? Serving pitchers of beer by the pitcher and cocktails for an affordable price a stop at The City Café is perfect for filling up before heading out on a night on the town or getting some affordable drinks before the real party.
Our Last Word
Edinburgh is a gorgeous city that juxtaposes the new and old. There are a huge selection of classic old-school bars and pubs that seemingly serve every type of whisky you can think of. Enjoy classic cocktails, local beers, and warming whiskeys at these great Edinburgh bars.