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Best Bars in Edinburgh: Traditional, Stylish and Quirky Pubs, Edinburgh Has It All



It would be fair to say that the people of Scotland are fond of a drink. As the Scottish capital, Edinburgh is extremely well-endowed when it comes to bars. You can’t walk for more than a minute in the city center without seeing another.

We round up some of the finest Edinburgh bars into a small, but perfectly formed top ten. It would be impossible to cover every bar worth visiting in such a list, but these options are scattered across the city and they are all good places.

If you love cocktails, Bramble should be at the top of the list. So good it has won international acclaim, Bramble seamlessly blends delicious cocktails with a warm and sophisticated atmosphere which is hard to resist.

It would be almost criminal to visit Scotland’s capital and not have a dram of the national drink. Whiski is one of Edinburgh’s top whisky bars with an impressive array of malts on offer. At first glance it may look like a tourist trap, but you are assured a warm welcome and the bar also benefits from live music and very good food.

The Jolly Botanist is a relative newcomer, but has made quite a name for itself. Chic but unpretentious and with a great menu of gin (and other spirit) cocktails it could easily become your new favorite haunt.


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Henrick's Bar


This is a very comfortable and friendly wee bar and bistro that is close to the King's Theatre as you head out of Tollcross up towards Bruntsfield. It serves a great range of drinks and the seasonal menu offers classic pub grub and contemporary meals using fresh local produce. The atmosphere is good, the decor is stylish, and it's a friendly place. There's also a pre-theatre menu, a pre-order option for those times when you don't have more than half an hour to spare, and a weekend brunch menu for those lazy recuperative meals on a Saturday or Sunday morning.

Recommended for Bars because: Henricks always has a bustling atmosphere and is a great place to meet friends for a drink.

Simon's expert tip: If you smoke you'll like the small seating area out the back which has heaters for the cold weather.

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This unusual pub is off the beaten track just beyond The Shore in Leith. It's a little bit quirky, offering an imaginative range of food and booze. It's very popular with locals and the staff are always very friendly and welcoming, the furniture is mismatched and you can get cocktails served in teapots for your very own Madhatter's Tea Party. You won't find any other pubs quite like it and there are a lot to choose from in Edinburgh. If you like pubs with character, service with a smile, and a lively crowd of regulars who are always up for conversation, then seek it out.

Recommended for Bars because: Roseleaf is a decidedly different little bar with a big character.

Simon's expert tip: Adorn the toilets with your own work of art using the blackboard and chalk provided.

Read more about Roseleaf Bar Cafe →




Whiski is a lively bar and restaurant located on the High Street close to Edinburgh Castle. It should come as no surprise that they specialize in the sale of single malt Scottish whisky. Over three hundred different drams are available for patrons to whet their whistle. However, they do not stop there. Also on offer is a fine selection of wines, draft beers and craft ales not to mention a rather good menu featuring Scottish favorites such as Cullen Skink and haggis as well as mouthwatering steaks and great burgers. The interior is brimming with whisky related memorabilia and sometimes rather twee Scottish knick knacks, but the ambience is warm, relaxing and friendly. With such delights on offer and live music every evening, Whiski is very popular with tourists and locals alike.

Recommended for Bars because: Whiski is arguably the best whisky bar in Edinburgh with a lot more besides whisky.

Simon's expert tip: If a neat dram is too strong for your palate, why not try a whisky cocktail. The Monkey Mojito is a refreshing and delicious twist on an old favorite.

Read more about Whiski Bar →


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Slighhouse is a sophisticated cocktail bar which has risen from the ashes of the highly popular Bar Kohl. Situated on historic George IV Bridge, it has an unassuming facade which gives way to a chic galley style bar and a laid back lounge area. The stone walls of its predecessor have been given a wash of cream paint which is complemented by neon lighting and modern art prints. Where before vodka was king, now a wider range of spirits are available with all of the classic cocktails making an appearance along with some innovative new recipes. The food has changed too. Gone are the juicy burgers, replaced by sharing platters and high end tapas style bar snacks guaranteed to wow any foodie.

Recommended for Bars because: Slighhouse has a lively atmosphere and serves an impressive range of cocktails and rather good food.

Simon's expert tip: The paprika peppered pigs ears are surprisingly crisp and tasty, even if they do sound a little scary!

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Bon Vivant is a chic cocktail bar and restaurant with a laid back continental ambience situated on Thistle Street in the city center. It is a cozy little drinking den lit by flickering candles and sparkling glassware and swathed in dark wood and soft leather. They stock a wide range of wines, champagnes, beers and spirits but the main draw is the ever changing cocktail menu. The bartenders are very well versed in their art and happy to design bespoke cocktails if nothing on the menu takes your fancy. Mixology may take center stage here, but you will also find a wide ranging menu covering tasty little tapas style dishes, more substantial bistro style main dishes and some wickedly indulgent desserts.

Recommended for Bars because: Great cocktails and a chic European atmosphere make the Bon Vivant very popular.

Simon's expert tip: The cocktails are so delicious you may be tempted to overindulge – you have been warned!

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Boda Bar
Photo courtesy of Simon Hill


This small pub on Leith Walk has a slight Swedish flavour. It is cosy, welcoming and has a bohemian feel and a lively atmosphere. You'll find the clientele very friendly and chatty. The music is generally very good and they are open to requests. You also get a good selection of drinks and some unusual bar snacks. If you want a comfortable pub with real personality then Boda Bar is a great antidote to the pub chain feel. Around halfway down Leith Walk this is off the beaten track for most tourists but with some great eateries down at The Shore it's the perfect place to stop off for a cheeky pint or shot on the way down from town or the way home.

Recommended for Bars because: Boda has a warm and friendly atmosphere and it's always bustling and friendly.

Simon's expert tip: There are lots of fun events on at Boda Bar and even occasional live music so check out their calendar before you visit.

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The Outhouse is one of Edinburgh's best kept secrets. Located down an alley off bustling Broughton Street, you will not find it unless introduced by someone in the know. This adds to its charm and to the sense that, unlike some city center bars, it is not trying too hard to impress. The bar has a lively atmosphere and a friendly crowd. At the weekend, DJ's play soul, funk and hip-hop and the walls are regularly re-decorated with murals by local artists. The beer garden is a lovely place to while away a warm summer's day or party on a balmy summer's night and there is a function room upstairs for small parties and Edinburgh Festival Fringe performances. They do not serve food, but have an agreement with the fabulous Italian restaurant La Favorita to allow patrons to order in pizza and pasta.

Recommended for Bars because: The Outhouse is a charming little gem with a great beer garden.

Simon's expert tip: As well as booking their lovely function room you can reserve tables in the main bar or even book the whole beer garden for a party!

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One of the best kept secrets of Edinburgh, Brass Monkey is a very cool place to enjoy a cocktail or a beer with friends. The floor of their intimate back room is entirely covered with cushions and mattresses allowing you to lounge beside one of the tiny tables provided for resting your beer while you enjoy a classic movie, or you could opt for the more traditional chairs of their front room and enjoy the eclectic monkey inspired art. The atmosphere is friendly, with smiling bar staff, and chatty patrons. Very popular with the hipster student crowd, Brass Monkey even has unisex toilets.

Recommended for Bars because: Brass Monkey is one of Edinburgh's coolest, and most laid back, bars

Simon's expert tip: Cinema lovers should make a bee line to the Brass Monkey to enjoy classic movies in their super comfy back room from 3pm.

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The Jolly Botanist is an upmarket gin joint situated close to Haymarket Station. The interior has a shabby chic feel with Victorian style wall papers, distressed furniture scattered with throw cushions and sepia toned pictures on the walls. However, the laconic ambiance should not fool you – the Jolly Botanist is very serious about gin. The gin menu is simply massive, and ably supported by a wide array of wines, spirits and beers. The food menu is similarly impressive and the food is really very good. On a sunny day they throw open the doors and spill out onto the street, but there are plenty nooks and crannies for a more intimate assignation.

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Bramble is an elegant and stylish subterranean cocktail bar situated in the city center. Down a steep set of stairs with only a small brass plaque to announce its presence, Bramble is distinctly reminiscent of a speakeasy. Once inside this impression is reinforced. Subdued lighting and flickering candles illuminate bare stone walls and antique furniture. A series of cubby holes and booths ripe for intimate conversation line the walls and chilled-out soul and hip-hop beats hang in the air. This is not style over substance. Bramble was the first Scottish bar to make it into Bartender Magazine's top twenty, and has appeared twice in the Drinks International list of the world's top fifty bars. The cocktail menu is perfectly formed and ably supported by a good range of wines and beers.

Recommended for Bars because: Arguably Edinburgh's best cocktail bar, Bramble is hard to find but easy to love.

Simon's expert tip: The toilets are unisex, so do not be over hasty when dashing in to relieve yourself!

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Meet Simon Hill

Simon has lived in various corners of Edinburgh over the last 18 years. He fell in love with the city as a small child after visiting the castle and returned to study Scottish History.

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