Edinburgh's Best South Side Bars Provide Student Vibe

Head south from the center of town and you will find one of the most interesting areas Edinburgh has to offer. The South Side is home to the University of Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland, the Meadows, the Festival Theater, and a host of great restaurants and pubs. There is an undeniably student feel to the area, and you’ll find that pubs like the Pear Tree House and Brass Monkey are like a second home for many youngsters avoiding their studies. The upside to student clientele is reasonable prices, good bar snacks, and a chilled, inclusive sort of atmosphere.

Most of the pubs in the area have been there a long time, but they've also changed hands and been reinvented. In general, the rough and ready feel of many old South Side pubs has given way to trendy cocktail bars such as 56 North, but the successful pubs have had to work hard to keep customers interested and so some of the changes have been for the better. The South Side is also home to many festival venues and so during the summer, when many students head home, it has fantastic atmosphere and more of a mix of people can be found in the various drinking establishments.


Thomas Blacklock is the Blind Poet after whom this cozy traditional pub is named, and his verses adorn its walls. The impressive stone building (which now houses the Blind Poet, The Pear Tree and The Counting House) was Blacklock's residence and the pub's shabby chic sofas and oak tables, combined with the witty quotes and verses which decorate the interior, give the place a lively and comfortable ambience. The pub attracts a lot of students from the university but the live music and good selection of traditional ales are also popular with a wider clientele, particularly during the Edinburgh Festival.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: The Blind Poet's cryptic crossword is great fun and you can browse through their wonderful leather bound nineteenth century copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica.

Simon's expert tip: The verses and quotes on the walls of the Blind Poet are great for stimulating conversations from the sublime to the ridiculous!

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The Meadow Bar is a wonderful cozy, cool and friendly bar located close to the University of Edinburgh. They have a wide selection of beers on offer, the house wines are rather better than usual and the food is very good given the extremely reasonable price tag. Add all of that to the comfortable couches and friendly atmosphere and you can see why this bar is so popular with students and the Edinburgh Festival crowds. During the day it is a great place to while away the time with a spot of people-watching and in the evenings it is lively and welcoming.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: The Meadow Bar is a perennial Edinburgh favorite with great food, good beers and a warm and lively atmosphere.

Simon's expert tip: During the Edinburgh Festival the Meadow Bar plays host to the Laughing Horse with free stand-up comedy performances between 9pm and 3am.

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For over twenty years the Southern Bar was a permanent feature of Edinburgh's rock and grunge scene, even playing host to Nirvana before they became famous. However, this Edinburgh institution has had a face-lift and now aims for a wider audience with bistro-style cuisine (in particular their huge range of quality burgers) and cocktails nestling alongside the traditional ales and spirits it was always known for. As well as their regular range of real ales from Scottish breweries they also host a series of craft brewers to tempt beer-lovers through the doors. The juke box is eclectic, with enough range to keep those who remember the days when there was a motorbike suspended above the stairs down to the toilets happy while offering something for the new clientele.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: The Southern Bar has long been an Edinburgh Institution and despite its refurbishment retains many original features such as the cozy alcoves and quality ales.

Simon's expert tip: The Southern's proximity to the Queen's Hall and Festival Theatre make it an ideal spot to grab an ale and a tasty burger before heading to a show and if you time it right you might catch a live band too!

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The Southsider is a great, wee, traditional pub located close to the University and Festival venues. They offer a wide array of beers (for which they received Cask Marque accreditation) and spirits, some tempting wines and a good selection of well-presented and reasonably priced pub food. They offer free Wi-Fi access all day and are a great favorite with sports lovers due to their large flat screen TVs which cover many of the biggest sporting events. The bar itself is spacious and comfortable and the lack of music makes it a great choice if you want lively conversation or simply a relaxed drink. During the Edinburgh Festival they also host a series of free comedy shows.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: With live sporting events on huge flat screen TVs and free comedy during the Edinburgh Festival it's a great place to enjoy a real ale.

Simon's expert tip: Look out for the Southsider's special offers for great food and drink at budget prices.

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Despite its ostensibly traditional exterior and unassuming décor the Auld Hoose is not the run-of the mill pub you might at first expect. For a start, it lays claim to the title of Edinburgh's only alternative pub with a juke box that covers punk, goth and metal music. It also hosts an impressive selection of malt whisky and ales, and the bar staff are more than happy to chat about the merits of each with patrons. They also serve above average food, including a plate of nachos that is the subject of many rave reviews. The end result is a friendly, laid back atmosphere with an impressive soundtrack which is bound to please any lover of independent music.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: The truly alternative juke box and the warm atmosphere make the Auld Hoose a must for those with independent tastes.

Simon's expert tip: The Auld Hoose's nachos deservedly have the reputation of being the biggest plate of nachos you are likely to find in the capital. Don't eat for a day or bring some very hungry friends.

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Greenmantle is a traditional Shetland pub offering great ales, great food and a warm welcome. They are proud of their cask marque award and host a number of local real ales including their very own Greenmantle ale which has a deservedly good reputation. There is also an impressive array of single malt whisky. The food is generous in both quality and quantity including such delights as wonderful homemade bannocks and red onion marmalade and their signature buffalo meat burgers which are a taste sensation not to be missed. The pub is always bustling with quiz nights, poker tournaments, live music and even a Spanish evening.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: Greenmantle offers a traditional Shetland welcome along with great selection of real ales and single malts.

Simon's expert tip: As well as open mic nights Greenmantle plays host to live folk and fiddle music which is well worth looking out for.

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Reverie is a relative newcomer but already has the feel of an Edinburgh institution. Although they are rightly proud of their selection of around eighty single malts, their inventive and imaginative cocktails and reasonably priced real ales also deserve an honorable mention. They also serve excellent pub food including the fun "build your own burger" option and a tempting pre-theatre menu. Reverie are also making strides in establishing themselves as a great live music venue with folk night on a Tuesday and a jazz night every second Sunday. The décor is simple and comfortable with comfy lounge seats and sofas and classic oak tables and the welcome is always warm.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: Reverie has risen from the ashes of the gaudy Wine Glass to become a comfy but classy establishment.

Simon's expert tip: The food at Reverie is better than average for pub food with both the burgers and the mussels being worthy of high praise.

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56 North is an unpretentious and laid back cocktail bar located in the south side of Edinburgh, close to the University of Edinburgh. Above all, it styles itself as a chic gin joint with one of the largest varieties of gin on offer anywhere in the UK expertly mixed with a cornucopia of garnishes and botanicals. They even serve Jenever, a Dutch spirit made from juniper and malted wine which predates the creation of gin. If gin in not your poison of choice, they have a great range of other cocktails, wines, whisky, champagnes and beers. The menu features classic pub food favorites, prepared and served with a bit of flair.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: Great cocktails and a laid back friendly charm have made this a very popular bar with students, locals and tourists.

Simon's expert tip: For an explosive taste sensation why not try "the Volcano" served in its own hand crafted bowl

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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 Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: Brass Monkey is one of the coolest pubs in Edinburgh. After all, how many other pubs have a private cinema?

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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In the summer there's no better pub to head for in Edinburgh because the Pear Tree features a large suntrap beer garden and it is always busy with an eclectic range of people. It's especially busy during the festival thanks to its proximity to a number of popular Fringe venues. The rest of the year it serves as a popular student haunt, but anyone in the South Side with a thirst should pop in here for a drink. The large central bar has been serving up drinks to locals since 1982, but the building has been around for over 250 years now.

Recommended for Best of Edinburgh's South Side Bars because: The Pear Tree House has a large beer garden for sitting out and it's cozy inside.

Simon's expert tip: Head here on rare, warm summer days and enjoy the beer garden.

Read more about Pear Tree House →


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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