Best Pubs in Edinburgh

10 Best Pubs in Edinburgh for a Wild Night or a Quiet Drink

A wee dram is just the thing to warm your heart on a cold day and you’re spoilt for choice in Edinburgh. There are many, many traditional pubs in Scotland’s capital, each with their own unique flavor, ambiance, clientele and selection of tipples. You’ll find some excellent fine ales, the best malt whisky in the world, and a wide range of imported drinks to satisfy any thirst.

One of the most beautiful traditional pubs in the capital is the Café Royal. This classic Victorian pub has a spectacular island bar, six large pictures composed of painted tiles on the wall depicting six famous Scottish inventors, wonderfully ornate cornices and woodwork, and an impressive selection of ales, wines and spirits.

If you want to enjoy a drink in atmospheric surroundings without having to shout then make for Cloisters. Real ale, great staff, dark wood, and a satisfying lack of music, make it a great choice for the mature drinker. You’ll find an interesting interior at the crowded, but cozy, Grassmarket pub The Last Drop. The name relates to the gallows and you’ll get a taste of Edinburgh’s macabre past in this pub.

The city center is very compact, so it’s the perfect place for pub crawls. Stop for one drink in each pub and see how far you can get, exploring the city and sampling different atmospheres as you go. It’s a great way to get to know the city and discover your favorite pub for the next time you visit.


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 decor is simple and comfortable with comfy lounge seats and sofas and classic oak tables and the welcome is always warm.

Recommended for Pubs because: A great selection of drinks and very god pub grub make this Newington pub worth seeking out

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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Photo courtesy of Simon Hill

Over the years Mathers pub has retained its ornate Victorian look - the hallmark of a traditional pub. The massive bar is made of heavy, beautifully carved wood, just beckoning you to pull up a stool and have a hand-pumped ale or bitter. Or choose from more than 100 malt whiskeys. Despite the old-fashioned decor, the modern convenience of a large-screen television means the place is packed during important sporting events. This is very much a typical Scottish pub with friendly staff, a good selection of drinks, basic pub grub to keep you going on a night out, and a lively atmosphere.

Recommended for Pubs because: Mathers is a great traditional Scottish bar with a lively and friendly atmosphere.

Simon's expert tip: Great place for an atmosphere if you want to watch the football or rugby.

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Dating back to the 15th century, The King's Wark is everything a good pub should be. You'll find dark wood tables and floors inside, Scottish ales on tap, plenty of malt whisky, and a stunning menu. It's a friendly place in a great location on the The Shore in Leith. The food is a major attraction and whether you're after breakfast, lunch or an evening meal, you will not be disappointed with the seasonal Scottish fare on offer here. As a pub it has a great atmosphere and a real traditional feel and you'll find it's always packed with locals.

Recommended for Pubs because: The King's Wark is one of the oldest pubs in Edinburgh and The Shore in Leith is a lovely place to visit.

Simon's expert tip: You should head here for breakfast, but be careful you don't start on the malt whisky too early!

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Joseph Pearce's is a lively and welcoming bar occupying an enviable position at the top of Elm Row. There has been a pub at the spot for over a century, but in more recent years it has been operated by the Independent Swedish publicans responsible for other Edinburgh favorites Boda, Sofi's Victoria's and Hemma. Like its sister pubs, JP's is very welcoming to children (during the day) and prides itself on its sociable atmosphere and an eclectic clientele. Drinks prices are reasonable and their range impressive. The food menu has a decidedly Scandinavian feeling with an emphasis on comfort food. They have an incredibly diverse social calendar, and whether you visit during the day or after dark this bar is always bustling.

Recommended for Pubs because: JP's has a great atmosphere and is one of the most welcoming and convivial pubs in Edinburgh

Simon's expert tip: Crayfish parties, book clubs,jogging groups - there is always something going on, so get involved!

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If you find yourself up in Morningside then you should certainly make time for a visit to The Waiting Room. This popular bar does a decent range of great value food and offers a fine selection of beer and lager on tap, and there's plenty of malt whisky to try. The well-stocked bar is matched by the friendly and accommodating staff. The decor is pretty traditional, and there are comfortable booths at the back on the right. You can enjoy the rugby in here if you're a fan and there's a weekly pub quiz. This is a good, solid, unpretentious pub and it's a very pleasant place to spend some time with family or friends.

Recommended for Pubs because: The Waiting Room is a traditional Scottish Pub with a friendly local clientel

Simon's expert tip: If you want to get off the tourist trail completely and enjoy a truly local atmosphere you'll find it here.

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This busy Grassmarket pub is at the heart of Edinburgh's nightlife. It's a cozy pub that's always packed to bursting. It's popular with locals and visitors alike. The name derives from the gallows which once stood nearby, where there were public executions back in the 18th century. It's a friendly place with a great selection of whisky and a decent wine list. You'll enjoy a taste of the sinister side of Edinburgh's past and the interesting interior, with low ceilings and lots of eye-catching decor is a lovely place to while away a few hours. You can also get a decent meal here.

Recommended for Pubs because: The Last Drop combines gallows humor and a real taste of Edinburgh's history with a bustling atmosphere.

Simon's expert tip: You'll need to get here early if you expect to secure a seat because it gets very busy.

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Halfway House

The Halfway House is a cozy, traditional pub located halfway up Fleshmarket Close, a winding cobbled lane in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. It is described by the proprietors as "Edinburgh's smallest and friendliest pub", and you won't find many patrons who will disagree. The interior is very traditional and extremely comfortable with simple leather bar stools and plush curved booths. They are dedicated to serving real ales from a wide array of microbreweries from all over Scotland and the menu of ales changes regularly. They stock a good selection of malt whiskies and serve very good traditional pub grub.

Recommended for Pubs because: With great ales and a warm welcome, the Halfway House is one of Edinburgh's best traditional pubs.

Simon's expert tip: If a short visit turns into a rather longer stay why not try their guest "session" ale, a very drinkable ale with a low level of alcohol by volume.

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Renowned for its magnificent Victorian decor and tantalizing seafood dishes. This trendy restaurant is famous among all, including several well-known celebrities. Most popular selections from the menu include the oyster platter and the lobster dish. You'll also find a wide choice of excellent whisky, ales, wine, and a range of other tipples. The atmosphere is lively as the Cafe Royal tends to be very busy no matter the time of year. The sumptuous interior really is worth a look on its own, but be warned, you're likely to fall in love with this pub the second you step through the door.

Recommended for Pubs because: Cafe Royal has one of the most impressive, authentic interiors you are ever likely to encounter in a pub.

Simon's expert tip: Can you resist the champagne and oysters?

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This classic, dark wood-lined pub has a laid-back appearance and a laid-back staff to match. It used to be a church, hence the name and the ecclesiastical tone of many of the fixtures and fittings. Now it is the backdrop to the worship of real ales, craft beers and whisky. It's a welcoming pub with a lively conversational atmosphere helped by the lack of blaring music. As well as an excellent range of beers, ales and spirits revelers can enjoy some rather good tapas style food and a generous Scottish breakfast on Sundays. Located at the edge of the Meadows, Cloisters is popular with students, real ales devotees, tourists and a loyal band of locals.

Recommended for Pubs because: Cloisters is set in a lovely building with a typical pub interior and a great range of drinks.

Simon's expert tip: If you hate loud music in bars then Cloisters is for you, it never has any music.

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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 Pubs because: The Pear Tree's large courtyard is the place to be during the summer months in Edinburgh.

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

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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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