Best Cafés in Edinburgh

Coffee, Cakes and Comfy Breaks: The Cream of Edinburgh's Cafes

Exploring the picturesque Old Town, walking around the castle and following The Royal Mile down to Holyrood Palace can be exhausting. Shopping on Princes Street is thirsty work. Zooming around from show to show through the festival bustle necessitates the odd break. Thankfully there is a veritable multitude of Edinburgh cafes where you can recharge those batteries with a tasty treat and quench your thirst.

If you are on the hunt for a really great cup of coffee, expertly prepared by skilled baristas then you'll head for Artisan Roast. If you want something more substantial to keep you going then the options are endless from the wonderful Union of Genius to the ever popular Elephant House on George IV Bridge. If it's cakes that you crave then Love Crumbs will satisfy your appetite.

Wherever you happen to be in Edinburgh, a great cafe is never far away. Take a load off, find a comfy couch, regroup and plan the rest of your day with a snack and a brew. If the weather is good then grab your sandwiches and coffee to go, there are plenty of great outdoor spaces to sit and watch the world go by.

The ever present chains litter the main streets but with a little spirit of adventure you can uncover tea rooms and coffee shops with real character and atmosphere. Don't settle for what you know, try out some of the cafes on our list for a real taste of Edinburgh cafe culture. 


The Water of Leith is a great bistro style cafe which has gained a huge local following and become one of the most popular eateries in the Cannonmills area. The cafe has a relaxed and extremely welcoming ambiance and the French style food is both delectable and reasonably priced. Great Cullen Skink sits happily alongside French classics such as Croque Madame and the specials board is always brimming with tempting treats. However, the real stars are the cakes and scones which are seriously delicious and generously proportioned. There is a small play area with plenty of toys for the little ones and good changing facilities for babies.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Water of Leith is a lovely little cafe with great food and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Simon's expert tip: You may have to linger a few minutes for the scones, but when they arrive warm and fragrant you will be glad you waited.

Read more about Water of Leith Cafe Bistro →

You'll find a South African welcome at The Zulu Lounge in Morningside. This cosy cafe has a huge menu that includes all the traditional Scottish favorites along with a range of soups, salads, bagels, wraps and toasties. You'll also find some unusual South African options from the foot long baguettes known as gatzbys to the boerewors roll and the pap and wors. The quality is always good here and the prices are reasonable. You'll find it right at the top of Morningside Road so it's well off the beaten track. It's not very roomy so you might prefer to order yours to take away.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Zulu Lounge has some unusual and very tasty treats on offer and a warm and friendly atmosphere.

Simon's expert tip: They offer a call and collect service which saves you waiting for your order if you call in advance.

Read more about The Zulu Lounge →

If you are in search of a great scone and an even better cup of coffee, then it's time to depart for the Southside. You'll find both, along with great service at Kilimanjaro Coffee. It's fairly small but it is comfortable. There are a lot of cafes in Newington, which is the most studenty area of Edinburgh, but this one is regularly busy with a pretty eclectic crowd. You'll find good breakfast and lunch options here and if you're not a fan of coffee they have a nice selection of teas as well. You can expect it to be busy but the service is fast and friendly.

Recommended for Cafés because: Kilimanjaro's giant, fresh homemade scones are an essential and the coffee is worth going out of your way for.

Simon's expert tip: Many claim that Kilimanjaro serves the best coffee in Edinburgh, but their chai latte also has quite a following.

Read more about Kilimanjaro Coffee →


Love Crumbs is a quirky and inviting cake shop and cafe in the West Port close to the Grassmarket area of the Old Town. If you are looking for a savory meal, look elsewhere because Love Crumbs is unashamedly a cake shop – they do not do sandwiches or soup. Instead they focus their considerable energy into making some of the most delightful, and often unconventional, cakes and sweets. Coconut and beetroot cake sits alongside classic chocolate brownies and pumpkin and chocolate chip bundt. The interior is charmingly shabby, with mismatched furniture and crockery and a selection of cakes displayed in an old wardrobe.

Recommended for Cafés because: Love Crumbs is the place to be when you simply must eat cake.

Simon's expert tip: As well as excellent cakes they serve sumptuous hot chocolate made with real chocolate.

Read more about Love Crumbs →

Photo courtesy of Simon Hill

This Sicilian delicatessen is also a great cafe and it has a warm, family friendly atmosphere. You'll find a wide array of tempting homemade breads, soups, salads and pasta dishes. They also make a mean cup of coffee. It's a family run affair and the service is always good. The place is also brightly decorated and packed to the rafters with delicious morsels of every description. You'll find it around halfway down Leith Walk and you should always stop in for a drink or a snack. There isn't a lot of room but you can always get take away. If you can get a seat you'll find it's incredibly comfy and you might end up staying longer than you had intended.

Recommended for Cafés because: Gaia is rightly famous for its great coffee and delicious Sicilian snacks.

Simon's expert tip: This is a great place to go with small kids because it's friendly, relaxed and there are plenty of things to keep your little ones amused.

Read more about Gaia →

If you are hunting for a really great cup of coffee then you'll find the best that Scotland has to offer right here. Artisan Roast import their own, high quality, flavorsome coffee beans and then roast and grind them to produce outstanding cups of coffee. They sell direct from modest premises on Broughton Street and there's an outlet in Bruntsfield too. You'll also find their coffee being served in a few cafes around the city because they are also a distributor. The Artisan Roast cafe is relaxed with a comfortable back room and you'll be served sit in or take away coffee by colorful, expert baristas.

Recommended for Cafés because: Artisan Roast is the Mecca of coffee lovers in Edinburgh.

Simon's expert tip: They don't do food and you can expect to queue but the coffee is worth the wait.

Read more about Artisan Roast →

Located on George IV Bridge, just off the Royal Mile, The Elephant House is a warm and welcoming café with a great range of teas and coffee and plenty of tasty treats. It is ideal for a snack or a meal and it is open from 8AM until 11PM every day of the week. This comfy café has been a haunt of various authors over the years and its most notable claim to fame is the patronage of J. K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series. It does host a wide range of elephants as well, hence the name. The spacious back room offers a view of the castle.

Recommended for Cafés because: The Elephant House is arguably Edinburgh's most popular cafe, with scrumptious food and drink and a warm and friendly ambience.

Simon's expert tip: It gets incredibly busy so scout for seats before you queue to order food or drinks.

Read more about Elephant House →

The union of Genius is Scotland's first soup cafe. If you think that sounds uninspiring, then you have not yet sampled their soups! Every day they offer six globally themed soups paired with a selection of locally produced artisan breads. These soups are so good they sell out fast, so go early to avoid disappointment. They also serve coffee from Artisan Roast, cakes by Love Crumbs and Love Pure Cakes. The interior is small, but warm and friendly. Takeaways are very popular, but if you sit in you can have their soup in its own bread bowl which is a must try treat. All of the packaging and utensils are bio-degradable and recycled and there's a recycling scheme which rewards customers for bringing utensils back.

Recommended for Cafés because: Union of Genius quite simply serve the best soup you have ever tasted, along with a host of other delicious treats.

Simon's expert tip: The meal deal includes soup, artisan bread, a drink, crisps and a snack bar or fruit which is delicious and healthy while being very good value.

Read more about Union of Genius →

Le Cafe Bleu is a cozy and friendly cafe located in the Grassmarket close to the Royal Mile. The interior is pleasantly eccentric with a changing gallery of art works adorning the walls and a large fish tank taking center stage. Owned and run by a pastry chef, it should come as no surprise that the sweet treats on offer here are a cut above the rest. However, you can also tuck into spicy koftas and falafel and the brunch menu is an excellent way to start your day. One of the Grassmarket's best kept secrets is quickly evolving into one of Edinburgh's favorite cafes.

Recommended for Cafés because: Cafe Bleu is very laid back and has a simply criminal selection of naughty but nice treats.

Simon's expert tip: The chocolate eclairs are widely considered to be the best to be found anywhere in the capital.

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Curious Tea Rooms is a lovely city center cafe inspired by Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. In one room a beautifully detailed mural depicts the Mad Hatter (as brought to life by Johnny Depp in Tim Burton's film) and in another the walls are painted with a forest of large mushrooms. Warped and twisted bookcases house delicious cakes and an upside down table and chairs hang from the ceiling. They serve over thirty blends of loose-leaf tea fresh, roasted coffee and a wide array of tempting cakes, pastries and scones. They also stock the delicious soups made by the Union of Genius and have a reasonable selection of savory snacks and meals.

Recommended for Cafés because: Curious Tea Rooms is a quirky and intriguing city center cafe with a great selection of cakes.

Simon's expert tip: High tea at the Curious Tea Rooms is a wonderful treat for any lover of Alice in Wonderland.

Read more about Curious Tea Rooms →


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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