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The interior of Nauticus pub in Edinburgh
Photograph: Till Britze Photography

The 18 best pubs in Edinburgh

Looking for a traditional boozer or something a little more chic? Our guide to the best pubs in Edinburgh has it all

Arusa Qureshi
Written by
Dayna McAlpine
&
Arusa Qureshi
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Whether you’re after drams of the finest single malts or craft beer brewed within walking distance, Edinburgh does not disappoint. The city’s pub scene is thriving, with new spots regularly popping up to rival old-school haunts that evoke a bygone era. If you fancy a classy, sophisticated night out, Edinburgh’s pubs (and many excellent cocktail bars) will show you a good time. But likewise, if you’re just after a chilled pint with some pals, you’ll feel right at home in the city’s more stripped-back and traditional boozers.

So, ready to find that pin down that homey tavern, a bustling modern taproom – or something in between? Our selection of Edinburgh’s best pubs should have you covered.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Edinburgh

Best pubs in Edinburgh

  • Bars and pubs

This village pub by Duddingston Loch used to be ‘a firm favourite among past monarchs and poets’ according to its website. Now it’s a firm favourite among climbers of Arthur’s Seat in need of refreshment, students keen on Scotland’s oldest skittle alley and Sunday roast-hunters.

With more than 400 bottled beers and 12 rotating drafts, the Salt Horse drinks list would take a lifetime to get through (or one concentrated, particularly mad year). The bar crew are knowledgeable, the burgers and fries decent, and the clientele’s mainly locals. You can get wine if you ask nicely, but really, it’s all about the brews. 

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  • Bars and pubs

One room, dried hops hanging from the ceiling beams, eight ales on tap from all over the British Isles, one working fireplace and the Water of Leith flowing by outside. And crisps. If you’re looking for hipsterism, schooners, pulled pork on brioche or tasting paddles you’re very much in the wrong place. The Malt & Hops sits in the historic centre of Leith, still a working port, where quality has been a watchword in terms of food and drink since the area’s 1980s renaissance. 

  • Bars and pubs

Nestled round the back of popular Edinburgh arts venue Summerhall, The Royal Dick takes up residence in what was once the Small Animal Hospital of the Dick Vet School. So while you’re sitting waiting for your pint, you can marvel at some unique bits of artwork and veterinary artefacts which decorate the interior of the pub. The bar has a diverse selection on offer, including Barney’s Beer and Pickerings Gin, both of which are brewed and distilled in the Summerhall complex.

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs

A proper local, The Blue Blazer is highly regarded among Edinburgh natives for its no-nonsense demeanour and its wide range of whiskies, rums and real ales. It’s small, but that only increases the likelihood of meeting your new best friend as they squeeze up on the wooden bench next to you.

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Lothian Road’s The Hanging Bat stands unpretentiously amid a peculiar mix of tanning shops, bookies and bargain warehouses. It doesn’t look like much, but inside you’ll find a cavernous pub where sampling is encouraged and beer knowledge traded. The biggest glass is 2/3 of a pint and cocktail menus are forgone in favour of a traditional pub line-up.

  • Bars and pubs

Hector’s has been helping well-heeled shoppers put their feet up and dishing out hair of the dog to locals for more than 25 years. Although it’s open every day, for many people, it’s filed in the part of their brain under ‘places to flop about on a Sunday’ – they mix a good bloody mary, have a tall stack of board games, and the roast’s good too.

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  • Bars and pubs

The choice of cask ale in this traditional pub at the foot of Broughton Street is impressive, with brews from all over the British Isles: from Highland Brewing on Orkney to Dark Star in West Sussex. This is the kind of place where if you ask bar staff to remove the sparkler from the tap before they pour your pint, they know what you’re talking about. Basic bar meals available; popular for football and rugby.

  • Bars and pubs

Once a shop, Sandy Bell’s has been a pub since at least the 1920s and has played a key role in the Scottish folk music revival. Musicians regularly rock up to play together just for fun, so you may catch accordions, fiddles, guitars and more while you’re sitting down to enjoy a pint. Whether you’re up for a jig or not, the nightly music sessions are well worth sticking around for.

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The Cumberland Bar
  • Bars and pubs

From the hanging baskets and beer garden outside to the warren of rooms inside with their simple, traditional décor, you can tell this is a highly civilised pub. But given the neighbourhood is one of Edinburgh’s swankiest and forms part of a World Heritage Site it’s no more than you’d expect. The beer is good, the wine list decent and the food menu offers everything from sandwiches and burgers to pan-fried hake fillet and caesar salad, with roast beef on Sundays.

  • Bars and pubs

The Bow is among Edinburgh’s finest whisky destinations, offering more than 300 ranging from familiar names to real rarities. And it does a fine line in cask ales and craft keg too. It dates to the 1980s and has the look of a traditional Scottish pub: one room simply furnished with wooden fixtures and fittings, and old bar memorabilia on the walls. 

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  • Bars and pubs

Bennets’s more eye-catching Victorian features – curved dark wood shelves and large mirrored panels – have been tastefully merged with modern touches like rounded red leather banquettes and Ordnance Survey maps of Edinburgh and Scotland under glass-topped round tables. It’s earned a reputation for its selection of craft beers and real ales, and also stocks a wide range of single malt whiskies.

  • Bars and pubs
  • Pubs

It may be small, but Dagda charms with its old-fashioned interior, stained glass and giant wooden barrels in the centre of the room. This Southside haunt is popular with locals and (fortunately) doesn’t overflow with students, despite being right by the university. There’s a great selection of rotating guest ales, plenty of whiskies and craft beer on tap, and the atmosphere here is friendly and relaxing every day of the week.

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  • Bars and pubs

Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson was a 19th-century Glaswegian architect now celebrated for sustainable building methods and his Greco-Egyptian aesthetic. The interior at Thomson’s in Morrison Street is a modern homage to the man and his style. With warm oak panelling, a beautifully detailed oak gantry, black and white checkered floor, old-school pub chairs and bar memorabilia it certainly looks the part – very Victorian – although the venue itself opened in 2000.

  • Bars and pubs

An ornate drinking palace dating to 1863, the Café Royal Circle Bar is among the city’s most beautiful places to stop for a beer. The venue has been very well maintained, so its stained glass, decorated ceiling and cornicing all look good as new. There are usually a few cask ales available, plus a reasonable whisky selection.

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  • Bars and pubs

Taking over the premises of popular but slightly dusty 1960s boozer Jenny Ha’s, The Kilderkin changed hands in 2011 and now draws a crowd of rum lovers, pizza fans and pub quiz regulars, who sit alongside the remaining hardcore punters propping up the bar from the old days.

  • Bars and pubs

For more than 20 years Cloisters has been a haven of quality beer and decent pub grub, perched on the short stretch between Tollcross and the rolling green space of the Meadows. The beer choice is legendary – nine cask taps and ten keg – with eight of those rotating constantly. You could find anything here from a local IPA to a trenchant Orkney Porter – and others from much further afield. Whenever you go, there’ll be something new to try.

And if you’re more into your food?

  • Restaurants

From the Old Town’s humble cheap eats to the hard-to-bag-a-seat spots around Leith Harbour, Edinburgh does dining both accessible and highfalutin. And the results are always ace. We’re not kidding when we say you should come here just for the food – so here’s your itinerary.

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