10 of the best bars in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is blessed when it comes to finding a place to unwind and sink a few.

Published 17th Jan 2017
Updated 20 th Sep 2023

Patrons are often spoiled for choice with everything from haunted, cavernous pubs, cool, chic gin palaces and vibrant, energetic bars to suit all tastes.

But with all of this to choose from, narrowing down where to head for a pint or two is a near impossible task.

Instead, why not take inspiration from our list below and check out a few of our favourite haunts from around the capital:

The Last Drop

(74-78 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JR, 0131 225 4851)

The Last Drop pub in the Grassmarket. Drinkers enjoy a drink outside The Last Drop. People Drinking
The Last Drop pub in the Grassmarket. Picture: TSPL

For a more morbid setting to polish off a pint, The Last Drop is the perfect blend of history and traditional pub atmosphere.

Set among a number of bars and pubs in the Grassmarket, it takes its name from the area’s historical significance as the home of public hangings in the capital which continued well into the 20th century.

Inside the 17th century tenement block which houses the pub, the dimly lit setting creates an eerie ambience where ghosts are said to call out the to bar staff while they work.

Despite this, it benefits from a warm atmosphere and service with a smile. The eclectic drinks menu includes a surprisingly wide range of whiskies and real ales, with staff on hand to provide their own personal recommendation as well as a number of unique takes on traditional pub fare.

Sheep Heid Inn

(43-45 The Causeway, Edinburgh EH15 3QA, 0131 661 7974)

The Sheep Heid Inn
The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston (Photo: JP)

Hidden away in the picturesque Duddingston Village, in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, The Sheep Heid Inn can count royalty including Mary Queen of Scots among its former patrons.

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According to legend, the Inn, which has stood on the same site since 1360, became a favoured stopping off point on her way between the royal palaces of Holyrood and Craigmillar, a tradition that was continued by her son James VI, who is said to have presented the innkeeper with a ram’s head as thanks for the many hours spent using its skittles alley - which can be hired out to this day.

Since then, some of the capital’s most famous residents including the likes of Sir Walter Scott, Sir Henry Raeburn and Robert Louis Stevenson have all dropped in for a tipple and with a beer garden, conservatory area and wide selection of ales, beers and whiskies on offer, following in their footsteps is highly recommended.

Bar Salsa

(3 Cowgatehead, Old Town, Edinburgh EH1 1JY, 0131 629 8431)


The charm of Bar Salsa lies in its no-frills approach. It’s certainly not the largest, the most luxurious or the best equipped in the city with aging decor and furniture that looks like it’s been there since the city was founded, however, it earns a place for sheer value alone.

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There are few places in Edinburgh, maybe even in Scotland to offer pints for as little as £2.75 and cocktails for just £3.50.

Largely due to this ultra-competitive pricing, the bar is frequently rammed with a young, vibrant crowd, particularly at the weekend where somehow, a DJ is crammed into the miniscule floor space, giving it a constant buzz. To put it in context, Bar Salsa is basically the closest thing Edinburgh has to an American-style dive bar.

Located just at the end of the Cowgate before it melts into the Grassmarket, Bar Salsa isn’t the place for a quiet pint, but as the first stop on a night out, it takes some beating.


(3 Robertson's Cl, Edinburgh EH1, 0131 557 3768)

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller
Picture: Trip Advisor Traveler

A popular student haunt under its previous incarnation as “Rush,” Pilgrim has retained its younger crowd while adding an extra layer of cool on top.

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Prices aren’t as cheap as some of the other options on the Cowgate, but the chic vibe cultivated by Pilgrim’s innovative decor means it’s one not to miss. The interior is made up of 98 per cent recycled materials, including sofas covered with jeans, vintage cinema-style seating along the walls and a bar balanced on a mound of old suitcases.

Pub quizzes with a different theme are held every week, while there is also a multitude of screens playing everything from black and white films to sport and an arcade machine with a selection of vintage games on offer for patrons to play.

Serving a number of draught and craft beers as well as their own brew, a wide range of spirits is also available, while a discount card - enabling you to claim 25 per cent off all food and drink - can be obtained for free after your first drink.

READ MORE HERE:  The ‘best pub in Edinburgh’ has been revealed

Panda & Sons

(79 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 4NF, 01312200443)


Sandwiched between an estate agent and a newsagent on Queen Street with a front masquerading as an old-fashioned barber’s shop, Panda & Sons is definitely in with a shout of winning the title of the city’s most unique bar.

Inside, patrons are invited to descend a staircase into the bowels of the building where they are confronted with a door masquerading as a bookcase. Pull the right book to enter and it opens into a cosy and comfortable speakeasy serving an extensive menu of inventive cocktails.

Friendly and knowledgeable staff are there to guide you through the seemingly endless amount of drinks on offer while the touches of interior decor, which include hair dryers repurposed as table lights, enhance the modern-day speakeasy feel.

Prices are comparable to nearby George Street, so are slightly more expensive than other parts of the city, however the chic design and cool atmosphere more than make up for it.

The Hanging Bat

(133 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9AB, 0131 229 0759)

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveler

A must-visit for craft beer aficionado’s, The Hanging Bat’s ever changing selection of craft drinks will keep regulars on their toes.

Walking into The Hanging Bat to be confronted with an enormous choice of craft beers - some of which have been created downstairs in the bar’s own basement brewery - can be daunting at first, but luckily, staff are trained to identify what you like and then produce something most suited to your taste. Don’t expect to get it in a pint glass though, here they deal purely in measures ranging from ⅓ of a pint upwards.

There’s plenty of craft products available for gin, vodka, whisky and wine lovers too, while their unique pub-grub menu, which features homemade hot dogs and something called a “meatloaf burger,” is enough to make any mouth salivate.

The Jolly Botanist

(256–260 Morrison Street, Edinburgh, EH3 8DT, 0131 228 5596)

The Jolly Botanist.
Picture: The Jolly Botanist.

One of the newest additions to Edinburgh’s ever-expanding gin scene, The Jolly Botanist has already become a firm favourite with its innovative cocktails, vast selection of gins and knowledgeable bar staff.

Replacing the notorious Spider’s Web pub in Haymarket, The Jolly Botanist has managed to attract an entirely new, younger crowd bringing a lively but not overbearing atmosphere.

Opened in 2015 and themed around worldwide explorations, it hosts gins, whiskies and wines from almost every corner of the globe, with a selection to rival that of any larger bars in the city.

A revamped food menu has been in place for a few months, serving up huge, hearty portions of everything from traditional pub grub to high quality seafood and everything in between.

Prices are at the higher end of the scale for their best-loved concoctions, however it’s such good quality, it’s unlikely you’ll ever leave The Jolly Botanist feeling shortchanged.

The Bow Bar

(80 W Bow, Edinburgh EH1 2HH, 0131 226 7667)

Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller
Picture: Trip Advisor Traveller


While others on this list are set on cultivating a cool vibe and a young clientele, The Bow Bar has remained committed to its status of a “real pub” for several years.

A firm favourite of the capital’s whisky-loving community due to its enormous selection of single malts, the bar sticks to a strict “no-frills” policy, which means no music, no trinkets and entirely original furniture throughout.

It’s a theme that runs throughout the whole establishment, even when you’re not sampling one of the 310 different varieties of the national drink, food is only served at lunchtime and rarely moves beyond a standard issue steak and gravy pie.

Despite being near the hectic, bustling bar centre in the Grassmarket, The Bow Bar remains detached enough that it benefits from a relaxed atmosphere, while a dog friendly approach means it’s not uncommon to see a few curled up in the warm bar.

Whistle Binkies

(4-6 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1LL, 0131 557 5114)

Picture: Greg Macvean,
Picture: Greg Macvean,

The cavernous Whistle Binkies has been a staple of the Edinburgh music scene for several years, offering live performances from a number of local bands seven nights a week.

Located deep underground in the vaults beneath South Bridge, up to six bands will take the stage in an intimate and atmospheric setting every night, with an energetic crowd of regulars creating a buzz into the small hours.

One of the most reasonably priced bars in the city centre, “Binkies”, as it’s known, also offers an ever changing selection of four cask ales, so it pays to ask what’s on tap that week.

If patrons are lucky, or unlucky, enough, they may even see one of the two spirits which are said to haunt the venue.

“The Imp,” a mischievous creature, is said to annoy staff by moving objects around and stopping clocks on the bar, while “The Watcher,” supposedly a man in 17th century clothing, is known to gaze at revellers across the bar.


(18 Morrison St, Edinburgh EH3 8BJ, 0131 466 1779)


Bringing the spirit of The Dude to the West End of Edinburgh, Lebowski’s has attracted a cult following among fans of Jeff Bridges character from “The Big Lebowski.”

Serving a number of different spins on The Dude’s favourite tipple, the white Russian, it also has an extensive food menu, specialising in a number of signature burgers, most of which are stacked to the ceiling.

This shrine to the 90’s cult comedy has murals of The Dude adorning the walls, adding to the relaxed atmosphere of a bar which clearly doesn’t take itself too seriously.

A long whisky list and a healthy supply of craft beers on draft mean there’s plenty to enjoy, while the bar also benefits from a superb lunchtime deal, with patrons able to pick up a hot sandwich and a drink for just £5.

James is a writer and freelance journalist who has lived in Edinburgh all his life and is well versed in the city's bar and nightlife scene.
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