The best bars in Edinburgh to escape the Festival Fringe

Sometimes the Fringe can get a bit overwhelming, so why not duck into one of these bars and get away from it all?

Published 4th Jul 2017
Updated 9 th Aug 2023

We know it and love it but sometimes we just want to avoid the month-long Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

It seems to take over the entire city, but here are a few of our favourite bars in which to have, well, kind of a quiet drink. There's no real escape from the one-person, impromptu is the Fringe after all.

Voyage of Buck

(29-31 William Street, EH3 7NF)

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Picture: Voyage of Buck, supplied

Step back in time to the early 1900’s and join your host William “Buck” Clarence at his home, on William Street in the heart of Edinburgh’s fashionable West End.

The Voyage of Buck’s story begins when young William, then residing in London, fled the UK with Prince Albert Victor following the Cleveland Street Scandal of 1889.

After many years travelling the globe, Buck returned to his beloved Edinburgh bringing with him some flavours and experiences from his travels.


Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Picture: Voyage of Buck has an extensive cocktail list inspired by Buck's travels, supplied

The cocktail list has been inspired by Buck’s travels to Paris, Taipei, Cairo and Havana, with each city having its own suite of drinks, from sours, bucks and punches to sharing drinks and original creations - starting from £7.50.

The trendy bar, which has a dark, cosy interior, also recently launched a Milan cocktail menu earlier this year- perfect for enjoying during the Festival.

Inspired by William Buck's travels to Italy where he discovered the art of aperitivo; a civilised practice of early evening drinks paired with small plates of food, which has been brought to Edinburgh in the form of Negronis and Spritzs.

The Blackbird

(37-39 Leven Street, EH3 9LH)

gin hut

Picture: The Blackbird Gin Hut, supplied

Enjoy and alfresco gin this summer and escape the Festival courtesy of the Blackbird's newly launched gin extravaganza.

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The outdoor bar at The Blackbird, previously known as The Shed, has been transformed in a dedicated gin bar and renamed the Gin Hut.

Right through until September it will be serving a special menu with four gin cocktails, inspired by Indian summers.

Enjoy a Mango and Cardamom Fizz with preserved mango, cardamom and celery bitters topped with soda; a refreshing Peach and Lemongrass Buck with peach tea, lemongrass and Fever Tree Ginger Ale; and for something a little sweeter, there’s the Raspberry and Pankot which mixes Bombay Sapphire with coconut milk, raspberry, rose water and lemon bitters.

To ensure you enjoy your cocktails or G&T’s in equally chic surroundings, the garden has been given a full face lift for the summer season with the centrepiece being a one-off unique piece of specially commissioned “graffiti spaghetti” by legendary artist Mr Doodle.

Waldorf Astoria

(Princes St, EH1 2AB)

Charming Scottish castle cottages give you the chance to bake Outlander bannocks and other traditional treats

The glamorous Waldorf Astoria Hotel, fondly known as “The Caley”  was originally one of the great railway station hotels of its time, and nothing says peace and quiet more than the grandeur of a stately, five star hotel.

Now visitors can enjoy Afternoon Tea in Peacock Alley, which was originally the old station concourse, fine dining in The Galvin Brother’s restaurant The Pompadour or a whisky or two in The Caley Bar.

Choose from classic cocktails, a wide range of Scotch Whiskies, fine wines and Champagnes, soft drinks and hot beverages, all served in the stylish, luxurious surroundings.

The Bon Vivant

(55 Thistle St, EH2 1DY)

Festival Fringe

Picture: Bon Vivant,

The Bon Vivant is a dimly lit, cosy cavern of a place, which boasts a fantastic drinks selection including a inventive cocktail menu and an accessibly priced Champagne menu - should you fancy some bubbles.

Situated down a picture perfect cobbled street, it provides a comforting respite from the crowds attending the Festival.

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If you want to sample the bars drinks offerings at home, neighbouring The Bon Vivat Companion sells a vast range of wines, spirits and beers.

Panda and Sons

(79 Queen St, EH2 4NF)

Lose yourself in Panda and Sons - a hidden bar fusing the classic Prohibition style Speakeasy and a nod to the Vintage style Barbershop.

Located in the basement (behind a secret bookcase door) of a red painted, vintage style Barber shop on the corner of Queen Street, Panda and Sons has been very popular since its opening in 2013, and serves an array of cocktails, craft beers and more.

Blood & Wine

(Daylight Robbery, 26B Dublin Street, EH3 6NN)

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Picture: Pop Up Geeks Facebook

Forget about the Fringe by immersing yourself in the Game of Thrones universe thanks to the second run of pop up bar, Blood & Wine.

Following a hugely successful first run in January this year, Blood & Wine will once again open its doors to coincide with Game of Thrones’ anticipated 7th season and Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival.

With an extensive selection of drinks sourced from within the pages of A Song Of Ice & Fire and an atmosphere that will leave you checking over your shoulder at every swing of a sword, there’s more reason than ever to visit Blood & Wine this July and August.

Found in the cellar below Daylight Robbery on Dublin Street, Blood & Wine will be open Tuesday - Friday throughout July from 5pm - 1am and  Sunday - Friday throughout August from 8pm - 3am.

Hoot the Redeemer

(7 Hanover St, EH2 1DJ)

From the people that brought Edinburgh Panda and Sons (see above), Hoot the Redeemer is a 50s-styled New Orleans funfair-themed dive bar, and is as fun, crazy and quirky as it sounds.

Well worth a visit to escape the city and Festival hustle and bustle, if only to have your fortune told.

Distinct, eccentric and innovative – the cavern style bar oozes a certain “je ne sais quoi” with its creative charm and quirky adornments.

The bar’s menu features a 1970’s inspired cocktail offering, an extensive beer list, plentiful spirits and a range of soft drinks.

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Picture: Hoot the Redeemer Facebook

For the summer days during the Festival, alcoholic slushies are on offer and come in three flavours infused with gin, tequila or rum.

A boozy ice cream range is also available from the bar’s large ice cream vendor which consists of spiced colada, whisky with dark chocolate and Bru and elixir wine sorbet.


Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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