Edinburgh's 9 Best Pubs

By: Tom Honeyman

Edinburgh is jam packed with things to see and do:  A pretty impressive castle, historic monuments, beautiful streets and buildings, loads of leafy parks, the list goes on.  And it’s quite a hilly place, so even on a pretty relaxing day in the city, it’s not hard to work up a thirst.  And don’t you worry, there are plenty of places one can quench it.  Here’s a few of the best:


9. Hectors

This bar is just the right mix of trendy city pub and familiar local.  Laid back and romantically lit, Hectors offers a great selection of lagers, beers and ales, as well as a scrumptious menu – their Sunday roast is locally famous.  It’s also within easy walking distance of the city center, Craigleith Park and the Royal Botanic Gardens; a great place for a pit-stop, or to put your feet up after a long day.


8. City Café

The pub has been a fixture of Edinburgh nightlife since the 1980’s, and the retro American diner style of City Cafe suggests it hasn’t moved on a whole lot.  Half way down Blair Street in the city centre, you can jump in for a bite during the day – possibly even dare to try the Burger Challenge – or pop in for a drink or two in the evening.  There’s live music from Soul City Djs on Friday and Saturday, which adds to the great atmosphere that you won’t find in any other pubs in Edinburgh.  It’s hard to place what makes City Cafe so special, but once you walk in, you’ll know.


7. The Dome

Located on the East end of George Street, The Dome takes its name from the stunning building in which it’s housed.  Originally built as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, the exterior, with its imposing Grecian pillars, is hard to miss. Upon entering you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d just waltzed into a 5 star hotel, the Grill Room bar is situated in the middle of the main room, under the dome towering above.  The atmosphere is relaxed as it’s a popular place for a casual after-work drink, in a salubrious setting.  Try visiting at Christmas to catch the brilliant outside decorations and the pulsing lights of the enormous tree inside.


6. The Peartree

Built in 1749, a pub since 1982, Pear Tree House, or The Peartree as it’s more commonly known, sits adjacent to the main campus of the University of Edinburgh, in the Southside of the city.  It’s best loved for its walled courtyard where there’s ample seating on the expanse of wooden benches, and on a sunny day in early summer, the space is alive with chatter, laughter, and the sound of ice clicking gently against glasses.  During the Fringe Festival in August, the courtyard hosts live music and performances on the Kopparberg Cider sponsored stage.

Two cups of beer in a pub in New Zealand


5. Boda

Two thirds of the way down Leith Walk, this trendy wee bar has a Swedish undercurrent in its decor, atmosphere and its selection of yummy ciders.  Bright and airy during the day, you can enjoy a refreshment by the window or out on the pop-up seating outside.  In the evening the bar takes on a calm and intimate atmosphere, especially in the quirky surroundings of the back room, done up in a seeming homage to every grandma’s lounge.  If you’re looking for something similar closer to where you may be, Boda has sister establishments all over town, in the shape of Sofi’s, Victoria, Jospeph Pearce’s and Hemma.


4. The Queens Arms

Tucked away below street level on Frederick Street in the New Town, The Queens Arms offers beer, wine and gorgeous food for a very reasonable price, in a quintessentially cozy setting.  The staff are friendly and relaxed, but not half as relaxed as you’ll be sitting in a comfy leather chair, taking in the homely surroundings and impressive book collection.  The pub is ideal for a quiet pint at the end of the day, but can get quite busy and more upbeat on a Friday or Saturday night.  Book ahead if you’re going for food as space is limited.

Fish and chips

3. Hamilton’s Bar and Kitchen

If you woke up in Hamilton’s and forgot where you were, your first guess would probably be some sort of lovely farmhouse kitchen.  It’s that sort of place; relaxed, spacious yet cozy, with delicious aromas in the air.  Opened on Hamilton Place in 2008, about a 15 minute walk downhill from the city center, the pub has great beer, cocktail and food menus.  The Stockbridge area isn’t synonymous with crowds of tourists, so you’ll get the feel of a real up-market ‘local’.

Whiskey drinks

2. Dropkick Murphys

A few paces from the bars of the famous Grassmarket, housed behind an unassuming green door in one of the Old Towns underground caverns, is the best Irish bar Edinburgh has to offer, and that’s saying something.  The place is absolutely packed Friday through Sunday, with live music, Irish and otherwise, keeping the party going.  It’s open until 3am all week and should be a go-to spot for those looking for a night on the rowdier side.  Live sports are shown on big TVs and the bar features all the big name beers, wines and spirits.  Dropkick’s is on Merchant Street, between the Grassmarket and George VI Bridge.  Entry fees are charged on the weekend.

Dropkick Murphys

1. Garibaldi’s

During the afternoon and early evening the venue is actually a Mexican restaurant, serving some delicious Central American favourites.  Late evening and into the night is when the fun starts and the tequila starts to flow.  The rainbow-lit dance floor quickly fills as everyone sips on some of the bars notoriously strong cocktails, and the DJ plays a healthy mix of dance and pop classics.  If this isn’t enough for you, there’s a pole in the corner, which attracts plenty of attention from patrons looking to showcase their dancing abilities. Take a siesta to ready yourself for a night at this fun place.  Garibaldi’s lies inconspicuously half way down Hanover Street in the New Town, and is popular with students, workers and travellers alike.  Cover charges apply on the weekend.

Mexican gourmet dish