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Edinburgh’s Best Bars and Pubs

Edinburgh is a city full of bars and pubs where you can always have a refreshing beer, a whisky or something quick to eat. Below is a list of the best-known Scottish drinks and bars, which for one reason or another, are renowned among locals and tourists.

Pub or restaurant?

Scotland’s capital offers numerous establishments to cater for all tastes, but a favourite for most visitors is traditional pub food. Even though the opening times are less flexible, pub food is always filling and it is normally cheaper.

Scottish drinks

Scotch Whisky

Scotch Whisky Experience
Scotch Whisky Experience

Initially made for its health benefits, the production of whisky has become one of the most successful industries in Scotland.

Depending on the different grains used, there are various types of Scotch whisky:

  • Single malt: From a single distillery. It is exclusively made with malted grain.
  • Single grain: This variety contains barley and one or more cereal grains.
  • Blended malt: A blend of several single malt whiskies from various distilleries.
  • Blended: A mix of malt and grain whisky. 90% of the Scotch whisky produced in Scotland is blended. Some of the most famous brands are Dewar’s, Johnnie Walker, Cutty Sark, J&B or Chivas Regal.

Scotch whisky is mainly produced in the Lowlands, Campbeltown, Isay and the Highlands. The flavour and aroma vary from one region to another. If you visit the Scotch Whisky Experience you’ll learn a lot more about the country’s national drink.

Note that in Scotland, whisky is normally served by itself and without ice. Sometimes you can mix it with a little water.

Scottish beer

The second most popular drink in Scotland, after whisky, is beer. It has been produced in the country for over 5.000 years and there is a great tradition of going to the pub for a pint or half pint.

The Elephant House
The Elephant House

Traditional Scottish beer is divided into several shilling price categories. This system, used since the nineteenth century, assigns a value for each version of the same beer. Thus the stronger the beer, the more it costs and the higher the number of shillings.

Although there are over seventy different breweries in Scotland, the two leading beer-makers are Tennents and McEwan’s. Although these two types of ale are excellent, why not try beers from smaller breweries as well? For example, Caledonian Brewery, the only surviving brewery from the nineteenth century. During that period there were a total of forty breweries, all closed except Caledonian. 

Best bars in Edinburgh

Without taking into consideration the quality of the food, these are some of the best pubs in the city and well worth discovering:

The Elephant House

Situated in the University area, The Elephant House (21, George IV Bridge) is one of the city’s top Scottish pubs. The reason is that J.K. Rowling spent many hours in this place writing the children’s books of Harry Potter.

Deacon Brodies Tavern

Deacon Brodies Tavern
Deacon Brodies Tavern

The Dome
The Dome

Deacon Brodie is most likely the most popular pub on the Royal Mile (435, Lawnmarket). Opened in 1806, it owes its name to William Brodie, a respectable citizen during the day and one of the most cunning thieves during the night.

The writer Robert Louis Stevenson was so inspired by William Brodie that he wrote the novel “The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde”.

The Dome

The Dome (14, George Street) was an old bank until it was transformed into one of the most popular bars in Edinburgh. It is luxuriously and exquisitely decorated with an enormous glass dome letting a beautiful light stream in on the Greek style columns and the mosaics.

Despite it being a little pricey, it is definitely worthwhile stopping at The Dome for a coffee to discover its unique atmosphere. If you are lucky and it is sunny outside, it has a pleasant terrace on Rose Street.