Whether you’re looking to while away the hours in a cosy tavern or to meet up with mates in a modern taproom, Edinburgh will not disappoint when it comes to pub offerings. From locally brewed craft beer to drams of the finest single malts, Edinburgh is a city steeped in history, lined with medieval alleyways and packed full of traditional and contemporary pubs.
As a cornerstone of Scottish society, pubs in Scotland play a critical role in local communities, serving as the go-to option for everything from after-work drinks, weekend tipples and Sunday lunches. To help you choose which of the many establishments to visit, we’ve compiled our pick of the best pubs in Edinburgh in 2022.
Check out our guide to the best afternoon teas in Edinburgh, too!
The best Edinburgh pubs
The best pub in Edinburgh for: craft beer and handmade burgers
A sophisticated, high-class venue located in the city’s Old Town, Salt Horse is not only one of the best pubs in Edinburgh but a beer shop too, so you can purchase all the beers you try for yourself. The vibe is very much artisan, with food and drink that feels up-market rather than your more traditional local pub grub and usual on-tap lagers. The bar itself is fairly compact, with the maximum number of small tables squeezed in, while the simple décor highlights the fact that this pub is more passionate about the pints than anything else. In fact, this Edinburgh pub features a dozen rotating keg lines, including breweries like Pilot of Leith, Kernel of London, Thornbridge from Derbyshire, Moor of Bristol and many, many more. These are all served in schooners (2/3 of a pint) as tends to be the norm these days, but with some of the beers reaching above 7%, that might be a good thing.
If you’re looking to eat as well as drink at a pub in Edinburgh, the kitchen specialises in delicious burgers and barbecue food. Think buttermilk chicken burgers, panko-crusted mushroom with halloumi and chilli mayo, traditional cheeseburgers, chicken wings, cauliflower bombs and homemade chips.
The Sheep Heid
The best pub in Edinburgh for: a pint with a view
Dating back to 1360, The Sheep Heid is rumoured to be Scotland’s oldest pub and perhaps the one with the most royal and literary connections; Mary Queen of Scots was a regular back in the day. Located on the outskirts of the city, down a oldy-worldy skittle alley, this Edinburgh pub might be a little trickier to reach for those staying in the centre of the city. However, if you’re taking a walk up Arthur’s Seat, you can find a well-worn path that will lead you down to Duddingston and the narrow alleyway to this drinking hole. One of the best pubs in Scotland for summer drinks, it features a lesser-known beer garden around the back, where you can sit back with a pint of Hawkes Urban Orchard cider. Inside, it has been restored from the original 19th-century public house and is now complete with cosy log fires, soft armchairs and cushions and smart décor.
A firm favourite among Sunday-lunch-seekers, this Edinburgh pub serves up more gastro-pub rather than classic pub grub, serving up modern takes on your usual menu items. Enjoy everything from maple-glazed slow-cooked pork belly and scallops; spiced coconut curry with tenderstem broccoli and Jasmine rice; buttermilk chicken, brie and bacon pie; King prawn, crab and chroizo linguine and so much more. If you’re stopping by on a Sunday, try their exceptional roast – Sirloin of beef, half chicken, or roast pork belly. This pub in Edinburgh also caters for vegans, vegetarians and children.
The Hanging Bat
The best pub in Edinburgh for: brewery craftsmanship
Quirky and unique, The Hanging Bat is something of an oddity on Edinburgh’s bar scene. It has done away with some of the more typical bar-like elements that could distract from their true passion – beer. So, if you’re not a beer fan, this might not be the best pub in Edinburgh for you – there’s no cocktail list, although there is a small selection of spirits, in particular gin. There are no cosy, private corners where you can have an intimate conversation with your loved one; instead, bright lights, high grey walls and large glass doors make it feel modern and slightly uncharming compared to what you might be used to from Edinburgh’s pub scene. But, this Edinburgh pub does brew its own beer on the premises and guests sip their brews from schooners to ensure they don’t lose appreciation for the craftsmanship behind the beer – there won’t be any pint-downing here.
The food menu is similarly exclusive and uncompromising, featuring a significant selection of hot dogs and meatloaf burgers, leaving vegans or vegetarians with little to enjoy. Ultimately, this Edinburgh pub is one for true craft beer connoisseurs. If you’re travelling with a party who don’t share your love for trying new cans, you might want to skip this one and try one of the other pubs in Edinburgh on this list.
The King’s Wark
The best Edinburgh pub for: history nerds
Ideally situated on the trendy waterfront at Leith, the cosy King’s Wark pub dates back over 600 years when it was the former royal residency and armoury of King James I. Walking into this Edinburgh pub, you’ll feel like you’re being whisked back in time to the 1400s with its dark wood features, open log fires and sturdy stone walls. A relatively small venue, with modest-sized tables that are squeezed in, this pub in Edinburgh provides an intimate setting, perfect for keeping warm with a pint in the colder months. When it comes to the drinks, this historic Edinburgh pub has something for everyone, from cask ales and cocktails to fine wines and coffees.
This pub is not only known for its décor and drinks, though, it’s also renowned for its award-winning menu, featuring a delicious array of seasonal, local produce in traditional, hearty dishes. Think Scottish seafood chowder, vegetarian haggis Wellington with whiskey sauce, homemade beef burger, or their famous beer battered East Coast haddock. If you’ve still got room for dessert, why not indulge in the sticky toffee pudding, classic cheesecake or the cheeseboard.
One of the most popular pubs in Edinburgh, it’s almost impossible to turn up this laidback joint in summer with any reasonable expectation of getting a table. Located right on the water of Leith, The Roseleaf pub has become one of the city’s worst-kept secrets, best known for its range of beers from all over the world and for its pot-tails – cocktails served in bone China teapots. Just like the booze, the decor is eclectic and unexpected, with a mix of trendily mismatched Victorian furniture, walls covered with posters and paintings by local artists and hats everywhere. The space is small and intimate without feeling cramped or claustrophobic, making it one of the best pubs in Edinburgh to while an afternoon soaking up the atmosphere with a pot-tail (or two).
The food has received rave reviews from locals from the day it first opened. Despite being purpously informal, the food certainly does pack a punch just as much as the drinks. With catchy names like ‘Finger Lickers’ for Korean style fried chicken wings; ‘Saucy Steak’ for prime ribeye served pink with double-dipped chips, and ‘Flippin’ Fishcakes’ for chunky cod, cold smoked sea trout coated and fried in a herby breadcrumb. Make sure you leave room for dessert with delights on the menu like ‘Cracking Crumble’, ‘Barry Brownie’, and ‘Ave an Affogato’.
Situated at the foot of the Royal Mile, with the Palace of Holyroodhouse and Arthur’s Seat just a stone’s throw away, you might expect this Edinburgh pub to be filled with tourists. But, somehow, the owners have managed remain popular among locals, likely thanks to its great array of cask beers, fresh £1 pizzas, and a long list of rums. The interior makes for a lovely old-school atmosphere too, with dark wood throughout, stained-glass windows and leather sofas and bar stools.
There are even regular whisky and rum-tasting nights with guidance from an expert. Midweek tends to be quiet so you shouldn’t need to book, except for on Mondays when it gets jam-packed because of an exceptionally cheap and cheerful £1 pizza night. If this is what you’re going for (why wouldn’t it be?), be sure to get there very early or you could be waiting a while for your grub.
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