Whether you’re looking for a cozy pub to unwind at the end of the day or a sharp cocktail bar vibrating with the newest trends in music, Edinburgh has the spot for you. Check out a few of these great bars the next time you’re in the neighbourhood.
One of the few outdoor beer gardens in the city, the Pear Tree (they go by a variety of name permutations) is a student hangout in an 18th century setting. When the sun is shining, head for this great pub near Edinburgh University in the Old Town. Tall walls keep the wind out so he garden is comfortable even on the chilly days. And the summer evenings are often filled with live music from the stage.
This classy little spot is so understated that you might miss the sign that points you towards the basement bar. Once you make it in you’ll find well-dressed people engaged in quiet conversation, sipping some of the best cocktails in town. Actually the best cocktails in the country, since this is one of the few Scottish bars to make it into the “50 best” list based on an international survey. Twice.
Suppose you have a sudden craving for Aquavit while wandering through Edinburgh? Or youreally need a glass of Elderflower Cider? If you are looking for any number of unusual shots, stop in at Boda first. The room has a Swedish feel and they even celebrate Swedish holidays – because having more holidays is always a good thing.
Caley Sample Room
Kind of a “gastronome-meets-ploughman” place, the Sample Room has won awards for its unique interpretations on classic pub grub. It’s packed on match days, but most other times finding a seat is relatively easy. Of course they have great beer to go with the chow along with a variety of whiskies in case you’re tempted by the haggis parcels.
Under the Stairs
This one is hard to find, but the locals appreciate that since once found, patrons seem to never want to leave. It’s low-budget and quirky, but not a dive. Sip on a wasabi margarita and you’ll wonder why you ever bothered with those over-priced “trendy” bars.
You know those cool bars they have in movies? The ones that look like a cross between a frat room and a lounge? Yeah, that’s this place. The front is decorated with movie posters and the back room is filled with cushions – and well placed tiny tables for your beer. Movies start at 3pm and the menu is a selection of soups and sandwiches. Show up, flop down and chill out.
Arrive early and you’ll think you’ve been duped into visiting the dullest spot in town, but don’t leave yet. Enjoy the scruffy maritime decor until the evening grows late and the dancing begins. You didn’t notice the dance floor? Ah, most people just assume the bar is only meant to be used as a bar, but not here. Port O’Leith is legendary for the wild party spot it becomes late at night and on the weekends. If you want a fun night, this is the spot.
If you’re in Leith and trying to impress a date, skip the Port and come here. It’s a bit dark and dreamy and they have a selection of absinthe for you to choose from. Actually they have quite a few tasty cocktails and the place has just enough wood and exposed brick to feel romantic without being sappy. It’s a nice place to reconnect with your travel partner and have some good drinks in a peaceful spot.
The White Hart Inn
On the edge of being touristy, the White Hart is worth a drink just for the history. Not only did Robert Burns and William Wadsworth tip a glass there (well, not together), Burke and Hare were also known to frequent the place, perhaps scouting for their next victim? Who knows how many patrons of the Inn ended up as a teaching tool for the medical students down the road... and how many returned to haunt the place?
The Last Drop
No, not “good to..” -- this is drop as in “on a noose”. If you survived the White Hart, ramble over here to one of the pubs that was frequented by revelers enjoying the public hangings at the Grassmarket. The gallows were in the walled area across from the pub and a plaque lists many of the names of those who met their end, possibly wishing for one last pint.