The historic Old Town area of Edinburgh boasts several major tourist attractions, not to mention many items of unique architectural significance. Scattered throughout the neighbourhood are various student hangouts, local boozers and trendy cocktail spots: here’s our guide to the Old Town’s best drinking establishments.
Brewdog resides in Cowgate amidst rock bars and live music venues, suiting its anti-establishment and ‘Beer for Punks’ manifesto. No other bar in Edinburgh so passionately and fervently stocks its own home-brewed beer; typically on offer are a handful of IPAs, Dead Pony Club, Five AM Red Ale, a dark porter and the blunt This. Is. Lager. There’s also a regular selection of quality guest draughts such as Mikkeller’s gluten-free ales, Weihenstephan and Brooklyn Lager. There’s also a food menu with Pieminister pies and homemade pizzas available.
143 Cowgate, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 220 6517
The Holyrood 9A
The Holyrood 9A serves up excellent burgers and a regular rotation of regional draft beers from Scottish craft brewers and internationally acclaimed exporters. The friendly bar staff are at your disposal to guide you from Williams Bros, Harviestoun and Stewart to the rotating guest ales, Thornbridge, The Kernel, Magic Rock, Krombacher and Mikkeller. Notable food choices include the venison burger with melted brie, red onions and tangy red berry chutney, and the Holyrood burger with beer mustard, sharp Hereford Hop cheese and sticky caramelised onion.
9A Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 556 5044
Bow Bar is a real treat for Edinburgh drinkers with 230 malt whiskies, eight cask ales and a range of bottled beers on offer. The extensive selection is duly complemented by the friendly guidance of the bar staff, on hand to offer suggestions. Bow Bar is decked out in a wholly unpretentious, traditional pub style and with its location on Victoria Street, it’s easily placed to soak up the post-work crowds spilling into the Grassmarket.
80 W Bow, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44131 226 7667
Adjacent to the King’s Theatre is Bennet’s Bar, strikingly decorated with ornate stained glass and eye-catching Victorian furnishings, such as curved dark wood shelves and large mirrored panels. Modern flourishes, however, include rounded red-leather banquettes and Ordnance Survey maps of Edinburgh and Scotland used as table-tops. Single malt and real ales are plentifully stocked and the big screen TV shows the sport on weekends, drawing a substantial crowd even without the additional legions streaming in from the King’s Theatre during interval and post-curtain. The food menu includes pies, stovies and sandwiches.
8 Leven St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44131 229 5143
The Devil's Advocate
Bar, European, British, Pub Grub, $$$
The Devil’s Advocate
The Devil’s Advocate is a former Victorian pumphouse with cosy booths and a dining mezzanine. An on-site allotment within the ruined walls adjacent to the bar provides fresh produce for the kitchen making The Devil’s Advocate one of the more environmentally-conscious kitchen bars in the city. The list of drinks includes new wines, whiskies and cocktails which are being expanded upon every week: try the Howitzer – whisky, citric acid, ginger syrup, house blended tea and soda.
9 Advocates Close, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 225 4465
The Jazz Bar
Bar, British, Pub Grub, $$$
The Jazz Bar
The Jazz Bar is a Manhattan-esque subterranean den with limited seating for 140 people, yet which still manages to feel comfortable and never overcrowded. The entry fee is typically £3 – 5 (cash on the door only) with the money going straight to the musicians. On any given night, one may find a special arts night, a performance poetry reading or an album launch. The drinks menu includes the likes of draft Innis and Gunn lager and some rare Polish vodkas.
1A Chambers St, Edinburgh,Scotland, UK, +44 131 220 4298
Usher’s is named after the wealthy distiller who funded the construction of the Usher Hall and Usher’s Bar. The venue takes pride in serving the wonderful craft beers brewed right at home here in Edinburgh. Amongst the draft offerings are items from Alechemy, Stewart, Drygate, West and Tempest. There’s also a food menu offering a mixture of grazing bites and signature dishes, such as steak tartare, baby back ribs, scotch eggs, moules frites and beer-glazed burgers.
32b W Nicolson St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44131 662 1757
Waverley Bar is a quirky venue which charms locals with its fading gig posters, handle-bar pint glasses and cluttered, cobwebby interior. Be warned that the bar selection is very limited – only three beers on tap (usually Guinness) and the spirits collection is somewhat old-fashioned. You don’t come to the Waverley for the drinks; you come for a pub with a truly original and palpable character.
3-5 St Mary’s St, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, +44 131 556 8855