Between Edinburgh’s renowned literary heritage and its abundance of independent cafés and coffee shops, the place is a haven for both bibliophiles and latte enthusiasts. Consider the world-famous Edinburgh International Book Festival the sprinkles on top of the cappuccino.
From expertly crafted artisanal coffee to serene spaces to spend the day in, here are our top cafés for book lovers in Edinburgh.
Tucked away on the cobblestone-adorned Cockburn Street, The Milkman is as charming as can be with its touches of tartan, stone and wood. What it lacks in size, this tiny haven makes up for in flavour, thanks to a mouthwatering spread of homemade tray bakes and cakes. Ideally located for watching the world go by with a warm drink in your hand, The Milkman is also a great place for capturing that perfect social media moment all about your latest read.
Look no further if you like your cafés with oodles of character. The menu is brimming with gourmet pastries, light bites, cakes, bakes and specialty brews from Clifton Coffee Roasters. With welcoming staff, a bookcase filled with various literary finds and ample comfy seating, this place is an ideal hangout for getting stuck into a good book. Floor-to-ceiling arched windows make for a calm setting and you can admire their unrivalled knick-knack collection between pages.
With patrons including JK Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith, The Elephant House has been a magnet for readers and writers since opening in 1995. Situated near George Heriot’s School (said to have been the inspiration for Hogwarts) and Victoria Street (Edinburgh’s own Diagon Alley), this bohemian haunt was a known favourite of JK Rowling, who embraced the cosy atmosphere with a coffee as she wrote her early Harry Potter novels. The castle views set the tone for a memorable experience fuelled by an extensive and affordable cake selection, gourmet teas and locally roasted coffee.
When it comes to brewing the perfect cup of coffee, Brew Lab has mastered the art of range and flavour depth. This industrial-styled space is home to a menu with four rotating single-origin coffees – two of which are brewed as pour-overs at the bar, and the others crafted at the espresso bar. They stock a pleasing range of cakes from local bakers, and also have simple but delicious brunch and lunch menus. With the Old Town hustle and bustle as the backdrop, Brew Lab is only a brisk stroll from both the Central Library and the National Library of Scotland.
Everything about Café Noir adds up to a dream café come reading room. The roomy space boasts leafy accents and plenty of seats. As the venue is also a patisserie, the pastries and cakes will keep you coming back for more and there’s no need to take a break from your book for lunch, as they’ve also got a large selection of sandwiches. Whether you’re looking to admire the coffee art with friends or study in style, Café Noir has it all.
Established in 2016 by two self-confessed ‘geeks who know coffee’, this micro-roastery puts all the focus on seasonal, single-origin specialty coffee. Extensive research is put into finding the best harvest coffees from all corners of the globe, and book lovers can soak up the serenity created by the stripped-back decor and airy space. Between the online store, the flagship Leith-based café and a new location opening up near Waverley Station, this beauty is just getting started.
Bar, Cafe, Cocktail Bar, Patisserie, Coffee Shop, Smoothie Bar, Contemporary, Tea , Pastries, British
Espresso and wine bar Hyde & Son rests in a league of its own when it comes to interior design. Giant windows allow the light to cascade in, and the comfortable seats and textured floor cushions make this the perfect spot to lounge the day away with a good book. Pastries by Leith-based Twelve Triangles (such as pistachio and blackcurrant croissants) arrive fresh every morning, as do raw vegan cakes from Grams in Haymarket and baking from Suki Bakes. As well as gourmet coffee and smoothies, Hyde & Son also craft innovative cocktails, each of which features coffee as the core component.
Artisan Roast is a true playground for coffee connoisseurs – it was Scotland’s first specialty coffee shop and roastery and is responsible for spearheading the country’s gourmet coffee craze. Although it now has multiple locations and a burgeoning roastery, the Broughton Street location is where the magic began. The talented baristas are armed with a wealth of brewing knowledge and mad skills, the chilled atmosphere is unrivalled and the soups, snacks and brews are out of this world.
Cosy and bohemian café Black Medicine Coffee Co is ideally located near the museum right next to Blackwell’s Bookshop, and has plenty of secret nooks and crannies made for getting lost in a book. Light lunches include tasty paninis and snacks, and of course, the café serves coffee of all kinds, all day. A mainstay on the Edinburgh café scene for almost two decades, this social space is also committed to reducing, reusing and recycling.
What sets Printworks Coffee apart is its strong community atmosphere and penchant for raw, natural ingredients. The menu, which champions small independent producers, spans the whole gamut from pastries to artisan bread, made-to-order gluten-free cakes, cheesecakes and seasonal soups from Union of Genius. They also sell chocolate from local companies Coco and Chocolate Tree. Between the breakfasts (served daily until 11.30 am) and the comfortable seating, Printworks lends itself to me-time moments filled with reading and good eats.
Featuring the best scones in town, Red Kite Café ticks every box. Fragrant teas are sourced locally and the Janszoon blend coffee is from fan-favourite Artisan Roast. The freshly baked cakes and pastries never fail to deliver, but it’s the breakfast and lunch menu that will reel you back in time after time. Ideal for bibliophiles who like their coffee as enticing as their reads, it’s the little things with Red Kite, such as the fresh flowers and attentive staff.