From grand Georgian buildings and Gothic tenements to tree-filled parks, rolling hills and the open sea – and let’s not forget the castle – the Scottish capital has a wealth of attractions to enjoy. How better to relax at the end of a hard day’s sightseeing than with a drink in hand at one of Edinburgh’s rooftop bars?
Scotland’s capital has a buzzing on-trend bar scene, where you’ll find everything from bohemian speakeasies and themed high-rise beer gardens to understated chic champagne lounges. Inventive cocktails, locally brewed craft beers and extensive drinks lists ensure there’s something for every taste – and budget. Here are the best places to enjoy a sundowner with unforgettable views.
Lively champagne lounge Nor’ Loft specialises in bubbles from both independent and major labels. The trendy bar is seven floors up at the top of the Market Street Hotel, looking north of the city. It was named after the infamous medieval Nor’ Loch that once filled the land in Princes Street Gardens (which can be viewed from the rooftop, just across from the venue). The style is Scottish meets Scandi, with gleaming white marble tables and a sleek granite bar. Accessed via Market Street, it’s conveniently placed for major transport links, shops and tourist attractions.
Located on the top floor of DoubleTree by Hilton Edinburgh in Bread Street Brasserie, this exclusive venue opens to the public just one night a month and is a popular venue for corporate and private events. It’s a sleek, minimalist vibe, with laid-back tunes and views of Edinburgh Castle through a floor-to-ceiling glass wall. It often plays host to silent discos, as well as al fresco barbecues on the terrace. The drinks menu specialises in cool cocktails and fizz. SKYbar is only open to the public on the first Thursday of the month but is available for private hire.
Cold Town House, an après-ski-themed beer garden on the Grassmarket in the heart of the Old Town, is a relaxed urban venue, with views of the castle. Owned and run by local brewery Cold Town Beer, it serves its own craft beer, as well as prosecco and warming whiskies. Great value pizzas can be ordered from the vintage van parked on the pergola-covered rooftop. Climbing greenery, burnt-orange scatter cushions, gondola seating and blankets create a cosy and upbeat alpine vibe.
Try a taste of the East on Chaophraya's luxury rooftop
Restaurant, Thai, $$$
Occupying a prime spot above the city’s premium shopping district, Chaopraya enjoys extensive panoramic views. This Thai-concept restaurant has a large range of drinks, including exotic Asian-inspired cocktails such as the Tom Yum Siam and Black Thai Only. The atmosphere is refined, with authentic contemporary Thai furniture, calming tunes and attentive service. Expect to pay suitably high-end prices for a night out here. Request a table on the terrace or beside a window for unbeatable views.
This elegant bar, with fine wines, chill-out music and subtle lighting, sits at the top of the upscale Harvey Nichols department store on St Andrew’s Square. Large picture windows and an exterior terrace provide far-reaching views over the Firth of Forth and across to the Kingdom of Fife. Mixologists create timeless classics and signature drinks, including several featuring Harvey Nichols own brut champagne. With ambient lighting and a romantic atmosphere, it’s a popular choice for date nights.
This low-rise rooftop speakeasy is directly above a shopping mall and Waverley Station, where the New Town meets the Old. Cask Smugglers has a turn-of-the-century prohibition theme and is a relatively recent arrival on the scene, having opened in 2018. Vintage furnishings, theatrical bartenders, frequent live music and a retro soundtrack create a fun atmosphere. Whisky, spirits, craft beers and a large range of rum and tequila cocktails are served alongside Peruvian street food.