The Best Bars In Old Town, Edinburgh

Edinburgh Old Town - colourful painted shops on Victoria Street and West Bow, pedestrianised during coronavirus pandemic, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Edinburgh Old Town - colourful painted shops on Victoria Street and West Bow, pedestrianised during coronavirus pandemic, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK | © Kay Roxby / Alamy Stock Photo
Alex MacKay

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.

Did you know – Culture Trip now does bookable, small-group trips? Pick from authentic, immersive Epic Trips, compact and action-packed Mini Trips and sparkling, expansive Sailing Trips.


Brewdog resides among the rock bars and live music venues of Cowgate, feeling right at home with 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.

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.

Bow Bar

H9698K UK, Scotland, Edinburgh, View of the Bow Bar.

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.

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.

The Jazz Bar

The Jazz Bar is a Manhattan-esque subterranean den with limited seating for 140 people, yet it 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 draught Innis and Gunn lager and some rare Polish vodkas.

The Waverley Bar

The Waverley Bar is a quirky venue that charms locals with its fading gig posters, handle-bar pint glasses and cluttered 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.

Culture Trip Summer Sale

Save up to $1,395 on our unique small-group trips! Limited spots.

Edit article