Where to drink in Edinburgh: a beginner’s guide

Whether you’re just going for a quiet drink,  on a date or for a mad night out with your friends, Edinburgh’s bar selection is so wide and diverse, it can be overwhelming. If you’re new in town, it can be especially hard to gauge which place is right for you. But don’t you worry: this guide will help you find the best bar(s) to satisfy your alcoholic needs, for every occasion.

For the craft beer enthusiast

Photo courtesy of Scottish Licensed Trade News (2016)

The Hanging Bat

Since its opening in 2012, The Hanging Bat has gained serious traction in the craft beer scene. With 6 cask and 14 keg lines rotating on a daily basis, and over 100 bottles and cans, there’s something for every beer snob out there. You can expect to find anything from spiced pineapple sour beer to smoked porters, all served in schooners or 1/3 pints. As well as beer, they also offer a classic bar bite selection including wings, nachos, halloumi fries and more. Their 5th birthday party, on November 17th, will feature a limited edition birthday beer by their in-house brewer, as well as some of the UK’s top breweries.

133 Lothian Road, EH3 9AB

 

Brauhaus

Inconspicuously located on the corner of Lauriston Place, this German beer is truly a hidden gem of Edinburgh. With limited seating (I’m talking 30 people max), an old sewing machine, and candlelit tables, Brauhaus offers a perfect atmosphere for a solo drink after work or a catch-up with an old friend. Whether you want to cozy up on the couch by the window for some people watching, or learn something new from the knowledgable bar staff, you will definitely be doing so with some of Germany’s finest beer in hand.

105-107 Lauriston Place, EH3 9JG

Salt Horse

Situated right between the Royal Mile and Cowgate, Salt Horse is the perfect layover between exploring the tourist attractions of Edinburgh and starting your night out on the town. Aside from the 12 keg lines in the bar, Salt Horse also has a bottle shop with a selection of over 400 bottles and cans from all over the world. If you’re feeling peckish, you will not be disappointed by their burgers (vegetarian options are also available). Although you wouldn’t guess it from its exterior, Salt Horse is actually home to one of the few beer gardens in Edinburgh – don’t worry, they’re installing outdoor heaters and covers for the winter.

57-61 Blackfriars Street, EH1 1NB

 

 

For the sports fan (or just a game of pool)

Oz Bar

This Aussie sports bar, the first stop on the Castle Rock pub crawl, has 2 pool tables where you can play for free. Between games, you can watch sports on the TV screens (did someone say Rugby?), while snacking on Shapes and drinking cheap beer and spirits. Bonus: they offer student discounts.

33 Candlemaker Row, EH1 2QG

 

Footlights Bar & Grill

Located just down the hill from Castle Rock, Footlights Bar & Grill offers a little bit of everything: a pool table, 2 large projects and small screens, a restaurant, and a selection of international beers and cocktails. The pub shows up to 3 different sports games at one time, saving you the hassle of arguing over which game to watch with your pals. Throughout the week, you can also catch open mic night on Thursdays and stand-up comedy on Sundays.

7 Spittal Street, EH3 9DX

 

For when you’re craving cocktails

Photo courtesy of Panda and Sons (2017)

Panda & Sons

Disguised as a vintage barbershop, complete with a Hogwarts-style hidden bookcase door, the speakeasy style Panda & Sons is very easy to miss. When you enter the basement bar, it really does feel as if you’ve stepped into a different decade – everything from the decor, to the music, to the bar staff’s uniforms has a vintage feel. When you sit down, you will be equipped with chilli popcorn and water to last you through the night. With cocktails served in anything from Chinese takeaway boxes to hats, using ingredients like coriander seed and grapefruit foam, you will definitely be staying for more than just one.

79 Queen Street, EH2 4NF

Lucky Liquor Co.

The sister of Edinburgh’s famous Bramble bar, Lucky Liquor brings you a regularly rotating list of 13 cocktails all filled with unique twists and turns. Unlike many of Edinburgh’s cocktail bars, which tend to go for a wooden, vintage-style decor, Lucky Liquor opts for an American diner style of interior decor – complete with black and white tiles, exposed brick walls and a pink neon sign. The best thing about Lucky Liquor? The bartenders are top notch. If nothing catches your eye on the menu, they will happily (and effectively) go off-book to create your dream cocktail – and provide some good chat too, of course.

39A Queen Street, EH2 3NH

 

Bryant & Mack Private Detectives

Like Panda & Sons, this speakeasy bar is literally a hidden gem – though the frosted windows and faded door makes Bryant & Mack especially difficult to find (we recommend using Google Maps). Recently voted as one of the country’s best bars of 2017, the venue is styled as a private detective agency with a touch of creepy hotel where you might get murdered. You will receive menus in brown ‘confidential’ envelopes, boasting a selection of classic cocktails with a twist, using ingredients like Malbec infused egg white and fig twists. On a busy night you might have to squeeze in and share a table with some fellow investigators, but if you go on weekdays, there are plenty of couches and corners to cozy up in.

87-89 Rose Street, EH2 3 DT

 

For live music

Whistle Binkies

With live music 7 nights a week and over 100 bands playing each month, Whistle Binkies is one of Edinburgh’s staple live music bars. Offering a mix of open mic nights, free gigs and ticketed events, you are sure to find some of the city’s best up and coming talent. The bar is placed right above the South Bridge vaults, renowned as one of the most haunted areas in the world, with hundreds of inexplicable paranormal encounters occurring over the past couple of centuries. But don’t let that scare you – some tequila will help you forget all about it.

4-6 South Bridge, EH1 1LL

 

Stramash

Formerly an 18th century Free Church, Stramash is Edinburgh’s largest music venue, with a capacity of 900 people. Aside from the big stage – where you can enjoy open mic night, songwriting sessions and live gigs – the venue has three bars, an internal balcony with a view of the stage, and a restaurant. To top it all off, Stramash is home to Edinburgh’s largest TV screen, so you can even catch a game or two.

207 Cowgate, EH1 1JQ

 

The Jazz Bar

This award-winning live music venue, home to the Jazz Festival, is a must-go for any music fan. With a range of small bands, solo singers and orchestra performances in a multitude genres including jazz, funk, blues, acoustic and more. Entry is usually free until 7:30pm or 10:30pm (depending on the night), but all money goes towards the musicians rather than the venue.

1A Chambers Street, EH1 1HR

 

For a late night meal

Photo courtesy of Feed (2017)

Nightcap

It’s in the name: sometimes you just need one last drink before you go to bed. Nightcap is home to Feed, offering a sit-down menu of anything from ribs and burgers to bar snacks until 2am – a true rarity in Edinburgh, where most places stop serving food at 10pm. The late service doesn’t compromise the food quality though, especially when paired with their classic cocktails.

1-3 York Place, EH1 3EB

 

OX184

Conveniently located right on Cowgate, for those who went a little too hard on the drinks, OX184 serves brunch until 12pm and wood fired grill food until 2:30am. Cocktails are more on the average side, but their beer selection and food quality is pretty top notch considering its location and opening hours. On weekends, the bar is busy and noisy, but on weeknights you can easily hold up a conversation over food and drinks at 2am.

184-186 Cowgate, EH1 1JJ

 

 

What’s happening in Edinburgh this month?

Edinburgh Festival of Wine

November 4th 12pm

Photo courtesy of Edinburgh Festival of Wine (2017)

Tom Cannavan of STV’s The Hour brings you an all-day wine celebration, with samples of over 200 of the UK’s best wines at the famous Balmoral hotel. You can also attend a few masterclasses to make you a true wine connoisseur. Go on a journey through Chenin Blanc with South African wine expert Ken Forrester, or do a taste test to determine whether decanting really makes a difference. And the true highlight – a wine and cheese matching masterclass with Tom himself.

 

Guy Fawkes Night

November 5th

Photo courtesy of Alan McCredie (2015)

Guy Fawkes night, also known as bonfire night, is a celebration of the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605 to kill James VI. To celebrate, swing by The Meadows for public bonfires and set off fireworks, or you can head to the garden centre in Lasswade for food and fireworks from 6pm. The Meadowbank Stadium is hosting its last fireworks display before undergoing major renovations from 6pm. This year’s theme is Sci Fi, so don’t forget to dress up – and get ready for a truly artistic firework show.

 

Yellow Movement Friday

November 17th from 7pm

The Yellow Movement Friday is returning to Stramash with the assistance of 6 bands to fundraise and raise awareness for Who Cares? Scotland. Entry is free from 7pm to midnight, after which the stage will be taken over by Scottish folk duo The Mad Ferret Band. Stramash hosts live music 7 days a week until 3am, find out more about their November lineup here.

 

Edinburgh Christmas Markets

November 17th to January 6th

Photo courtesy of Edinburgh’s Christmas (2017)

The famous Christmas Market is a favourite among locals and tourists alike, turning George Street and Princes Street gardens into a spectacular winter wonderland. This year brings back classic food and drink stalls where you will find German pretzels, lobster sandwiches, bratwurst and sauerkraut, and of course, hot toddies, gin and tonics and more. Adventure seekers can skate through Frozen Scotland‘s ice rink, scale an ice wall, and take a ride on The Yeti or Starflyer. Some newcomers this year are the brand new Forth 1 Big Wheel (pictured above) and the Candy Cane Bungees (not for the faint hearted). Entertainment is provided by critically acclaimed La Clique Noël, serving up a dazzling mix of cabaret, magic, burlesque, comedy, circus and music.

 

Edinburgh Tequila Festival

November 18th 1pm-11pm

Photo courtesy of Edinburgh Tequila Festival (2017)

The Mexican Fiesta will be touring 16 cities around the UK, swinging by ATIK in Edinburgh on November 18th. You can expect a mariachi band, piñatas, over 30 brands of tequila and some Mexican classics like tacos, fajitas and nachos. You also receive a complimentary shot of tequila, a sombrero and a tequila bible with your ticket. Arriba arriba, andale andale!

 

St Andrews Day

November 30th

The 30th of November is Scotland’s national day, so the city will be bustling with events and activities to celebrate. George Street will transform into an ice rink filled with sculptures of historical figures, so you can polish up your skating skills and Scottish history knowledge at the same time! Buy your tickets here before they sell out. More of a dancer? Celebrate St Andrews Day in true Scottish fashion by dancing the night away at a ceilidh from 8pm at The Counting House or Lauriston Hall. You can also feast on some traditional Scottish dishes and listen to songs and stories about Scotland at the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s Fisherman’s Feast, Sailor’s Rest event.

 

Weekly events & gigs

Don’t worry music lovers, we haven’t forgotten about you. This month at Whistle Binkies you can watch performances by The Lost Boys, Karel Kalaf Trio, Matt Gloss & The Emulsions and more.   If you want to work on your stage confidence, or simply just show your talent, you can attend Open Mic Night every Monday at Whistle Binkies, and every Tuesday at Stramash. Not ready to perform yet? Every Monday, Stramash hosts Songwriter Sessions with some local performers to get you in the zone. For those of you wondering about the nightlife, Edinburgh has something to offer every night of the week. If you are staying at any of our MacBackpackers Edinburgh hostels, you can join our free Thursday pub crawl to take you around the city. On Saturday nights, guests at Castle Rock Hostel compete in a weekly beer pong tournament followed by a night on the town.