Edinburgh is a massive city with a lot of people, and I don’t just mean the tourists, so finding the best “off the beaten track” and non-chain cafés or bars might seem difficult, but if you look down the right street you can feel like you’ve struck gold with your find of a bar that doesn’t just serve Guinness and Heineken, or a coffee shop that takes genuine pride in the beans they blend for you. With so many people in Edinburgh for different events, such as The Edinburgh Fringe (the world’s largest arts festival), you’re much better off finding a quieter place with better quality products. Below I share my favorite 11 hidden bars and cafés in Edinburgh.
1. The Empress of Broughton Street
A cute and quirky little place based on the corner of Broughton Street. They serve a variety of craft beers, cocktails and even food (including vegetarian food). The staff are really friendly and love a chat about craft beer, so don’t be afraid to ask them questions or to try before you buy because they will happily accommodate you. Try and grab a seat next to the window to watch the world go by because the seats are really comfy and you’re right next to the bar.
2. Brew Lab
A hipster (it’s okay to say that, right?) specialty coffee bar on South College Street. It serves a variety of different coffees, including cold brew coffees and hot chocolates which are popular in many European cities. If you’re looking for something a little stronger, they have natural wine and cocktails available alongside baked goods, a simple brunch menu, a lunch menu with sourdough baguettes, different soups and salads. If craft beer is more your thing, well…they do that too. It seems like a perfect place to take your laptop and get on with some work whilst enjoying some of the finer things in life.
3. The Dogs
Now this is probably the strangest one I have visited. It’s on Hanover street and has minimal signage. As you enter the building you might be concerned that you’re breaking into someone’s house, or gatecrashing a secret club, but I assure you there is a restaurant up there and it’s quirky, intimate and has great food. As with the name, there are pictures of dogs everywhere—and I mean everywhere—as there is even a massive picture of a dog watching you eat. The menu feels like a fancy 5-star restaurant, but the prices match more of a chain family restaurant. Definitely recommend a visit for something different.
4. Bramble Bar and Lounge
An upscale cocktail bar on Queen Street in Edinburgh. Although having very high ratings, people still struggle to find this hidden gem due to lack of signage, but once you are there you get high-quality service, fantastic and unique cocktails, and you’re guaranteed a great time. Bramble bar and lounge can be particularly great after a long week of working.
5. The Royal Dick
On Summerhall place, this bar/café used to be the home to a small animal hospital as part of the Dick Vet School, hence the name, but has now been turned in to a quirky and hidden bar/café with an on-site brewery and gin distillery. They serve food from 12 noon until 9pm and can get quite busy on weekends, so I would book in advance. There is nowhere else like this in Edinburgh and you definitely won’t regret the experience.
On Morrison Street you can find Milk, a café that serves a range of food from all over the world. They serve food that is natural and seasonal and they like serving local and organic food. Everything you eat here is made on the day, including the cakes, and it’s great if you’re looking for a healthy lunch or if you’re vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free as they have a fantastic range to suit all.
7. Hoot The Redeemer
A dive bar on Hanover Street. What can I say about this one? It’s not like any other dive bar you will find, it’s unique and fun with a wide range of alcohol, a list to make your own cocktails, cocktail slushies (which just sound amazing), and ice cream—yes you can get ice cream in a dive bar. If you’re in the area and looking for somewhere to drink, I’d head here. Especially if you’re an ice cream fan.
8. Southern Cross Café
I stumbled across this one by accident when I was starving for breakfast, but 100% intend on going back. Situated on Cockburn Street this little café offers breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. I recommend going here for breakfast as they have a large breakfast menu with options like a hash brown roll, full English breakfast to pancakes. There are a lot of quirks about this places, including the decorations on the inside (which I think I will keep as a surprise for you). If you’re looking for something small and different then make your way here.
9. Dovecote Café by Leo’s
A sleek and local café on Infirmary Street where you can get artisan coffee, sandwiches, salads and cakes. Dovecote Café is family run, so you’ll always feel welcome and know that you’re getting the best service. They use local produce and freshly bake all their goods in-house. I highly suggest visiting this café because the food and presentation is always perfect.
10. Chocolate Tree
This might be a little further out of the center, but is definitely worth it for all chocolate lovers. Based on Bruntsfield place, Chocolate Tree sells handmade organic chocolates, gourmet hot chocolate and coffee, all of which you can get in their café or buy to take away. They even have some amazing dairy free and vegan options for you to try. This is an absolute must for chocolate fans.
11. Wellington Coffee
You can find this café on George Street in Edinburgh, but you have to look hard. It’s situated under Penhaligons and is great for coffee lovers. They don’t just serve coffee though, they serve a wide range of teas and cakes. I’ve also heard a lot of really good things about their scones. I’d recommend this small café for a coffee when you’re in town.
While you’re in Scotland why not also check out: 8 Magical Places You Need To See In Scotland