The Best Traditional Edinburgh Pubs

If you’re talking to someone about eating and drinking in Scotland’s capital, you will undoubtedly mention old Edinburgh pubs at some point.

However, it’s not just Edinburgh; Scotland and the whole of Britain have pubs that are a crucial part of the culinary culture. We locals love them for the social life, atmosphere, and community. Not to mention the food and drink!

Finding a pub you can call your own is a great way to experience Scotland from a local’s point of view. One that feels just right, and has the right look and atmosphere for you to keep returning to again and again.

But finding your “local” is easier said than done! So we’ve put together this little guide to some of the best old and traditional pubs Edinburgh has to offer.

Each has a charm all of its own and is worth a visit. Each and every one would be worthy of the title of your local, even if it’s just while you visit.

Edinburgh Skyline

What makes a good pub?

This is a very tough question to answer because it very much depends on you. However, we suggest making sure locals are drinking in it, the food and drink are of high quality, and the pub itself is well cared for.

You can always use an old pub manager’s trick to see if a pub is well maintained – check the toilets and the lightbulbs! If they’re clean and tidy and no lightbulbs are blown, then the rest of the pub will likely be well looked after too.

When we go out we look for a menu that’s been thought about and kept up to date with a good selection of bar snacks and traditional pub grub, ideally freshly produced on site. The drinks should be made well and the pints taste good a good sign the cellar is well kept.

And finally, the staff – if they seem to have a passion for the place they work, then it’s worth staying for a drink or two!

Old Pubs in Edinburgh

What’s the difference between a bar and a pub?

A bar is usually more about alcohol than a sense of community and comfort. A pub should feel comfortable, typically sells food as well and is part of the community.

A bar should feel busy and exciting and generally lends itself to more of a “nightlife” sort of feel and may even turn into a club later in the evening. Pubs tend to close earlier and lean towards live music rather than DJs and top hits.

There is definitely room for a cross-over, but a quick way to decide where you are is by the chairs. Comfy chairs, it’s probably a pub. Trendy chairs, probably a bar!

“Pub” is short for Public House; previously, Public Houses would have a bar area which was the serving area in the Public House.

Bars now reflect this. They are serving places for alcohol that no longer have to stay in a public house!

Where to find the best pubs in Edinburgh

Everywhere, that’s why they’re so great, but finding a good one can be a real issue. And, once you find it, you won’t want to go anywhere else and will remain loyal to it through thick and thin.

This loyalty is exactly why pubs have regulars. They’re not just the closest pub to that person but the one they feel most comfortable in.

Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - Deacon Brodies Tavern

What to look for in a traditional pub in Edinburgh

Another significant issue is that many pubs look old but actually aren’t. There are a lot of pubs that are old but no longer fit the tag of traditional.

The sort of “traditional pub” we’re talking about is either old and a local institution or a newer business that has taken inspiration from the rich tradition of the public house.

When we think of old pubs in Edinburgh, we think of comfortable chairs, frequently covered in different shades of tartan. Possibly a fire, or at least, a fireplace where one used to be lit!

The lighting is often dim, but not dark, with the walls having wood panelling and old pictures displayed on them.

They feel warm and cosy, and you want to sit and relax in them for hours!

The Top 17 Traditional and Old Edinburgh Pubs

The Queens Arms

Frederick Street, New Town

This book-lined gastro pub balances a comfortable drinking establishment that has sport playing on the TV with a traditional eatery serving excellent yet straightforward dishes, particularly their fantastic roast dinners!

Tucked away below street level in the centre of Edinburgh, the Queens Arms is an excellent example of a modern pub bringing traditional themes bang up to date. Definitely one of our favourites when we’re looking for an old Edinburgh pub in the city centre.

Beehive Inn


Four hundred years old and still going strong, this pub offers a menu full of the standard range of traditional pub food. This pub stands out over others on the Grassmarket because of its deceptively large interior and split-level beer garden. It’s a bit like a maze inside!

On a sunny day, you can sit with a view of Edinburgh Castle, stepping away from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh and all who have come to visit it.

The Beehive Inn - Old Edinburgh Pubs

The Doric

Market St, Old Town

Built in the 17th century and made into a pub in the 18th century, The Doric has a wonderful restaurant/cafe on its first floor and a comfortable and welcoming bar on the ground floor.

The Doric celebrates its history and doesn’t try to shy away from it. It keeps it simple. Good produce, good drinks and good service are the basis of this excellent pub.

They usually have a Burns Supper on offer in January too!

Deacon Brodie

The Royal Mile, Old Town

As old Edinburgh pubs go, this is one of the most famous.

Just a short walk from Edinburgh Castle, the pub began life in 1806 and gained its name from an Edinburgh man of the same name. By day, William Brodie was a respectable community member and a Deacon and guild representative. But at night, he was a gambler who ran up such debts that he went on a crime spree that eventually saw him hung.

His double life was not just the inspiration for this traditional pub’s name but also for Robert Louis Stevenson, inspiring him to write Dr Jekl and Mr Hyde.

Despite having major works done to it in its 200+ life, there are still features from the 18th century to be seen while you enjoy a pint and wonder at the life of this pub’s famous namesake.

Deacon Brodie Tavern - Old Edinburgh Pubs

The Guildford Arms

West Register Street, New Town

The Guildford was built on the site of a Hotel of the same name back in 1896. Its beautiful design and original features make this a charming pub in the centre of Edinburgh a must-visit.

If real ales are your thing, this is the pub for you. There is always a fantastic selection on offer for you to try!

The Roseleaf

Sandport Place, Leith

The Roseleaf is one of our favourites and always busy, so book if you want to visit! One of Leith’s finest, the food and drinks here are excellent and are updated seasonally.

Special mention goes to their “Pot-Tails” which are cocktails or mocktails served in teapots. They also do a great Afternoon Tea! And then there are the Eggs Benedict brunch options too… can you tell we like it?!

Though not really that old, this welcoming Edinburgh pub has a cosy feel and highlights all that’s good with Scottish Pubs. If you’re in Leith, we strongly suggest a visit.

Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - Haggis Eggs Benedict at the Roseleaf

The Worlds End

The Royal Mile, Old Town

A little rougher around the edges than some of the other pubs we’ve already mentioned but no less hospitable. The Worlds End wears its history on its sleeve.

Set on the famous Royal Mile, the exterior wall of this welcoming pub forms part of the Flodden Wall, a fortification built in the 16th century to protect Edinburgh’s old town.

It was said that those outside the wall were of a different world to those within it. Hence the pub’s name.

Serving great food and an excellent range of beverages, The World’s End also hosts live music every weekend.

Greyfriars Bobby

Candlemaker Row, Old Town

This has to be one of the most photographed pubs in Edinburgh, owing to the figure of the same name situated in front of the building.

The statue is of a small dog who is an Edinburgh legend. He was a faithful Skye Terrier, who watched over his master’s grave after his death, no matter the weather. When he also died, he was buried next to his master. Their graves were even visited by Queen Victoria!

Many visitors will touch the nose of the Terrier for luck, although no one knows who first suggested it as it’s not a historic tradition. Unfortunately, all it does is damage the statue, so we don’t recommend it.

Instead, we recommend popping into the pub to enjoy an extensive menu and good atmosphere, all housed on the ground floor of a series of Georgian houses.

A little touristy perhaps but worth a visit if you like a good story and a drink to go with it.

Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - Greyfriars Bobby

Teuchters Landing

1c Dock Place, Leith

If an Edinburgh pub full of locals is what you’re looking for then Teuchters Landing is precisely the pub for you. Set in the heart of Leith, Teuchters has a friendly atmosphere and an excellent selection of ales and whiskies.

Try your hand at the ring toss, where you toss a ring and try to have it land on one of their many whisky bottles. Aim for the top shelf! Regardless of your aim, you’ll end up with a drink in hand.

On top of this, you’ll find a fantastic beer garden and regular sports screens meaning Teuchters Landing has become a regular haunt for most people in the area. The food is also excellent with a good selection of bar meals, many served in mugs! Then there’s their loaded nachos and fries… so good! We also featured them on our best places to eat Haggis in Edinburgh list thanks to both these things.

It feels like Teuchters Landing has been with us for decades, but this traditional pub has only been open since 2008. It is in the former waiting room for the steamboat ferry from Leith to Aberdeen though, which gives it a great historical feeling.

Sheeps Heid Inn

The Causeway, Duddingston

The Sheeps Heid Inn is said to be Edinburgh’s oldest surviving public house, though others also make this claim.

Found in Duddingston, The Sheeps Heid has been there since 1360! Booking is absolutely recommended as it can get very busy, especially on the weekend.

The pub can be located east of Holyrood Park, behind Arthurs Seat, and offers an excellent restaurant quality menu. We’ve had some of our favourite pub meals ever there.

The classically designed interior is warm and welcoming, whatever the weather. There is also an excellent beer garden for sunnier days and even a traditional skittles alley to enjoy! What more could you ask for from a pub?

Not the most cost-effective but well worth the money as the quality and the service is of the highest order.

Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - Food at the Sheeps Heid Inn

Holyrood 9A

Holyrood Road, Old Town

A warm and cosy local that, although it isn’t old, this Edinburgh pub has all the traits you should be looking for in a public house.

Excellent beers, a comfy feel, great burgers and an excellent atmosphere. Slightly off the tourist trail but close enough for those in the know, this pub feels like a ‘local’ despite being in the city’s centre.

The Last Drop

Grassmarket, Old Town

Another well-named old Edinburgh pub with a story to tell and drinks to enjoy!

Located in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, this infamous pub’s name references the last public hanging that took place next to the pub’s location. The Last Drop also claims to be haunted so keep your wits about you!

All that being said, this traditional pub’s history is only part of its draw, as the service is good, and the menu is full of standard pub grub. Due to its location, you’ll more likely find tourists as your drinking buddies there than lots of locals, but it’s one of our go-to places if we’re in the Grassmarket area.

The Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - The Last Drop


Constitution Street, Leith

In their own words, “Nobles comfortably walks the line between sumptuous eatery and loveable neighbourhood pub, seasonal menus and refined classics made using the best Scottish ingredients are prepared with care and attention.”

It is worth noting that though a comfortable place to eat and drink, Noble’s is more set up for food than a traditional public house. That being said, it is a fantastic place to while away the hours with friends and we love the stained glass windows inside and nods to Leith’s port history.

This family-run business has been a public house since 1896, and Nobles has undoubtedly kept the traditional feel of its past connotations.

The White Hart Inn


Another Grassmarket establishment, this old Edinburgh pub boasts part of a cellar that are over 500 years old, with records dating back to 1516 mentioning it.

It boasts many famous patrons, including Robert Burns and the infamous murderers’ Burke and Hare!

This historic pub, full of stories, is still a thriving business with a large selection of drinks and a warm atmosphere, striving to be more than just a place for tourists. Of all the Grassmarket places we’ve mentioned, this is probably our favourite as it does an excellent job of being a pub rather than an attraction.

The Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - The White Hart Inn

19th Hole – Ye Olde Golf Tavern


Another strong contender for the oldest Edinburgh pub, Ye Olde Golf Tavern is precisely what it states.

This is a pub for the golfers that have played on Bruntsfield Links since the 15th century and it has become an institution. The menu boasts the best in pub grub and a wide range of drinks to sample.

The famous “19th Hole” was established in 1456 and has been part of the community ever since. You can hire clubs to play the 36 short holes to this day and enjoy the tavern’s atmosphere.

Bruntsfield is a little outside the city centre, but the tavern is worth a visit to sample the heritage, the golf and a wee dram.

The Oxford

Young Street, New Town

The Oxford Bar certainly has a history, but also it has fame unlike any of the other old Edinburgh pubs we’ve mentioned.

The Oxford, or The Ox as it’s known, has been popular with writers since the 19th century, with the most famous being Ian Rankin, author of the best-selling Inspector Rebus novels. In fact, Rebus drinks in the Ox throughout the series. So we’re not sure if we could find a more fitting recommendation than that!

Rankin also pops in from time to time and describes the Ox as having “no bells or whistles; just beer and conversation. And if you don’t feel like the conversation, well, no one’s going to force you. And there’s still the beer. The Ox also manages to be centrally located yet not easy to find. This to me is Edinburgh in microcosm – a city that seems very public and yet very private at the same time.”

The atmosphere is something to be cherished and precisely what we would hope for in a local should we be looking for one. The beer is excellent, with a good range of ales on offer.

This must be visited if you’re after a ‘proper’ authentic old Edinburgh pub with a loyal community around it. And especially if you’re a fan of Ian Rankin and the Rebus series.

The Best Old Pubs in Edinburgh - The Oxford Pub

The Tolbooth Tavern

The Royal Mile

The Tolbooth Tavern has been serving ales since 1820, but the building itself has been there since 1591. So once again, the history of building this old Edinburgh pub is referred to in the current pub’s name.

The building was once used to collect tolls from travellers looking to enter the ‘burgh’ at the Canongate. It also served as a court, prison and council chamber before its ground floor became a tavern in 1820.

Now the building is home to a fantastic cosy little pub that offers a good pint and a better atmosphere on the right night. It can be found right at the end of the Royal Mile and is far enough away to avoid crowds and simply sit and people-watch. Perfect.

And there you have it, a by no means definitive list of the excellent old pubs you can find in Edinburgh but a start at least!

If you’re visiting the capital and want to get a sense of why pubs are so beloved by an entire nation, or just want a good pint and some scran, pick any of the above, and you will not be disappointed. But we would suggest picking a few, just to be sure you get the idea!

Phil & Sonja

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