7 of the Best Traditional Pubs in Edinburgh | Haystack Travel
5/3 West Register Street, Edinburgh | +44 131 5570036 | staff.haystack@gmail.com
Instagram Twitter Twitter

7 of the Best Traditional Pubs in Edinburgh

(Last Updated On: August 28, 2019)

Visiting a traditional Scottish pub is a must during your stay in Edinburgh. Edinburgh has a huge variety of pubs, from fancy cocktail bars, to lively student bars. However, to really get a true experience of Edinburgh the best place to start is a traditional pub. With so many options, it’s difficult to know where to start, so to give you some ideas Haystack Hostels has written this helpful guide of the best traditional pubs in Edinburgh.

If you love traditional Scottish Pubs, check out our article on the best places to eat haggis in Edinburgh.

Sandy Bells

The bar at Sandy Bells
Photo from Sandy Bells Website.

When you think of a traditional Scottish pub, Sandy Bells should come to mind. Popular with locals and tourists alike, it is probably the most famous traditional pub in Edinburgh. This is partly due to its reputation for live music, with traditional folk bands playing every night! With its beautiful wooden décor and fantastic whiskey list, Sandy Bells is the first stop for anyone wanting to experience traditional Scottish culture in Edinburgh.

Situated on Forest Road, just near the university, it is only a short walk from the city centre and is surrounded by plenty of other options. With live music starting at 9pm each night, it is a great place to start before heading off to a later venue.


Address: 25 Forrest Road, Edinburgh

The Ensign Ewart

Named after a famous soldier during the Battle of Waterloo and known as the highest pub in Edinburgh, The Ensign Ewart is located at the top of the Royal Mile next to Edinburgh Castle. This makes it a fantastic choice for anyone looking for a quick beer while sightseeing. One of our favourites due to its warm-hearted staff and atmosphere, there is traditional live music on every night. The bands are always extremely friendly and often take requests, encouraging you to sing along. With its low ceilings and wooden interior, it certainly has a traditional feel to it.

To get to the Ensign Ewart, find your way to the Royal Mile. Then, follow the street up until you come to the pub. Due to its small size, big groups may have to call ahead, but it is well worth the visit. Definitely one of our favourite traditional pubs in Edinburgh!


Address: 521-523 Lawnmarket, Edinburgh

The Canny Mans

With its incredible back bar and beautiful antique feel interior, the Canny Mans is probably the most unique traditional pub in Edinburgh and fantastic for taking photos. The pub was founded in 1871 and has been extremely popular amongst Edinburgh locals ever since. Due to being a family run pub, it has a beautiful charm to it which is lacking in many modern establishments. Famous for its Bloody Mary’s and sporting an amazing whiskey list, it is definitely worth the short trip to the suburb of Morningside. Furthermore, if you are feeling peckish, give one of their many open sandwiches a try!

If you want to see more than just the city centre, a visit to this pub is a good excuse. To do this, simply jump on bus number 16 towards Colinton from Princes Street, getting off at Springvalley Gardens. Then take a quick 2 minute walk to the Canny Mans.


Address: 237 Morningside Road, Edinburgh

The Café Royal

Located next to Haystack Hostel, this central pub is a fantastic location to grab a quick beer or bite to eat whilst exploring Edinburgh’s New Town. The original pub was founded in 1826 and quickly became popular serving beers and wines, with its dining room specialising in oysters. The pub moved to its current location in 1863 and still has the same popularity and renown to this day.

Cafe Royal Edinburgh next to Haystack Hostel

The pubs interior is striking and worth a trip even just for that reason. This is due to its stained glass windows and elegant ceramic murals throughout. As a result, the Cafe Royal is always very busy and is a popular choice among locals looking for a quick pint after work. It also offers beautiful seafood options, including oysters and fresh mussels.

To get to the Café Royal, simply go out Haystack’s door at ground level and walk round to the other side of the building. Couldn’t be easier!


Address: 19 West Register Street, Edinburgh

The Bailie

Just outside the city centre, in the beautiful central suburb of Stockbridge, is The Bailie. Very popular among locals, but perhaps not so well known with tourists, The Bailie offers good beer and food in a relaxed atmosphere. With its big screens, it is also a fantastic place to watch any of the football or rugby during your stay. Thought to date from the 1870s, it is another relic to the history of Edinburgh, with the pub not changing much since then. Consequently, it has a certain charm which is often lost on other, newer pubs and bars.

To get to the Bailie, simply walk to the bottom of Howe Street from George Street, following the rod round to the left as it curves at the bottom.


Address: 2-4 St Stephens Street, Edinburgh

The Royal Oak

Located on Infirmary Street, The Royal Oak is famous for its live music every night, where anyone is welcome to pick up a guitar, violin, flute, or even some bagpipes, and play away. The cellars of the pub are said to have once been used by the notorious Edinburgh body snatchers, Burke and Hare. Because of this, the pub has a cosy, no frills, living room feel and provide a wide selection of ales and spirits. An absolute must for traditional live music lovers, it is often worth checking their website for what music events are going on that week.

To get to The Royal Oak, simply walk across North Bridge and keep walking straight until you get to Infirmary Street on your left.

Address: 1 Infirmary Street, Edinburgh

Captain’s Bar

Another one for the live music lovers, Captain’s is small bar located in the middle of Edinburgh’s Old Town with live music events going on throughout the day, every day. William McGonagall, who has the dubious title of the world’s best-worst poet, spent his last days living above the bar, and the bar continues his legacy through regular poetry and spoken word sessions. Due to this rich history, be sure to arrive fairly early if you want seats as the bar is popular with locals and tourists, often getting very busy. During your visit, be sure to get yourself a pint of the Captain’s very own Captain’s Ale.

To get to Captain’s Bar, walk across North Bridge and continue until you reach South College Street on your right. Finally, continue down the street for around 15 seconds and you will find Captains Bar.


Address: 4 S College Street, Edinburgh