The glories of history – think the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle and Royal Yacht Britannia – are an undeniable part of Edinburgh's appeal. But Scotland's capital is something else too: cool. There's an array of excellent bars, boutiques, coffee shops, restaurants and contemporary galleries, and Edinburgh is especially full of life during its many festivals. Here we explore some current spots frequented by in-the-know locals.

If you like… quality coffee

Edinburgh is home to bars, coffee shops and modern art. Image by John McSporran / CC BY 2.0
Edinburgh is home to bars, coffee shops and modern art.

Head down to the Grassmarket in the Old Town for Filament Coffee ( This high-ceilinged, hip cafe has a menu that’s easy enough to decipher for those feeling a little worse for wear, splitting its drinks options into: ‘COFFEE’ and ‘NOT COFFEE’. Set in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle, the Grassmarket is an enjoyable place to stroll so perhaps make it a take-away and do some exploring. For your follow-up flat white to the morning’s espresso, head south past the green spaces of the Meadows to Artisan Roast’s Bruntsfield cafe (, which started life as a pop-up, or either of the Peter’s Yard artisan bakery cafes (, which are popular with foodie locals – there's one nearby in the Quartermile development, and another in Stockbridge.

If you like... sweet stuff

Enjoying ice cream on the Grassmarket. Image by Ashton / CC BY 2.0
Enjoying ice cream on the Grassmarket.

When it comes to shortbread, think small-scale, and fresh out of the oven. Turn off the Royal Mile onto St Mary’s St and follow your nose to Pinnies & Poppyseeds ( This artisan shortbread maker has only been around for about a year, and uses organic ingredients to create delicious twists on the iconic biscuit, like toasted coconut and pecan shortbread. Fans of softer, creamier sweets should visit the charming Mary at Mary’s Milk Bar ( on the Grassmarket and try one of her weekly seasonal sundaes or truffles. The really keen can attend one of the monthly gelato tasting evenings (£15 per person). If chocolate temptation persists, make a beeline to the Edinburgh Larder ( on nearby Blackfriars St for famous gluten-free dark chocolate and nut brownies.

If you like... memorable meals

Getting stuck in at the Scran & Scallie. Image by Seb Neylan / Lonely Planet
Getting stuck in at the Scran & Scallie. Image by Seb Neylan / Lonely Planet

Stockbridge's Scran & Scallie ( won’t disappoint. Sitting on Comely Bank Rd, the interior of this bright gastropub is a mixture of exposed brick, wallpapered walls, hard-wood floors and tasteful furniture. It’s lively yet cosy, relaxed in its vibe yet excellent with its table service. Classics like the generously sized Scran & Scallie steak pie are perfect to pair with one a local beer ‘flight’ (a paddle of three small glasses), or there are other less hearty options like the artichoke barigoule and gnocchi. Call ahead for a table.

Further down the Water of Leith river, you’ll find the gentrifying seaport suburb of Leith. Seafood is the name of the game here, of course. Our top tips include the Shore, with its lovely wood-panelled interior walls and evening jazz, and the Kitchin. Or, for dishes under a tenner, hit-up the all day brunch at the much-adored Roseleaf for a satisfying option like fish soup with naturally smoked haddock.

If you like... craft beer

In addition to the fine selection of local beers and ales on offer at the Scran & Scallie, craft beer fans have numerous options in Edinburgh. Leith's the Vintage ( is popular with hop heads, and has an excellent ‘grazing’ menu of charcuterie snacks to help you build up a thirst. Closer into town is the Hanging Bat (, on Lothian Rd, which boasts six casks, 14 kegs and over 120 bottles and cans. Quality Scottish brews like BrewDog sit alongside names from the rest of the UK (Kernel) and further afield (Mikkeller). For something close to the source, try the Royal Dick ( at Summerhall, near the Meadows. Here you can have Barney’s natural craft beer, brewed – essentially – next door. Barney’s has quickly gained cult status in the city, and if there’s a new, talked-about opening, it’s likely you’ll find it behind the bar (our tip: go for the Red Rye). The brewery also puts on beer festivals (in May/June and November/December) and other events with Summerhall.

If you like...gin cocktails

Summerhall isn’t just for beer lovers – the Royal Dick also has its own gin tap, running from the on-site small-batch Pickering’s distillery. Pickering’s is the city’s first gin distillery in over 150 years, and this infamous spirit is undergoing a renaissance in Edinburgh. Though best known for its whisky menu, the buzzing Devil's Advocate (, down a small close off the Royal Mile, has an extensive gin cocktail list. For a quieter affair, head underground to the hidden-away Heads & Tails (, in the West End. This new player on the city’s bar scene has two of its own stills – Flora and Caledonia – so you know they’re the real deal. Our choice: ‘tea with the queen’ – a masterful mix of Tanqueray Export, citrus and earl grey tea. For those wanting a little more privacy to revel in their cocktail consumption, the bookable booths hold up to eight people.

If you like... trinkets

Head over to Stockbridge. Next door to the Pantry breakfast spot is the carefully considered Dick’s ( menswear and homewares store. Alongside quality brands like Jon Smedley and Sunspel, this sophisticated yet inviting space stocks a mixture of leather crafts, carved wooden titbits and other beautiful trinkets. Around the corner on St Stephen St is another excellent and reasonably priced menswear store: Common People, founded by Edinburgh local Kestin Hare. For the female shopper, back in the Old Town on Candlemaker Row, you'll find Hannah Zakari ( – named in 2013 as one of the top 50 boutiques in the UK by Stylist Magazine. If you’re set on bringing something unique home, design shop Life Story ( should be your final stop. Every item has been chosen by the owners because of its interesting backstory, from screen prints to furniture, glassware and more.

If you like... contemporary art

The Scotsman Steps, refurbished by Martin Creed. Image by Captain Oates / CC BY 2.0
The Scotsman Steps, refurbished by Martin Creed.

Any city after kudos for its coolness needs a contemporary art scene – and Edinburgh’s is in rude healthFrom the moment you come out of Waverley train station, options for viewing fantastic art present themselves. The Fruitmarket Gallery hosts some thoroughly impressive exhibitions, although you might struggle to get past the shop downstairs, which has a well curated collection of art books. Across from the Fruitmarket is Martin Creed’s famous refurbished staircase of coloured marble – commissioned ‘to make people’s lives better’, and connecting Market St with North Bridge. A few minutes' walk away, the minimal but refined Ingleby Gallery ( is often home to the most stimulating and fresh exhibitions in the city. Beyond the these sites, don’t forget the shows put on year-round by Edinburgh College of Art ( and, west of the centre, the National Gallery of Modern Artwith its brilliant sculpture park.

To see some of the wonderful festival events we got to experience during this research periods, thanks to Edinburgh Festivals, see our author’s Storify.

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