10 of the best traditional pubs in Edinburgh

The Oxford  Bar is worth a visit even if youre not an Inspector Rebus afficianado. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
The Oxford Bar is worth a visit even if youre not an Inspector Rebus afficianado. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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Tired of ordering fancy cocktails you can’t pronounce, or getting your gastropub food served up on anything but a plate?

Sometimes all you want is a pint in a good old-fashioned boozer, and luckily Edinburgh still has its share of pubs untouched by gentrification. From grand bars with original Victorian 
interiors to slightly rough-around-the-edges places that haven’t changed in years, here are a few of the best traditional pubs in Edinburgh . . .

Clarks Bar is a no-frills hidden gem in the New Town. Picture: Jayne Emsley

Clarks Bar is a no-frills hidden gem in the New Town. Picture: Jayne Emsley

The Oxford Bar

The Oxford Bar has gained popularity in recent years thanks to Ian Rankin, but it’s definitely worth a visit even if you’re not an Inspector Rebus fan. Dating back to 1893 (although there is evidence that a public house in some form has existed on the site since 1811), the building is Category B listed. The Oxford still retains its compartmentalised interior – with a central corridor and rooms to each side – a feature which many other traditional Edinburgh pubs have lost. Visit: 8 Young Street, Edinburgh, EH2 4JB

Bennets Bar

Bennets Bar has been around since 1839, and not much has changed in that time. The bar still boasts stunning interiors – the majority of which date from their last refurbishment in 1906 – with stained glass, intricate woodwork and original bar fittings. Located right next to the King’s Theatre, the atmosphere is always lively with an eclectic mix of theatre fans, thespians and Tollcross locals. Visit: 8 Leven Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9LG

Sandy Bell’s

One of the top folk music venues in Edinburgh, small and cosy pub Sandy Bell’s is just about as traditional as they come. The music sessions – which have been held here since 1942 – are world-famous amongst folk musicians and offer patrons the chance to join an impromptu band in between pints. Visit: 25 Forrest Road, Edinburgh, EH1 2QH

The Cafe Royal

The Cafe Royal is one of the grandest traditional pubs in Edinburgh, with an impressive Victorian circle bar, elegant stained glass and original plasterwork. The bar opened in 1863 and has remained virtually the same since then; the whole building and its interior were listed in 1970. Look out for the perfectly preserved ceramic tile murals depicting inventors and scientists from The Cafe Royal’s Victorian heyday. Visit: 19 West Register Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2AA

Clark’s Bar

Clark’s Bar is a hidden gem in the New Town, offering a refreshingly traditional change from the usual craft beer outlets. Dating back to 1899, this is a no-frills sort of place – in the best possible way. Expect great beers on tap, traditional leather booths and dark wood interiors, and friendly locals propping up the bar. Visit: 142 Dundas Street, Edinburgh, EH3 5DQ

The Canny Man’s

The Canny Man’s is an Edinburgh institution. Dating back to 1871 and passed down through several generations of the same family, it remains just as charming and eclectic as ever. The bar is full to the brim with collectables, bric-a-brac and vintage treasures, all with their own unique stories from over the years. Chef Rick Stein has even dubbed it “the best pub in the world”. Visit: 237 Morningside Road, Edinburgh, EH10 4QU

Noble’s Bar

Located in the historic port of Leith, Noble’s Bar has been around since 1896. Although the menu has had an update since then to include gourmet food and cocktails, the interior of the bar has hardly changed at all. Look out for the beautiful nautical themed stained-glass windows, some of the most interesting and well-preserved Victorian stained glass in the city. Visit: 44A Constitution Street, Edinburgh, EH6 6RS

The Barony

Broughton Street may have plenty of options when it comes to public houses, but the Barony Bar is certainly worth a visit. With some of the friendliest staff in Edinburgh and a real working fireplace (an invaluable feature on a cold January evening), the lively Barony always seems to have something going on. Look out for its cameo role in the Sylvain Chomet animated film The Illusionist. Visit: 81-85 Broughton St, Edinburgh, EH1 3RJ

Athletic Arms

Initially named the Gravediggers Arms due to its location between two graveyards, this Dalry public house has a genuine old school feel, with an authentic décor and a welcoming atmosphere. If you’re looking for an Edinburgh institution steeped in history, then look no further. Visit: 1-3 Angle Park Terrace, Edinburgh, EH11 2JX

The Kenilworth

Another pub which has managed to preserve much of its original Victorian interior is The Kenilworth on Rose Street. As well as the ornate wooden circle bar, vintage mirrors and intricate cornicing, it also has a familiar range of real ales and traditional pub grub. Visit: 152-154 Rose Street, Edinburgh, EH2 3JD