Finding a venue with the perfect combination of nice lighting, music at an appropriate volume and a good atmosphere without being crowded can be a minefield.
Here are 23 bars in Scotland's capital that are first-date safe.
Empress of Broughton Street25 Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3JU
A brick wall and bare bulb style venue, Empress of Broughton Street has a laid-back playlist and friendly bar staff. It’s an easy going place for a first-date, but be warned, the quiz takes place on Wednesdays from 8pm and the pub gets crowded and noisy.
Salt Horse 57-61, Blackfriars St, Edinburgh EH1 1NB
Just off the Royal Mile, this cool, cosy pub is perfect for beer lovers, with 12 keg lines of beer and 350 bottled and canned varieties. The knowledgeable, friendly staff can advise on different brews to taste, and there’s also a great selection of wine and gin if you’re not a beer geek.
Nauticus142 Duke St, Edinburgh EH6 8HR
This sophisticated yet casual teal-coloured pub pays homage to Leith’s maritime history with seafaring antiques and quirky features hanging on the wall. It does great cocktails and there's a simple menu of local pies and charcuterie if you fancy a snack.
Blackbird37-39 Leven St, Edinburgh EH3 9LH
This Tollcross haunt has a great beer garden at the back of the pub. With colourful, quirky decor, great cocktails and a menu of hearty pub classics, it’s a safe choice for a first date. There are usually some decent drinks offers to boot.
Lioness of Leith21-25 Duke St, Edinburgh EH6 8HH
This hip, candle-lit pub specialises in seasonal cocktails and gourmet burgers. With amusing neon signs and quirky artwork adorning the walls, it’s got a laid-back rustic feel, making it suitable for a chilled out date. The atmosphere is normally quite lively without being crowded.
Finn & Bear58 The Shore, Edinburgh EH6 6RB
Located on the trendy Shore area of Leith, this bar has a laid-back vibe with a great selection of drinks and creative pub food. With lovely views over the Water of Leith, the terrace is perfect on a sunny afternoon and on cold days you can get cosy by the open fire. The quiz takes places on a Tuesday from 8.30pm.
The Last Word Saloon44 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AL
Candle-lit and cosy, The Last Word is a lovely place to while away a couple of hours. There are good seating options, with bar stools, regular tables and comfy chairs. Friendly bar staff are on hand to provide table service and there’s a good selection of whiskies, wines, beers and cocktails.
The Outhouse12A Broughton St Ln, Edinburgh EH1 3LY
A hidden gem tucked away on Broughton Street Lane, this bar has a great beer garden for warm days, while inside a DJ keeps the atmosphere alive. It can get rowdy on weekend nights but for a school night or weekend afternoon, it’s a good date option.
Brandon’s of Canonmills 1 Canonmills, Edinburgh EH3 5HA
This hipster gastropub with a sharing menu has two rooms so you can hide away at the back if you want some privacy to chat. There’s no TV which means you can avoid sporting distractions and there's a DJ on Friday nights.
Hoot the Redeemer7 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 1DJ
Surprise your date by taking them to this dive bar right in the centre of town, with quirky touch points reminiscent of the 80s Tom Hanks film, Big. A vintage (and quite terrifying) tarot reader welcomes you at the front door, then inside you’ll find a retro claw crane machine, ice cream dispenser and eccentric drinks menu. It's a good venue if you're looking for something different.
The Devil’s Advocate9 Advocate's Cl, Edinburgh EH1 1ND
This cool, two-level candle-lit bar is tucked away behind the Royal Mile and serves an eclectic collection of whiskies, inventive seasonal cocktails and a good selection of craft beers. A great place to take someone you want to impress.
Hectors47-49 Deanhaugh St, Edinburgh EH4 1LR
Offering comfy seating with a casual vibe for a relaxed after-work or weekend drink, this Stockbridge venue is a solid date option. It's family and dog friendly so can get quite crowded but it usually has a nice, buzzy atmosphere for laid-back conversation. The quiz takes place on a Tuesday night.
The Basement10a-12a Broughton St, Edinburgh EH1 3RH
If you’re looking for a lively date venue, this Mexican-themed bar is a fun place to enjoy unusual Mexican beers, Margaritas and nibbles (the guacamole is really good). It gets more raucous on weekend nights when the DJ hits the decks, but that can make for a good night.
Joseph Pearce's23 Elm Row, Edinburgh EH7 4AA
This airy Swedish pub has high ceilings, some interesting drinks and a nice outside area with good people-watching potential on sunny days. Located at the top of Leith Walk, it’s a chilled out place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without being too far from town.
The Bailie Bar2-4 St Stephen St, Edinburgh EH3 5AL
Another Stockbridge pub, The Bailie Bar can get loud when live bands perform on a Friday night. But it’s well located and always has a cheerful atmosphere, making it a good setting for a first date. Go during the week if you’re looking for a relaxed atmosphere to chat.
Leith Depot140 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5DT
With regular live music upstairs in the small gig area, as well as groups of musicians doing turns on weeknights, this beloved Leith hangout is a cool place to take someone who's into their music. It has quirky touch points such as old bus seats as chairs and the menu is geared towards veggies and pescatarians.
Indigo Yard7 Charlotte Ln, Edinburgh EH2 4QZ
This spacious, laid-back venue has a good sized beer garden for sunny days. With high ceilings and rustic decor, it’s bright and airy during the day and trendy at night and does a good selection of pub food. It’s also well-located in the West End, not far from Haymarket station.
Teuchters 26 William St, Edinburgh EH7 3NH
This traditional Scottish pub has an old-worldly feel with cosy fireplaces for chilly nights. The bar queue can get quite busy but it’s worth the wait for a great selection of craft beers and menu of Scottish pub food classics. Try the (ultimate) mac & cheese on the Teuchters mug menu if you get peckish. The Leith venue, Teuchters Landing, has a nice terrace area on the Water of Leith for sunny days.
The White Hart34 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2JU
This pub claims to be the oldest in Edinburgh, with parts of it dating back to 1516. Located on the Grassmarket, it’s got a nice outdoor area for people-watching on mild days. It can get rowdy at weekends but if you can grab a good table, it makes for a cosy, old-worldly date pub with a cheerful atmosphere.
The Mash Tun Bier House & Kitchen154 Easter Rd, Edinburgh EH7 5RL
Located at the top of Easter Road, this pub is spacious and casual for a coffee or drink at any time of day. There’s also a good menu with pizzas and burgers alongside local cask and craft beers. Avoid it if there’s any major sporting event on, and keep in mind the pub quiz is on a Wednesday.
Brass Monkey14 Drummond St, Edinburgh EH8 9TU
Located near South Bridge, Brass Monkey is an easy-going bar for a date. There are daily cinema screenings at 3pm if you’re looking for a quirky day-time activity, or just go for a drink and help yourself to the selection of board games. The quiz is on a Wednesday at 9pm. There's also a Leith Walk Brass Monkey.
Red Squirrel21 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2DJ
Conveniently located near Princes Street at the end of Lothian Road, this bar usually has a buzzy atmosphere. With ambient lighting, great beers and casual bites, Red Squirrel also has hidden booths at the back of the pub if you want some privacy for chatting.
Under the Stairs3A Merchant St, Edinburgh EH1 2QD
A candle-lit basement bar, Under the Stairs has a living room feel, so make yourself at home. With a great selection of cocktails, it provides a welcome respite from the Cowgate and Grassmarket crowds. Classy and understated, it’s a cool choice for a first date, without being too try-hard.