The Seven Best Pubs to Visit During the Edinburgh Festival

Every summer, the Edinburgh Festival and its iconic counterpart, the Fringe Festival, become the beating heart of Scotland’s cultural calendar. Throughout August, the city transforms into a bustling hive of creativity, where cobbled streets echo with laughter, applause, and the hum of excited conversations.

This year's event is slated to take place from Friday, August 2nd to Monday, August 26th, 2024, promising a vibrant mix of performances, art installations, comedy gigs, and more. Amidst this cultural extravaganza, you'll find some of Edinburgh's finest pubs, perfect for catching your breath between shows. Here are seven must-visit pubs – all from the Nicholson’s chain - that offer a blend of history, charm, and the quintessential Scottish hospitality.

In fact, with roots tracing back to 1873 when William Nicholson opened the first pub, Nicholson's have been a cornerstone of warm hospitality and tradition since their inception, so make a great choice for when you’re staying in a historic city like Edinburgh. So, grab your Festival guide, think about what you’ll wish for when you rub Greyfriars Bobby’s nose, and let’s dive into our hand-picked pubs within the heart of Festival.


1. The Mitre Bar

Nestled in the heart of Edinburgh, The Mitre Bar is a true gem dating back to the 18th century. As you step inside, you're greeted by a rustic interior adorned with dark wood panelling and vintage decor. Don’t worry about it getting too hot though – even in the middle of an Edinburgh August, you’ll find the doors flung open and a fresh breeze flowing through (plus the odd sound of Fringe performers giving away flyers outside).

This pub isn't just about aesthetics; it’s a haven for those who appreciate a good pint paired with hearty pub fare. The menu is peppered with traditional Scottish ingredients, with all their dishes served with a modern twist. During the festival, The Mitre Bar becomes a vibrant hub where visitors and locals alike come together to share stories over a glass of ale.

2. The Conan Doyle

Named after the famed author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, this pub is a tribute to the literary genius behind Sherlock Holmes. Located close to Picardy Place, The Conan Doyle offers a cozy retreat for festival-goers.

Its interior is a nod to Victorian elegance, with plush seating and framed portraits of the literary hero and his creator. Here, you can indulge in a wide selection of craft beers, fine whiskies, and mouth-watering meals. The pub's atmosphere is enriched by the sense of nostalgia and the whispers of countless tales spun within its walls – and you can channel your inner Sherlock Holmes by figuring out which shows to catch as you enjoy a drink and some food inside this iconic Edinburgh pub.

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3. Deacon Brodie's Tavern

Deacon Brodie's Tavern sits proudly on the Royal Mile, a stone's throw from Edinburgh Castle. This pub is named after the infamous Deacon Brodie, a respectable cabinet-maker by day and a notorious thief by night. The tavern’s decor reflects this duality, blending traditional charm with a hint of mystery. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a dram of whisky while soaking up the historical ambiance. Festival attendees will find it an ideal place to unwind, with a varied menu featuring both local delicacies and familiar favourites.

Like all of the pubs on this list, Deacon Brodie’s is so centrally located, you’ll have no trouble nipping from show to show and using it as something of a Festival Base Camp!

4. Rose Street Brewery

For those who appreciate the art of brewing, Rose Street Brewery is a must-visit. Located in Edinburgh’s bustling New Town, this pub – as you’d expect from the name - offers an impressive range of beers, each brewed with meticulous attention to detail. The Rose Street Brewery is known for its lively atmosphere, making it a perfect spot to mingle with fellow festival-goers and share experiences over a pint or two.

In fact, if the same venues participate this year, you’ll find no less than 18 Festival hotspots within a minute or two’s walk along nearby Queen Street, Charlotte Square or George Street. Let us know where you end up! It’s possible of course that you’ll find another one of our choices, right there on Rose Street. Which seems like a perfect link to move on to our next choice.

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5. The Kenilworth

The Kenilworth, also located on Rose Street, offers a unique blend of Victorian elegance and contemporary comfort. The pub’s interior is a feast for the eyes, with its ornate ceiling, stained glass windows, and intricate woodwork. Known for its extensive whisky collection, The Kenilworth is a paradise for connoisseurs looking to explore Scotland’s finest spirits. During the festival, this pub becomes a lively gathering spot where you can engage in animated discussions and enjoy live music sessions.

If you need a change of pace, heading south towards the Castle will let you take in the Scottish American Memorial, the Royal Scots Monument, the Ross Bandstand, as well as a memorial to Robert Louis Stevenson.

6. The Last Drop

Situated in the historic Grassmarket area, The Last Drop has a rather macabre history—it’s named after the last public hanging that took place nearby. However, don’t let the name deter you; this pub is brimming with character and charm. Its interior features exposed stone walls, wooden beams, and a collection of quirky artifacts.

The Last Drop offers a welcoming refuge where you can savour a pint of beer while enjoying the lively street performances that often pop up during the festival. It’s a little removed from some of the more densely packed venue locations, so if you fancy a slightly quieter spot to relax during your Festival experience, we’d suggest you give The Last Drop a try.

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7. Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar

A visit to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without stopping by Greyfriars Bobby’s Bar. Named after the loyal Skye Terrier who guarded his master's grave for 14 years, this pub is steeped in local legend. Located near Greyfriars Kirkyard, the bar exudes a friendly, community-oriented vibe. It’s a great place to relax with a cold drink and hearty meal, all while soaking in the rich folklore that permeates the surroundings. Don’t forget to pay homage to the statue of Greyfriars Bobby just outside the pub.

Speaking of outside the pub, it’s actually a venue in its own right - you’ll find on this year’s Venue Map as Venue 217. We’re expecting walking tours to start there which take you on a wander around this historic city – so Greyfriars sounds like the perfect location to recharge before or after your adventure.

The Edinburgh Festival is more than just a series of events; it's an experience that immerses you in the city's rich cultural heritage. As you navigate through the plethora of performances and exhibitions, take the time to visit these seven remarkable Nicholson’s pubs. Each offers a unique slice of Edinburgh’s history, a taste of its culinary delights, and a chance to be part of the vibrant community that makes the festival so special. Whether you're raising a glass in The Mitre Bar or indulging in a literary escape at The Conan Doyle, you're sure to create memories that will linger long after the festival lights have dimmed.