Edinburgh is a city that has triumphantly succeeded in blending the very best of its ancient and modern selves into a fascinating, seamless whole that offers something for everyone.
Whether you’re doing the typical tourist trail of Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish Parliament buildings at Holyrood, looking for shopping that offers all the brands you’d expect, plus a varied range of interesting independent shops, wanting to experience a selection of fantastic art and culture in one of Edinburgh’s many galleries and museums, or up in the city for a lively festival that’s the perfect celebration of a society and culture that is truly open to all, Edinburgh won’t disappoint.
When you’re setting off for a busy day exploring an historic city, you need a good, high-powered breakfast to fuel you for the day. And after a morning’s shopping, where better to plan your afternoon than in a cosy cafe over a tasty lunchtime treat?
The right cafe can be the icing on the cake of a great day out; with our handy at-a-glance look at some of the best cafes in Edinburgh, you can plan your day ahead of time, leaving you free to focus on the moment.
Top Five Best Cafes in Edinburgh
#1: Ostara Cafe (www.ostaracafe.co.uk)
Set on Coburg Street, this friendly cafe welcomes well-behaved dogs on leads, as long as they (and their owners) can be calm and civilised around families, and in a busy environment.
Ostara’s attitude is “think local”, and they offer the best local brunch in Edinburgh, with food sourced from independent, local suppliers wherever possible, and a good range of vegetarian options. With reasonable prices (for Edinburgh), Ostara is a great place for travelling students to meet friends, and a favourite with locals who want to have a good brunch before heading out shopping.
- Dog friendly
- Range of vegetarian options
- Reasonable price
#2: Sugarhouse Sandwiches
Don’t be fooled by the name! This cosy, casual cafe doesn’t just do sandwiches. From amazing porridge to set you up for a full day of exploring, shopping, and taking in the unique, timeless Edinburgh vibe, to light lunches and warming soup that’s perfect to take off the Scottish chill at the end of your shopping extravaganza, this Canongate cafe is the ideal, central place to stop and take stock, or catch up with friends and family who’ve been finding their own Edinburgh experiences.
The porridge is made to order, using traditional oats, and offering your choice of milk, from whole milk, semi-skimmed, or soya, and a full range of flavoursome toppings, with sweet and savoury options included, as well as plenty of fruit options.
The sandwiches, paired with warming bowls of soup that offer a generous serving, and accompanied by one of the range of artisan coffees available, make the perfect lunch after a busy morning, and an ideal focal point for a family-orientated catch up.
This is a very compact cafe, which isn’t really designed for larger families or groups, and, like almost everywhere in Edinburgh, it can get very busy. Even at its busiest times, however, Sugarhouse Sandwiches maintains a friendly, homely vibe, with customer service always on-point, and delivered by friendly, cheerful, experienced staff.
- Go for the porridge, stay for the soup and sandwiches
- Artisan coffees
- Located on Canongate
- Does get busy and crowded
- Not suited to large groups
#3: The Milkman
An extension of your living room, on Cockburn Street – but with better architecture, history, and music, The Milkman is a quaint, quirky cafe which makes innovative use of the confined space of a beautiful, traditional, stone building, a former sweet shop set in the heart of Edinburgh. Offering plenty of seating without making the cafe feel crowded, friendly staff, and the surrounding street of independent shops make this the ideal place to spend an afternoon with friends or family.
While the range of coffees are, on the whole, very tasty, the Espresso tends to come out somewhat acidic, which is a big let down for an otherwise great venue. However, if you stick to other coffee options, you definitely won’t be disappointed.
Be aware, however, that there are no bathroom facilities at The Milkman.
- Reasonabe prices
- Friendly staff
- Beautiful stone interior
- Espresso is somewhat acidic
- No bathroom facilities
#4: The Caffeine Drip (www.thecaffeinedrip.com)
Melville Place in Edinburgh is possibly the last place you might expect to encounter South African influenced cuisine, but, at The Caffeine Drip, you’ll find a selection of tasty food with a twist. From well-filled sandwiches to fantastic vegan breakfast offerings, the professional, friendly service and full range of options that will appeal to vegans, vegetarians, and carnivores heartily recommends this cafe to those exploring Edinburgh.
While The Caffeine Drip might be considered a little expensive, the ambiance, food, and service all combine to make the cost worth it if you’re looking for something casually special.
- Vegan options
- Something for everyone
- South African influenced
#5: Henderson’s (www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk)
Set right in the heart of the historic and cultural centre of Edinburgh, with both the Scottish Parliament buildings and Arthur’s Seat immediately at hand, Henderson’s boasts the UK’s oldest vegetarian restaurant, and, with recent additions including a full vegan menu, and an organic deli that specialises in catering to vegans and vegetarians, those looking for a choice of fresh, meat-free options will be well served here. Omnivores, however, might feel a little excluded!
All of the food at Henderson’s is handmade, and the relaxed atmosphere and friendly staff creates a central hub that feels warm and welcoming at any point during your travels through Edinburgh. Being an enduring feature of Edinburgh, and in a prime location, Henderson’s is expensive, and it does get very, very busy during peak season.
- Central location – close to Parliament buildings and Arthur’s Seat
- Vegan, vegetarian, organic – UK’s oldest vegetarian restaurant
- On-site deli, so you can take your Edinburgh lunch experience home with you