The Skinny Guide to Edinburgh's West End 2022
Edinburgh's West End is a hive of arthouse cinemas, picturesque courtyards, great coffee and some brilliant pubs
Beyond its dominating office blocks, big hotels, busy roads and commuter train station at Haymarket, Edinburgh's West End has a lot going for it. From its theatres, arthouse cinema and celebrated concert venues, to the National Gallery of Modern Art in the picturesque Dean Village, there’s also an abundance of excellent coffee shops, bakeries, bars and restaurants waiting to be explored.
In the shadow of Edinburgh Castle you'll find proper boozer the Blue Blazer (2 Spittal St) with rotating cask ales and an impressive rum selection. For vintage arcade games alongside that pint, visit NQ64 (25 Lothian Rd), while country pub vibes can be found at Teuchters (26 William St). Offering up traditional Scottish fare in mugs, their cask ales are only one-upped by their single malt whisky selection; play the Hoop of Destiny (booze hoopla!) to be in with a chance of winning a rare nip. Craft beer fans should head straight for The Hanging Bat (133 Lothian Rd), The Wee Vault (7A W Maitland St) or the Innis & Gunn Brewery Taproom (81-83 Lothian Rd), while gin lovers should try The Jolly Botanist (256-260 Morrison St) or the tasting tour at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery (1A Rutland Pl). For grown-up cocktails with an Italian twist there's Hey Palu (49 Bread St).
To get that caffeine fix, a few minutes from Princes Street Cairngorm (1 Melville Pl) is a must, as is Fauna (19a Queensferry St), while near the Edinburgh College of Art, you'll get a wicked cup from The Source Coffee Roasters (4 Spittal St). The sweet-toothed should head for Tasty Buns (67 Bread St) for their cake within a cake within a cake creations (imagine a turducken, but with baked goods!). And the OG coffee and cake hangout in the area, Lovecrumbs (155 West Port) is a charming spot decked out in mismatched furniture.
Just down the road you'll find their sister cafe, the stylish Nice Times Bakery (147 Morrison St), while near Haymarket be sure to visit Little Collingwood (10 Haymarket Ter). Run by the team behind Abbeyhill’s Little Fitzroy, flat whites and vegan bakes are all served out of a teeny tiny hatch in the excellent Stag Barber hairdressers.
Some of our favourite eateries can be found in the West End too. Specialising in Syrian and Levantine cuisine, the shawerma and mana'eesh (Palestinian flatbread) at Taza in Town (69 Bread St) are unreal, as is their veggie meal for two. You’ll find American-style burgers at Bread Meats Bread (92 Lothian Rd), Thai street food at Ting Thai Caravan (55-57 Lothian Rd), fragrant bowls of pho at Vietnam House (1-3 Grove St), Greek gyros at Ola Kala (202 Morrison St), Punjabi cuisine at Omar Khayyam (1 Grosvenor St), Japanese sushi and ramen at Umai (6 Queensferry St) and authentic Mexican food at Taco Libre (3 Shandwick Pl).
For a slightly more high-end dining experience try The Palmerston (1 Palmerston Pl) or the five-course tasting menu at Timberyard (10 Lady Lawson St), and for the best takeaway breakfast in the city grab a morning roll with homemade tattie scones from Preacher’s (24-26 Lady Lawson St). For artisan bread and delectable pastries, head to the weekend market at award-winning Company Bakery (5 Devon Pl).
With an excellent section devoted to Scottish artists and passionate knowledgeable staff, make sure you leave town with a musical souvenir from Assai Records (1 Grindlay St). Book lovers should visit Edinburgh Books (145 West Port) with its shelves stacked high with rare and second-hand books, and photography fans should stop in at Agitate (20 Haymarket Ter); for cute gifts and artisanal crafts head to Pippin (30 Haymarket Ter) or Paper Tiger who have two shops in the area (6a Stafford St; 53 Lothian Rd).
Things to do
Keen art lovers will want to visit the National Gallery of Modern Art (73 Belford Rd); set aside plenty of time to explore its surrounding sculpture park with works by Henry Moore and Scottish-Italian Eduardo Paolozzi, as well as Charles Jencks' breathtaking landform. While you're in the area have a proper wander around Dean Village, a former grain milling village on the Water of Leith.
While in town, cinephiles will want to take in a movie at the Filmhouse (88 Lothian Rd), the main hub for the annual Edinburgh International Film Festival (12-20 Aug), while across the road you'll find the grand Usher Hall which has hosted everyone from the Royal Scottish National Orchestra to The Flaming Lips and Lorde over the years. Flanked by a theatre on either side – Traverse Theatre (10 Cambridge St) and The Lyceum (30b Grindlay St) – it's a great part of town to soak up some culture.