Edinburgh is a beguiling city of craggy charm and quirky creativity. It’s easy to see how its magical streets and cosy eateries inspired many of the magical settings in the Harry Potter books. One of the best things to do in the city is to seek out the quaint coffee shops and cafés in Edinburgh. Cosy up with a coffee or a cuppa and watch the world go by in this spellbinding Scottish city.
One of the reasons why I heartily recommend Edinburgh as one of the best European cities for solo travel is because it’s awash with cute cafés where you will be made very welcome. Wile away a couple of hours with a coffee and a good book – especially if the rain is falling outside. Whether you’re travelling solo or with a companion, you won’t want to miss out on the coffee shop scene in Edinburgh.
From iconic cafés to quaint hidden gems, here are the best cafés in Edinburgh.
1. The Milkman
7 Cockburn St, Edinburgh EH1 1BP
52 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1PB
Best for: People-watching from the window
With two locations on Cockburn Street, The Milkman is certainly one of the best coffee shops in Edinburgh Old Town. You really will love the steaming cups of heaven here, not least because of their scrumptious cakes. The atmosphere is cosy and it’s a welcome retreat from the busy streets outside.
With only a few seats available, you do need to get lucky with your timings. But if you’re able to hang around for a seat, it’s well worth the wait. Try to bag a seat in the window and soak up the enchanting atmosphere of the Old Town.
2. Williams & Johnson Coffee Co.
1 Customs Wharf, Edinburgh, EH6 6AL
Best for: An exceptional cup of coffee
If you want to find the best coffee in Edinburgh then you need to head to Williams & Johnson Coffee Co’s flagship café on Customs Lane. Yes, it’s out of the centre and a bit of a trek out in Leith, but I promise it’s worth it. They offer seasonally curated coffees and you just know that you’re dealing with real coffee aficionados. It’s a café in Edinburgh worth hunting down in its own right.
3. Artisan Roast
57 Broughton street, Edinburgh, EH13RJ
Various other locations
Best for: A buzzy atmosphere
With a clutch of locations in its collections, it’s easy to find an Artisan Roast coffee shop in Edinburgh. I highly recommend their Broughton Street café. This branch has been there the longest and was the first speciality coffee shop and roaster in Scotland.
This is a buzzing café with a popular vibe. If you’re feeling peckish then they offer warming bowls of soup, perfect if you’re escaping from the Scottish drizzle. Their bakes are pretty amazing too. Oh, and your pooch is welcome too in this dog friendly café.
4. Thomas J Walls Coffee
Forrest Rd, Edinburgh EH1 2QN
Best for: A relaxing brunch and cuppa
If you’re thinking of enjoying a trip to The National Museum of Scotland (and you really should!), then pop into nearby Thomas J Walls Coffee. It’s a chilled out café that serves fabulous food and has really friendly staff.
The wood panelling is cosy and atmospheric, but there’s still a bustling vibe here. While not a dedicated vegan café, there are plenty of vegan options to keep everyone happy.
5. Fortitude Coffee
3C York Place, Edinburgh, EH1 3EB
66 Hamilton Place, Edinburgh, EH3 5AZ
72 Newington Road, Edinburgh, EH9 1QN
Best for: A contemporary and stylish vibe
There are three branches of Fortitude Coffee in Edinburgh: York Place, Hamilton Place and Newington Road. If you’ve gone to the effort of climbing Arthur’s Seat and need a place to rest your legs before continuing onto your next stop in the city, then I recommend Newington Road.
If you’re over the other side of the city then the York Place location in the New Town is a good hangout. Expect a contemporary vibe with baristas who have a real love of the roast.
6. Café Portrait
1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Best for: A seasonal afternoon tea
If you’re an art lover then the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland will be calling you. Stop for refuelling in Café Portrait. I guarantee you will be amazed at the mountains of delicious cakes and treats. It’s a wonderful place for afternoon tea too.
Café Portrait also offers delightful salads for those looking for a healthier bite to eat. Many of their scrumptious salads are naturally vegan, making this incidentally one of the best cafés for vegans in Edinburgh.
7. Format Coffee
124 Buccleuch St, Newington, Edinburgh EH8 9NQ
Best for: For world-class speciality coffee
Jostling up on the edge of The Meadows, you’ll find the chilled out café called Format. It’s a little café, without a huge marketing presence, but it’s getting its name out there because it’s simply mighty good. Be sure to enjoy one of their bagels alongside your cuppa of choice. It’s a happy little spot.
8. Mimi’s Bakehouse
Best for: Finger-licking cakes
There are several branches of Mimi’s in Edinburgh, from The Royal Mile to Leith, and often a bunch of pop-ups too. There’s a reason I listed Mimi’s Bakehouse on my list of top brunch spots in Edinburgh – and that’s the cakes! You cannot visit a Mimi’s Bakehouse without indulging in a delectable sweet treat to accompany your hot drink.
9. Twelve Triangles
Best for: Sourdough and pastries
At some point in your visit to Edinburgh, you’ll find yourself in Haymarket. One Twelve Triangles branch is here, on Dairy Road. This is a true from-scratch bakery, where the simple things are done exceptionally well. Their bread, doughnuts, pastries, and everything else are all made daily using flour that has been milled locally in East Lothian.
They even make their jams, pie fillings, ricotta and custards every day from scratch! If you’re looking for a bakery taste sensation to enjoy with your coffee, or perhaps for breakfast, then Twelve Triangles is where you need to head.
10. Mary’s Milk Bar
19 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HS
Best for: Fresh gelato
A quaint little location in Grassmarket is the home of Mary’s Milk Bar. If you’ve read my list of the best things to do in Edinburgh and have visited Edinburgh Castle, then head down here for some fabulous gelato. The gelato is made fresh every morning and you’ll have so much fun discovering this little slice of Edinburgh heaven!
The flavours are quirky (think Pear & Gorgonzola or Rose & Rhubarb), but I assure you they work. This place, unsurprisingly, is incredibly popular. So be prepared to queue on busy days! Oh, and if you’re feeling a little too chilly for ice cream, just ask for your scoop as a hot chocolate float. You can also buy delicious chocolates to take away.
68 Hamilton Pl, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AZ
Best for: Vegans
Undoubtedly one of the best vegan cafés in Edinburgh that caters to all dietary preferences and needs is Grams. Their ethos is ‘Eat Better, Not Less’ and if you’re in need of a hearty breakfast or filling lunch to fuel your tourist endeavours, then you can’t go wrong here.
Their vegan gluten-free waffles are scrumptious and exciting but the meat eaters will also fall happily into a bowl of their pulled pork. All items on the menu are available with vegan alternatives. Love their grub so much you want to take it home? You now can with the Grams Meal Prep service.
12. Söderberg Bakery
Best for: Authentic Scandinavian café culture
With a bunch of branches in Edinburgh (and London), you’ll never be too far from a Söderberg café. Expect authentic Swedish café culture and fare including cardamom buns, Kladdkaka, Horseshoes, Mazarins and Smörrebröd. Of course there’s fabulous coffee but you might prefer a Scandi cocktail such as a Lingonberry Cosmo. It’s heavenly.
13. Black Medicine Coffee Co.
2 Nicolson St, Edinburgh EH8 9DH
Best for: Relaxed bohemian vibe
A long-standing café that’s a sociable spot to relax, enjoy a hot drink, and some mouth-watering food is Black Medicine Coffee Co. This is one of the best cafés in Edinburgh and a brilliant place to grab a delicious stuffed sandwich to keep you going. If it looks busy up top, don’t worry – you can head down into their basement and still enjoy everything they’ve got to offer.
14. Union Brew Lab
6-8 S College St, Edinburgh EH8 9AA
Best for: Single-origin coffee and artisanal produce
There’s no arguing that Brew Lab rightfully earns its place as a location for the best coffee in Edinburgh. They are experts at bringing you single-origin coffee. Every day, you can choose between two different espressos and two filters, each distinctly different.
They also serve really delicious brunches alongside their coffee and they pride themselves on their local provenance with their artisanal food. The good news for those with four-legged friends is this is a dog friendly café in Edinburgh.
15. Saint Giles Café & Bar
8 St Giles’ St, Edinburgh EH1 1PT
Best for: A lively and vibrant spot
Vibrant and licensed, Saint Giles is a fantastic spot to stop and kill some time in Edinburgh. It’s a good place to come for breakfast or a glass of prosecco later in the day. However, I really recommend this Edinburgh café for lunch when you can enjoy one of their delicious salads or ciabattas. Or why not try their speciality, the Saint Giles Waffle!
Where is the J.K. Rowling Café?
Harry Potter fans will love exploring Edinburgh. There are recognisable haunts to visit, such as Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, and there are several wizarding world shops and attractions such as escape rooms and walking tours. You’ll no doubt have heard of the café where it is rumoured that the Harry Potter books were born and J.K.Rowling started her writing. Lots of people claim that this is an Edinburgh Café called The Elephant House. As such, The Elephant Café has been dubbed the J.K. Rowling café in Edinburgh.
However, like rumours of who put Harry’s name in the Triwizard Cup spread through Hogwarts, this is a myth. It is indeed true that Rowling wrote some sections of the book in the café. But Rowling has debunked the idea that Harry Potter was conceived here.
Nonetheless, the café has been a mecca for diehard fans, and there was much paraphernalia to peruse. However, unfortunately The Elephant House is currently closed due to a fire. So, alas, the Harry Potter café in Edinburgh is no more. But don’t worry, you’ll love exploring the Rowling and Potter sites throughout Edinburgh. I’m sure another Edinburgh café from the list above will hit the spot.
Enjoy the best cafés in Edinburgh
Enjoying a café or coffee shop in Edinburgh is part of the whole experience of visiting this wonderful city. Expect bijou spots and a huge choice when it comes to independent cafés serving truly exceptional coffee and food.
If you’re planning a trip to the Scottish capital, have a read of my Edinburgh travel guide. You may also like: