15 best coffee shops & cafés in Edinburgh

The Mlikman café in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a beguiling city of craggy charm and quirky creativity. If you follow me on social media then you’ll know about my ongoing love affair with Edinburgh.

It’s easy to see how its magical streets and cosy eateries inspired many of the magical settings in the Harry Potter books. In my opinion, one of the best things to do in the city is to seek out the quaint coffee shops and cafés in Edinburgh.

I can’t think of a better way to spend a couple of hours than by cosying up with a coffee or a cuppa and watching 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.

Having visited Edinburgh many times over the years (honestly you can’t keep me away!), I have had the pleasure of trying and testing many of the different Edinburgh cafes.

I now have my firm favourites which I’ll share in this guide, along with a few additional recommendations from locals.

Whether you’re travelling solo or with a companion, I know you won’t want to miss out on the coffee shop scene in Edinburgh.

From iconic cafés to quaint hidden gems, here is my pick of the best cafés in Edinburgh.

Author Bio: Jessie Moore

Jessie Moore is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

1. The Milkman

Address: 7 Cockburn St, Edinburgh EH1 1BP and 52 Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1PB

Best for: People-watching from the window

The Mlikman café in Edinburgh

With two locations on Cockburn Street, The Milkman is one of my personal favourite coffee shops in Edinburgh Old Town.

I know you’ll really love the steaming cups of heaven here, not least because of their scrumptious cakes. I love that the atmosphere is as cosy as it gets, 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, I really think that it’s well worth the wait.

I’d recommend trying to bag a seat in the window to soak up the enchanting atmosphere of the Old Town. 

2. Williams & Johnson Coffee Co.

Address: 1 Customs Wharf, Edinburgh, EH6 6AL

Best for: An exceptional cup of coffee

Williams & Johnson Coffee Shop in Edinburgh

If you want to find the best coffee in Edinburgh then I’d highly recommend heading 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

Address: 57 Broughton street, Edinburgh, EH13RJ and various other locations

Best for: A buzzy atmosphere

Artisan Cafe

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 I’d suggest trying one of their 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 at this dog friendly café in Edinburgh.

4. Thomas J Walls Coffee

Address: 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 I think 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 I love that 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

Address:

  • 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

Fortitude Edinburgh Coffee Shop

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 I’d suggest the York Place location in the New Town as a good hangout.

Expect a contemporary vibe with baristas who have a real love of the roast. 

6. Café Portrait

Address: 1 Queen St, Edinburgh EH2 1JD

Best for: A seasonal afternoon tea

Cafe Portrait

If you’re an art lover then the National Portrait Gallery of Scotland will be calling you, and I’d suggest stopping for a refuel 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

Address: 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.

I’d definitely recommend tucking into one of their bagels alongside your cuppa of choice. It’s a happy little spot.

8. Mimi’s Bakehouse

Address: Various locations

Best for: Finger-licking cakes

Mimis Bakehouse

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. 

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9. Twelve Triangles

Address: Various locations

Best for: Sourdough and pastries

Twelve Triangles

At some point in your visit to Edinburgh, I’m sure you’ll find yourself in Haymarket. One Twelve Triangles branch is here, on Dairy Road.

I love that 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 I’d definitely suggest adding Twelve Triangles to your itinerary.

10. Mary’s Milk Bar

Address: 19 Grassmarket, Edinburgh EH1 2HS

Best for: Fresh gelato

Marys Milk Bar

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 I’m sure 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.

11. Grams

Address: 68 Hamilton Pl, Stockbridge, Edinburgh EH3 5AZ

Best for: Vegans

Grams

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 I know 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

Address: Various locations

Best for: Authentic Scandinavian café culture

Soderberg Bakery

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. Trust me, it’s heavenly.

For more cocktail inspiration, check out my guide to the best cocktail bars in Edinburgh.

13. Black Medicine Coffee Co.

Address: 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.

I consider this to be 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

Address: 6-8 S College St, Edinburgh EH8 9AA

Best for: Single-origin coffee and artisanal produce

Union Brew Edinburgh Cafe

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.

Plus I have good news for those with four-legged friends – this is one of the dog friendly cafés in Edinburgh.

15. Saint Giles Café & Bar

Address: 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!

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Where is the J.K. Rowling Café?

Harry Potter fans, like myself, 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.

Best Edinburgh Cafes

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.

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.

Discover my pick of magical Harry Potter things to do in Edinburgh.

Enjoy the best cafés in Edinburgh

In my opinion, 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:

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Jessie Moore
Jessie Moore

Jessie is a luxury travel expert with years of experience travelling the world to find the best destinations, hotels and adventures.

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