It’s subjective to consider what are the best cafes in Edinburgh. It depends on whether you’re looking for the best Scottish breakfast, the best coffee, or just the best place to work on the laptop. For years, I’ve bounced between the best cafes in Edinburgh with their delicious third-wave coffee and comfortable, cozy nooks to get my writing done.
To be fair, this list could easily be a hundred cafes long, but I’ve narrowed it down as much as I could. Here are my recommendations:
The Best Coffee Shops in Edinburgh
The Milkman is known as one of the best cafes in Edinburgh. It’s called the Milkman because the owner’s great-grandfather was the last milkman in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. For years, I’ve gone there for my coffee from Origin Coffee Roasters. More recently, I’ve brought the food tour regularly for the amazing coffee, even though it’s not strictly Scottish.
This is the kind of cafe where they take pride in making a perfect cup of coffee every single time. Yet as good as their coffee is, my favorite drink is the dirty chai. They use one of the best chai blends I’ve tried outside of Asia
Brew Lab has served artisan third-wave coffee since 2012. For better or worse, it was purchased a few years ago by Union Coffee Roasters in London, but the cafe didn’t change much. In the first few years of my travels, I can say I spent more time at Brew Lab than at any other single location in the world. I introduced countless people to third-wave coffee there, and I still think they’re one of the best cafes in Edinburgh.
There’s an interesting story behind Black Medicine. As I understand, the cafe was owned by J.K. Rowling’s brother-in-law, when it was one floor up and called Nicolson Cafe. He wanted better premises, so he moved it down to the ground floor and rebranded. Since then, they’ve taken over the basement, adding to the seating capacity. The drinks are fantastic, particularly the hot chocolate and juices. It can get quite busy there considering how close it is to Edinburgh University.
Wellington Coffee is one of the best cafes in the New Town. Located in the center of George St, this cafe has grown in both popularity and size. When I first went, there were perhaps eight seats inside. Now there are plenty of tables outside on the terrace and up on the sidewalk. Aside from great coffee and other non-alcoholic drinks, they also have some amazing pastries.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to Fortitude, not because they aren’t great but just because they’re further from where I now live. They have two locations – Stockbridge and Newington. Just like many of the cafes on this list, they roast their own beans from independent plantations in South America and Africa. Sadly, they closed their location next to the Edinburgh Bus Station, which is the one I used to go to after my overnight bus from London.
Artisan Roast is another cafe that’s been around forever. They opened their doors in 2007 and possibly were the first third-wave cafe in Edinburgh. In fact, many other cafes in Edinburgh get their beans roasted by Artisan Roast with their own branding. But my favorite thing at Artisan Roast is the sign they have up in the Broughton Street cafe. As many other cafes have, a sign on the wall says “JK Rowling never wrote here.” But just beneath that is a notation saying “and I never will,” written by J.K. Rowling in 2016, “just to spite them” as she later tweeted on X.
Cairngorm Coffee is yet another great roaster. The main cafe is in the West End, but there is currently a pop-up stand at the Bonnie and Wild Scottish Marketplace in the St. James Quarter. Although their coffee is just as good as the other cafes on this list, I didn’t visit them often. That was mainly because I wanted cafes where I could sit and work for the day, and their wifi often wasn’t working or was super slow. But they are a larger cafe and often have a seat when others are full.
Cult Espresso is near Edinburgh University, and thus often full of University students. They opened in 2014, and more recently started roasting their own beans. Their coffee is excellent and the decorations are also really nice. Furthermore, they provide classes and, just like Artisan Roast, roast beans for other cafes.
One of the best cafes around Edinburgh’s Grassmarket is Lovecrumbs. They have excellent coffee, but stand above other cafes when it comes to hot chocolate and cakes. They use organic milk from a small, local farm, and bake their own cakes and pastries. They had a location in the Stockbridge neighborhood, but I was sad to see that one close during the pandemic. I always tried to get the comfortable window ledge, but I had a lot of competition. That was my favorite spot to watch the rain and get some work done with a hot chocolate in hand.
If you need a cup of Joe after arriving at the Edinburgh Bus Station, Triple-Tri Coffee is your stop. Located on York Place, it’s the only cafe I know of on this list run by a Chinese couple. Aside from providing excellent coffee roasts, they also bake delicious homemade pastries. I’m particularly fond of their daily variety of scones. They have some good breakfasts too, although I’ll admit their prices are rather high.
The Cobbled Roastery
Tucked away down a small side street in the New Town is The Cobbled Roastery. Two super friendly Ukranians run this tiny cafe where they roast their own beans daily in 2 kg batches. They sell freshly roasted beans from several countries to purchase. This isn’t a cafe to work on the laptop at, but rather a great place for the perfect espresso. You might even find locals playing chess at one of the two tables.
Of course, I have to include a cafe in Portobello on this list, and the best I know of in that neighborhood is Tanifiki. I love how the African owners have decorated the cafe in an African style, and only served beans sourced from cooperatives in Africa. There are plenty of seats, making this one of my top recommendations for the best co-working cafe in Edinburgh.
Outstanding Breakfast Cafes in Edinburgh
The Larder is one of the best breakfast and brunch cafes in Edinburgh for a number of reasons. The location in the heart of the Old Town is perfect. It’s just off the Royal Mile so it doesn’t pull in all the tourists, although the line to get in can take hours.
Everything they serve is locally sourced, organic, and seasonal, so the menu changes every few weeks. There’s nothing simple about their Scottish breakfast, brioche French toast stacks, or various benedicts. My favorite dish is the Taste of Scotland board, of which I’ve had several variations. On my most recent visit, it had homemade beetroot hummus, hot and cold smoked Scottish salmon, quinoa salad, local honey-roasted ham, award-winning Scottish cheeses, homemade piccalilli, za’atar cauliflower, homemade oat cakes, and granary bread.
I think it’s funny that the names of two of the best breakfast cafes in Edinburgh are synonyms. The Pantry has been in Stockbridge, a nice neighborhood of Edinburgh, since 2012. The menu, just like others on this list, changes seasonally, and the owner and chef go all out to serve some excellent dishes.
I consider the Pantry Fry to be one of the best Scottish breakfasts in town, and the ever-changing brunch and lunch items are wonderful. I’ve had their French toast and waffles with a variety of toppings. However, I also tried their legendary spicy chicken sandwich, which was honestly one of the spiciest items I’ve ever eaten. The chef wouldn’t even tell me what peppers went into the secret blend.
Another blue diamond on this list is Urban Angel in the New Town. I was surprised to see that this cafe has been going strong since 2004 after the owner was inspired by incredible dishes around the world in her travels. The cafe is constantly changing its menu to create better flavors, which means I have to revisit often to try the new dishes. In addition to incredible food, they make some of the best smoothies in town.
OQO isn’t as fancy as The Larder or The Pantry, but the chef serves up consistently delicious breakfasts. There are just a handful of options, but I love them all – a simple Scottish breakfast, the eggs royal, and the sweet or savory waffles. I particularly love the cafe because of how friendly the staff are, and how well they make the drinks. I’m obsessed with the coconut hot chocolate.
Em’s Kitchen is one of the smallest cafes on this list. It’s run by a mother and her son. The family is from Turkey and there are some great Turkish dishes on the menu, but they also make a great Scottish breakfast. The French toast I had there was crazy good, topped with mascarpone, a summer fruit compote, and caramelized almonds. Just like many cafes in Edinburgh, the menu has plenty of vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options, making it perfect for everyone.
BAM is one of the newest cafes on this list, opening in 2020, and also one of the last cafes I found, but I’m so glad I did. I wouldn’t say it’s particularly as fancy as Urban Angel, the Pantry, or the Larder, but the quality is certainly on par. I highly recommend their Scottish breakfast. of which they have vegetarian and vegan options, and I’m looking forward to heading back for some of their other dishes.
Red Kite Cafe
The Red Kite Cafe is one of the few good cafes in its neighborhood, which is where I currently live. They make an excellent Scottish breakfast and have several great specials on the weekend. It’s one of the larger cafes on the list, so they usually have space for me to get some work done. They recently changed ownership, and the original owners now just manage the Little Red Kite Cafe on Leith Walk, which is also good.
I used to live just around the corner from Castello Coffee. For months, it was my home away from home. Sometimes the internet speed isn’t the best, but the coffee from Allpress Espresso is excellent, and they serve some of my favorite breakfast dishes in town. Sadly, in December 2023, the manager moved on after 12 years and the cafe is now under new management. Only time will tell if it maintains the quality I’ve loved there.
The menu changes all the time, but two of my favorite dishes were the French toast topped with strawberries, caramelized chocolate, lemon, and maple syrup, and the sweetcorn fritters with avocado, poached eggs, lime, and sriracha. They also served a great curried “bubble n’ squeak” once – cabbage and potato cake with wilted spinach, feta, and a poached egg. As expected, everything is homemade.
I started going to Seven Cafe back when it was called Cafe Class, and I loved their breakfast. Sadly, they changed ownership in 2022. Over the years, I watched their amazing Scottish breakfast inch up from £6 to over £12 while the quality dropped (hash browns instead of tatty scones, cheaper bread, cheaper mushrooms, etc). Yet there’s still one of the better breakfast cafes in Edinburgh. Not really one of my top recommendations anymore, but I feel I need to keep it on this list.
Best Dessert Cafes in Edinburgh
You can’t make a list of the best dessert cafes in Edinburgh and not include Mary’s Milk Bar. Since 2013, Mary has used her training at Carpigiani Gelato University to provide locals and tourists alike with amazing flavors at her shop in the Grassmarket. I’ve seen some of the most unusual flavors there, which always turn out to be fantastic. However, my top recommendation is the affogato.
Joe is the other gelato maker who also trained at Carpigiani Gelato University. Since 2019, he has been making his gelato daily and now has two shops in Edinburgh – in the Bonnie and Wild Scottish Marketplace at the St. James Quarter, and in Stockbridge. I bring my food tour there regularly just to highlight the highest quality Scottish ingredients. I think Joelato is the best gelato in town, and many Italian friends agree with me. So far, the lime and basil is my favorite flavor.
You can’t go wrong with a good donut, and Kilted Donut makes some of the best in town. They currently only have one shop in the Grassmarket, since the store in Stockbridge closed during the pandemic. Each week, they make over a dozen flavors, many of which are vegan. Some regular flavors are fan favorites, while others are quite innovative. There are so many flavors I still need to try (I try to avoid eating too much sugar). On top of being the best, the prices are excellent.
Room and Rumors
I consider Room and Rumors more of a dessert cafe than just a coffee shop as they have some of the best donuts in town. In fact, they call themselves a donutterie on Instagram. They don’t roast their own beans but rather change which local roaster they use each month to provide a good variation. They’re located near the south exit of Waverley Train station in the Market Street Arches – a great collection of shops built into the arches under Jeffrey St bridge.
For years, I’ve been using Mimi’s Bakehouse on the food tour as they have the best scones in town. And in 2023, they were awarded the Best Baker of the Year and Best Bakery Cafe in Scotland. Aside from having the best cream tea in town, they have some really nice brunch dishes and incredible pastries. Their main and original location in Leith and the Corstorphine Hill locations serve a full afternoon tea.
This is part of my series of best restaurants and meals in Edinburgh. Check out my other articles in the series:
- 30+ Best Restaurants In Edinburgh For Tourists And Locals
- 5 Best Thai Restaurants in Edinburgh that Taste Like Thailand
- 5 Best Mexican Restaurants in Edinburgh, By a Local Food Guide
- Where to Find the Best Cullen Skink in Edinburgh
- The Best Edinburgh Food Tour – How to Begin Your Journey in Scotland
And for more information about Edinburgh and Scotland, make sure to check out the rest of my Scotland articles.
This post may contain affiliate links. These links help give me the wherewithal to continue traveling at no additional cost to you. For more information, click here.