3 Hidden Gem Bars in Edinburgh

5 min readJul 26, 2022

by Kirsten Smith

Edinburgh may be more widely known for its culture and scenic beauty, but the city offers a high quality of nightlife too. Amongst the variety of pubs and bars scattered all over the city hide several themed bars that offer a more unique experience. Having lived in Edinburgh for several years, I have discovered many hidden treasures along my way. From the gothic to the magical, there’s a bar to appeal to every taste imaginable. How very Scottish.

The Department of Magic

How can we begin without a little bit of magic, in the city where Harry Potter was first dreamed up. Hidden down in a basement on Blair Street in Edinburgh Old Town you’ll find a magical tavern that teaches the practice of making potions. Potions which have the power to wobble your step a little and get you on a dancefloor. The Department of Magic is a Harry Potter-inspired escape room and is home to a magical-themed bar — the Magic Potion Tavern. The Magic Potion Tavern mirrors the Leaky Cauldron from the Harry Potter universe and is decorated with cobwebs, cauldrons, and broomsticks, to provide customers with the ultimate witchcraft aesthetic.

The Magic Potion Tavern also allows wannabe wizards and witches to practice their potion making skills and brew up their own concoctions by attending a Potion Class. Live your Harry Potter fantasy to the fullest by indulging in a serving of Butterbeer andfrom Bubbler Cocktails to Smoking Shots, this tavern offers a variety of enchanting drinks to choose from. I really recommend the Magic Beans Smoking Shot. All the drinks are aesthetically pleasing but dazzling to the tastebuds too!

Frankenstein Bar and Bier Keller

For all-year-round spooky szn vibes, look no further than the world-famous Frankenstein Bar and Bier Keller. This bar is housed in an abandoned church that lies at the heart of Old Town Edinburgh, inspired by Mary Shelley’s literary phenomenon Frankenstein. The bar has been decorated Dr Frankenstein’s lab and everywhere you turn you will see electrostatic charges, flashes of light and luminous smoke. Every two hours, The Monster awakens to greet its guests, alerting his presence through ominous music, clouds of smoke and darkening of light. From 8pm on Fridays and Saturdays, this gothic bar turns into a lively club, with dining tables being cleared to open the dance floor. This thematic experience is great for families out for a pub lunch or friend gatherings in the evening.

As for the drinks — this bar brews up an array of specialty drinks, including ‘The Monster’ which is great for the risk takers. The variety of Monster Martinis are also great for those with a sweet tooth (like me — I loved the Red Monster Martini, and the June Bug Cocktail) Frankenstein’s lab is also acompanied by the 1931 film on loop projected onto the walls. This black and white film adds to the spooky aesthetic of the bar and the gothic atmosphere.

Hoot the Redeemer

This is definitely the IYKYK (if you know you know) find of the list. Located just off Princes Street is the funfair inspired bar Hoot the Redeemer. Look out for the green light signalling the entryway into the bar, as this bar has been disguised as a tarot-card reading business. Walking down the narrow alley and pushing past the tarot reader, you will find yourself immersed into an underground vintage funfair, surrounded by amusement novelties. The bar features boozy ice cream like Senor Scoop, slushies, polaroid photos, and a ‘Pinch ‘n Sip’ claw machine. This is the real fun — insert a £1 coin into the claw machine and win a flavour that the bartender will then create into an improvised cocktail based on your preferred choice of alcohol (and any allergies you need to avoid.) This is a fun option for those who are indecisive or enjoy a bit of spontaneity! My most recent surprise cocktail consisted of Banana, Rum, and the rest is a mystery! For those up to the challenge, if you can compose a funny quote worthy of being placed on the wall, the bartender will take your group’s photo on a polaroid camera and add it to their wall of fame.

This carnivalesque inspired bar has taken a youthful fantasy and added a little bit of trippiness to create a lively and mystical atmosphere for its audience. As well as playing for a surprise cocktail, I fully recommend the ‘Mystic Ball’ and ‘Taps Aff’ Tarot Cocktails to get you psyched for the evening ahead! Filled with surprises, this bar makes both a fantastical date spot and space to catch up with friends to revel in all the bar has to offer.

All three of these bars have their own personal touches to offer. Their unique qualities and bespoke cocktails add a bit of spice to a regular night out and will leave you with an evening to remember!

Make a visit to either or all three of these bars and you’ll only scratch the surface of what this lively city has to offer! To see more hidden gem bars in Edinburgh, check out my placelist on Bimble here.

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