29 July 2023

Top historic places to dine in Edinburgh

Cannonball Restaurant and Bar

Not only does Edinburgh have some of the best places to eat in the UK, it also has some of the most historic. The wealth of historic buildings throughout the city offer so many opportunities to wine and dine in atmospheric historic surroundings.

The Dome

Famous for

This 19th century former bank is famed for its fabulous festive lights

Starting life in 1845 as the head office of the Commercial Bank, The Dome on George Street is now a popular bar and restaurant. Whether you’re sitting down to quintessential afternoon tea in the luxurious Georgian Tea Room, tucking into satisfying dishes such as seafood linguine or rump of Scottish lamb in the stunning Grill Room, or relaxing with a decadent cocktail in the Club Room, you can’t fail to be awed by the opulent surrounding and décor.

Famous in the city for its fabulous Christmas lights which adorn the building’s enormous classical columns, a visit here is a delight whatever the time of year.

A platform lift, suitable for manual and motorised wheelchairs as well as freestanding passengers, is located at the main entrance. Internally, a passenger lift in the main foyer provides access to all upper levels.

View The Dome’s menus, check availability and make a booking.

The Royal Yacht Britannia 

Famous for

Dine like royalty on Queen Elizabeth II’s former floating palace

Family sit in the Royal Deck Tea Room having scones and tea.
Image Credit: Helen Pugh

The iconic Royal Yacht Britannia, now permanently moored in Leith harbour, was Queen Elizabeth II’s former floating palace, playing host to Heads of State and dignitaries from all over the world.

Nowadays, it’s a little less formal. Why not complete you time onboard with a tasty selection of soup, sandwiches and mouth-watering cakes and scones in the Royal Deck Tea Room. Combined with waterfront views, you’ll feel like royalty.

Entry to Britannia is via Ocean Terminal Shopping Centre. Access onboard the ship’s five decks are accessible via a central lift.

Included with the entry ticket is a multi-language audio guide. A tour script available in English Braille, tablets with the tour in British and American Sign Language and printed version (in English) are also available.

Book your ticket to The Royal Yacht Britannia.

Cannonball Restaurant & Bar

Famous for

Look up to see the cannonball lodged into this building

Cannonball Restaurant Courtyard

Featuring a menu which changes with the seasons, the menu at Cannonball Restaurant & Bar showcases the best of Scotland’s natural larder. The Seasonal Tasting Menu (which is also available as a vegetarian option) features six courses, with the option of paired wines.

If you glance up at the upper windows of this 17th century building, the carved initials of past owners Alexander Mure and his wife Margaret Niellems can still be seen, together with the date 1630. And as you enter, look out for the ‘tirling pin’ still fixed to the main door – old Edinburgh’s version of a door knocker.

The intriguing name, Cannonball House comes from the cannonball lodged into one side of the building. It is believed to have been fired in 1745 from Edinburgh Castle towards the Palace of Holyrood where Bonnie Prince Charlie was in residence during the Jacobite Rebellion. However, it’s more likely that it was placed there by engineers to mark the exact height above sea-level of the Comiston springs, which in the 17th century provided the city with its first piped supply of fresh water.

Spilt over three floors, the top floor offers stunning views of neighbouring Edinburgh Castle.

Make a booking for Cannonball Restaurant & Bar.

Cafe Royal 

Famous for

An elegant bar that started life as a bath and kitchen showroom

The Cafe Royal Bar
Image Credit Visitscotland

Tucked behind the bustling Princes Street, you’ll find the gem that is Cafe Royal.

Elegant stained glass and sparkling chandeliers dominate the bar area, but the crowning glory has to be the Royal Doulton ceramic tiles which grace the walls.

Using only the freshest of seasonal ingredients, expect classic dishes such as herb roast chicken, spinach, pea and barley risotto and fish pie.

This stylish building was built in 1861 and originally opened as a bath and kitchen showroom, but by 1863 had become the Café Royal.

In the late 1960s the restaurant was saved from possible redevelopment when the then-owner tried to sell to high-street retailer Woolworths. With the help of a 8,700 petition, the building was thankfully saved and listed, thus preserving it for the future.

Toilets are located downstairs, with no lift available.

Pre-booking is not currently available. Walk-in service only. 

The King’s Wark 

Famous for

Commissioned by royalty in the 15th century, now a popular bar and restaurant

For a plate of mouth-watering sustainable Scottish seafood, shellfish or wild game be sure to pay The King’s Wark in Leith a visit. With a relaxed and cosy atmosphere, they have an extensive cask ales list, as well as a range of Scottish gins and whiskies.

This charming bar and restaurant has a history that few can rival. Designed to serve as a royal residence, a store-house and an armoury, James I began work on the building in 1434, but it was not completed until about 1500.

The building continued to have a varied past – becoming a plague hospital, a weigh-house, and at one point, incorporating a tennis court!

Make a reservation for The King’s Wark.

The Vaults

Famous for

The oldest building in Scotland with the same continual purpose.

Home of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, a member society who aim to educate and entertain about the delights of whisky, The Vaults are open to members and their guests for dining and events.

As the oldest building in Scotland with the same continual purpose, the site of The Vaults has been home to fine drink, food specialists and pleasurable pursuits since the 1300s. Situated above four medieval vaults, it has housed Edinburgh’s wine and spirits merchants and ‘fleshers’ (skilled butchers), the Vintner’s Guild auction rooms as well as leisure rooms, including a 16th century ‘caich pule’ for ‘a game of chases’ (indoor tennis). 

Today, tradition continues, as the underground vaults still store fine wines and, with a nod to the wine and spirits industry, it has been home to The Scotch Malt Whisky Society since 1983.

Members, who must be 18+ years old, can make a booking for up to three guests at The Vaults.


Famous for

Once the home of theatrical props, now a cosy eatery on the Michelin Guide

Timberyard Restaurant

Slouchy seats, a woodburning stove and chunky wooden tables all add to the warm and welcoming atmosphere of Timberyard, a family-run restaurant housed in a converted warehouse.

A four-course set menu is around £70.00 per person.

The building itself dates back to the 19th century, when it was built as a props and costume store.

The current name alludes to the restaurant most recent past life though – Lawson’s Timber was set up in 1952, the first DIY store to open in Edinburgh. The store moved to Lady Lawson Street in the early 1960s before eventually closing its doors in 2004.

Book your table at Timberyard.

The Grain Store 

Famous for

Intimate restaurant housed underneath 19th century vaults

Grain Store

Open for lunch and dinner, the à la carte menu at The Grain Store features delicacies such as wild North Atlantic cod and dry aged Borders ribeye Scotch beef.

Situated on the historic Victoria Street, which itself was built between 1829 and 1834 as part of a series of improvements to Edinburgh’s Old Town, the restaurant can be found underneath the stone vaulting and archways of the original storerooms used by the warren of shops below.

Soft candlelight adds to this intimacy of this special place, which claims to be one of the city’s most romantic restaurants.

Make a reservation for The Grain Store.

The Gardener’s Cottage

Famous for

19th gardener’s cottage still growing its own seasonal produce

Gardeners Cottage

The Gardener’s Cottage has rapidly gained a great reputation since opening in 2012, breathing new life into a quirky building in the leafy setting of Royal Terrace Gardens.

The menu uses local and seasonal produce, which changes according to the season. Tuck into dishes such as Dunbar crab and herb tart or venison loin.

Dating from 1837, the cottage was intended to house a tenant, who would also look after the neighbouring gardens. In return they were allowed to use part of the space for their own cottage garden. Today, the restaurant has an intimate and warm atmosphere and continues to use the garden to grow a range of seasonal produce for their delicious and creative dishes.

Check availability and make a booking for The Gardener’s Cottage.

Colonnades at the Signet Library 

Famous for

King George IV declaring it ‘The finest drawing room in Europe’

Colonnades, Afternoon Tea

For an afternoon of pure decadence, step inside the beautiful surroundings of the Lower Library of the Signet Library, known as the Colonnades, for the time honoured tradition of afternoon tea.

Whilst enjoying delectable savouries and decadent cakes served on a bespoke silver tea stand, take time to marvel at the library’s magnificence. The Signet Library was completed in 1822 in time for the highly anticipated visit of King George IV to the city, who described the upper library as ‘the finest drawing room in Europe’.

The library is also home to the Society of Writers to Her Majesty’s Signet, an association of Scottish lawyers which dates back to the 15th century as the officers authorised to produce royal manuscripts with the King of Scotland’s seal, i.e. the Signet.

Book a table at Colonnades at the Signet Library.

Hotel du Vin & Bistro 

Famous for

A luxury hotel with a highly varied former life

Hotel du Vin

Traditional French cuisine and exquisite wine is at the forefront of Hotel du Vin & Bistro’s menu, so whether you’re staying for the night or enjoying a meal in their bistro, you’re in for a treat.

Today the building is a mix of the old and the new – the original stone building dates to 1743, with a modern extension added in 2007, when the hotel opened.

Located just off the bustling Royal Mile, this luxury hotel has certainly had a varied past life – once a poorhouse, then psychiatric hospital, then a science lab.

Check availability and make a booking for Hotel du Vin & Bistro.

Wedgwood the Restaurant

Famous for

The Edinburgh building with links to Morocco

Wedgwood the Restaurant is well known for its food – innovative dishes created with the finest local produce and ingredients – but not many people know of its Moroccan connections. 

Perched high up on this building is a sculpture, which some say represents the Emperor of Morocco. Legend has it that in the 17th century local man, Andrew Gray was accused of assaulting the Provost of Edinburgh but managed to flee the country before his execution. He ended up a slave of the Emperor of Morocco, but was able to rise up through the ranks, gaining favour with the Emperor and amassing a considerable fortune. In time, he returned to Edinburgh where he cured the Provost’s daughter of plague, married her and settled in this Canongate tenement.

It’s thought the figure was erected to honour the Emperor. Although another more plausible explanation may be that it acts as a sign to indicate a tradesman’s place of business. The building was rebuilt in the 1950s, but the turbaned figure remains to this day.

For a true taste of Scotland at its best, why not try their Wee tour of Scotland Tasting Menu, which includes a delicious selection of Scottish meat, fish and seafood. A vegetarian menu is also available.

Make a booking for Wedgwood the Restaurant. 

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