The Grassmarket – a guide for visiting in 2023


If there was one area of Edinburgh which features a perfect balance of everything that makes the city great, we'd say it's the Grassmarket. In this small but busy area right in the heart of the Old Town, you'll find interesting history, lovely places to eat and drink, and a great place to sit and watch the world go by. In this guide, we'll be looking at everything which makes the Grassmarket worth visiting, all updated for 2023. Let's get into it:

Where is The Grassmarket?

The Grassmarket is located just beneath the Royal Mile, right in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town. You can reach The Grassmarket easily from almost anywhere else in the centre of the city, with easy walks from Lothian Road, Nicholson St, and George IV Bridge. It is located within a hollow and sits beneath the ground level of the rest of the surrounding areas, so from the Royal Mile it is quite easy to get to as it's downhill!

FireShot Capture 1842 - Grassmarket - Google Maps -

What is there to see in the Grassmarket?

As we said in our introduction, there is quite a bit to see in the Grassmarket. Here are the highlights:

The Covenanters Memorial

If you're entering the Grassmarket from the East side (down Victoria Street), then one of the first things you'll notice is a circular memorial on the ground. It's a very plain stone which is quite easy to miss, but it actually marks the place where many Covenanters were hanged during the Covenanting period. Just next to the stone, you'll notice a design which is supposed to represent a gallows' shadow. It's a grim but fascinating reminder of what this area was used for in the past!

The Bow Well

This unassuming structure was actually the first well to supply water to the Grassmarket, and was originally built in the 17th century. It's very photogenic as it sits right at the bottom of Victoria Street, just to the side of the excellently placed Grassmarket Hotel, and It has the coat of arms of Edinburgh in relief on the south side of it.
Bow Well, grassmarket

The Grassmarket market

Every Saturday, you'll spot a number of stalls in the Grassmarket. This is known as the Grassmarket Saturday Market, and is a great place to head to if you're looking for some delicious food and interesting items to buy, or just a place to wander around for a while.
There are stalls including those for food, all the way to CBD oils and CBD gummies.

On the day we visited, there were about 20 stalls, so not huge amounts but enough to provide a good mix of options. This is a typical amount of stalls to find there. The paella stall (pictured on the right) is usually there every weekend and is always top-notch, you'll often find the same company at the popular Stockbridge Market.

You'll also find lots of jewellery stalls, with local businesses selling handmade items which we really liked the look of. Businesses such as Angelina Jewellery and B Thomson Jewellery are frequently here and have great stalls to visit.


And we have to give a special mention to the Knight's Kitchen stall, which was selling East African food that we really enjoyed and which was very well priced! As we mentioned, the market runs every Saturday between 10am and 5pm, and is always on regardless of the weather!

Similarly, a firm favourite for us is Maroberts Tanzanian stall. Tanzania's national parks are places that we have travelled to many times.


The Grassmarket pubs

The Grassmarket is an excellent place to head to for a pint, as it features some of the oldest and most interesting pubs in the whole city. Let's take a look at each of them in detail:

The Beehive Inn

The Beehive Inn is said to have been a pub which once quenched the thirst of the poet Robert Burns, which in terms of Scottish history is about as big as it gets. It was also apparently a pub which William Wordsworth would frequent, another legendary poet. It's a very pleasant place to visit and although there is definitely a celebration of the interesting and impressive history attached to the establishment, it is also simply an enjoyable place to go for a well-poured pint. Learn more here -

The Black Bull

If you're looking for somewhere in the Grassmarket to watch sports, The Black Bull is probably your best bet. It doesn't have oodles of character like some of the other pubs in the area, but it is enjoyable to visit whenever the rugby or boxing is on. Learn more here -

The White Hart Inn

Like many of the pubs in the Grassmarket, The White Hart Inn claims to be one of the oldest pubs in the city. We certainly think they have a claim - the oldest written records which mention this pub date back to the 14th century, and although much of the pub has been updated since then (as you'd imagine), the cellarage actually dates back to this time which is quite impressive. This pub was well known for being a place where locals would hang out before and after the executions which were held in the Grassmarket, which is quite a claim to fame. We really like this pub, plus it has some lovely local beers on tap. Learn more here -

Cold Town House

If you're looking for something totally different from the pubs we've listed so far, the Cold Town House is a good place to head. We should say though, it's certainly not somewhere to go for a quiet pint. It can get really rowdy in here, and although the building itself is stunning, the interior is quite garish.  Having said that, the rooftop terrace of this establishment is an excellent place to sit for great views of the castle, and the beer they make here is genuinely very good. Learn more here -

The Last Drop

The name of this pub has a double meaning -  most assume it refers to the last drop of a pint, which it sort of is. But it's also in reference to the last hanging held in the Grassmarket in the late 19th century. Some people say this pub was where people would be taken for their last meal before being hanged. We like this pub a lot and not only are the beers good, but the food is also great. Learn more here -


Maggie Dicksons

A pub named after a woman sounds like it could be some kind of touching tribute to a legendary poet or writer, but the story of Maggie Dickson is almost more impressive. She is famous for being accused of killing her newborn baby, and being sentenced to hanging for this. Whether or not she killed the baby or whether it was a stillborn baby is still a mystery, but Maggie did get hanged. Fortunately for Maggie, she somehow survived the hanging and lived for another 40 years. This earned her the nickname 'Half-Hangit Maggie'. It's a great story and this pub is a great tribute to here, learn more here -

Buddy Milligans

Stick with us here, but Buddy Milligans is actually an Irish pub - that's why we kept it until last! But despite not being Scottish, this is a really fun place to visit and is absolutely jam-packed with atmosphere. It's not uncommon to find live music here almost every night of the week, and of course, lots of dancing. We love the Scottish pubs in the Grassmarket, but there is no denying that the Irish know how to do music and dancing well. Learn more here -

Aside from pubs, there are a few other places you might like to visit during your time in the Grassmarket:

Mary's Milk Bar

Unfortunately, this place was closed during our most recent visit, but this is easily the best place to get ice cream in Edinburgh. The ice cream is all made fresh and it's not unusual to see large queues snaking down the street outside Mary's Milk Bar, even on cold days. Learn more here -

El Toro Loco

There are quite a few places to grab a bite to eat in the Grassmarket, but El Toro Loco is the best one we tried. Getting a good Mexican is harder than it sounds in Edinburgh, but we've always found El Toro Loco to be very good and a safe bet for things like nachos, burritos, and tacos. Learn more here -

Petit Paris

Unlike the Mexican restaurants in the city, there are actually quite a few excellent French restaurants in Edinburgh. So you might be surprised to hear that Petit Paris in the touristy Grassmarket area of the city is actually very good. When the weather is nice, it's great to sit outside the restaurant and watch the world go by. Learn more here -

Anything else to mention?

The famous Victoria Street leads into the Grassmarket and is easily one of the most photogenic streets in the entire city. This was taken right from the bottom in the Grassmarket area, but the view from the top of the road is really much nicer. We'll include that in our next Edinburgh guide!

Granny's Green Steps lead up towards the castle, but be warned - this is really steep! You'll find these steps just to the side of the Cold Town House building.

Hopefully, this guide has inspired you to visit this brilliant area of Edinburgh. We have other guides about this city, including a guide to great beaches near Edinburgh and a guide about the Edinburgh Christmas Market.

Finn is the editor of You Well and has been writing about travel, health, and more for over 10 years.

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