10 pop-up bars with the best Edinburgh Festival atmosphere

Edinburgh Festival season always transforms the city, including its range of nightlife options. Matthew Dunne-Miles runs through the pop-up bars on offer during August


Edinburgh in August can be a pretty strange place. Part of the reason – aside from the face-painted street performers lurking around every corner – is the fact that pop-up bars take up temporary residency in unconventional locations across the city – many with later-than-normal 5am licences.

These watering holes can spring up out of nowhere, leaving baffled locals to stroll in and say ‘how long has this been here? I thought this was a compost bin?’ – it was, five minutes ago, now it’s a trendy hangout. Try and keep up.

So here we offer a guide to some of the pop-up bars appearing this festival so you know where to enjoy these cool bar venues without the perplexed expression.

Bob & Miss Behave’s Bookshop

Located on Holyrood Road in what’s left of an abandoned bookshop, Heroes of Fringe promotions will be turning this empty space into a comedy venue which is also promising a fine selection of craft beers. The bookshop will be having a launch night on July 29 and will be hosting shows such as the Comedian’s Comedian Podcast, music journalist John Robb & ‘The Half Naked Chef’ – tantalising.

5 Holyrood Road, EH8, more info

Tron Kirk

A former parish church which becomes an intimate haunt during festival season (before shutting the doors again to a resounding ‘why?’ from the Edinburgh natives). Tron Kirk will be hosting acts throughout the Edinburgh Jazz Festival, which will be accompanied by a full bar. A great venue to check out for visitors and locals alike, it’s an underused spot with a classic Edinburgh feel.

Hunter Square, EH1 1QW, more info

Jeremiah Weed Cow Shed

A rootin’ tootin’ success last year and if the rumours are to be believed then the Cow Shed will be making a return at this year’s festival too. The Jeremiah Weed Cow Shed was a pop-up bar at its finest… why would you need actual chairs when you could rest yourself down on a haystack? The Shed’s location right in the heart of the Cowgate (yeah, we get what you did) means it’s a bustling spot to enjoy some Fringe atmosphere,  a cold jar and some good music.

Cowgate, Eh1 1JH, more info

Pommery Champagne Cafe Bar

A more swanky affair than you may be used to from pop-up venues, the Pommery will be serving champagne, cocktails, beers, wines, coffee & cake, lunches, afternoon teas and dinner all within the surroundings of the Signet Library. Expect grandiose surroundings and dining elegance.

2 Parliament Square, EH1 1RF, more info

Stand in the Square / The Famous Spiegeltent


A new set-up for this year, The Stand Comedy Club will be pouring the laughs out from their York Place venue into nearby St. Andrew Square. The square will host a 150 capacity yurt and a range of indoor and outdoor bars. Stand in the Square will also be home to the Famous Spiegeltent, which had previously been pitched up on George Street. Expect warm summer evenings packed with many friendly folk creating a great festival vibe.

St. Andrew Square, EH2 2AD, more info

Udderbelly’s Pasture

We’ve all thought it. Wouldn’t it be fine to sit sipping a beer in the shade of a large overturned purple cow? C’mon, hands up, we’ve all thought it. Live the dream at e4’s Udderbelly setup on Bristo Square which has a fine selection of outdoor bars for you to enjoy whilst on the fake green turf.

Bristo Square, EH8 9AL, more info

Assembly George Square Gardens

Another festival hub has sprouted up in George Square Gardens in recent years. Run by Assembly, it’s home to eleven of their venues, and there’s ample space to settle down for a pre-show drink with friends in their outdoor bar area. It gets busy, but there’s a great atmosphere to reward you for having to wait for a pint.

George Square, EH8 9LH, more info


Strictly speaking this is a bit of an anomaly as Summerhall do great work all year round, but they go the extra mile in August with their outdoor bar in the courtyard, which is often the centrepiece of some of the theatrical performances. So don’t be surprised if you’re sipping your drink and without realising it you’re part of an avant-garde play. Which is nice.

1 Summerhall, EH9 1PL, more info

Gilded Balloon Teviot

During August the Gilded Balloon take over the massive and labyrinthine Edinburgh University Student Union building in Bristo Square – meaning anyone can get in, no student card needed. They have nine performance spaces and bars and a café open all day, serving a wide selection of food and drink. There’s also a beer garden, juice bar and food area.

Bristo Square, EH8 9AJ, more info

Pleasance Courtyard

The Pleasance

The Courtyard has become a definitive staple for thousands of Fringe-goers and with three cafés and seven bars on site, it’s not hard to understand why. You feel right in the heart of the the festival here, with plenty of famous comedians milling around, and parents can feel free to bring the little ones, as there’s a dedicated kid’s zone section to boot.

60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ, more info

Of course, if it’s a more conventional drinking experience you’re after, try our list of 10 of the best bars in Edinburgh, or our beer lover’s guide to the city.

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