Edinburgh Nightlife • A Complete Guide

edinburgh nightlife

Welcome to Edinburgh’s premier nightlife guide.

On this page, you’ll discover the vibrant and varied nightlife scene in Edinburgh. You’ll find the perfect venue for you and your preferred night out. Whether you want to go all-out clubbing or if you’d like a more laid back dinner and drinks with a view, we’ve got your covered.

Enjoy!

A small intro to Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland and one of its 32 council areas. Historically part of the county of Midlothian (interchangeably Edinburghshire prior to 1921), it is located in Lothian on the Firth of Forth’s southern shore.

Edinburgh at Night
Edinburgh at Night

Recognized as the capital of Scotland since at least the 15th century, Edinburgh is the seat of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament and the supreme courts of Scotland. The city’s Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. The city has long been a center of education, particularly in the fields of medicine, Scots law, literature, philosophy, the sciences, and engineering. It is the second largest financial center in the United Kingdom (after London) and the city’s historical and cultural attractions have made it the United Kingdom’s second most popular tourist destination attracting 1.75 million visits from overseas in 2016.

Edinburgh is Scotland’s second most populous city and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom. The official population estimates are 488,050 (2016) for the Locality of Edinburgh (Edinburgh pre-1975 regionalization plus Currie and Balerno), 518,500 (2018) for the City of Edinburgh, and 1,339,380 (2014) for the city region.

The city is home to national institutions such as the National Museum of Scotland, the National Library of Scotland and the Scottish National Gallery. The University of Edinburgh, founded in 1582 and now one of four in the city, is placed 18th in the QS World University Rankings for 2019. The city is also famous for the Edinburgh International Festival and the Fringe, the latter being the world’s largest annual international arts festival. Historic sites in Edinburgh include Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the churches of St. Giles, Greyfriars and the Canongate, and the extensive Georgian New Town built in the 18th / 19th centuries. Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town together are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, which has been managed by Edinburgh World Heritage since 1999.

Edinburgh has the strongest economy of any city in the United Kingdom outside London and the highest percentage of professionals in the UK with 43% of the population holding a degree-level or professional qualification. According to the Centre for International Competitiveness, it is the most competitive large city in the United Kingdom. It also has the highest gross value added per employee of any city in the UK outside London, measuring £57,594 in 2010. It was named the European Best Large City of the Future for Foreign Direct Investment and Best Large City for Foreign Direct Investment Strategy in the Financial Times FDI magazine awards 2012/13.

The Nightlife in Edinburgh

The Nightlife of Edinburgh City
The Nightlife of Edinburgh City

EDINBURGH may be a City of Literature and a huge university town, but it still knows how to have a good time. After you’ve seen Edinburgh Castle, the Dungeon, and climbed Arthur’s Seat, there are plenty of pubs and clubs to keep you busy. Edinburgh’s nightlife scene is a unique blend of old and new, with traditional, dark, subterranean pubs in the Old Town, and trendier, more upscale clubs across the bridge in New Town. The beauty of Edinburgh is how easy it is to get around; you can easily hit two or three pubs in Old Town (or five, or six, if you start early), and then cross the bridge to end your night in New Town. With an endless trove of stressed-out university students, it’s no surprise Edinburgh is one of the most fun places to party in the UK.

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions Ticket

Camera Obscura and World of Illusions Ticket
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions Ticket

Enjoy a visit filled with surprises as you explore over 100 interactive, hands-on illusions. Head up to the rooftop terrace for the best views in Edinburgh over the city, and discover the Victorian Camera Obscura. As you weave your way through the World of Illusions, remember nothing is as it seems. Venture through 5 floors jam-packed with over 100 illusions. Start at the rooftop terrace and enjoy 360-degree views of Edinburgh. Get closer to the sights using the range of telescopes and binoculars. Then join your guide inside the Victorian rooftop chamber to see Edinburgh as never before.

Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour

Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour
Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour

Take advantage of the daytime, before darkness descends, and head out on a tour that explores Edinburgh’s ghostly past in the safety of daylight. Follow your guide through the streets of the Old Town on this 75-minute walking tour that leads you around town and down underground into the Edinburgh Vaults. Listen as your cloaked guide tells you tales of the city’s dark and grim past as you are led along the Royal Mile on cobblestone streets. If you dare, step into the narrow alleyways, which are only a few feet wide. Next, make your way to the South Bridge, and head underneath, where Edinburgh’s Vaults are located.

Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour

Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour
Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour

Enjoy a Harry Potter themed walking tour across Edinburgh. See the city where JK Rowling found inspiration for Hogwarts, her famous characters, and discover the place where she wrote the books. Have your Harry Potter trivia tested with an audio-visual quiz, and earn points for your house. Find out which Hogwarts House you are in, and whether you are pureblood, a muggle, or a squib. Visit the Grave of Tom Riddle in Greyfriars Kirkyard, and pass JK Rowling’s golden handprints outside City Chambers. See all this and more on a magical 2-hour guided tour.

History of Whisky with Tasting and Storytelling

History of Whisky with Tasting and Storytelling
History of Whisky with Tasting and Storytelling

This tour meets on the iconic Royal Mile and you will have a short walk to one of the supplier’s outstanding whiskey venues, over the next two hours, drink 4 outstanding single malt scotch whiskeys taken from the 4 major whiskey producing regions of Scotland. These whiskeys will range from the relatively delicate and subtle flavors of the Lowlands to the bold and robust tastes from Islay. You will also be given tasting cards giving notes on each of the whiskeys that you sample.

During the tour, experience some traditional storytelling and explore the significance of whiskey to the Scottish identity. The entire upper floor of the venue reserved, so there is plenty of space and privacy to conduct the story orientated evening.

Best Bars in Edinburgh City

Edinburgh is a city of pubs & bars: Even today, it’s still full of centuries-old, wood-paneled watering holes, perfect for passing an hour (or a few) on one of Scotland’s frequently cold, rainy days. Although pubs continue to shutter across the U.K., many classic establishments – home to well-poured local pints, boisterous locals, and the odd touch of Victorian stained glass – are still going strong here. But that’s only part of the scene: We have come up with some of the swankiest and finest bars in the city so you don’t find yourself in the hassle of looking for various bars:

Joseph Pearce’s

Joseph Pearce's
Joseph Pearce’s

A breath of Scandinavia in Edinburgh, Joseph Pearce’s is relaxed, cozy, stylish, and intimate. White walls and cream-colored wrought iron frame space, which is split between two levels and bordered by comfy booths with cheerful throw pillows. The bar serves your usual draught beer, of course, but there’s also a unique selection of Swedish ciders and aquavit cocktails—both of which you should make your priority here. Students, Leith Walk locals, groups of friends, and dates all head to this neighborhood pub, especially for specials like half-priced Champagne. For a kicked-back evening on the town, keep an eye out for the regular Scrabble nights.

The Last Drop

The Last Drop
The Last Drop

Located off Edinburgh’s Grassmarket, The Last Drop’s macabre past is part of its draw: The name references the square outside, which was once Edinburgh’s hanging grounds. Don’t expect a gloomy vibe inside, though. The place retains its traditional character, with plenty of banter and great beers to try plus an excellent selection of British and craft gins. The Last Drop is more of a tourist bar than a local bar, but it’s charming enough that we’d still recommend dropping by. On summer afternoons, the seating on the Grassmarket is lovely, with great castle views and a lively surrounding square.

The Bon Vivant

The Bon Vivant
The Bon Vivant

Bon Vivant lives up to its name: From the drinks menu to the atmosphere, everything is a bit indulgent – in the best possible way. Stylish and smart, the bar has a laid-back vibe thanks to Parisian flea-market lamps, dark walls, tabletop candles, and deep leather armchairs and booths. The sea of wine glasses is particularly noticeable in this beer- and whiskey-happy city – the bar’s selection has a reputation for being excellent. The bar attracts an intellectual set, though not in a pretentious or exclusionary way. Locals gather here for after-work drinks and dates, and you might catch the odd tourist who has their ear to the Edinburgh booze scene.

The Bow Bar

The Bow Bar
The Bow Bar

It’s clear that Bow Bar’s management cares about keeping the tradition of a proper pub alive at a time when so many are disappearing: You won’t find music blaring – or any music, for that matter – or TVs broadcasting the latest match. Instead, the focus is squarely on the details, from the polished wood bar to gleaming brass taps that date back to the 1920s. Although not many residents live close enough to the pub to make it there, it’s still a popular stop for Edinburghers meeting up for a pint. It’s also on a charming, winding street that links the tourist hotspots of the Royal Mile and Grassmarket at the base of the castle, so you are sure to see a few thirsty tourists, as well.

Bramble Bar & Lounge

Bramble Bar & Lounge
Bramble Bar & Lounge

The first step to an evening at Bramble Bar is finding it: The bar, off posh Queen Street, is tucked down a set of stairs in a basement. Inside, expect relaxed music, low lights, comfortable chairs, and antique furniture. Groups of colleagues post-work, couples, and older New Town residents. Expect a chilled-out vibe interrupted by bursts of laughter. Cocktails reign supreme here, especially the whiskey and gin varieties – there more than 40 gins behind the bar. Whether you want a sophisticated, mixologist-level cocktail or a spirit served neat, it’s safe to say you will find it here.

Best Bar Restaurants in Edinburgh City

A strong line of visitors come to Edinburgh to indulge in its summer festivals, or to visit its unique museums and to tramp up its extinct city-center volcano called Arthur’s Seat. But those aren’t the only attractions in town. Nowadays, Edinburgh is seeing explosive growth among tourists, many who are coming for its culinary scene, which has managed to diversify and grow at a rapid pace in recent years. Among the lanes, busy side streets, and quieter corners that dot the city are thriving bistros, specialist delis, innovative kitchens, and unique places to eat. Wondering where to being? Start with following some best of them in Edinburgh City :

L’Escargot Bleu

L'Escargot Bleu
L’Escargot Bleu

L’Escargot Bleu is a slice of France in the heart of Edinburgh, complete with French staff, French decor, and an oh-so-very French menu. Open since 2009, this smart restaurant has award-winning chef Fred Berkmiller running the show, and he’s a stickler for provenance. This means only the finest Scottish, seasonal ingredients, all sourced from a host of top local suppliers, make it into the kitchen and onto the plate. If it’s cold outside – and here, it often is – starts with an aperitif that will transport you straight to France; maybe the Coucougnette, a rich and lovely mixture of macerated fig and Colombard wine. Then, look over the unpretentious Gallic wine list, which has pairing notes written out in a way that makes sense.

Timberyard

Timberyard
Timberyard

The first thing that hits you at Timberyard is the sense of space: the high, bright ceilings with nary a tartan or tweed. The atmosphere feels slightly Nordic, a bit like a barn while echoing its roots as a former timber yard. The restaurant is often booked solid months ahead; it’s one of Edinburgh’s top restaurants, and for good reason. Ingredients are sourced from small, local, artisan growers, breeders, producers, suppliers, and foragers; the attention to detail is second-to-none, and the joint is family run. In a nutshell: an experience to remember. Forget cocktails; it’s all about natural wine from small European producers. If you harbor a penchant for Hungarian, Austrian, or even British wines, there’s likely the perfect bottle for you.

Edinburgh Food Studio

Edinburgh Food Studio
Edinburgh Food Studio

As its name suggests, Edinburgh Food Studio, located on a nondescript road a short cab ride from central Edinburgh, is the city’s apex for gastronomes. Inside, two long tables are set out with the kitchen at the back and a bar in front of that. There are fine wines, craft beers, and single-cask whiskeys, as well as a few quirks to keep things interesting, including, on a recent visit, ice wine. Although it’s a bona fide brick-and-mortar restaurant, Edinburgh Food Studio has the hum, chatter, and excitement of a pop-up. The dishes, part of a seven-course set menu, aren’t wacky or pretentious; rather, they’re borne from hard-earned research and experimentation.

The Ship on the Shore

The Ship on the Shore
The Ship on the Shore

Set right on the waterfront in Leith, The Ship, with its black painted wooden tables outside, looks like a handsome pub. Step inside, though, and it’s clear that this is more like a serious wine bar and restaurant. Gaggles of tourists, especially in summer. But there are plenty of locals, who love The Ship’s leisurely breakfasts and lunches. With a dedicated crustacea and mollusks menu, The Ship makes its focus clear: seafood. At breakfast, go for the Bunnahabhain smoked salmon or the Arbroath smokie (smoked haddock) with buttery toast. For lunch, go all-out and order the seafood paella Royale, with whole Scottish lobster, king scallops, and chorizo. For supper, keep it simple with a glass of house bubbly, oysters, and fish ‘n’ chips with mushy peas. There are steak and haggis on the menu, too.
Forget cocktails; here, it’s all about wine. A decent cellar provides ample options by the glass, from aromatic fish-friendly whites to heavier reds.

Best Nightclubs in Edinburgh City

If you feel like dancing we have got you covered. The dancing never stops in Edinburgh. Well, actually, it generally stops at around 3 am when most of the clubs close – although you will find the odd late license during the festival that will keep you on the dance floor until 5 am if you have the energy! In terms of musical styles, you’ll find everything from nostalgic indie to house, R & B and classic pop. Each venue offers a range of different club nights so always check what’s on before you go.
There are a lot of Edinburgh dance clubs to choose from and so we’ve compiled a list (with details of them) for the discerning clubber. You’ll find most of the venues in the Old Town and some of them are underground in more senses than one.

The Liquid Room

The Liquid Room
The Liquid Room

This club is a bit more accessible than many of the crazier places in Edinburgh, but it still maintains its hip edge. Descend into the underground venue and you will find a massive dance floor with plenty of room to roam. Some of the best new bands on the scene take the stage here before their big break. Well known acts from Scotland and beyond are also regular performers. This venue has one of the most impressive sound systems in the country. Doors generally open about 7 pm for live music gigs. You’ll also find regular club nights with various themes from indie to dance music.

Lulu

Lulu
Lulu

If you like to get dressed up for a big night out and you’re looking for a trendy venue then Lulu on George Street might just tempt you. The club is underneath the popular Tigerlily and it features a classic Saturday Night Fever-style lighted dance floor. There are plenty of sofas and seating areas for a rest between dances and there’s also a VIP area and private rooms for hire. You will find the music is generally chart, house and R & B. It tends to get more expensive the later you go. Some people may find it a bit pretentious and it tends to attract a professional crowd.

El Barrio

El Barrio
El Barrio

El Barrio is a lively Latin themed bar, grill and dance club located in the heart of the city center, on Rose Street. The decor is rustic chic with a polished wooden floor, beautiful dark wooden tables contrasted with brightly painted panels and more sombreros than you could shake a stick at. The in-house DJs play a blending chart hits, club anthems and Latin and Hispanic tunes to create a heady mix fueled by their excellent mojitos.

Shanghai Club

Shanghai Club
Shanghai Club

The Shanghai Club nestles in the basement of an upscale boutique hotel, Le Monde. It has recently been refurbished and boasts a state of the art sound system as well as a variety of areas to fit your mood. The dancefloor is ringed by more intimate booths suitable for smaller parties. There is also a VIP area overlooking the dance floor, the more secluded and chilled Jaiding Lounge and a private bar which also offers karaoke packages. The music is generally R & B, Hip Hop, and Garage, but specific club nights offer a wider range of tunes.

La Belle Angele

La Belle Angele
La Belle Angele

La Belle Angele has been a fixture on the Edinburgh clubbing scene for many years. It burned to the ground in the disastrous Cowgate fire of 2002 and only reopened twelve years later in 2014. Since then it has gone from strength to strength, hosting club nights and live artists. The music is an eclectic mix of soul, rock, house, disco and almost everything else in between. The venue is small and friendly with an intimate dance floor and a great sound system.

Conclusion

Last but not the least and at the end here, we had a brief introduction of The Edinburgh City along with touching some of its prominent norms, culture, and nightlife. We also went through different activities and places to enjoy the nightlife of The Edinburgh City with the aerial view tour of the city, Musical venues, Bars and eateries as well. Such activities provide a great source of entertainment for tourists and locals. Moreover, such activities also help in understanding the true cultural norms of a city.

For your food cravings during the cocktail run, we also went through a detailed list of bar-restaurants which provide delicious and exotic food along with a touch of booze. This extremely delightful combination of food and booze really push the limits of Nightlife entertainment and add a great value to your tour.

We also established the diversity in terms of hotels, restaurants, and bars that the City offers. With that being said we went through the exotic options available over there. That led us to virtually visit some of the swankiest, finest, and renowned bars and restaurants of The Edinburgh City.

In view of the aforementioned paragraphs, make sure that you prepare for the trip according to the explained guidelines, so that you never miss an important event or place while visiting The Edinburgh City.

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