Edinburgh | Eating, drinking and nightlife | Drinking and nightlife

Drinking and nightlife

Edinburgh nights are long and late, which is great news if you’re heading out. Nightlife in this town is humming, to say the least. So take your pick of our brilliant bars, pubs and clubs, and get ready to party!

A pint of the best beer in town

Craft beers

If you know your pale ale from your wheat wine, you’ll be ‘hoppy’ to know that Edinburgh is brimming with places to sup a speciality beer. First stop, The Holyrood 9A, a relaxed pub known for its gourmet beers ‘n’ burgers – that’s more than 15 tasty burgers and countless hand-crafted beers. Next, there’s The Bow Bar on West Bow, which serves cask ales, keg beers and more than 300 types of whisky. Also check out this pub’s sister venues – The Stockbridge Tap and Cloisters Bar, with the same discerning ethos.

The Hanging Bat on Lothian Road lays claim as the first UK bar to pooh-pooh the pint, insisting that smaller measures showcase the quality and breadth of different beers. The pub’s largely British selection is served with barbecued ribs, wings and hot dogs, and it holds regular tastings and brew days. The Potting Shed is a charming spot, offering rustic-style food alongside 18 rotating craft beers. Or, if you’re making a night of it, head to Usher’s on West Nicholson Street, which is open till 3am. Other worthy venues include BrewDog on Cowgate, a chain bar serving Scottish craft beers plus guest brews and homemade pizzas, and Six Degrees North on Howe Street, “the Belgian beer bar of Edinburgh”. Finally, there’s The Blue Blazer on Spittal Street, The Cambridge Bar on Young Street and Jeremiah’s Taproom on Elm Row.

Drinking the best cocktails


Step through some of Edinburgh’s beautiful facades and you’ll find a host of suitably elegant cocktail bars. Starting on George Street, Tigerlily is a boutique hotel and restaurant, where you can linger at the bar or else order your drinks from the after-dinner cocktail trolley. Bar G&V is another hotel venue, housed in what was Hotel Missoni and is now G&V Royal Mile Hotel on George IV Bridge. This five-star destination serves prosecco on draft and Tanqueray afternoon tea! Lurking beneath the same historic bridge, Under The Stairs is an altogether more relaxed vibe – quirky, arty, shabby – and we love it all the more. Dragonfly on West Port is an independent cocktail lounge with a 1920s feel, cosy little cubbyholes and DJs every weekend. Bramble on Queen Street also plays weekend discs, while this underground cocktail lounge is the first Scottish bar to hit Bartender magazine’s prestigious top 20.

For a lighter, brighter cocktail experience (check out the huge lampshades!), The WestRoom on Melville Place does potent concoctions as well as brunch, lunch and dinner, plus cocktail masterclasses on request. The Front Bar at The Dome is a vision of gold, glass and crystal, and a great place on George Street to watch the rugby with your rum! If you’re looking for digestifs, head to Bon Vivant on Thistle Street for your pick of after-hours cocktails.

A scene showing a typical gastro pub


Just as swanky new bars pop up across the city, Edinburgh stays true to its traditional Scottish pub scene, with too many gems to possibly list. The Jolly Judge is a starter, being a stone’s throw from the castle with low beams, log fire, real ale and fine whisky. Bennets Bar on Leven Street is another institution, still ornately dressed with stained glass and ‘jug bar’ where the women used to sit. Only down the road, and rather more modern, The Blackbird calls itself a café-bar and restaurant, winning a Scottish Style Award for its efforts. Top points for its beer garden, food and weekly live music. Head to New Town and you’ll be spoilt between two old-school beauties: The Guildford Arms and The Cumberland Bar are handsome Victorian gastropubs, serving quality nosh in stylish interiors and each with lovely gardens.

If you want to kick back, Brass Monkey on Drummond Street offers unfussy food and a super cosy back room showing afternoon movies! If you’re heading to Leith, try The King’s Wark for excellent food in a waterside setting. And, if you’re climbing Arthur’s Seat, be sure to wind up at The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston for a rewarding ale, view and game of olde skittles.
Finally, we recommend The Kilderkin on Royal Mile. It’s a good, proper pub, famous for its pizzas - we’re talking rabbit, crocodile and “Bambi” - and £1 pizza Monday!

A scene of people enjoying the best pubs and clubs

Clubs and live music

Behind many of Edinburgh’s most innocent looking doors, you’ll find a feast of live music and well-into-the-night clubs. Beneath Cowgate’s Central Library, for example, lurks The Bongo Club – an Edinburgh institution whose gigs range from funk to electro…everything but chart. On the same street, Sneaky Pete’s is a smaller but no less noisy affair, with a student-friendly programme and buzzy bar and dance floor. Another deceptive doorway gives you Lulu Bar on George Street, where the opulent setting offers VIP packages like queue jumping and table service.

The Liquid Room on Victoria Street has been around since 1997, combining intimate live shows with tribute nights and dance clubs. Studio 24 on Calton Road is a fellow city stalwart, devoted to local alternative music and an eclectic array of clubs. Perhaps the oldest timer in town is The Citrus Club on Grindlay Street, which plays indie and retro sounds with black walls and zero frills. We recommend The Hive on Niddry Street for an unpretentious mix of music, cheap drinks deals and free entry nights. Or try The Wee Red Bar inside Edinburgh College of Art, which is far from the student disco that its address might suggest. Lastly, there’s Cabaret Voltaire (atmospheric basement with craft beers and pizza); Lola Lo (Polynesian club with bamboo bar and cocktails); and The Jazz Bar (New York vibe with live jazz, funk and acoustic).

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