When it comes to going out, Edinburgh caters for both elegant old-schoolers and hip young rockers alike. The nights here are long and late, which is great news if you’re planning to leave your Edinburgh hotel for a night on the town. But where should you head? Check out our rundown of the best nights out in town and get ready to party!
Nightlife in Edinburgh
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. But while craft beer places are springing up all over the place, the city stays true to its traditional Scottish pub scene, too.
The Jolly Judge is a great starting point on any pub crawl. Just a haggis toss from Edinburgh Castle down a side alley just off the Royal Mile, it’s worth tracking down if you fancy tucking yourself away for an hour or so in a cosy, traditional inn. You’ll find low beams, log fire, real ale, fine whisky - and the warmest of welcomes.
If you’re climbing Arthur’s Seat, be sure to wind up at The Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston. There’s been a pub here since 1360, making it the oldest surviving licensed premises in Edinburgh, if not Scotland. It’s still packed with history and a great place to stop for a rewarding ale or some pub grub, plus there’s a stunning view and you can even play a game of skittles in one of Scotland’s few remaining skittle alleys.
Craft brew fans will love The Hanging Bat on Lothian Road. Close to our Edinburgh Central (Lauriston Place) hotel, it was 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.
Scottish pub scene
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 that include 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 Barinside Edinburgh College of Art, which is far from the student disco that its address might suggest.
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. Handily sited on the corner of the Royal Mile and George IV Bridge, Bar G&V is another five-star destination, only this one 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 cubby holes 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 West Room 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.