Edinburgh doesn't have the party-time reputation of London or Manchester, but the festival-loving Scottish city offers plenty to do after dark. The center of town, around the Royal Mile and Princes Street, is usually the most active area for going out, although Edinburgh's other neighborhoods are filled with bars and pubs worth exploring. Leith and Grassmarket are particularly popular in the evenings, and Cowgate can be a good spot to find a pub. Whether you want a casual drink, a raging nightclub, or a night of theater Edinburgh has a variety of options when it comes to nightlife. Here's what you need to know to plan a fun night out.
Bars and Pubs
Edinburgh offers a mix of lively pubs and renowned cocktail bars, with an obvious focus on Scottish whisky in many of the bars. While clubs and bars can be open past midnight, most pubs call last drinks around 11 p.m., so plan your evening accordingly. Many locals opt to meet at the pub right after work for a few pints and then head home, and it's not unusual to grab a drink in the sunshine on a weekend afternoon.
Here are the can't-miss pubs and bars around town:
- The Bow Bar: Serving up cask beers and single malts, Bow Bar is a centrally-located spot in Old Town perfect for a casual drink.
- The Sheep's Heid: Those looking for some history should head to The Sheep's Heid, a classic pub that has supposedly been around since 1360.
- Panda & Sons: This barber shop-themed speakeasy makes for a fun night out, particularly if you like creative, well-made cocktails.
- Bramble Bar & Lounge: Located on Queen Street, Bramble Bar is one of Edinburgh's best cocktail bars. They also operate The Last Word and The Lucky Liquor Co.
- The Devil's Advocate: Set in an old Victorian pump station, The Devil's Advocate is a lively cocktail bar with a focus on whisky.
- Heads and Tales: Celebrate gin at Heads and Tales, an intimate bar that makes drinks with local ingredients.
Most of Edinburgh's nightclubs are clustered in the center of the city. Some of the clubs double as music venues and theaters, so always check the events calendar online before planning a night out. Clubs can stay open until 3 a.m., so that's your best bet if you're looking to party in the wee hours.
- The Liquid Room: This live music venue also holds club nights and tribute shows.
- The Voodoo Rooms: The Voodoo Rooms is equal parts bar, restaurant, and cabaret club, with live music and DJ nights.
- The Hive: Set in an underground cavern, The Hive is a popular spot for dancing, keeping things going until 3 a.m.
- Lulu Bar and Nightclub: Book a table at one of Edinburgh's more luxurious nightclubs, which is housed in a Georgian building.
- The Bongo Club: The Bongo Club has it all, from dance nights to theater to film. Check the calendar for upcoming events and residencies.
Scotland isn't known for its late-night dining, with most pubs closing their kitchens before 10 p.m. However, you can still find a midnight snack around Edinburgh if you know where to look. Most of the restaurants can be found either in the city center or in Leith.
- Kebab Mahal: Kebab Mahal, in Nicolson Square, is a legendary eatery among locals. It's a halal Indian eatery, serving up kebabs, curries, and pizza.
- Giuliano’s: Italian spot Giuliano's keeps it going until 1 a.m. every day of the week with an extensive menu of comforting dishes.
- Bar Napoli: Known for its late-night dining, Bar Napoli serves up Italian fare until 1 a.m. It's a quick walk from Princes Street, making it especially convenient for travelers.
Live Music and Festivals
Edinburgh is known as "Festival City" thanks to its many annual festivals, including the Festival Fringe Edinburgh and Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. It boasts tons of music venues, theaters and cabaret clubs, making it easy to find a concert or event on a given night. Many of the big festivals are all-day affairs, with both daytime and nighttime events, and the bigger ones, like Festival Fringe, can be quite overwhelming. Most of Edinburgh's festivals tend to be more about the arts than popular live music, but don't let that deter you from experiencing something new.
Some of the most popular venues for live music include Sneaky Pete’s, The Caves, The Liquid Room and The Corn Exchange. Each summer, Edinburgh Castle hosts a series of outdoor concerts known as Castle Concerts.
Thanks to its association with Festival Fringe, Edinburgh has a strong comedy scene, with plenty of venues to pick from around town. There are comedy shows on offer all year, but those hoping to really immerse themselves in the scene should come in August when the options during Fringe are endless.
- The Stand Comedy Club: With locations in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Newcastle, The Stand is one of the most popular comedy clubs in town, with a rotating lineup of stand-up comedians.
- Monkey Barrel Comedy: Seating 100 people, Monkey Barrel is an intimate spot that hosts both established and up-and-coming comics.
- The Edinburgh Playhouse: International comedians like Amy Schumer and Jack Whitehall frequent The Edinburgh Playhouse, which also features live music and theater.
- Festival Theatre Edinburgh: Another popular theater for big-name comedians, both Scottish and international.
Tips for Going Out in Edinburgh
- The legal drinking age in Scotland is 18, although those who are 16 or 17 years old are permitted to have a drink with a meal when accompanied by parents. Drinking outdoors is allowed and you'll see lots of people drinking in parks or outside pubs. It is not permitted to drink on public transportation.
- Tipping is not as common in Scotland as it is in the U.S. Most restaurants will include a service charge on your bill (usually 12.5 percent), but you're not expected to tip any further than that. Use your best judgment in bars and pubs. With good service or at a high-end cocktail bar, it's appropriate to leave a pound or two. Tips can be added to a credit or debit card payment in most spots, but it's helpful to have a little cash just in case.
- Some public transportation, including the buses, runs after midnight, however your best bet to get home late night in Edinburgh is a taxi or Uber. The most popular black cab company is City Cabs, which you can book in advance on their app.
- Those who don't drink alcohol can still have a great time out in Edinburgh. Many of the cocktail bars now offer non-alcoholic options, and because the theater and music scene is so strong there's always something to do that doesn't involve a pint or a cocktail.