Best Nightlife in Edinburgh

Drink, chat, dance, laugh and party the night away in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is a real party city and you can dance and drink into the wee small hours. During the Festival in the summer, the lively atmosphere brings the night to life and late licenses allow the party to go on until the sun comes up. There is also no shortage of quiet, welcoming and comfortable pubs where you can enjoy a peaceful pint and a good conversation.

It has been said that Edinburgh has more pubs per square mile than any other city in the world and in the middle of the city that certainly feels true. There are many great real ales pubs, but Cloisters is one of the best. Cut from the cloth of an abandoned church it has a delightfully irreverent air and a very convivial atmosphere.

If you have your dancing shoes on then there are quite a few night clubs that cater to different tastes. You can find rock and indie options or go for a retro disco feel, pop or some solid techno for a good dance. Cabaret Voltaire is always lively and serves up a wide range of music to get your feet tapping.

Whistle Binkies is a great venue to enjoy live rock or folk music. The brick-lined booths at the back of the pub are snug and intimate while the dance floor is wild and boisterous.

Come and join the party with our list of great Edinburgh nightspots.


The Hive
Photo courtesy of Simon Hill

This labyrinth club is very popular with students and it offers a couple of dance floors and several bar areas. It tends to be very cheap in comparison with most of the other clubbing options in the city but it is also loud, crowded and sweaty. The music is a mixture with an occasional live performance but generally, you'll find pop and chart, indie and electro, rock and metal or drum and bass so check what's on before you go. It does get raucous so it definitely won't be to everyone's taste but it's good for a fun-seeking group on a budget.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The atmosphere in this labyrinthine club is great and the dance floor always jumping.

Simon's expert tip: If you go out, be prepared to be herded into a small designated smoking area. Don't argue with the bouncers.

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Henry's Cellar Bar
Photo courtesy of Simon Hill

Henry's Cellar Bar is perhaps best associated with jazz and blues but is actually home to a much wider variety of musical styles. It is one of the capital's lower-cost venues and only has a small stage and fairly basic d├ęcor so it is less likely to host the big-name acts you would find at other venues. However, this fact is easily balanced by the intimate friendly atmosphere, the reasonable cost of drinks and the much more eclectic range of acts that perform here. Unlike many city center venues, there is often no charge at the door and there is also a real sense of community.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Henry's has a friendly atmosphere, a wide range of live music acts and reasonably priced drinks.

Simon's expert tip: The website is not very well developed, but half the fun is turning up on the night to check the blackboard outside the bar to find out who is playing.

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Despite its ostensibly traditional exterior and unassuming decor, the Auld Hoose is not the run of the mill pub you might at first expect. For a start, it lays claim to the title of Edinburgh's only alternative pub with a juke box that covers punk, goth and metal music. It also hosts an impressive selection of malt whiskey and ales, and the bar staff is more than happy to chat about the merits of each with patrons. They also serve above-average food, including a plate of nachos that is the subject of many rave reviews. The end result is a friendly, laid back atmosphere with an impressive soundtrack which is bound to please any lover of independent music.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Fans of independent and alternative music will love The Auld Hoose.

Simon's expert tip: The Auld Hoose's nachos deservedly have the reputation of being the biggest plate of nachos you are likely to find in the capital. Don't eat for a day or bring some very hungry friends.

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Boda Bar
Photo courtesy of Simon Hill

This small pub on Leith Walk has a slight Swedish flavor. It is cozy, welcoming and has a bohemian feel and a lively atmosphere. You'll find the clientele very friendly and chatty. The music is generally very good and they are open to requests. You also get a good selection of drinks and some unusual bar snacks. If you want a comfortable pub with real personality then Boda Bar is a great antidote to the pub chain feel. Around halfway down Leith Walk this is off the beaten track for most tourists but with some great eateries down at The Shore, it's the perfect place to stop off for a cheeky pint or shot on the way down from town or the way home.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Boda is a warm and friendly bar which hosts loads of fun events to entertain its loyal fans.

Simon's expert tip: There are lots of fun events on at Boda Bar and even occasional live music so check out their calendar before you visit.

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This small venue can be found in the Edinburgh Art College and it offers a mixture of indie nights and live gigs. It may be small but it's also cheap, comfortable and has a great student vibe although it is not restricted to students. If you want indie or rock at knockdown prices and you don't mind a lot of students then The Wee Red Bar is worth a visit. There's a good range of club nights on here so if you pick the right time you'll find everything from punk to acid house. If you get here before midnight then you'll find entry is even cheaper, in fact, this is a great club for anyone on a budget.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Wee Red Bar is cheap, frenetic and very good fun - and not only for students!

Simon's expert tip: Check out The Egg every Saturday night for a vibrant mix of indie, 60's garage and soul, 70's punk and new wave.

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The Stand is dedicated to live comedy. Local hopefuls fill up the open mic nights and young comedians cut their teeth on the diminutive stage. On other nights the Stand is host to some of the biggest names in comedy. During the Edinburgh Festival, the venue is awash with comedy gold and stays open extra late to accommodate festival goer's apparently insatiable thirst for laughs. As well as an eclectic mix of acts (on a standard night you will see four sets) the Stand also serves reasonably priced drinks and pretty decent pub grub.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Whether you're taking a punt on an unknown act or going to see a big name comic, the atmosphere at The Stand is always great.

Simon's expert tip: Smart punters arrive early and secure one of the small number of tables, they guard them with their lives.

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Whistle Binkies
Photo courtesy of Simon Hill

Whistle Binkies is a cavernous bar that offers live entertainment seven nights a week. Descend the steps from the Old Town and you'll find yourself in a large bar with a few private seating areas carved out of the rock. Whistle Binkies hosts folk, country, rock, and blues bands, with an occasional comedy act. Don't be surprised if you run into a local folk musician that you just heard playing up the street because this is a favorite hangout of local musicians after their performances. It is open until the wee small hours and it generally gets very busy towards the end of the night.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Whistle Binkies has a lively and exuberant atmosphere and hosts a wide range of live music acts.

Simon's expert tip: Get here before midnight on Friday or Saturday and entry is free, you'll also find drink promotions every day before 8 PM.

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This classic, dark wood-lined pub has a laid-back appearance and a laid-back staff to match. It used to be a church, hence the name and the ecclesiastical tone of many of the fixtures and fittings. Now it is the backdrop to the worship of real ales, craft beers and whiskey. It's a welcoming pub with a lively conversational atmosphere helped by the lack of blaring music. As well as an excellent range of beers, ales and spirits revelers can enjoy some rather good tapas-style food and a generous Scottish breakfast on Sundays. Located at the edge of the Meadows, Cloisters is popular with students, real ales devotees, tourists and a loyal band of locals.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Cloisters is a great place to enjoy great beers, great food and fine conversation.

Simon's expert tip: If you hate loud music in bars then Cloisters is for you, it never has any music.

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This club is one of the busiest in the city and it attracts a really diverse crowd of fun-seekers. Descend down the staircase into the underground venue and you'll find a massive dance floor with plenty of room to roam. Some of the best new bands on the scene took the stage here before their big break. Well known acts from Scotland and beyond are also regular performers, but this venue isn't all about live music, there are plenty of club nights. This venue has one of the most impressive sound systems in the country. Doors generally open about 7 pm for live music gigs.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: The Liquid Room has an excellent sound system and hosts an eclectic mix of live music and club nights.

Simon's expert tip: The smoking garden out back is a good place to cool off and have a chat if you need a break from the music.

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Just off the Royal Mile, Cabaret Voltaire has long been one of the best underground dance clubs in Edinburgh. With a string of popular DJs playing sets to packed dance floors, it has always been a popular venue with locals. A friendly atmosphere and great music made it one of the top choices for most clubbers in the area. With a warren of cavernous caves, a plethora of comfortable booths, surprisingly reasonably priced drinks, and a great chill-out room, it ticks all of the boxes for a great night out. It is open from noon and offers a stylish bar environment with club nights running until 3 AM.

Recommended for Best Nightlife because: Cabaret Voltaire always has a great atmosphere and the drinks are very reasonably priced.

Simon's expert tip: If someone big is playing you can expect long queues so get there early to avoid disappointment.

Read more about Cabaret Voltaire →


Meet Simon Hill

Simon has lived in various corners of Edinburgh over the last 18 years. He fell in love with the city as a small child after visiting the castle and returned to study Scottish History.

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