Best Early Entertainment in Edinburgh

Early Edinburgh Entertainment That Won't Keep You Up All Night



Edinburgh is a vibrant lively city with a thriving nightlife, but you do not have to feel left out if you need to be tucked up in bed before the late night fun commences. Perhaps you have a young family, an early start the next day, or merely want to catch up on your beauty sleep. We have some treats in store which do not require you to burn the candle at both ends.

Edinburgh has a dazzling array of theaters and cultural venues to choose from, especially during the Festival. Some performances can run quite late, but most commence between six and eight pm and many venues also have matinee performances. For a less highbrow evening, why not head to the Cumberland Bar for their famous Monday night Pub Quiz. Every week the answer to one of the questions is “Belgium” – which is always shouted out loud by the locals.

There are a wide range of tours available for those who want to get to know the history of Edinburgh. Most run in the afternoon and early evening , leaving time for an early night or a relaxed drink afterwards. Mercat Tours offer a great selection of historical and entertaining tours, and their ghost tours finish well before the witching hour. If the weather is inclement, you could head to Fountianpark. With Bowling, a cinema, a casino and a variety of restaurants, a coffee house and a bar there is plenty to keep the whole family amused.

So, what are you waiting for? Have a great time, but make it home before your coach turns into a pumpkin!



The Real Mary King's Close
Photo courtesy of The Real Mary King's Close

This popular visitor's attraction takes small groups on an adventure into the depths of Edinburgh under the Royal Mile. Spooky tales and ghostly apparitions abound in this close (among them a ghostly dog, a weeping child and an anxious pacing man) which was sealed off centuries ago. The tour is led by costumed guides who are well versed in the macabre history of the warren of tunnels. Along the way visitors will also encounter actors portraying a number of the real residents of the close. The tunnels are atmospheric and a little claustrophobic, and you will learn much about the lives of ordinary people in Edinburgh over the ages.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The Last tour leaves at 9pm, so you can be out of the catacombs before the ghost come out to play

Simon's expert tip: The tour is not suitable for people with mobility issues and wheelchair users, and only children over the age five can take part

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Summerhall (formerly the Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies) is a creative hub for the arts with numerous studio and workshop spaces. As well as being one the the primary venues in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, it maintains a full program of exhibitions, workshops and events including dance, film, theater, and political and philosophical talks. Summerhall is host to I.D.S.T (if destroyed still true), a fascinating permanent multi-screen installation featuring a changing selection of moving images from established and up and coming cinematographers. There are also popular weekly clubs where children can learn to create their own animations. Summerhall also benefits from a lovely cafe bar.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: With an ever changing selection of exhibits and events there is always plenty to keep visitors amused at Summerhall

Simon's expert tip: Sign up to their newsletter for up to date information on exhibitions and coming events

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Fountianpark is a leisure center located close to Tollcross, not far from the city center. There is a Cineworld Cinema with numerous screens showing a combination of new releases and classic movies, and a high class Genting Casino with blackjack, poker and roulette. In the basement there is a well equipped Virgin Active Gym, and for the little ones there is a large Gambado Softplay area with its own dedicated cafe. The center also features a popular Tenpin Bowling Alley and a small amusements arcade. There are a wide range of refreshments available in the Starbucks, Nandos , Pizza Hut, Nachos Fiesta , and the Fahrenheit Bar and Grill as well as McCowans bar (which also serves good quality pub grub).

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Ten Pin Bowling is a fun activity for all the family and Fountianpark has a great selection of restaurants and other leisure activities

Simon's expert tip: The leisure center also hosts free seasonal activities and competitions. Check out their website for details.

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Edinburgh is a city of stories and legends, and this tour is a great way to learn the most unique tales. You'll get to stroll down the evocative lanes of this history-laden city while hearing about the Great Fire, the man who survived when a building fell on him, and much more. You'll see the small quirks that make the city unique and learn why they came to be, from native guides who know how to spin a yarn. A variety of tours are available including ghost tours and underground tours. The tours last between one and two hours and are always entertaining.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Mercat's "Ghost and Ghouls" tours run from 7 - 9pm and 8 - 10pm, leaving time to calm your nerves with a wee drink afterwards!

Simon's expert tip: The historical tours are packed with information; the ghostly tours are a bit more about entertainment.

Read more about Mercat Tours of Edinburgh →

Scotch Whisky Experience

There's a reason that Scotch whisky is world renowned - it's the best! Sampling Scotland's national drink is a must for visitors, so why not do it right and learn about what you are sampling? Funded by several big distillers, this tour teaches visitors about the history of whiskey, the way it is made, and the economic role the business has played. Though you'll pay a bit more, you can get a tour that allows you to sample five whiskeys and take a bottle home with you, just make sure you take the bus. The experts on hand can explain the aromas and flavors that you'll experience and they'll help you to find your own favorite.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: Tours at the Scotch Whisky Experienced run from 10 am to around 5.45pm (with some seasonal tours running a fraction later)

Simon's expert tip: The largest whisky collection in the world is not to be missed, buy a ticket beforehand and bring your ID.

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The Cameo Cinema is one of Edinburgh's best-loved independent cinemas. It has a comfortable, cozy bar and shows an eclectic mix of interesting movies. It was originally the King's Cinema and it is a stone's throw away from the King's Theater. It opened in 1914, so it's one of the oldest cinemas in Scotland. It became the Cameo in 1949, and in 1992 it expanded to become a three screen cinema. It is one of the venues for the Edinburgh International Film Festival where famous directors and actors come to talk before the premiers of their movies. It is a comfortable, relaxed place to catch a film and provides a real antidote to the typical multiplex approach.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: See the early show at the Cameo and you will still have time for dinner and a few drinks afterwards.

Simon's expert tip: The Cameo Bar is a good place for a pre-movie drink and you can even take it into the auditorium with you!"

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The Queen's Hall was originally known as Hope Park Chapel. It was built in 1823 and converted into a live music venue in 1979, with many of the original Georgian features retained. It has a beautiful auditorium with excellent acoustics which seats nine hundred people. The Queen's hall is the home of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, but during their busy touring schedule the hall also plays host to a wide variety of classical, jazz, blues, pop, rock, world, folk and comedy performances. It is also one of the main venues for the Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival. Whether it be a string quartet, a full orchestra, or a rock band, the Queen's Hall is a great venue for live music.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: You can enjoy live classical, jazz o folk music at the Queens Hall and still make it home before the witching hour.

Simon's expert tip: The Box Office for the Queen's hall is located right beside the hall itself. You can also get tickets online or by phone – but they do not accept American Express.

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The Cumberland Bar is hidden away in a quiet, cobbled street in the picturesque and historic New Town district of Edinburgh. The bar boasts a wide array of cask conditioned real ales, draft beers and ales, and bottled craft beers, but also has what few good beer bars in Edinburgh can offer – a wonderful beer garden. The interior of the bar is decorated in rich warm tones with wood paneling and features a huge real fireplace to warm revelers when the inclement weather drives them out of the leafy beer garden. This pub is a little off the beaten track for visitors to the capital, but well worth seeking out for the quality beers and the relaxed friendly atmosphere.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: The Cumberland Bar Pub quiz on Monday nights at 8.30pm is great fun, and does not run too late!

Simon's expert tip: Look out for Wells and Young's "Waggle Dance" beer, a real treat made with fair trade honey.

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Sandy Bell's is a world famous folk bar situated in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, close to the Royal Mile. Folk and traditional musicians travel from all over the UK and Ireland to take part in live jamming sessions in the afternoons and evenings. The pub opened in the 1920's and has hosted live music since the 1940's. A list of regular players reads like the "who's who" of traditional music over the last few decades – including Aly Bain, Barbara Dickson, Dougie McLean, Gerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly. Unlike most venues, the musicians and signers are not separated by a stage, making for a very convivial atmosphere.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: With afternoon and early evening sessions you don't have to be a night owl to enjoy traditional folk music at Sandy Bell's

Simon's expert tip: It has a very loyal local following and gets very busy during the Festival, so turn up early if you want a seat

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Edinburgh Playhouse

This grand theatre was originally a huge cinema and it opened in 1929, but it had a major refurbishment in the 1990s and is now one of the most popular venues in the UK for musicals and concerts. The Christmas shows are popular, but there is also a steady season of dance shows and musical theater. It seats over 3,000 people, which makes it one of the largest theatres in the country in terms of audience capacity. You'll find it at the top of Leith Walk in the east end of Edinburgh and there are lots of lively bars and restaurants nearby.

Recommended for Early Entertainment because: For some culture in the afternoon, enjoy the matinee performance at the Edinburgh Playhouse

Simon's expert tip: You can book refreshments ahead of the performances so that you can dodge the quest at the intermission

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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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