Edinburgh's night life: A tourist's guide

We have named some of Edinburgh's top nightclubs and late night bars for those wishing to appraise the city's famous night life.

Published 29th May 2017
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

Edinburgh's bars and clubs are the stuff of legend and for good reason.

To understand why, you must wander through its cobbled streets and enter some of its most acclaimed watering holes. A wealth of choice and opportunity await the eager socialite in Scotland's fair capital.

To narrow down those options we have provided you with a beginner's guide to get you more familiar with Edinburgh's best pubs and clubs.

Cabaret Voltaire 

(36-38 Blair St, Edinburgh EH1 1QR)

Edinburgh's clubs
Picture: Trip Advisor Traveler

A nightclub, bar and gig venue on Blair Street, Cabaret Voltaire (Cab Vol) makes for a decidedly odd and eccentric night out in Scotland's capital.

Cab Vol's club hosts local and international DJs of varying tastes and their bar holds regular events to entice punters to stay around for the club nights.

Every Friday night in the bar is Domino Club with Funk, Hip Hop and Soul, while House, Disco and Techno drum through Cab Vol's re-purposed vaults on most nights.

The interior is a marriage of the old city architecture and modern furnishings, making it one of the more impressive in terms of its aesthetic value.

You haven't truly visited Edinburgh until you've had a cocktail in an underground vault.

Sneaky Pete's

(73 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1JW)

Ubiquitous Chip announce Christmas food and drink menu - including festive cocktails and cosy roof terrace


A small, sweaty, cramped, utterly exhilarating slice of fun in Edinburgh's Cowgate, Sneaky Pete's is unapologetic in what it is - and that is a claustrophobic madhouse of drinking and dancing.

Its appearance is edgier than a 90s comic book villain, with its logo spray painted on its steel front door, and even though the venue is meant to hold 100 people, it fills to capacity ludicrously fast.

It's the nightclub equivalent of a perpetual moshpit and that's what makes it so fun.

Live bands play on the stage although seats are difficult to obtain due to the venue's size. The bands are all underground artists and the genres vary indefinitely from Alt-Rock to Disco.

20 of the best food and drink advent calendars for 2023 - from gin and whisky to cheese

Friday's are one off specials, with live performances  from bands and DJs.

First Saturday's bi-monthly are “oddball house, techno and electronics” and the second Saturday of each month is the “all you can eat mind buffet” which includes but is not limited to Afro, Funk and Hip Hop.

If you're a fan of hipster-esque underground music and love to sweat with strangers under strobe lights, this is your place.

The Jazz Bar

(1A Chambers St, Edinburgh EH1 1HR)

Picture: www.thejazzbar.co.uk

Unlike its contemporaries, the Jazz Bar on Chambers Street does not try to please everyone. It hosts Jazz, Blues, Acoustic, Roots, Funk, Soul and Electric gigs and knows how to please those music fans who enter its doors.

Ardbeg to release limited edition Anamorphic whisky

The venue, which has won several major awards including “Music Pub of the Year” in 2009 and “UK Jazz Venue of the Year” in 2010, is a very popular live music club among locals young and old, and the online nightly itinerary is updated frequently.

The Bar's atmosphere is warm and welcoming, its interior is gorgeous and it isn't too big at a 140 capacity. It's worth a look if this vein of live music appeals to you.


(4, India Buildings, Victoria St, Edinburgh EH1 2EX)

Picture: espionageedinburgh.co.uk/venue/

A large nightclub situated on Victoria Street, Espionage has five floors and several bars, booths and dance floors to accommodate its numerous customers.

£1.99 drinks at the weekend mean it is perfect for students and bargain hunters alike, and then there is karaoke on Fridays for when those drinks kick in.

Their VIP Kasbar now hosts a new bi-monthly LGBT night called lip line and if you're a member of the aforementioned community or just enjoy the atmosphere of LGBT bars, CC Blooms on Greenside Lane might also be of interest to you.

Espionage is big and bombastic and might be for you if you're looking to save money and still squeeze a good night out of that tight wallet.

Why Not

(14 George St, Edinburgh EH2 2PF)

Smack dab in the middle of the city centre on George Street, Why Not is particularly popular with a younger crowd.

Boasting Edinburgh's only late night outdoor garden, the club has several themed rooms such as the LED room and the Grey Goose Lounge, all of which are available for private hire.

This is very much a, sit-at-a booth-with-your-friends-and-order-some-bottles kind of nightclub.

Looking magnificent on the outside and slick and polished on the inside with opulent decorations an an abundance of bright lights, the club is also littered with alcoves and booths designed for intimacy with your friends.

The drinks lists boasts some hefty price tags admittedly, though this does not seem to hamper the clubs popularity. If you like spacious and modern clubs then try Why Not, at least for its namesake.


(125b George St, Edinburgh EH2 4JN)

Picture: www.luluedinburgh.co.uk/

In a similar vein to Why Not albeit a little less fiscally frightening, Lulu is set in an old Georgian house on George Street and has a modern feel with decadent interior décor.

There are booking packages available - as there are with most other mainstream nightclubs on this list - and they are fairly reasonable in terms of price considering they can host up to six people.

Each night has a theme, for example Thursdays are guilty pleasures - old songs that people hate to love - and Friday nights are reserved for party nights in the form of Buddha. It's a good night out, and if you're a fan of the mainstream club scene then Lulu is a good start upon coming to Edinburgh.

El Barrio

(47 Hanover St, Edinburgh EH2 2PJ)

A Latino nightclub on Hanover Street, El Barrio is a fun experience, especially upon meeting actual Latin residents of the city who are naturally quite jubilant in showing off their culture.

The club exudes a good feeling, the music is energetic and infectious, meaning that if you don't dance here then you probably won't dance anywhere. There are also free Salsa classes on Fridays and Saturdays if you're thinking of becoming a regular.

The mojitos are excellent and the atmosphere is electric. The drinks are affordable and the staff are friendly. If you've never been to a Latino club and you're curious, this is a great place to begin.

Whistle Binkies

(4-6 South Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1LL)

Picture: Greg Macvean

A late night bar on South Bridge, Whistle Binkies is open every night until 3am and house up to 6 live acts at the weekends.

The music is eclectic in nature, the drinks are standard pricing and the ambiance at the weekends is extraordinary.

Live music is the main selling point of this bar, so if you play and want to see if you could get into the line up or if music is merely a hobby and you want to take centre stage on their open-mic nights, Binkies is the place to go.

It has a classic aesthetic and is built into an underground vault in South bridge, the “caves” are little booths that have actually been built into the side of the famous South Bridge vaults.

Binkies is a historic place and somewhere that must be seen while you're in the capital.

The Hive

(15-17 Niddry St, Edinburgh EH1 1LG)

Picture: The Hive Facebook

No list of Edinburgh nightclubs would be complete without The Hive.

Located on Niddry Street, it is open every night until 3am and until 5am during the Edinburgh Festival.

This brought about the immortal phrase “hive 'til five” as it is immensely popular at this time of year.

Its name fits its design, as the club itself is divided into separate chambers and rooms, not unlike an actual beehive.

It has themed nights every night of the week, such as “Mixed Up Mondays”, and entry is free on weekdays. The music correlates to the theme of the night, though the more commercial sounds usually pervade the weekends nights.

The drinks are relatively cheap and its atmosphere defies description, you really have to experience The Hive to understand it, it is the definitive student night out.

Whether it is your usual scene or you'd rather a more calm evening, I'd recommend you go and experience it for yourself.


Journalism intern at The Scotsman. 21. Student at Dublin City University. Born in Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, Ireland. Currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland. Lover of arts, culture, lifestyle and news. All views expressed are my own.
Copyright ©2023 National World Publishing Ltd
Cookie SettingsTerms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy
crosschevron-down linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram