The best pubs for live comedy fans during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Looking for a laugh during the festival? Here are six of the best bars for live comedy in Edinburgh.

Published 28th Jun 2017
Updated 8 th Aug 2023

The Stand

(5 York Place, EH1 3EB)


Picture: Edinburgh Blog\Flickr

The Stand is more than likely the first name that jumps to mind when thinking of live comedy in the city.

The mischievous cowboy logo has been drawing the capital crowds to comedy gigs since 1995 and it's one of the best places to go laugh the night away either during or outwith the festival.

With more shows than you can heckle at, The Stand is offers live acts every day during the festival and it will be rare for you to find a quiet night.

Raucous and lively, each night offers the chance to see everything from first timers cutting their teeth to old pros retreading the capital's well worn steps.

And if you are lucky, it's more than likely that some very well known comics might make surprise appearances to test out some of their newer material. Booking in advance is recommended.

The Banshee Labyrinth

(29-35 Niddry Street, EH1 1LG)


Picture: Isabelle Adam / Flickr

Lying close to the Royal Mile is this cracking little pub is well known for its live music and great atmosphere - as well as the story of the banshee that its named for.

It is also one of the best places in the city for some low-cost comedy, as performers go underground, with the bar's cavernous interior, to provide laughs for the many locals and guests who frequent this popular venue.

Last year they hosted comedians like Richard Gadd, winner of the 2016 Edinburgh Comedy Award for his show Monkey See Monkey Do, and it's sure to be one of the best places to unearth some hidden gems at this year's festival.

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Tickets are free, but are usually handed out on a first come first serve basis one hour before the start of shows.

For the Festival, the team say they usually have a surprise show with a famous name, with last year's being a daily performance from Seann Walsh, which led to them being very busy once word got out, so keep an ear close to the ground, or you know follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Pleasance Cabaret Bar

(60 Pleasance, EH8 9TJ)


It's safe to say that anywhere that's popular with students is sure to be a hotbed of nightlife, great music and of course live comedy.

Well in one of the city's most popular Fringe venues, that couldn't be more true as the Edinburgh University run Pleasance Cabaret Bar mixes drinking and laughs in equal measure.

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The university's own comedy society  are regular performers at the Cabaret Bar and the passion and vigour of the students will likely be the perfect way to whet your appetite for fun at this year's festival.

Similarly, the venue’s regular ‘Grassroots Comedy’ night is an ideal platform for other up-and-coming stand-ups and sketch groups to test and improve their material, and you might just discover the funniest Fringe performer months before anyone else.

Monkey Barrel Comedy

(9 Blair Street, EH1 1QR)


Picture: Monkey Barrel

Monkey Barrel is Edinburgh’s newest comedy club, situated on Blair Street just off the Royal Mile.

Open a year in December, the Barrel is another that runs shows every night of the week ranging from new act competitions to premier weekend bills featuring great circuit names.

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In August, the organisers say they'll be stepping up their operation, opening from 11am til 3am every day and running shows all day across two rooms.

In partnership with Fringe legend Bob Slayer and his Heroes of Fringe organisation they’ll be presenting acts such as Edinburgh Comedy Award winners John Kearns, Phil Nichol and Brendan Burns, as well as well known TV names like Phil Kay, Spencer Jones and Glenn Wool.

They also have what they say is one of the "best stocked bars in town" with a wide selection of craft beers, lagers and ciders on draft, in bottle and can, as well as a great selection of wines and spirits.

The Hive

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


One of the most notorious nightclubs in Edinburgh, The Hive is probably one of the last places you'd expect to find some top comedy acts but in fact it's a venue that will be offering its fair share laughs throughout the Festival.

Described as the "HQ of left field, alternative comedy", The Hive usually plays host to a lot of up and coming, and also established, alternative acts and is a great place to find shows that vary wildly from the norm. 

Comedy organisers Heroes of Fringe say this year, like the past few years, this famous venue will be "focusing on high quality, independent work that is not afraid to tread new ground".

So expect irreverent acts and absurd performances from comedians such as Al Pitcher, Ali Brice and Joz Norris.

It's also one of the best places for a cheap drink and a great night and best of all, it's open until 5am during the Edinburgh Festival.

The Three Sisters

(139 Cowgate, Edinburgh EH1 1JS)


Picture: Three Sisters

The Three Sisters is situated in Edinburgh’s Old Town which is a labyrinth of cobbled streets, narrow alleyways and hidden courtyards.

Also described as “The Free Festival’s answer to the Pleasance Courtyard” the huge bar and hotel complex is Edinburgh’s premier party venue and open from breakfast time until 3am daily.

The popular bar will host free Fringe shows in five performance spaces around the venue, while there are four large public bars, indoors and out, a large courtyard space to enjoy a drink outside.

There will also be a host of variable street food vendors, plenty of giant TVs screens including a huge 225” courtyard screen for live sports coverage and entertainment from live bands to DJs!

The free shows include a range of children, comedy and cabaret acts, and with everything free & unticketed you just have to show up at the door to enjoy the fun.

The Three Sisters is operating as part of The Old Town Free Fringe Festival – encompassing a number of venues throughout the city. Keep up to date with listings here.

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