Edited by Holly Jenson
Known for our haggis. history and architecture, first-time visitors to Edinburgh may not realise that a vibrant and exciting night scene is hiding amongst our city’s winding streets. There are two main types of Edinburgh nightlife; the well-loved local pub crawl or dancing the night away in our huge selection of bars and clubs. Edinburgh has always been my home town and I know the streets like the back of my hand, so I’ve rounded up the best things to do in Edinburgh at night so you can be at the heart of the action when the city comes alive after dark.
The Cowgate is by far the best area in Edinburgh for nightlife. Once where cattle were brought into the city, these cobbled streets are now filled with underground bars, bouncing clubs and the locals’ favorite pubs. When flicking through an Edinburgh nightlife guide, you’ll see that lots of people recommend the club Hive - do not listen to them! This underground student club is always filled to the brim so there is no room to dance, and the local ne’er-do-wells like to hang around here. There are so many other places where you can experience the true Edinburgh nightlife. My favorite place on The Cowgate is Bannerman’s; a lively local pub with an amazing atmosphere. Their live music is an acquired taste (heavy metal) but there is always a buzz of people having a few drinks and enjoying themselves. This is the perfect place to have a relaxed Scottish whisky with friends and a local experience of one of the best pubs in the city.
One of the top Edinburgh night attractions is WhyNot Nightclub. Repeatedly voted the ‘best club in Edinburgh’, WhyNot has received 10 awards for its memorable nights out. With 5 quirky cocktail bars, an LED room and Edinburgh’s only late night outdoor area, there’s something here for everyone. You could enjoy a few colorful cocktails on the terrace before heading to the LED room for music that will keep you dancing all night long. The outdoor area also has some comfy chairs that you can slump into after an energy-fueled few hours on the dance floor. Playing a mix of pop hits and chart music, the DJ knows how to get you moving, you’re guaranteed a good night at WhyNot!
The classiest evening entertainment Edinburgh has to offer can be found in The Dome. The picture of elegance, you’ll be blown away by the décor as you enter the main foyer. Grand pillars line the room and you won’t be able to tear your eyes from the intricately painted ceiling. Whatever you’re looking for in Edinburgh at night, you’ll find it in here. With two restaurants, tea rooms and three cocktail bars all decorated to perfection, this is the perfect place to spend an evening being pampered in style. The Dome have the best Christmas lights in the city, you always know the season is here when they’ve put the tree up! I come every year to capture it in a photo, even though I’ve lived here my whole life. Sitting on fancy George Street, you can make your way to high-end wine bars and cocktail places to finish your evening, and maybe even have a peek in the designer shops. The Dome is the perfect location for a taste of luxury Edinburgh.
The Pink Triangle - LGBTQ Area
The Pink Triangle is so-called as all of the LGBTQ bars in this area form a triangle on the map (I know, we’re so original). One of the most fun things to do in Edinburgh at night is to take yourself on a tour of the triangle, on a pub or club crawl. Café Habana features cheesy music, drinks that won’t break the bank, and friendly staff who make this place feel like a home from home; perfect for a night to let your hair down. Planet offers some really fun Edinburgh evening entertainment; from drag queens to pub quizzes to karaoke, there is an activity here for everyone and always an amazing atmosphere. The Street is your whole night in one place; this gay pub serves casual drinks and traditional Scottish pub meals on the ground floor, and there’s a dance floor where you can boogie in the basement! You could start the night off with a hearty meal and one of their creative cocktails and then head downstairs to dance ‘til you drop.
A great place for a family experience of Edinburgh at night is the Omni Center. With a huge cinema and a variety of casual restaurants such as Nando’s, Filling Station, Frankie and Benny’s and Toni Macaroni, it’s the ideal location for a relaxed dinner and film evening. I would recommend getting dinner at the Omni Center and heading over to the nearby Edinburgh Playhouse. They always have a bunch of concerts, plays and theater productions on here, as well as pantomimes the kids would love. Sitting in a vibrant part of the city center filled with pubs, restaurants and activities, it’s the perfect place for an evening of fun and quality time.
The Royal Observatory
When you’re searching for what to do in Edinburgh at night, look no further than the Royal Observatory. What better way is there to end your day in a magical city than by gazing at the stars? You can tour the beautiful Victorian telescope and learn all about astronomy and the constellations you can see that night. The best part of the session is laying on the flat roof and staring at the heavens above, you really feel at one with nature. While you’re up here you can also have a really great view of Edinburgh at night, you can people watch the vibrant city below. Stargazing in such a historic building is an experience unique to our city and one of the best things to do in Edinburgh at night.
Often described as the best bar in the city, Pilgrim is one of the most popular Edinburgh night attractions. Their design is one of a kind, with the walls and bar area being made of suitcases alone. Old cinema seats, barrels and palettes make up the chairs and tables; it’s a great example of ‘hipster’ Edinburgh. To match their unique décor, they serve some tasty treats in here you won’t find anywhere else; haggis bites anyone? There’s a wide variety of cocktails and Scottish whisky available to wash down your burger and nachos, as well as a decent selection of beer and wine. Slide into one of the velvet chairs and watch the night go by, this place is always bustling and full of life; the perfect place for a few drinks with friends. If you’re in Edinburgh for a couple of days, it’s worth asking for their discount card, anyone can have one! Sitting on the Cowgate, you could also start your night here with a cocktail and a snack before heading to the other bars on the stretch.
Opium is one of my favorite places for the best Edinburgh nightlife. Known for its alternative music style, rock and indie are often played here, but all genres are welcome! Come along to one of their open mic nights to hear local artists play their own songs in unique styles. The crowd are always really supportive and there’s a genuinely friendly vibe in here. The bar serves up a good range of beer, whisky and wine at cheap prices, so you can have a chilled night with friend without worrying about the cost! Opium’s jukebox is a highlight of their bar, be ready for joyful locals jamming to their favorite songs! Enjoying a few drinks here with some live music is by far one of the best things to do in Edinburgh at night.
The No. 1 Kebab
When stumbling home from an exciting night at one of our clubs, pubs or bars, food may be on your mind. Fortunately for you, my friends and I know the best place in Edinburgh for your late-night appetite. Don’t judge a book by its cover, The No.1 Kebab is a humble establishment that just happens to be the best takeaway in the city. Perfect for pizzas, kebabs, burgers, and out-of-this-world cheesy chips, you’re not getting the full experience of Edinburgh at night without a trip to this place. I’ve been here so many times after the pub that I got to know the owner, the team are always friendly and up for a laugh. Sitting in the center of bustling Haymarket, this is also a really safe area for you to tuck in.
Pieman’s Late Night Bakery
If you’re feeling peckish on your way home from the bars but have already overdosed on cheesy chips, Pieman’s is the place for you. Just along from No.1 Kebab, this place is a true hidden gem of our city. Only locals know that this place is open from 6 pm to 5 am every night, the ideal time for your post-pub visit. Serving an array of hearty pastries such as sausage rolls, steak bakes, pies and maybe even a battered Mars Bar or two, you can also get a taste of Edinburgh’s food culture here. As you tuck into the crispy, golden treats, you’ll be warmed from the inside; it is comfort food at its best. Make a stop here on your way home from the Edinburgh night attractions, you won’t regret it!
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