The capital of a country with a rich musical heritage, Edinburgh is a great place to experience some of Scotland’s best traditional music. We have selected some of the city’s best bars and folk clubs where you can catch traditional music sessions and listen to both old and contemporary folk tunes.
One of the most popular destinations for traditional music in Edinburgh, the world renowned Sandy Bell’s welcomes musicians and music lovers, offering folk music sessions seven days a week. In this small pub, locals and people from all over the world mingle as the music mixes with lively conversations. Every night of the week is different here, and the sessions vary in style: from Scottish and Irish folk music to blues and bluegrass. The place tends to get very busy, especially during the music sessions, so it’s recommended to get there a bit earlier in the evening.
Sessions at 9:30pm Mon-Sun; Monday 6pm-8pm beginners session; Saturday early session from 2/3pm to 6/7pm; Sunday early session 4pm-8pm. Times may vary.
Cocktails at The Blackbird | Courtesy of The Blackbird
This historic Scottish pub is, together with Sandy Bell’s, the other big name in the city’s traditional live music scene. Offering musical entertainment every night of the week, the pub is known for its folk sessions but also features other acoustic music styles. The Royal Oak hosts the Wee Folk Club every Sunday at 8:30pm with performances of renowned musicians from around the country. Come and enjoy a great selection of beer and whisky while you listen to music in the homely environment of this tiny pub.
Sessions at 9pm Mon-Thu; 6pm Friday; 2:30pm Saturday; 4:30pm Sunday.
Located next to the University of Edinburgh’s Old College, The Captains Bar is a traditional pub with folk music sessions every evening, which sometimes include other music styles. This small and cosy bar with friendly staff is a great place to come and enjoy a drink and some good music in the heart of the city. On Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday music starts at 9pm. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Sunday they start at 8:30pm, and they have afternoon sessions on Tuesday (3pm), Wednesday (4pm), Saturday (3:30pm), and Sunday (4pm).
It’s worth taking a walk down to the Leith area to attend the concerts organised by the Leith Folk Club every Tuesday evening at the Victoria Park House Hotel. Their events welcome a mix of locals and visitors who gather in a friendly and intimate environment to enjoy quality local and international acts. The club features folk, blues and country music from all over the world.
Located in the trendy neighbourhood of Stockbridge, The Antiquary is a traditional pub rustically decorated with wood furnishings, candles and stone walls that hosts open folk sessions at 8:30pm on Thursdays. The cosy cellar bar welcomes all musicians and singers to join their sessions. For those who would like to eat something before the music starts, they serve some great homemade dishes prepared using fresh ingredients from local suppliers.
The Edinburgh University Folk Society is great for student lovers of folk music or for those students who want to learn more about Scotland’s musical heritage. The society hosts a variety of activities during the week in the welcoming environment of their FolkSoc room in The Pleasance. They host a session on Tuesdays from 9pm to midnight. Other activities include the song group, tune teaching sessions, Manx sessions featuring traditional music from the Isle of Man, and a fortnightly session featuring tunes from all over Europe. Students definitely shouldn’t miss out on this friendly society.
The Black Cat Bar hosts traditional Scottish live bands and sessions on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9:30pm to 12:30am, and on Sundays from 4:30pm to 7:30pm. Located close to the main shopping street, Princes Street, and offering a great selection of Scottish whiskies, the tastefully decorated bar is a great place to kick back and listen to music after a day of shopping and sightseeing. The pub tends to get busy in the evenings, attracting visitors with its warm atmosphere and friendly staff.
Ideally located in the heart of the Old Town, the Whiski Bar offers traditional Scottish music most nights of the week in an atmospheric and carefully decorated space, with fairy lights, old pictures and exposed stone walls. Traditional bands play here from Monday to Friday and on Sundays from 10pm. The bar not only features Scottish music but visitors will also be able to choose from a list of over 300 malt whiskies and sample some traditional Scottish dishes, including their award-winning haggis. The friendly staff make all visitors feel warmly welcomed.
This spacious bar decorated with wooden tables and colourful chairs hosts folk sessions on Wednesday evenings. They offer a range of six Scottish craft beers which change regularly alongside other beers and drinks. The food menu includes some quality pub meals, including the traditional haggis, fish and chips and a range of burgers. This is the ideal place to come after work in the middle of the week. Relax in the laid back atmosphere of the bar with a meal and a beer as you see numerous musicians arrive throughout the evening to join the lively session.
The Edinburgh Folk Club is an organisation which has been promoting folk music since 1973. They organise weekly shows on Wednesday evenings. Their concerts are held in the Pleasance Cabaret Bar, and they include both local and international acts. The Folk Club is a great place to catch some good music surrounded by folk lovers – check their website for upcoming events.