Cool student bars
Aside from choosing your subjects, sorting out accommodation and meeting your new bffs, sourcing out a place’s best watering holes is a mandatory rite of passage. It helps to begin with finding that familiarity with Edinburgh’s main student night-out hotspots — think the Grassmarket and George IV Bridge, George St, Teviot Row and the Cowgate. For boozy conversations and alfresco moments, look no further than The Pear Tree, a popular student haunt suited to both cosy times by the fire and sunny days in the beer garden. Brass Monkey, BrewDog, The Cellar Monkey and The Blackbird Bar and Restaurant are also main contenders for relaxed pints. Panda & Sons can do no wrong with its cool cocktails and speakeasy essence. Those who appreciate a perfectly-crafted cocktail and good music will fall for Bramble.
Best clubs and places for live music
Glasgow may be the music city but Edinburgh certainly gives it a run for its money. Filled with boozy deals a plenty and wild rave vibes, Sneaky Pete’s, Opium, Cabaret Voltaire, The Liquid Room and The Bongo Club are all go-to options for nights free from unnecessary bells and whistles. Those who like to get dressed to the nines should gravitate to George St and the New Town area where you will find clubs like Lola Lo, Lulu, Opal Lounge and Why Not. A gem in its own right, The Jazz Bar is the kind of place you return to again and again — think spellbinding live music, sumptuous drinks, beatnik feels and cosy nooks and crannies. Sandy Bell’s is a local institution with an international following. This charming pub boasts an impressive range of real ales, malts and other liquid elixirs but the star of the show is the live Scottish traditional folk music most nights.
It’s true that Edinburgh has a bit of a name for being an expensive city to live in but don’t fear — we have the hyper-local tricks of the trade to see you through. First off, places like Ting Thai Caravan (vibrant Thai cuisine in a trendy industrial space), Edinburgh Larder (honest, locally and ethically sourced eats), The Piemaker (local pie institution with every kind imaginable), and Union of Genius (a pioneering soup kitchen with yummy bread, gluten free cakes and the full soup works) will become your new best friends! Oink (simple yet quality hog roast rolls from local farmers) and Broughton Deli (classic deli choices and top salads at fab prices) are perfect for on-the-go lunches, while Wings (wings, wings, wings in a cool pop-culture- themed setting) and Mosque Kitchen (mouth-watering Indian cuisine with fresh ingredients and relaxed vibe) will satisfy all culinary cravings. The jewel of all Edinburgh budget eateries is The Dogs, with its homey British dishes and effortlessly stylish décor. When sweet-tooth cravings hit, try Mary’s Milk Bar and S.Luca’s.
Fitness and fresh air
Whether self-confessed fitness fanatic or low-key gym bunny, Edinburgh caters to all kinds when it comes to fitness options. And a significant portion are totally free. Arthur’s Seat and its surrounding Holyrood Park, with its panoramic views, swan colonies and hidden ancient ruins, is a magical place for hiking, biking, running and walking. A horticultural wonderland awash with tribes of pretty plants, the Botanics is suited to restorative study breaks and gentle meanders. Beach wise, hit up Portobello Boardwalk or take a bus to Cramond and explore its beach, causeway and walks. A tried and true student haunt is the Meadows — this green space sees love all year round and caters to all sorts of pastimes from lounging and running to frisbee sessions, football and more.
Fun free things to do
Students are spoiled for choice with the range of stimulating free things to do. An otherworldly nexus where history, anthropology and innovation collide, the National Museum of Scotland is an ever-evolving cabinet of curiosity and dreamy space to get lost in thought. Between the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art and the Scottish National Gallery, art lovers can escape the trials of deadlines and presentations. And when it comes to festivals, there is literally something for everyone spanning the realms of the Fringe, including magic, science, books, film, gin, food, jazz and blues and more. Seek and you shall find!
The best shopping spots
For times when only retail therapy will suffice, head to the main shopping thoroughfares of Princes St and George St for all the high street names, complete with their life-saving student discounts. For something a little more customizable and out-the-box, try Armstrongs. This local vintage emporium boasts everything and anything — think James Dean cool denim, retro dresses, costume jewellery, leather, lace and cowboy boots — from all the memorable decades. Similarly, the city has some dynamite second hand and vintage shops.