The Best Clubs and Nightlife in Edinburgh

4042 is one of many excellent nightlife options in Edinburgh
4042 is one of many excellent nightlife options in Edinburgh | © 4042
Photo of Suzy Pope
20 June 2019

From late-night ping-pong halls to swanky clubs, there’s plenty of nightlife in Edinburgh to keep you entertained well into the wee hours.

When the sun goes down over Edinburgh, a world of subterranean clubs, ceilidh dancing and raucous live music bring the city to life. There’s no shortage of bohemian boozers for those on a shoestring student budget, while the swanky, chandeliered venues of New Town create a perfect stage to splash your cash.

Wind, rain and cobbled streets don’t stop the people of Edinburgh from partying. Dig out your dancing shoes, and prepare for a braw (good) night on the lash at these best clubs and nightlife venues in the Scottish capital.

Cheer on local bands at Sneaky Pete’s

Music Venue
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2. Sneaky Pete_s - Neon Waltz credit Nick Stewart
Sneaky Pete’s hosts local bands almost every night | © Nick Stewart

This live music venue in the heart of the Cowgate may be small, but it packs a noisy punch. Local gigs shake Sneaky Pete’s foundations nearly every night of the week, with brilliant up-and-comers making their mark (past performers have included Biffy Clyro and Frightened Rabbit). Club nights usually kick in after gigs have finished, so you can carry on dancing before the sweat dries on your forehead.

Party underground at Cabaret Voltaire

Nightclub, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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Burrowed in the depths of the Blair Street vaults, Cabaret Voltaire (or ‘Cab Vol’ as it is known to regulars) has been keeping revellers cutting shapes for over a decade. Parties here are the stuff of post-apocalyptic dreams, set in an underground cellar that was once Edinburgh’s seedy underbelly. The grand arched, stone vaults make for perfect acoustics, reverberating sets from Scotland’s top DJ talent. The entrance fee and drink prices are easy on the wallet, making this a popular student hang-out.

Lap up luxury at Lulu

Nightclub, Cocktails, $$$
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3. Lulu_s - Main Bar
Lulu is a swanky venue | © Lulu

Amid the swanky shops and bars of George Street (Edinburgh’s answer to Chelsea), Lulu is a decadent slice of luxury. Cocktails and bubbly are the order of the day, with full-on magnums of champagne served on ice. For the full VIP treatment, request to be put on the guest list, or book a private booth with table service. You’ll be in good company, as the likes of Dizzee Rascal, Zara Phillips and even the Prince of Monaco have been spotted partying here.

Play ping-pong at 4042

Nightclub, Beer, Cocktails
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4042 offers late-night drinks and ping-pong games | © 4042

Behind Usher Hall lies 4042 – a fun, late-night alternative to clubbing named after its address (40-42 Grindlay Street). Here, you can play games of ping-pong until 3am, with beer and cocktails to fuel your serve. The walls are stripped back to their old tile work with metal beams on show, giving it an industrial feel. There’s a small dance floor if you fancy a boogie and the occasional DJ set that focuses on old-school hip-hop and R&B.

Experiment at The Mash House

Music Venue
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This live music venue is a hit with the student crowd, hidden down an alley between the Cowgate and Chambers Street. Once inside, patrons will find it is spread over three floors, with a dedicated live music area and loft-style bar. Lively club nights focus on electronica, fusion music and multi-genre experimentation, making this beloved club just the right side of eccentric.

Dance, dance, dance at The Liquid Room

Music Venue
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Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. 12th October, 2017. Amber Run, British band from Nottingham, UK performs on stage at The Liquid Room in Edinburgh. Pictued: Joshua Keogh.Pako Mera/Alamy Live News.
Amber Run performs at The Liquid Room, Edinburgh | © Pako Mera / Alamy Stock Photo

Two fires haven’t stopped The Liquid Room from rising phoenix-like from the ashes, firmly remaining an Old Town favourite since 1997. The stage has been graced by the likes of the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers and Teenage Fanclub, with gigs selling out fast. Fridays see popular indie club night Propaganda kick into gear, where you can rock out on the massive dance floor.

Sing your heart out at Supercube

Music Venue
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Live out all of your pop-star fantasies in the karaoke rooms of Supercube on George Street. Cosy booths are decked out with plush leather seats and (thankfully) soundproof walls so that you can screech away to Whitney Houston at the top of your lungs without fear of embarrassment. A call button brings an alcohol delivery to your room, so there’s no need to waste a single second of song-time queueing at the bar.

Laugh out loud at The Stand Comedy Club

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9. The Stand Comedy Club is a perfect place to laugh the night away
© The Stand Comedy Club

The Stand Comedy Club is an Edinburgh institution, seeing the likes of Billy Connolly, Stewart Lee and Al Murray grace its stage since opening in 1995. The venue’s late-night comedy shows are a great way to experience good-hearted Scottish banter, especially if you take a front-row seat. Just remember that in Scotland, an insult means they like you.

Chill out inside OX184

Bar, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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Those who enjoy a quieter spot for a late-night tipple will appreciate this Cowgate hang-out. Four floors of post-industrial chic make OX184 a roomy and atmospheric place to drink. There’s a huge selection of craft beers on offer (which groups can share a whole gallon of), with a generous choice of non-alcoholic drinks for the designated driver. In winter, a roaring open fire tempts you to stay for just one more glass before closing time at 3am.

Visit the budget-friendly Wee Red Bar

Nightclub, Beer
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The Wee Red Bar is perfect for those night owls on a budget | © The Wee Red Bar

This bar is the ultimate student hideout, concealed within the grounds of Edinburgh College of Art. Events are scheduled nearly every night of the week, with entrance fees, tickets and drink prices coming impressively cheap. True to its creative form, nights here are a little less than ordinary; expect DJ sets inspired by cult TV shows and regular fancy dress nights.

Get arty at The Bongo Club

Bar, Beer
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Main bar from main room end
The Bongo Club is a must-visit for art lovers | © The Bongo Club

Electronica, funk and reggae keep The Bongo Club’s regulars bobbing their heads throughout the week. It was founded by Out of the Blue, a creative organisation that turned Edinburgh’s derelict buildings into studio art spaces. True to its roots, the venue is covered in street art and hosts art installations and spoken word nights. Cheap mid-week drink deals make it ideal for the budget-conscious.

Listen to Scottish folk music at Ghillie-Dhu

Pub, Beer, $$$
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Discreetly located inside an old church, Ghillie-Dhu hosts wild nights with a distinctly Scottish flavour. During the week, live Scottish folk music rocks the main bar from 10pm. The real fun starts on Friday and Saturday when people come to dance through one of Edinburgh’s largest public ceilidhs. Once the rigs and jigs finish, a DJ sees you through to last orders.

Imbibe boozy cabaret at The Voodoo Rooms

Nightclub, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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12. Voodoo Rooms
The Voodoo Rooms offers dining, drinks and live entertainment in its lavish interior | © Suzanne R Livingstone

The Voodoo Rooms is a sparkling, golden spectacle, decked out in garish kitsch decor. It is a popular spot for a post-work drink, manned by award-winning bartenders who know their way around a cocktail. Dance nights provide something a little spicier, celebrating samba, jazz and Brazilian funk. Alternative nights out include pub quizzes, magic shows and boozy cabaret nights.

Enjoy the laid-back atmosphere of Eastside Edinburgh

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Out of the ashes of Opal Lounge comes Eastside – a late-night hang-out with a festival atmosphere. Street-food stalls, a craft-beer vending machine and a free pool table make it a great place to spend a relaxing evening. There’s no designated dance floor, but frequent disco and house DJs encourage you to dance where you stand, craft beer in one hand, hipster hotdog in the other.

Fantasise at The Pop Up Geeks

Bar, Beer, Cocktails, $$$
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13. Pop-up Geeks - credit_ SJS Photography
The Pop Up Geeks offers a different theme every three months | © SJS Photography

If you’ve ever wanted to step into a scene from Game of Thrones, Stranger Things or The Walking Dead, visit The Pop Up Geeks. Every three months, this micro-bar in the arches of Waverley Station reinvents itself around a different pop-culture theme – complete with a food menu and cocktails to match. The ‘Blood and Wine’ theme took revellers straight to the Seven Kingdoms, while ‘There and Back Again’ started an unexpected journey to Hobbiton.

If you love the nightlife, check out our guide to the best bars in Edinburgh.
This is an update of a piece by Tori Chalmers.

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