There are few more atmospheric cities anywhere in Europe after dark than Edinburgh. Steeped in potent folklore, the opportunity for nocturnal escapades in the historic Scottish capital comfortably rivals the potential for daytime fun, with the city taking on a fresh persona once night falls that both captivates and entertains all who encounter it.
Whether it’s visiting the city’s myriad comedy or cultural venues, exploring its historical landmarks away from the thronging crowds, or getting your drink on in one of its famous watering holes or whisky bars, you’ll quickly discover that Edinburgh is truly a 24 hour destination – and one that will leave you with magical memories that never fade.
Gaze at the stars
For an alternative night out in Edinburgh, an Astronomy Evening at one of Edinburgh’s most venerable institutions – the Royal Observatory – is hard to beat. Anyone curious about the mysteries of the cosmos can come and hear intriguing stories, explore the venue’s beautiful Victorian telescope dome, and then stargaze outside on the flat roof (weather permitting). Sessions are kept to group sizes of no more than ten people, ensuring an intimate and engaging environment for everyone. Sessions last for 1 hour and are available throughout the year.
LOCATION Royal Observatory Visitor Centre, Blackford Hill
Laugh ’till you drop
The annual Edinburgh Festival has helped make the city one of the world’s comedy capitals, and no venue has played a more central role in this heritage than The Stand. Over the years the comedy club has played host to some of the world’s finest funnymen and women, offering an intimate space for performers to unleash their mirthful magic on audiences. There’s a regular programme of comedy acts throughout the year here, ensuring there’ll be something for you to enjoy whenever you visit.
LOCATION 5 York Place
Sink a wee dram (or three)
Edinburgh is blessed with a huge choice of watering holes and one of the finest is The Bow Bar. This atmospheric real ale and whisky bar in the heart of the city centre stocks hundreds of single malts, as well as cask conditioned ales and keg beers. The bar snacks are a major draw too, with handmade artisanal pies the perfect way to line the stomach. Another popular haunt is the Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar & Shop, home to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s headquarters. A refined, relaxed restaurant and bar (when not being used for official duties), the range of whiskies here is superb, including exclusive single malts, rare expressions and bespoke whisky cocktails. Or if you want to get a taste of Edinburgh’s all-encompassing drinking culture in one fell swoop, you can join an Edinburgh Pub Crawl, which offers the chance to sample several of the city’s best old town bars across one fun-packed evening.
The Bow Bar
LOCATION 80 West Bow
Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar & Shop
LOCATION 28 Queen Street
Delve into Edinburgh’s history
Edinburgh Castle is a magical place to explore at any time of day, but wandering around its historic environs after dark lends an added frisson of wonder and excitement. Central to the venue’s after-hours programme is its one-of-a-kind Knight at the Castle event, which sees the castle transformed into a multi-coloured, neon-lit fantasy world featuring live musicians, DJs, street performers a pop-up shop, delicious food and cocktails, the chance to meet historical characters dressed in traditional attire, and plenty of hands-on activities.
For a nocturnal taste of the broader city beyond the castle, you can also join an evening Edinburgh Walking Tour, which takes in many of Edinburgh’s nooks and crannies, including its eery underground vaults. Tickets can be bought at Viator.com.
Catch a flick
One of Scotland’s oldest cinemas that’s still in use, The Cameo dates back to 1914 and in more recent years has developed a reputation for showing the very best in art house movies. Each summer it also serves as an important venue for the prestigious Edinburgh International Film Festival. It’s everyday use, however, is as a hugely popular form of escapism for locals and visitors alike who come and snuggle in their seat to watch anything from brand new blockbusters to time-honoured classics to lesser known flicks straight off the independent art house production line.
LOCATION 38 Home Street
Soak up some culture
The UK’s largest working theatre in terms of audience capacity, the Edinburgh Playhouse is one of Edinburgh’s most iconic cultural venues. Playing host to a vast number of touring musicals and music concerts throughout the year, it offers visitors to the city a superb chance to soak up some top class theatre in a beautiful, ornate setting. Another great night-time cultural activity takes place at the National Museum of Scotland which hosts regular Museum Late events in the shape of after-hours, adults-only parties, exhibitions and performances, complete with drinks, dancing, live music and other special activities.
LOCATION 18-22 Greenside Lane
National Museum of Scotland
LOCATION Chambers Street
Hear a yarn over dinner
There’s nothing quite like a well-told Scottish yarn. Add into the mix a sumptuous slap up dinner and you have the makings of a top notch evening out in Edinburgh. The Scottish Storytelling 3 Course Dinner and Whisky event invites you to feast on traditional fayre while hearing about the icons that symbolise Scotland and how they came to be part of the national character and culture, as well as tales of Saint Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, all in the cosy confines of a dining room close to Edinburgh Castle. Tickets can be booked via GetYourGuide.com.
Get down and funky
Hidden behind the grand walls of a classic Georgian building on Edinburgh’s famous George Street is Lulu, a tub-thumping 21st-century nightclub and late night lounge. Against the backdrop of blue velvets, cut glass lighting, and a state of the art backlit wall, revellers gravitate here in their hundreds each night to listen to the hottest DJ sets playing anything from the latest chart hits to RnB, soul or jazz. Lulu also hosts Guest DJ nights throughout the year.
LOCATION 125b George Street