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Not only that, it’s downright difficult to find a reliable Edinburgh clubbing guide which regards every night of the week as an opportunity to hit the dancefloor.
For precisely this reason, I put my research goggles on, started pestering lots of people for tips and hints and even cracked out some of my own pathetic Saturday Night Fever-esque dance moves to offer you a comprehensive, Monday to Sunday Edinburgh clubbing guide covering a multitude of musical genres and night scenes!
We have an insatiable appetite for fun in this country. You might not find every dancefloor packed on a Monday or Tuesday night but rest assured that there is an establishment out there playing your style of music to a dance floor of revellers burning off their haggis and black pudding suppers.
I want to make this simple and to-the-point so you have more time to get out there and have some fun. Simply follow the links or scroll down to the genre that interests you most, work out what day it is and read about where the party’s at.
We’ll start off with Edinburgh’s classiest establishments then move onto the best club nights in Edinburgh for students before looking in detail at clubs which offer an eclectic mix of music. There are quite a few options for fans of Indie Rock and alternative music. I’ll tell exactly where to go and when for the complementary genres of Pop, Dance and R’n'B before we descend into the vaults of Edinburgh for some Underground beats.
The Up-Market Scene
If you’ve got itchy feet on a Monday evening, head over to Lulu at 125b George Street. Their club night ‘Decadence’ does exactly what it says on the tin. Expect to see Swarovskis embedded in the walls and a beat-responsive dance floor. Doors open at 9pm and it won’t cost you a dime to get in before 10pm.
The place to be on both Tuesdays and Wednesdays (in fact, any day of the week if you love the place) is the Opal Lounge at 51a George Street. Frequented by celebrities (including the Sugababes, Kate Moss and Prince William, of all people) the Opal Lounge is generally regarded as the place to be seen in Edinburgh. Expect to pay 5 at the door on a Tuesday in return for a range of reasonably-priced drinks promotions.
Expect lots and lots of ‘Chambles’, an extremely potent mix of Champagne, Red Bull and Vodka, on Wednesday nights at the Opal Lounge. Be warned! 2 or 3 of those and you’ll struggle to climb the four steps back up onto George Street! The resident DJs are highly adept at fusing hip-hop, r ‘n’ b and party hits to keep you dancing till the wee small hours.
Indigo Yard at 7 Charlotte Lane near the West End of Princes Street is a lovely little bar and restaurant. Enjoy some cracking cocktails and have a good blether with your friends. With the weekend looming large you might not be able to resist the lure of the numerous classy clubs around the corner on George Street. Oh, and you can do it all al-fresco during the summer months. Perfetto.
Below Stairs at 16 Picardy Place is one of the newest and most stylish clubs in Edinburgh. Let’s put this into perspective. They serve cocktails in hip-flasks and faberge-style eggs. The club also has a canopy covered outdoor section with cane furniture and shisha pipes. The doors open at 10pm and you must be over 21 to enter.
Scott Granger, one of Scotland’s leading Djs, regularly works the decks at Shanghai, at 16a George Street. He has remixed tracks for many top R’n'B and Dance artists and is therefore worth the 10 entrance fee alone. Shanghai will transport you to the Far East for the night and certainly will not disappoint.
Quite spiffing Sundays
A quite spiffing way to round off a hard week’s partying (you did go out every night, right?) is to sample a couple of Dragonfly’s cocktails at 52 Westport. This award-winning retro hideaway near the Grassmarket boasts a whopping cocktail list and highly-trained barstaff who will come to your table with their ideas and recommendation. It’s certainly not a nightclub, but hey, it’s God’s day, take a break and enjoy this sumptous cocktail bar. And with that, you have your up-market Edinburgh clubbing guide!
For all you insatiable students…
It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but one cannot deny that Monday’s student night Why Not at 14 George Street is mighty popular. 5 for a student might seem a little steep but this is George Street and you can expect decent drinks promotions once you get in. The great thing about George Street is that if somewhere doesn’t quite take your fancy, you are literally a stone’s throw from the next place. Le Monde is next door and the Opal Lounge is on the other side of the street, for example.
One of the most unique aspects of the Shanghai nightclub at 16a George Street is the fact it hosts one of the best student nights in town despite its lofty position at the classy end of the Edinburgh night scene. Enigma is understandably a huge hit amongst students who can soak up the buzzing atmosphere of Edinburgh’s sole example of Chinese nightlife in exchange for a few pieces of silver. No Edinburgh clubbing guide would be complete without it.
In a similar vein to Shanghai, the ‘Mansion’ night at Below Stairs at 16 Picardy Place enables students to party, drink and dance at cut-price rates at one of the city’s most up-market clubs. Mansion has gathered quite a following and is considered to be one of the rising stars of the Edinburgh night scene. Doors open at 10pm and keep in mind that the dress code is ‘dressy’. That means no trainers, hoodies or South Park t-shirts.
The HMV Picture House on Lothian Road is one of the oldest and most impressive venues in the city. Locals will remember this venue as Century 2000 and then Revolution. Nowadays, the Picture House is host to top-class musical acts and club nights. On Thursdays, the ‘Octopussy’ night offers drinks for as little as 1 and they also have a bouncy castle. Yes, a bouncy castle. Recipe for a beautiful disaster!
Unforgettable Fridays and Super Saturdays
When it comes to the weekend, out-and-out student nights are few and far between for obvious reasons. However, mainstream clubs such as City at 1a Market Street and Stereo at 28 King’s Stables Road offer excellent drinks promotions at the weekend at certain times. In fact, if you are on a tight budget you will be able to find at least one or two drinks which are on offer at most bars and clubs over the weekend. One thing which is difficult to avoid however are the high entrance fees. As always, try to get there before midnight for lower entrance prices and drinks promos!
Quite spiffing Sundays
To wrap up the Edinburgh clubbing guide for students let me say that Lava/Ignite’s student night on a Sunday remains the most popular student night of the weekend by quite some distance. The club is situated just off Lothian Road at 3 West Tollcross and is the largest club in Edinburgh. Lava/Ignite consists of many separate areas, bars, dancefloors and balconies which is relatively impressive on the eye. On a Sunday when the students are in town, you can expect to find a queue stretching back around the corner into the next street. A packed Sunday night at Lava/Ignite can be quite an experience and won’t set you back much at all.
An eclectic mix – for those who want it all…
To start off the Edinburgh clubbing guide for those who like to mix it up, let’s look at Why Not at 14 George Street. Although Mondays at Why Not are intended for students looking to start a grinding week amongst the books with a bang, you won’t be turned away at the door if you’re not a student, as long as you arrive early enough. You’re guaranteed an eclectic mix of music as the DJs seek to please students with varying musical tastes. It costs 5 to get in and the doors open at 10pm.
While being a predominantly student-oriented night, Tuesday nights at Shanghai at 16a George Street are also very popular among non-students keen to take advantage of the cut-price entrance fee and numerous drinks promotions. Edinburgh’s ode to Chinese nightlife is regarded as one of the classiest spots in town at weekend charging a whopping 10 for entry. Tuesday night is therefore a great opportunity to experience what is an impressive nightclub and soak up a mix of easy-going house music and mainstream classics.
The Hive at 15 Niddry Street just off the Royal Mile gets its name from its somewhat beehive-like appearance. The low arched stone ceilings create an intimate, sweaty atmosphere especially when the club is full and the numerous separate sections and alleyways give the club an interesting layout and the scope to have a different vibe in each room. On Wednesdays the clubs runs a night called Bangers and Mash playing anything from Pop to Dance to Rock to Trance to Sesame Street. Entry is free before 11pm and 3 thereafter. Their drinks promotions are also very generous.
The first day of the week at Ponana at 43b Frederick Street is Thursday. Set slightly below ground in cavernous vaults in the New Town, Ponana has become one of Edinburgh’s most popular clubs in recent years. The dance floor at the rear of the club is one of the most intimate and electrifying I’ve experienced. On a Thursday the doors open at 10.30pm and it will cost you 5 to get in. A crazy cocktail of House, Electro and mainstream chart hits is the order of the day. Consult the bar staff for drinks promos including the deadly Jaegerbombs…
The Hive at 15 Niddry Street (see above) also runs an extremely popular and reasonably priced night on a Friday called ‘Misfits’. If you get there before 11pm you’ll get in for free and most likely avoid the lengthy queue which builds the later it gets. After 11pm it will cost you 4 to get in which is reasonable for a Friday night considering there are many great drinks offers available inside. As with every night at the Hive, expect a very diverse range of music. The Hive is the most eclectic club in Edinburgh.
So where do I start with Electric Circus? This place has become very well-known in the Edinburgh area for its uncompromising approach to the karaoke-bar concept. On the left side of the building you will find a number of karaoke ‘booths’ (small padded cells) where you and your friends can perform your rendition of a dying cat. After someone cracks out that song from Titantic, head next door into the bar/club area for some live music, a drink and a dance. Electric Circus is the type of place that tries to offer it all and somehow pulls it off. Be warned that the karaoke booths should be reserved in advance and are not cheap…although that probably won’t deter the groups of wannabe divas.
Quite spiffing Sundays
While intensely popular amongst the student population, the ultra cheap night at Lava/Ignite on a Sunday attracts a significant number of non-students due to its multi-area layout and impressive mix of musical genres. On a Sunday, you can expect Pop and cheese upstairs on the beat responsive dance floor, Dance and Trance on the main dance floor downstairs and R ‘n’ B in the back room. Oh, and expect a monster of a queue out the front when the students are in town. My tip – get there early on! The doors open at 10pm.
Indie Rock and Alternative Music
I believe it’s fitting to start the Edinburgh clubbing guide for rockers with the old stalwart that is Opium, at 71 The Cowgate. Opium has always been and most probably always will be one of the most popular Rock and alternative music joints in this city. So why Monday you say?? Well, Opium is open every night of the week and it’s always free to get in, so why not on a Monday!! If you like your spirit mixers and Jgerbombs, you’ll be happy to know they are regularly on offer. Oh, and they have a jukebox. Spiffing.
There’s a reason why I’ve suggested three different nights at The Hive in this Edinburgh clubbing guide. The setting, inside vaults in the Old Town is very Edinburgh, it’s always dirt cheap and their eclectic music policy keeps people coming back for more. On a Tuesday they specialise in every aspect of the Rock genre, whether it’s Classic Rock, Modern Rock, Metal or Punk. I can imagine a couple of warm-up drinks at Opium in the Cowgate and a two minute walk up the hill to the Hive would be a rocker’s dream.
Interestingly, Espionage at 4 India Buildings, Victoria Street, tends to divide the masses. It seems you either love it or you hate it. The bar/club is laid out over 5 floors in an old building not far from the High Street. Espionage tends to be very popular with tourists and foreigners which lends a real multicultural feel to the place. Each floor has a slightly different vibe which enables various events to take place on each floor. In the top bar there’s a karaoke night on a Wednesday at 9pm enabling you to show the world (or at least the Old Town of Edinburgh) what you can do.
The recently renovated Liquid Room at 9 Victoria Street has been a local favourite for around 10 years. It will be interesting to see how the locals react to the club and live music venue’s new look. Thursday’s ‘Scream’ night will please fans of Electro, Dubstep and House and also those operating on a showstring. If you do in fact have a great time at the Liquid Room, keep an eye out for upcoming gigs featuring some of the world’s greatest acts. The Liquid Room will always be a special place for me having seen the wonderful Suede there many years ago. Unfortunately Bernard Butler had left the band by that time…
There aren’t many places where you can hear Showaddywaddy, Michael Jackson and Bachman Turner Overdrive on the same night. You will not be disappointed by The Citrus Club at 40 Grindlay Street does not disappoint when it comes to musical diversity. If you can get there before 11pm, you’ll get in for absolutely nothing while latecomers pay 6. If you grew up in either the 70s, 80s and 90s you’ll hear some tunes that will take you right back to your golden years.
El Barrio at 119 Rose Street is the place to go if you’re the proud owner of Latin hips. This cracking little latin club is unique in the fact that they blend Latin music with Pop and chart hits while also offering free salsa beginners classes at 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays! Throw in some mojitos or any of their cocktails for that matter and you’ve got a fairly high-octane Saturday night! What’s more – it’s free to get in.
Quite spiffing Sundays
Got a guitar? A washboard? Any kind of instrument? Espionage (see above) runs an open mike night in their top bar starting at 9pm. If you’ve had enough of listening to the professional rock stars and fancy cracking out a few of your own tunes, this is the night for you. Once your performance is done, you can spend time with your adoring fans and groupies exploring the 5 floors Espionage has to offer.
Pop, Dance and R’n'B
Espionage at 4 India Buildings, Victoria Street, runs an R ‘n’ B, Hip-Hop and Dancehall night every Monday. If this is your musical preference, why not get the week off to a swinging start? It’s free to get in and drinks offers start at 1.50. Espionage aims to promote the freshest tracks from the R ‘n’ B genre and hand the decks over to Edinburgh’s best up-and-coming DJs.
The infamous ‘Flirty’ night at Stereo, 28 King’s Stables Road, is based on the unique concept of text-flirting. Upon entering the club you are provided with a ‘flirt’ number with which you can flirt and be flirted with. The messages are then displayed on the screens around the club. If this is not your thing/is too much hassle/you don’t have a phone…strut your stuff on the dance floor to a slick mix of R ‘n’ B, Hip-Hop and chart hits and don’t forget to check out the ber-white ‘white room’ on the second floor. If you are a student, entry is free before midnight and 2 thereafter. For everyone else it costs 4, however, most drinks are 1 all night. Not bad at all…
To be completely honest, seeing as Vodka Revolution at 30 Chambers Street is open every night of the week and has a varied music policy centering around the R ‘n’ B and Pop genres, you could turn up there any night and have a great time. In this Edinburgh clubbing guide, I’ve suggested Vodka Rev for a Wednesday, however, because it’s ‘Steak Night’ and who doesn’t like affordable steaks? Vodka Rev has a bar and restaurant on the ground floor and a pulsating bar with a dance floor downstairs. Oh, and it is always free to get in!
Ponana at 43b Frederick Street runs a cracking Thursday night to start off your 4-day weekend (if you’re that lucky…). Party hard on the tight, intimate dance floor at the rear of the club to your favourite mainstream chart hits but expect the DJs to weave in a solid dose of House and Electro as well. The arched stone ceilings really give you the impression you are in a grotto full of treasure. For many, that treasure will be the Jgerbombs that are on offer at the barthroughout the night. Doors open at 10.30pm and the entrance fee is 5.
City at 1a Market Street is extremely popular on a Friday night amongst those looking for all things Pop, Dance and R ‘n’ B. You can get in for 2 before 11pm which is pretty darn good for a Friday night and you’ll be greeted by a decent selection of drinks promotions inside. City is one of Edinburgh’s biggest and most modern clubs and boasts an impressive layout with numerous levels podiums, balconies, nooks and crannies.
Relax in the upper lounge, chill out in the vodka lounge or grab yourselves a booth next to the dance floor. Vodka Revolution (see above) has all that and more. You could treat yourselves to one of the meal offers upstairs in the restaurant before heading downstairs to the main bar and dancing area. If you are a vodka connoisseur, don’t forget to check out the vodka lounge in the back area. Keep in mind that this bar/club hybrid closes at 1am. Don’t let this deter you however. If you want to keep going, the night clubs City, Stereo and GRV are within walking distance as is the Cowgate and the Grassmarket!
Quite spiffing Sundays
As this section of the Edinburgh clubbing guide is all about Pop, Dance and R ‘n’ B, I would absolutely no qualms about putting forward Lava/Ignite as your clubbing choice for Sunday night. Yes, it is very busy. Yes, the vast majority of the revellers are students. Yet it is bafflingly cheap and has a separate area devoted to each of our musical genres. If you’re in need of some cheese, head upstairs. Fancy an epileptic light show on the Dance and Trance dance floor? Head downstairs to the main arena. Want to relax with a drink and some chilled-out Hip-Hop beats? The back room is for you. Just make sure you get there early to make sure you get in. When the students are in town, it’s extremely popular.
Underground/House – welcome to the vaults…
To wrap up the Edinburgh clubbing guide, those looking for a taste of the grimy underground scene have to…well…get underground! The Old Town of Edinburgh is full of vaults where people once lived, worked and died; many of which are now used for ghost tours, bars and clubs. Changed days! The Underground music scene in Edinburgh is dominated by Cabaret Voltaire at 36 Blair Street, which is open 7 nights a week and The GRV at 37 Guthrie Street.
As is the case with most underground, alternative and live music bars and clubs, the program at The GRV and Cabaret Voltaire is often subject to change and one-off events are common. Therefore I recommend consulting the websites of both clubs to find out exactly what is going on.
On Fridays at The GRV you can expect Techno, Electronica and Dubstep starting at 11pm. Entry usually costs 3 before midnight and 4 thereafter. The GRV is also able to host gigs, DJs and various club nights at the click of a finger. The excellent sound system, stage, creative bar area and air conditioning are all almost brand new.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays at Cabaret Voltaire it’s free to get in all night long. The Tuesday DJs specialise in Drum and Bass whereas Thursday’s ‘Sick Note’ club tends to be slightly more expansive, covering Electro, Indie, Bassline and House. At the weekend the Cabaret Voltaire runs a number of different club nights which tend to take place monthly or fortnightly. It will cost you significantly more to get in at the weekends, typically between 5-10. However, in return you will be entertained by some of Scotland’s most talented Underground and House DJs.
As I prepared for a night out at the alluring Club Retro, I adorned my peppiest summertime dress, (1950′s trimming included – I contemplated wearing frilly socks but decided it may have been a step too far) thinking that I’d be a smash hit at a club where retro reigns supreme. I was ready to jump, jive and wail. Boy oh boy was I wrong! (Seize the soda pop swing dancing).
Retro is the new metro apparently, as the line outside Lonsdale Streets Club Retro revealed. My hopes were high and my hem line was low… and the girl in front of me was wearing a dress that only just covered what her Mumma gave her. Where’s a pair of scissors? Was it too late to cut out the Sound Of Music style sentiments and replace it with a bit of cleavage? As the bouncers waved us in and I heard the hymns of Hanson I realised that yes, yes it was. I had been wooed into a sense of peppy security by the wording of ‘Retro’ in Club Retro.
Shattered fragments of my expectations set aside, the line to get in was fast moving, and although there was a mix up with guest lists, the door men let us in with a cheaper entry fee regardless.
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I was bubbling with excitement as the train pulled into Richmond Station and revealed, for the very first time, The Precinct Hotel. Unlike most bars in town, none of my friends or I had ever been there before, and so I only had only a loose collection of words to go by: ‘dance floor’, ‘big bouncers’ and ‘expensive’. The Best Bars In Australia – Transport Bar, Melbourne, Australia – Review
There is nothing intimate about Transport bar, especially on a Friday night. Just like the rest of Federation Square, where the popular haunt is situated, Transport is all hard lines, and hard surfaces, an expansive den of glass, steel and concrete in industrial shades of grey. But the only thing cold about the bar, is the drinks. Melbourne’s Best Bars – Precinct Hotel – Review
I was bubbling with excitement as the train pulled into Richmond Station and revealed, for the very first time, The Precinct Hotel. Unlike most bars in town, none of my friends or I had ever been there before, and so I only had only a loose collection of words to go by: ‘dance floor’, ‘big bouncers’ and ‘expensive’.Maybe they felt sorry for my naive interpretation of retro as retro, not retro as metro, and let me in with a tinge of sympathy? Who was I to care. I was in, and two shots of Russian vodka later I was singing to a Backstreet Boys remix at the top of my lungs.
The bar service was quick and easy, and the bartenders sleazy, just as many of my dance floor acquaintances were. Usually fast bar service burns a hole in the wallet, but with standard drink prices and nothing more, the only hole being burnt was the one on my tongue after yet another Tequila.
The ladies bathroom was easy to locate in a drunken haze, just as realising that the reason why all those girls let you use the spare cubicle before them was because there was no lock on the door, and no toilet seat either.
Descriptions of dunny time set aside, I managed to use the run down cubicle and cut out a fifteen minute wait in an echoing chamber of “If you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my friends” (cue Spice girls squeels).
Club Retro is split up into three levels, all comprising of girly retro tunes spaced out with Rhianna and Keyo (or is that Neyo?) beats.
Club Retro provides a great night out if you enjoy reliving the 90′s and nothing more nostalgic.
For a club which prides itself on the very word ‘retro’, the vibe is young, and despite some other retro misconceptions, I am relieved to see that there are no war veterans sitting by the bar. Although, if there were, maybe I would have actually been hit on? I did have a very literal interpretation of retro after all.
Like any good reviewer I’ll give you a few little tips to make sure the evening is complete. If you plan to enjoy the super styling’s of Rats! There’s a few things to consider. Firstly be prepared to have a big one, drinks are pub prices. Beer on tap, drink specials and reasonably priced spirits, all ingredients for disaster. Which leads me to my second point, toilet space for ladies is three toilets for the whole venue. Be prepared to line up and endure pointless conversations with randoms. And lastly if you want to even get in, make sure you pull out some vintage digs, we’re talking anything from 90s varsity jackets, to lace blouses and bowties. This is not a venue marketing themselves on commercial appeal, they prefer maintaining a slight edge to the patrons they let in.