Edinburgh Student Venues

Feature | 10 Sep 2012


1. The Stand Comedy Club
It might not look like much from the basement steps outside, but The Stand is the undisputed permanent residence of Edinburgh comedy. The schedule is always packed with big-name comedians as well as up-and-comers, and their Red Raw beginners’ night is the place to go for undiscovered and brand-new talent, or to try your hand yourself if you’re feeling saucy.
5 York Pl 01315587272

2. The Playhouse
The Playhouse is the Edinburgh outpost of London’s West End, playing host to touring theatre and musicals, as well as enormo-gigs from the likes of Dara O’Briain and Dylan Moran. Student matinee prices and a healthy number of cheap seats make it a reasonable option when you tire of the clubs, and its location in the heart of town means that skipping all the way home after Mary Poppins is eminently doable. 
18 Greenside Pl 01315243333

3. Bedlam
An entirely student-run operation and home to Edinburgh Uni’s excellent improv comedy group, this ramshackle but endearing space hosts some seriously classy student drama, with performances greedily gobbling up star-streaked reviews and award nominations during Festival time. It’s also home to Bedlam's in-house 'Fat Cat' café, a chilled space wallpapered in old theatre memorabilia, with mismatched wooden tables and squishy armchairs in which to sample some of the best home-baking in town.
11B Bristo Pl 01312259893

4. Cameo Cinema
As noted for its atmosphere and period charm as for its varied programming, the Cameo screens a whole host of mainstream hits, arthouse fare and cult classics across its three screens. The cosy bar and homely foyer give the place a glow of old-school movie magic, and their student tickets are some of the cheapest around. Look out for their all-night horror marathons, one-off music screenings and the regular film quiz. 
38 Home St 01312282800

5. Dominion Cinema
In the student suburb of Morningside, this family-run cinema blends Hollywood fare with nostalgic pomp and circumstance. It can seem a little on the pricey side, but it’s well worth checking out for two reasons; the outrageously comfy leather seats, and the complimentary snacks rolled into the ticket price. A far cry from your average multiplex.
18 Newbattle Ter 01314474771

6. Filmhouse
From challenging European cinema to Woody Allen and Alfred Hitchcock retrospectives, 70mm screenings of Alien to 3D showings of Pixar’s latest, the Filmhouse truly shows it all. Their £2.60 Friday matinees are unmatched anywhere in the city, and offer students the chance to experience everything the world of cinema has to offer for less than the price of an underwhelming supermarket sandwich. 
88 Lothian Rd 01312286382

7. Traverse Theatre
Widely considered to be the top writing theatre in Scotland, ‘The Trav’ is the place to go for exciting new productions by the country’s best theatrical talent. As well as producing, Traverse plays host to a whole range of visiting theatre groups, and runs regular workshops and Q&A sessions for those of you looking for a bit of inspiration or advice on your journey to theatrical stardom. 
10 Cambridge St 01312283223

8. The Royal Lyceum Theatre
With a look and feel that takes you back to the golden age of theatre, the Lyceum hosts companies from across Europe as well as putting on eight of their own shows a year. Nestled alongside the Traverse and behind the Usher Hall, the grand old theatre offers student tickets from just a tenner, keeping the glamour and drama well within the student price range. 
30 Grindlay St 01312484848

9. Collective
It’s been on the go for a quarter of a century, and Collective still looks to promote challenging and powerful visual work. With local and international art on show, Collective is always looking to bring new work to the art community’s attention, and to start a debate. And if you decide that art isn’t your thing but end up there anyway, they also sell some rather funky t-shirts. 
22 Cockburn St 01312201260

10. Fruitmarket Gallery
The Fruitmarket Gallery is hard to miss, as you tend not to see too many all-pink buildings in the Old Town. It’s just as well, as missing out on the world-class contemporary art, compact but well-stocked shop and brilliant downstairs cafe just wouldn’t be right. With free exhibitions taking in everything from painting to light installations, the Fruitmarket isn’t just hard to miss but difficult to get away from.
45 Market St 01312252383

11. Superclub
An artist-led gallery that doubles as a working studio, Superclub is one of the best places to go to get a handle on the Edinburgh art scene. Their independent approach, coupled with the wide range of art that they promote, make the Superclub gang one of the most broad-ranging art groups around. When you’re done looking at the art, take a gander at the shop to see what the rest of the art world is up to. 
11 Gayfield Sq 07834907639

12. Edinburgh Printmakers
The clue is in the name: Edinburgh Printmakers make prints. Besides the making and teaching of lithography to all comers, Printmakers run regular exhibitions by artists from all over. Their window into the print studio from the exhibition space gives a first hand look at the craft for any interested art students, and the shop is the place to go for ideas on elaborate parental bribes in exchange for actually studying.
23 Union St 01315572479


1. Joseph Pearce's
By day, Joseph Pearce’s is a relaxed Swedish café on Leith Walk with free Wi-Fi, top-notch coffee, home-style food and kooky decor. By night its a bohemian bar with a great mixed crowd, powered by aquavit-based cocktails and Swedish cider. Entertainment comes from the regular art exhibitions, live music, DJ sets, and a weekly jogging club.
23 Elm Row 01315564140

2. Brass Monkey
In the heart of the student-centric Southside, Brass Monkey blends reasonable prices and a great location with a truly unique atmosphere. Much of that atmosphere comes from the mini-cinema in the back room, packed as it is with comfy mattresses and enormous cushions. Daily films at 3pm make this a great place to while away the hours between lectures, with a vibe that might make you reluctant to leave.
14 Drummond St 01315561961

3. Brauhaus
Brauhaus offers more beers than you ever thought existed, and when Oktoberfest rolls around their selection grows even bigger. The staff know their stuff too, and will happily talk you through the imposing folder of delights on offer. A polite word of warning, though: some of these beers are stronger than your average pint of Tennents, so check the numbers before picking the beer with the funny name.
105 Lauriston Pl 01316295434

4. Blue Blazer
The Blue Blazer is a traditional Edinburgh pub, in the best possible sense of the term. Boasting one of the finest selections of real ales, whiskies and rums in Edinburgh, the Blue Blazer’s knowledgeable and friendly bar staff welcome grizzled regulars and beardy art students alike. Former title-holder of Edinburgh Pub of the Year, The Blazer’s cosy fire, wooden pews, and small back room offer a happy Tollcross hang-out for all comers.
2 Spittal St 01312295030

5. Villager
A typically trendy bar/restaurant, with enormous fans in the ceiling and robots on the walls, Villager is a great shout for night-opening drinks. The outrageous cocktail list with its Anchorman quotes is spellbinding, and the humble glass of water with your drink features watermelon, mint and cucumber. When that much attention goes on the tap water, you’re in the right kind of place.
49 George IV Bridge 01312262781

6. Bow Bar
The favourite bar of Skinny readers in our Food and Drink Survey this year, the Bow Bar is the perfect antidote to the stag and hen-infested pubs of the other end of the Grassmarket. Dark wood, big windows and a huge array of ales and whiskies make the Bow a perfect choice for a pint and a sit-down, with a nice food menu if you fancy making an evening of it.
80 West Bow 01312267667

7. Holyrood 9A
A fantastic venue for trying out rare brews from all over the world, Holyrood 9A has over twenty such nectars available from the pumps, as well as a hearty wine, spirit and cocktail selection. Add in the lo-fi decor and a varied menu of locally-sourced pub grub and this is the perfect alternative when you can no longer face the Pleasance bar.
9A Holyrood Rd 01315565054

8. Red Squirrel
Stablemate of Holyrood 9A, the Red Squirrel sets out the same stall; a huge range of craft and small-batch beers, all the bar food favourites executed perfectly, and a comfy and understated decor. Next door to HMV Picturehouse, so perfect for a few pre-gig drinks, and another example of Lothian Road being much nicer than it used to be.
21 Lothian Rd 01312299933

9. Under the Stairs
Easily missed if you don’t know it's there, Under The Stairs is exactly that – a comfy little bar/cafe tucked under the stairs on Merchant Street. With wooden floors, exposed brickwork, ever-changing exhibitions and mix-matched comfy armchairs and sofas, it manages to show off both shabby hipster chic and homely coziness all at once.
3A Merchant St 01314668550

10. Brewdog
Stripped-back brick walls and comfy couches make for a great setting in which to settle and start exploring the Fraserburgh craft giants’ vast collection. There are almost eighty bottled beers packing out the fridges, plus five BrewDog draughts and at least as many guest ales. If you get carried away with their Scrabble board or Pop-Up Pirate and lose track of time, there's pizza, cheese and meat boards all served until closing time.
143 Cowgate 01312206517

11. The Tourmalet
With its bright exterior and cycling-themed decoration, the Tourmalet is a hidden gem just off Leith Walk. The staff are warm and friendly, the atmosphere is laid-back, and the punters run the full gamut from New Leith hipsters and Old Leith workers. A mention too for the Ventoux, a second outpost from the same folk, located in Tollcross.
25 Buchanan St 01314677107

12. The Links
Overlooking Bruntsfield Links, this bar has been through more recent facelifts than a well-known actress whose name we’ve chosen to remove. Still, when it comes to a nice spot for sitting in the (occasional) Edinburgh sun with a reasonably-priced pint between lectures, there aren’t many better places to be, and if the weather betrays you then the interior isn’t bad either.
4 Alvanley Ter 01312293834

13. Artisan Roast
We once heard someone compare the Artisan baristas to die hard Star Wars fans – saying their detailed knowledge of one subject is straddling the limits of what is socially acceptable. Well yes, Artisan Roast is serious about its coffee, but for that you will be very grateful as you sip a sumptuous chilli mocha or one of the best flat whites Edinburgh has to offer. If you’re not, then you clearly belong to the dark side.
57 Broughton St 07956355054

14. Black Medicine Coffee Co.
This creatively decked-out cafe just past the Bridges offers lovely wooden tables, a huge variety of delicious smoothies, cakes and munchable lunch treats. Oh, and the coffee is great, naturally. Free water, newspapers, a ‘speed bench’ for those who just need an espresso and a blast of the wi-fi and fanciable staff mean that this place is filled with students and real folk alike.
2 Nicholson St 01315576269

15. The Elephant House
A welcome get-away from the bustle of the Royal Mile, the Elephant House is a large sunny cafe with a view of the Castle. It boasts that it is "the birthplace of Harry Potter," which explains the endless stream of confused Japanese tourists outside, but its actual customers range from said tourists to students to actual writers, all of whom add to the relaxed vibe.
21 George IV Bridge 01312205355

16. Kilimanjaro
Wedged between some of the best charity shops in the city, Kilimanjaro is the perfect place to analyse your new wooly jumper and unmarked vinyl records over a cappuccino. Award-winning coffee, well-worn wooden chairs and comfy leather sofas, and a great selection of freshly-made cakes and sandwiches mean that Kili well deserves its reputation as one of Edinburgh’s top cafes.
104 Nicholson St 01316620135

17. Peter's Yard
Forget those IKEA meatballs, for Peter's Yard is the place to go for some proper Swedish treats. This artisan bakery, café and deli in the newish Quartermile development off the Meadows is a haven for foodies. It is a touch pricey, but the bread in their sandwiches is made in a wood-fired oven on site, they make their own ice cream, and their outside terrace actually catches the sun.
27 Simpson Loan 01312285876

18. Lovecrumbs
The ‘pubic triangle’ behind the Art College might not be the first place you’d think to go for cake and a chat, but then Lovecrumbs is one of those places that defies sense. An inventive cake menu that changes by the day, tables made from old pianos, and a literal window seat give Lovecrumbs an anarchic air that make the act of meeting a friend for coffee between classes into an adventure.
155 West Port 01316290626

19. Mosque Kitchen
The mythic brilliance of the Southside's Mosque Kitchen is a very poorly kept secret amongst Edinburgh's student population. Some of the mythos has gone since the Kitchen moved indoors (the pigeons and wind added a unique ambience to proceedings), but the curries remain top-notch and staggeringly cheap. Frequently hailed as one of Edinburgh's best curry houses, the Mosque Kitchen is also easily among its cheapest.
33 Nicholson St 01316674035

20. The Dogs
Specialising in doing things a bit differently from the opposition, The Dogs is a great alternative to some of the more expensive joints elsewhere in the New Town. The ‘different’ angle extends to the furniture and even the forks, but the food sticks resolutely to its guns. It’s modern British cooking all the way, and it’s well worth a look.
110 Hanover St 01312201208

21. Mums
This retro diner is the ultimate place for comfort food. A whole range of twists on bangers and mash, pies, burgers and milkshakes can save you from the fiercest of Tuesday afternoon hangovers. And unlike real mums they won't pull a passive-aggressive scowl when you leave your veg, or even ask for help with the dishes.
4A Forrest Rd 01312609806

22. Illegal Jack’s
Illegal Jack’s is a simple beast; go on a weekday lunchtime, head to the counter, select the filling for your monstrously large burrito, hand over a fiver, and grab a drink on the way to your seat. This Tex-Mex joint serves up tasty grub in a canteen-style atmosphere, and the speed of service combined with the plentiful seating means that tasty but messy Mexican goodness is never more than minutes away.
113 Lothian Rd 01316227499

23. Favorit
An classy bar-restaurant with a 3am license, Favorit lends a continental vibe to the student booze gauntlet of Bristo Square. As popular for its wide range of speciality beers as for its tasty savoury menu, Favorit is an ideal haunt for friendly catch-ups, romantic rendezvous or, should you choose to take advantage of its pavement tables, a quiet solo luncheon of people-watching joy.
19 Teviot Pl 01312206880

24. Vittoria
One of the few Edinburgh landmarks without its own postcard, Vittoria's is a genuine institution. The seating areas outside feel a bit optimistic for these climes, but punters at the restaurants on Leith Walk and George IV Bridge aren’t going to let that stop them. Vittoria is the place to go when the ‘rents are in town, with great Italian food, reasonable prices and waiters who can liven up even the most stilted of evenings.
113 Brunswick St 01315566171 / 19 George IV Bridge 01312251740

25. Wannaburger
Wannaburger serve arguably the best burgers in the city, and certainly offer the most bang for your buck. Locally-sourced meat is the key to Wannaburger’s success, and their ludicrously tasty milkshakes just add to the appeal. As does the modern design, and the hard-to-find American sport on the telly. Oh, and the 15% student discount helps as well.
8 Queensferry St 01312200036

26. Chop Chop
Cheap, cheerful and charming Chinese food that more than lives up to the growing hype and endorsements from angry celebrity chefs. Their entire menu is made, from scratch, on the premises – it comes across in the food, but isn’t reflected in the student-friendly prices. Fast becoming a brilliantly unpretentious local legend, with some of the best dumplings this side of the Great Wall.
248 Morrison St 01312211155

27. Negociants
The student’s best friend, Negociants serves up plentiful and delicious pub grub well into the night. The outside seating area has a canopy to protect from the elements, and the prices were clearly worked out with a student’s bank balance in mind. A good shout for lunch, dinner or drinks, or all three, especially if you can nab one of the wingback armchairs.
45 Lothian St 01312256313

28. Kampung Ali Malaysia Delight
A mouthful of a name, and the food lives up to it. Just yards from the Napier University student halls, delicious and authentic Malaysian fare is on offer in a laid-back atmosphere. The interior needs something of a refresh with some of the Roman murals belying the building’s previous life as an Italian restaurant, but that’ll be the last thing on your mind as you work your way through the vast and authentic menu.
101 Fountainbridge 01312285069


1. Studio 24
The Studios have been around for as long as some you lot have been alive. A well-loved and eclectic venue, it's a wee bit out of the way, but if you're looking for something a little different then it’s well worth a look. Nights range from Balkanarama – a Balkan musical orgy (we kid you not) – to 60’s night The Go-Go with its occasional live Beatles tribute bands, and all points in between.
24 Calton Rd 01315583758

2. Wee Red Bar
The Wee Red Bar may be located on ECA territory, but don't be put off by the thought of asymmetrical haircuts and awkward conversations about trips to India, for this isn’t your average student disco. Regular fixtures include indie institution The Egg, and the brilliant monthly soul, old school rock n roll and motown night Stacks.
74 Lauriston Pl 01312216000

3. The Hive
This famously unpretentious Cowgate haunt is beloved by students of all stripes, and for good reason. It’s open every night of the week, grabs 5am licences whenever it can, and serves up everything from hip electro to chart ‘classics’ from the late 90s. Oh, and their roaming photographers are always on the hunt for happy clubbers to plaster across their Facebook site, so you don’t even need to bring a camera.
3 Niddry St 01315560444

4. The Liquid Room
Following a brief fire-enforced absence, The Liquid Room is back and better than ever. With impressive live music and clubbing credentials, The Liquid Room plays host to touring bands and DJs as well as an array of weekly club nights. The addition of a second room upstairs just adds to the fun, although you may meet recent graduates mumbling about how ‘it isn’t the same anymore.’ It isn’t; it’s better.
9C Victoria St 01312252564

5. Cabaret Voltaire
Deep in the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, Cab Vol is one of the city’s most iconic clubs. A recent refit has turned the upstairs room into a trendy cafe and meet-up point for during the day, while downstairs retains its sweaty and cavernous glory. A new soundsystem has upped the noise level, and a range of club nights from electro to dub give the DJs a chance to put it to good use.
36 Blair St 01312474704

6. The Potterrow
It might look like the poor relation on Bristo Square, but what it lacks in Hogwartsian charm Potterrow makes up when you get inside. With a regular stream of live bands (of both the ‘serious’ and the ‘OMG, I thought they were all dead’ variety) and some infamous student club nights, the Potterrow is the archetypal student night out. Brave the queues and mingle with your fellow scholars.
Bristo Sq 01316504673

7. The Caves
As the name suggests, The Caves are located in hollow arches under South Bridge. The assorted bridegrooms and vaults date back to the 1700s, and remain as striking as ever. The Caves come to life during August for the Fringe, but are also the year-round choice of gig promoters and club nights looking for a truly unique venue with a great atmosphere.
8 Niddry St South 01315578989

8. HMV Picturehouse
A constant fixture on Lothian Road over the years, the Picturehouse’s latest incarnation is one of the best gig venues in the city. With a split-level floor and sprawling Art Deco balcony, it plays host to the touring bands that aren’t pulled into Glasgow’s powerful orbit. Their enormous student-friendly indie club nights which run all weekend aren’t too shabby either.
31 Lothian Rd 01312212280

9. Henry’s Cellar Bar
The stage is tiny, and appears to be lit solely by fairy lights. The PA is at least three times too loud. Take a wrong turn out of the toilets and you’ll end up in the adjoining Chinese restaurant. All that said, Henry’s offers modest door charges and decent drink prices, and the kind of low-key, grassroots gigs and club nights you just won’t find elsewhere.
8 Morrison St 01312211288

10. Electric Circus
Tucked away behind Waverley station, Electric Circus is an enjoyably bizarre affair: a neon-lit, but simultaneously pitch-black club bar. The club space doubles up as an intimate gig venue, while the private karaoke rooms with dedicated bar staff are a birthday party waiting to happen. A music policy that skews fairly retro just adds to the surreal fun.
36 Market St 01312264224

11. The Bongo Club
If you’re looking for a more avant-garde student night out, the Bongo is the place to go. Home to everything from jungle nights to burlesque evenings to live ska gigs, Bongo fills the gaps left by the other parts of Edinburgh’s clubbing portfolio. Somewhat off the beaten track, but once you get there you’re bound to have an interesting evening at the very least.
37 Holyrood Rd 01315587604

12. Sneaky Pete’s
It’ll make your student flat seem like a palace, but what Sneaky’s lacks in area it compensates for with volume. A huge range of weekly and monthly club nights, from electro to house to funk, see the building shake with the thunderous sound and always-near-capacity crowd. It also plays host to a whole host of up-and-comers on the gig trail, and regular night This Is Music often combines gig and club into one beautiful whole.
73 Cowgate 01312251757