Edinburgh At Night

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Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, is a historic city on the country’s east coast. Edinburgh Castle stands in a dominant position looking down on a metropolitan population of around 900,000. Glasgow to the west, is much larger and is the dominant city when it comes to soccer and hosting international visitors. Yet, in all other aspects, Edinburgh is the most important city in Scotland.

There is much to see and do by day, exploring many cultural landmarks, while there is plentiful accommodation for visitors on a budget right through to those wanting luxury. In the evening, there are plenty of quality restaurants, lively public houses and entertainment venues. The list below illustrates several things to do in Edinburgh at night, so read on and imagine visiting this lovely city.

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Edinburgh At Night

20 Things To Do In Edinburgh At Night

1- Stroll Around At Your Own Pace

things to do in edinburgh at night
Old town Edinburgh city skyline at night.

There are plenty of guided tours available when you visit Edinburgh, but if you want to do things at your own pace, you have only to download an audio guide.

It allows you to stroll around at a time to suit you, day or night.

There is a starting point, Edinburgh Castle, which you can only enter by day (ticket not included), but some places the guide will lead you to are available at night.

Discovering Real Mary King’s Close’s hidden secrets will offer insights into the city’s past.

Deacon Brodie’s Tavern comes late in the day and is a place to sample haggis.

It makes sense to have this at dinnertime with a suitable drink; the Scots would suggest whisky as per Burns’ Night in January each year.

Edinburgh under lights is lovely, with the Castle worth a photo or two.

2- Take A City Ghost Tour

where to go at night in edinburgh
Nighttime in Edinburgh from Calton Hill, Scotland.

Lots of cities have a ghostly past and Edinburgh is one of them.

The streets of the old parts of Edinburgh and the underground vaults offer an experience you will enjoy.

Your guide will be dressed suitably, cloak and all, relating stories of the past.

At night, it is easy to imagine the dangers lurking in the narrow alleyways and the vaults near the South Bridge.

People lived in those vaults in the 18th century, with this district becoming the city’s slums and red-light district where crime was an everyday occurrence.

The rooms have been long vacated, but the tales you will hear will make you glad to emerge back into modern-day Edinburgh. Join one of these tours:

      3- Go “Out On The Town”

      edinburgh at night tour
      Having a drink at the Balmoral Hotel is another classic thing to do in Edinburgh at night.

      A great way to familiarise yourself with Edinburgh at night is to go on a “pub crawl.”

      A guide can show you places to go for a drink based on experience rather than a guidebook, and you can decide for yourself at the end of the night which of them you want to revisit later during your time in Edinburgh.

      Your journey through the old part of the city includes seven places and several free “shots”.

      You will make new friends on this night out with limited numbers so that you can interact with your guide, listen to stories, and ask questions.

      4- Sample The Whisky

      edinburgh fringe festival perform at night or day Hand holding a snifter glass filled with
      Tasting scotch whisky is one of the top things to do in Edinburgh at night.

      Scotland and whisky are synonymous so getting to know about this famous drink and how it is distilled is a fun night.

      An experienced guide will ensure you have a better appreciation of Scotland’s most important export with a few stops along the Royal Mile.

      You won’t be surprised to hear that you will taste some whiskies as part of this two-hour tour.

      Each will be a single malt distilled in different parts of Scotland, ranging from the Lowlands to the Western Coast island of Islay.

      There is a floor reserved specifically for those on the tour.

      5- Dance At A Ceilidh

      Princes Street is central to Edinburgh life, and you can enjoy something that has been part of Scottish life for centuries – dancing.

      Ghillie-Dhu is a large “Gothic” space where once there was a church, and every weekend, you can enjoy live country music to dance to.

      The Scottish name for such an event is a ceilidh (pronounced: “k-lee.”

      You will hear music that inspires various kinds of dance, all originating in Scotland, reels, rigs and jigs.

      You won’t go thirsty because there is a whisky bar where you can take a drink or two and perhaps have the courage to join in.

      6- Attend A Comedy Show

      The Edinburgh Festival Fringe has been a permanent fixture on the entertainment calendar for years.

      It was first held in 1947 and has developed into the world’s largest arts and media festival.

      It is held each August across numerous venues in the city over almost all of the month. Many now-famous performers were first discovered when performing there.

      Rowan Atkinson, Russell Brand, Steve Coogan, Alan Rickman and Graham Norton are now household names.

      If you head to Edinburgh at any other time, you can still enjoy stand-up comedy at the Stand Comedy Club, which has been open for over 20 years.

      7- Satisfy Your Sporting Interests

      While Glasgow is a more important city than Edinburgh, there are two Premiership sides in Edinburgh, Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian.

      The national rugby union side plays at Murrayfield.

      You will find an ice hockey team, Edinburgh Capitals, and an American football team, the Wolves in Edinburgh.

      Sport is important to the city, so you should check the sporting calendar for what might happen during your visit.

      Evening matches are held regularly in all team sports. If you want to do more than spectate, there are several gyms and health clubs that welcome visitors wanting a session.

      8- Shop On Princes Street

      edinburgh castle at night Edinburgh Castle from Princes Street Gardens
      Admiring Edinburgh Castle is one of the classic things to do in Edinburgh at night/ Here’s the view from Princes Street Gardens with the Ross Fountain in the foreground.

      Edinburgh is famous for its shopping and the most famous shopping street is below Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street.

      Before Christmas, many visitors head to Edinburgh simply to shop.

      One day a week, the shops stay open late, sometimes as late as 9 pm, so if you are in Edinburgh on Thursday night, go to Princes Street.

      If you want to spend your days sightseeing, you can do that on Thursday and then do your shopping later, whether it is for fashion or even souvenirs and presents.

      St. James Quarter is another alternative with more than 40 retailers who keep their doors open late.

      9- Go After Hours To The Zoo

      You will need to check in advance if you want a late-night visit to the city’s wonderful zoo.

      Regular hours see the zoo close at 4 pm in the winter and not much longer in the summer.

      There is plenty for zoo keepers to do after those hours without crowds around and several After Hours events are published in advance.

      The zoo has a great range of animals, everything from tigers to pandas, flamingos to penguins.

      They may just be sleeping but you would be very unlucky not to see any activity.

      Some events go beyond the animals themselves; occasionally, live music is on the main lawn.

      10- Listen To Classical Music

      military tattoo edinburgh at night
      Attending an orchestra performance is one of the things to do in Edinburgh at night.

      St. Giles’ Cathedral is one of several interesting landmarks in the Royal Mile, which runs between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland since the 16th century.

      In the vaults of the cathedral, you can enjoy some lovely music and song; choral singing and a string quartet.

      The programme of late-night concerts is published well in advance, with tickets available for sale well in advance as well.

      The setting is also atmospheric with flickering candlelight, stained-glass surroundings and the acoustics enhanced by the wooden rafters and roof above.

      11- Catch A Film

      You can watch the latest blockbuster any time, but there is a good reason to enjoy a film in Edinburgh because there is a lovely independent cinema, the Dominion in Morningside, which is almost worth visiting because of the building itself.

      It was built in the 1930s with Art Deco style very much in mind. Service is a real priority here as you recline in your seats, reclining sofas with snack and drinks service at your table.

      William Cameron bought the land and built the Dominion and the family still owns this.

      There are four screen films that can be researched in advance of your visit.

      12- Enjoy A Night At The Theatre

      Edinburgh Playhouse is the largest theatre in Scotland and the second biggest in the UK after the Hammersmith Apollo.

      When it was built in the 1920s, it was a cinema and remained so for half a century before closure and reopening as a theatre.

      It is on three levels and has a capacity of 3,000.

      Original design and décor add to the experience of watching a performance here, whether it is a musical like Les Miserables, a comedy show, live music or dance productions.

      There are five bars, so you won’t need to wait long for a drink.

      The Playhouse is said to be haunted, and that story dates back to the 1950s; the ghost is a man dressed in grey, Albert by name, who is said to be either a stagehand killed in an accident or a nightwatchman who committed suicide.

      13- Dine At Hard Rock Café

      If you are a regular traveller, you are likely to have been to a Hard Rock Cafe and know what a buzzy atmosphere it has.

      Edinburgh has a Hard Rock café that serves lunch or dinner and is close to Edinburgh Castle. Book your table here.

      The café has been there for almost half a century, and its popularity is well-established.

      There are two menus to choose from, with burgers a favourite among patrons.

      The Smokehouse Menu offers ribs, chicken or pork prepared of hickory chips to your taste.

      Stop at the shop to buy Hard Rock souvenirs and merchandise.

      14- Play Tenpin Bowling

      Tenpin bowling was a craze that came to the UK from the USA in the 1960s.

      It may have faded from the scene somewhat, but it remains great fun.

      Lane 7 is a bowling alley in Edinburgh where you can try your hand for the first time or see how “rusty” you are after years of not playing.

      In addition to bowling, there is a ping-pong hall and a games room.

      The décor is interesting; graffiti walls, bright furnishings, and a bar.

      If you go there for an evening and the bowling lanes are full, you can sit with a drink or go to another activity until one of the lanes becomes free.

      15- Dine In Style

      There are plenty of places to dine in Edinburgh, including Michelin-star restaurants.

      If you want to sample the best of what the sea has to offer, there is fish and chips, an iconic dish especially enjoyed in Great Britain.

      Restaurant Martin Wishart in Leith, the city’s historic port, has had Michelin star status since the turn of the century.

      It uses the best local produce, serving international cuisine to the highest standards.

      You will need to book in advance, but you won’t need to do that at another alternative close by in Newhaven, the Fishmarket, where you can walk in for fish and chips, arguably the best in the city.

      They should be because the place is owned by one of the city’s top restauranteurs and you can dine in or take away.

      By the way, the menu includes everything from fish to lobster.

      16- Get A Viewing Point

      edinburgh skyline at night
      Admiring the view of the old town is one of the things to do in Edinburgh at night.

      While you can get views over Edinburgh from a rooftop bar, that is not as good an experience as heading up to Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano, to watch the sunset.

      If you are an early bird, you can start your walk in the dark and see the sunrise.

      There are seven hills in Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat is the highest of them.

      It may look like a daunting climb, but in reality, it isn’t and will only take an averagely-fit person up to 30 minutes to reach the summit.

      Once there, you get panoramic views across the city, the Old and New Towns, Holyrood Palace and more.

      Wear comfortable shoes and dress in warm clothing. A flask of coffee may be useful.

      17- Surprise Yourself At Camera Obscura

      Camera Obscura is one of Edinburgh’s best indoor activities, and there are days when you will want indoor alternatives.

      At weekends, it stays open until 9.30 pm, and with five floors, you may want some time to appreciate it fully.

      This is an illusion at its best, and the five floors hold plenty.

      You will encounter tricks of the light and numerous great photo opportunities.

      It’s great fun, and there is always something different to find as you explore. Before you leave, go to the Rooftop Terrace, where you will get panoramas over Edinburgh.

      18- Go Clubbing

      things to do at night in edinburgh
      Going clubbing is a fun thing to do in Edinburgh at night.

      The “Club Scene” in Edinburgh is lively until the early hours. Unless you have an early start in the morning, you are able to enjoy music for all tastes, and dance well into the night.

      Stamash is one place you might like to try.

      A large bar in Cowgate stays open until 3.00 am, with live music and the best of live sport.

      Food is available until around midnight as well.

      Some of the music comes from local talent, while there is plenty of more famous music.

      The musical styles do change by the night so check out your favourites.

      19- Head To The Food Market

      Pitt Street Food Market is worth a visit when you are in Edinburgh, especially if you like informal places.

      It opened in 2015 in an old industrial yard in Leith and has subsequently won numerous awards.

      The experience is not dissimilar to walking down an oriental street buying food from the vendors.

      The difference is there is plenty of seating where you can sit and enjoy what you have bought.

      There is plenty of music and bars for drinks.

      All in all, this is a great atmospheric place, especially at weekends when it remains open until 11 pm.

      20- Sample Local Craft Beers

      things to do at night edinburgh Beer mug filling from glass bottle isolated on beautiful blurred background.
      Going on a pub crawl is fun in Edinburgh at night.

      Recently, there has been an increase in microbreweries in the UK.

      Edinburgh is a city known for its craft beers; you should seek alternative ways to enjoy them.

      You may find a tour or want to explore independently.

      Either way, you will find a vibrant scene and meet others interested in craft beer.

      Brewery tours are a possibility where you will get an insight into brewing and its history in Scotland. Plenty of chance to taste as well, of course.

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      Steve Smith is a widely travelled man who has lived on the South West Coast of Turkey since 2008. He hails from North East England where he lived most of his life but has been to every continent of the world, with a particular love for Southern Africa and its wildlife. He lists Argentina, India, and Vietnam as other favourite places that he enjoyed greatly while sport is also a passion, cricket and golf as a participant, rugby union and soccer as a spectator.