An Evening in Edinburgh
01 March 2023
Edinburgh’s incredible architecture comes to life at night, with awesome bars, delicious food and unique experiences to enjoy.
Watch Edinburgh come alive at night before planning your memorable nights in Edinburgh with our guide on top things to do in Edinburgh at night.
Exploring Edinburgh is fascinating, but it takes a bit of energy to navigate the hills and cobbles. The good news is Edinburgh is full of great places to spend your evening, from rooftop bars overlooking the city, to one-of-a-kind restaurants in unexpected settings.
Edinburgh’s Old Town is a warren of lanes and vennels, with some truly spectacular locations for an evening meal. The Witchery is a stunningly swanky Edinburgh institution, all 17th century oak panelling, baroque flourishes, and equally exciting food. Just a few doors away is the equally historic, Cannonball Restaurant & Bar - offering a contemporary menu featuring the very best of Scottish artisan produce, it takes its name from the cannonball lodged into one side of the building. Also, with its roots in the 17th century, Roxburgh Court has recently undergone a dramatic transformation. One of its newest residents is El Cartel Mexicana, where you’ll find a fantastic vibe and excellent tacos and margaritas, while tucked underneath the stone vaulting and archways of Victoria Street lies The Grain Store, a delightful intimate restaurant serving the best of fresh seasonal produce.
Over in Leith, a neighbourhood which only became part of Edinburgh in 1920, The King’s Wark was originally designed to serve as a royal residence, a store-house and an armour. Today, this 15th century building is where you’ll find satisfying plates of sustainable Scottish seafood, shellfish and wild game. The Ship on the Shore started life in 1834 as a tavern and coffee house – today it is still a place of hospitality, but now focuses on serving the very best of sustainable Scottish fish and seafood.
(The Devil's Advocate, Advocate's Close)
Up in Tollcross, slouchy seats, a woodburning stove and chunky wooden tables all add to the welcoming atmosphere of Timberyard, a family-run restaurant housed in a converted 19th century warehouse. The stylish interiors and range of dishes on offer at Harajuku Kitchen make it the perfect place to visit for an authentic taste of Japan. If you’re looking for a great venue for a pre-theatre meal, Tuk Tuk serves an expansive selection of Indian street food, tapas style. Or for all the family favourites, but without any of the meat or dairy, Sora Lella are a fully vegan Italian restaurant.
In the New Town, Noto is tucked away on the cobbled lanes between Rose Street and George Street, but if you can find it, it’s a cool minimalist space serving brilliant small plates. If it’s opulent surrounding and décor you seek, The Dome on George Street should be on your must-visit list. Starting life in 1845 as the head office of the Commercial Bank, the building’s Grillroom is now a lovely place to dine, with its impressive domed roof flooding light into the room. In a nod to its architectural heritage, award winning Italian restaurant Contini is housed in a 19th banking hall whose original design was inspired by an Italian Renaissance palace. In a similar vein, The Gardener’s Cottage takes its name from its past life as a cottage whose tenant looked after the neighbouring gardens in return for using part of the space for their own cottage garden. Today, the restaurant has an intimate and warm atmosphere and continues to use the garden to grow a range of seasonal produce for their delicious and creative dishes.
Cosy pubs and cocktails
(Cold Town House, Grassmarket)
Edinburgh is home to some of the very best cocktail bars in the UK, and a group of them are clumped together in the New Town. There’s Bramble, an underground speakeasy with moody lighting and brilliant cocktails; Lucky Liquor Co is bright and breezy upstairs with a pool room downstairs; Panda and Sons is hidden behind the pretence of being a barber’s shop, but inside it's a warren-like bar with excellent drinks.
Elsewhere, Paradise Palms is an all-action dive bar in the Southside with incredible neon decor and a charming outdoor patio. The Raging Bull has an outrageously bright yellow exterior and no fewer than six variations of the espresso martini. If you want a taste of Italian aperitivo, head to Hey Palu - the wine list is fantastic and the negronis are exceptional.
For something a wee bit special, Fingal’s Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar serve a range of decadent cocktails aboard Edinburgh’s only 5-star floating hotel. Permanently berthed on Leith’s Shore, this luxury ship has all the glamour and style of a superyacht, but with an air of old-world Art Deco luxury ocean liner elegance.
(Cannonball Restaurant, Castlehill)
For a relaxing pint, Cloisters serves up delicious ales in a building designed by Robert Rowand Anderson, the architect responsible for Bristo Square and the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Teuchters is a rustic nook in the middle of the West End, ideal for a whisky by the fire. Down by the Shore, Carriers Quarters is thought to be the neighbourhood’s oldest pub, while Nobles is a classy and elegant slice of Victoriana with expertly-restored stained glass windows to let in that golden hour light.
Beer gardens and rooftop bars
(The Pear Tree, Southside)
When the weather cooperates, Edinburgh has a great mix of beer gardens and rooftop bars to check out. The Beehive in Grassmarket has a spacious and secluded beer garden beneath the castle, while Cold Town House offers a unique rooftop view complete with repurposed ski lifts for seating. Elsewhere in the Old Town, Nor’ Loft has a great city view and a champagne selection to go with it.
Down at the Shore, Teuchters Landing is truly unique – how many bars have their own pontoon? Grab a pint or a single malt, and hover gently over the water. Over in the New Town, the beer garden at the Cumberland Bar is always lively with students and locals enjoying the sun in the shade of a frankly enormous willow tree. Rooftop 51 at the Moxy Hotel on Fountainbridge offers a different vantage point on the Old Town, and The Royal Dick Bar at Summerhall is a sprawling suntrap that’s alive with buzz from the arts venue. At the border of Leith and the New Town, The Glasshouse's rooftop area is vast, tranquil, and gives a great view down Leith Walk.
Things to see and do
(Ross Fountain, Princes Street Gardens)
If you’re looking to make the most of the evening, Edinburgh has plenty to offer. The city is packed with well-programmed and characterful cinemas – take your pick from the art deco, family-run Dominion in Morningside, the century-old Cameo Cinema in Tollcross, or the brand-new Everyman Cinema at the St James Quarter with its cocktail bar and at-seat service.
If you’re feeling more active, a private karaoke booth at Supercube in the New Town and Cowgate or the retro arcade games and drinks at NQ64 on Lothian Road, might be up your street while Ghillie Dhu runs regular ceilidh nights if you really want to burn off your dinner.
If you like the sound of listening to a range of live music from established and up-and-coming artists, on any given night in the city you’ll be able to satisfy a range of musical tastes by popping along to one of the city’s bars. Find out more in our guide to Live Music Bars in Edinburgh
Feeling more cerebral? Why not take a trip to the Royal Observatory on Blackford Hill for some stargazing. Or if it’s your funny bones that want to get some action, why not head along to The Stand or Monkey Barrel Comedy for a night of side-splitting comedy.
Edinburgh is renowned for being one of the most haunted places in the UK, so if you’re up for some shivers up your spine, why not book onto one of the city’s many night-time walking tours. City of the Dead offer tours with access to some of the most haunted places in the city; Mercat Tours bring the city’s stories alive in rich and engaging detail on a variety of history and ghost tours, while Auld Reekie Tours cover many aspects of Edinburgh’s often gory and spooky history. For a tour on 4 wheels, The Ghost Bus Tours invite you to board their 1960’s black double-decker bus (which incidentally used to be used for funerals) where you’ll soon find yourself in fits of giggles as the creepy conductor treats you to some quirky horror stories, all while travelling through Edinburgh’s historic streets.
As well as those options, one of the best ways to spend an Edinburgh evening is simply to be out and about among the city’s incredible history and architecture. Head up the Royal Mile to the Castle Esplanade and look down on the city at dusk; walk through Holyrood Park and see Arthur’s Seat and the Crags catching the last of the light; or journey up Calton Hill for the sunset.
And if you’re still up at sunrise, you’re in for a treat – all over the city the sunrise fills the sky with dramatic colours – get inspired with our guide to 7 Perfect Places to Enjoy a Sunrise in Edinburgh
This article was created in partnership with The Skinny.