Whether you’re a classical fan, lover of jazz, rock or pop or follower of indie, Edinburgh has an array of live music venues, with many located in historical settings. Here are a few favourites to get the party started:
The Assembly Rooms
One of Edinburgh largest and most impressive spaces, The Assembly Rooms host a wide range of events throughout the year, from business conferences and exhibitions to concerts and festivals.
Situated in George Street, the venue came into being thanks to the efforts of the Lady Directresses – a group of philanthropic ladies who donated to various charities in the city in the early 1780’s. They helped raise a public subscription of £6,300 for the creation of the purpose-built Assembly Rooms we know and love today, with the foundation stone laid in May 1783.
Further addition to the building were added over the years – including crystal chandeliers in the Ballroom in 1796, a grand portico entrance in 1818 and a Music Hall in 1843.
In 1945, the building was donated to the City of Edinburgh Council, and by the 1950s it was being used as the Festival Club by Edinburgh International Festival. 30 years later, in 1981, the Assembly Rooms became a key venue for the Edinburgh Fringe – and has remained so ever since.
Located in the Cowgate, part of the lower level of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, Sneaky Pete's is a small venue which radiates atmosphere. If you like clubbing and music of all genres, then this is the place for you.
Located in West Princes Street Gardens, with the Castle towering behind, this is a spectacular venue for an open-air concert. Up to 2500 people can be seated in the Ross Bandstand’s amphitheatre setting.
The original bandstand was created in 1877. At one time it was thought to have been gifted to the city by William Henry Ross, chairman of the Distillers Company Ltd. However, it now seems more likely that he was partly responsible for its replacement - in 1935 he donated £8,000 towards the cost of a new bandstand, which was subsequently named after him and has been a key part of Edinburgh’s performance scene ever since.
Today, Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Jazz Festival use it regularly in the summer months and it has become a key venue for Christmas and Hogmanay events during the festive period. The bandstand has welcomed many big names over the years, including Sir Tom Jones, Mark Ronson, The Pet Shop Boys, Simple Minds and Madness, as well as being the centre of several free events, including Social in the City, Scotland’s festival for social enterprises.
Since opening in 1997, the Liquid Rooms has hosted artists from all music genres: from hip hop to rock and country to pop, as well as hosting some of the world’s top DJs.
Bands that have graced the stage of this venue in the past include Black Eyed Peas, Calvin Harris, Dizzee Rascal, Franz Ferdinand, Snow Patrol and the View.
One of the most awe-inspiring places to see live music – every summer the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle is transformed into a unique outdoor concert venue.
Previous artists who have performed against the stunning backdrop of the castle include, Rod Stewart, Tom Jones, Paul Weller, Deacon Blue, Westlife, Olly Murs, Kylie Minogue and The Proclaimers.
Situated on Clerk Street, The Queen's Hall started life as Hope Park Chapel which was built in 1823 and continued as a place of worship until 1976.
That same year, the Scottish Baroque Ensemble (now the Scottish Ensemble), the Scottish Philharmonic Singers and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra were searching for performance premises. With its lofty ceiling and perfect acoustics, the former church was ideal. An appeal was launched in 1977 and after raising £850,000 to convert the church to a concert hall, The Queen's Hall was officially opened by HM Queen Elizabeth II on 6 July 1979.
Since then, this glorious Georgian building has become one of Edinburgh's best-loved music venues, hosting world-class artists from musical fields such as classical, jazz, folk and roots, rock & pop and Americana.
Scotland’s only five-star concert hall, The Usher Hall is an extraordinary blend of historical and contemporary, traditional and modern, both inside and out.
Construction of the hall was funded by Andrew Usher, a whisky distiller and blender, who donated £100,000 to fund a new concert hall for the city. Opened in 1914, with refurbishment in 2010, every year the Hall welcomes a huge range of talent as well as conferences, sponsorship events, ceremonies, lectures and recording sessions.
As well as bring one of the main venues for the Edinburgh International Festival, it is also home to the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.
- Did you know - When Monaco was unable to provide a suitable venue for Eurovision in 1972, the BBC stepped in and chose a venue outside of London for the first time – namely, the Usher Hall. Broadcast live to Asia for the first time, it was also was the first year that a video wall was used to present song titles and artists. The contest was won by Luxembourg with 'Apres Toi' by Vicky Leandros. The UK’s entry, ‘Beg, Steal or Borrow' by the New Seekers came in at a very respectable second place!
St Cecilia's Hall: Concert Room and Music Museum
St Cecilia's Hall is Scotland's oldest purpose-built concert hall, and the second oldest in the UK.
Originally built by the Edinburgh Musical Society in 1762, the Georgian venue is managed by the University of Edinburgh and comprises a Concert Room, hosting a range of concerts and public events, and a Music Museum, which is open to the public and brings together the University's collection of musical instruments from across the globe, including its world-famous harpsichords, some of which are playable. Making this the only place in the world, it is claimed, that you can hear 18th-century music being played on 18th-century instruments in an 18th- century setting!
The Corn Exchange
Originally built in 1909 as a marketplace for trading grain, the Corn Exchange was redeveloped in the 1990s. Today, it is a popular venue for live music, as well as conferences, weddings and sports events.
3,000+ events. 25,000+ performers. 4.5 million attendances from 70 countries worldwide.
With a range of major annual festivals bringing talent from more than a third of the world's countries to the city’s streets and stages, Edinburgh is the world's leading festival city.
(Image Credit: Edinburgh Festivals)
Showcasing arts and culture from around the world, Edinburgh’s eleven festivals have something for everyone, from arts to music, literature to science.
Dating back to 1947, the Edinburgh International Festival was established after World War II to create "a flowering of the human spirit" in the Scottish capital. In that same year, the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Film Festival also started.
Other festivals followed, from military grandeur to intimate jazz and blues, captivating science to underground theatre and children's entertainment. As these festivals grew into world-leading celebrations, international excellence in art, culture and science became a permanent and inescapable part of Edinburgh's identity.
Postponed in 2020, we are delighted to welcome the festivals back in 2021, in both in-person and online shows. Unique, magical and thrilling, Edinburgh truly comes alive during festival season.