From 18th century purpose-built concert halls to former churches and sporting stadiums, Edinburgh is home to an array of top notch live music venues.
Here is our round up of the best venues to enjoy Edinburgh’s bumper live music experience….
The Queen's Hall
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 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.
The Usher Hall
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 musical talent as well as conferences, sponsorship events, ceremonies, lectures and recording sessions.
As well as being 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. 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!
O2 Academy Edinburgh
[Image credit: Cameron Brisbane]
Originally built in 1909 as a marketplace for trading grain, this popular venue was for many years the Corn Exchange. In 2021 it was taken over by new owners, becoming the O2 Academy Edinburgh.
Today, it is a popular venue for live music, as well as conferences, weddings and sports events.
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 Ross Bandstand
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 & Blues 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 StagEHd Festival.
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.
BT Murrayfield Stadium
Although more used to patriotic Scottish rugby fans belting out Flower of Scotland, BT Murrayfield Stadium has also played host to some of the world’s top artists & bands, including the Spice Girls, One Direction and Robbie Williams.
Home of Scottish Rugby, this 60,000+ seater venue has in the past also hosted American football, rugby league and football matches.
Situated in the Southside of the city on Roxburgh Place, Assembly Roxy is housed within a former church with three spaces ideal for hosting live performances – the largest space, Roxy Central can accommodate up to 250 people, while Roxy Downstairs with its 60 seats, is perfect for smaller intimate gigs.
As well as music, you can expect to see a wide range of shows and performances here, including comedy, theatre, cabaret and children’s shows.
For visual arts and performances, Summerhall is a great venue and often overlooked by the tourist crowd. Showcasing live music, as well as contemporary art, and with its own indie cinema, gin distillery and sunny beer garden, Summerhall is a true gem.
Live Music Bars
Proving that you don’t need to look too far to find a fantastic array of live music in Edinburgh, on any given night of the week, you’ll find a variety of music being performed in the city’s pubs & bars.
From 80s classics to techno, whatever keen of club music you’re into, Edinburgh is packed with an array of clubs where you’ll be able to dance away into the wee small hours!
From music gigs to museum exhibitions, find a great range of events taking place in Edinburgh each month in our What's On Guide >