Best Student Bars in Edinburgh
Check out our picks for the best student bars in Edinburgh!
Thanks to one of the UK’s highest ratios of bars to residents and a big fun-loving student population, the good people of Edinburgh definitely know how to have a good time. Yet with so much choice and so many potential tourist traps, discovering the best Edinburgh student bars can be a bit of a mission. Here’s our pick of the top student bars in Edinburgh where you can dance the night away, sip on mindblowing cocktails, or just sit back and nurse a cheap chilled pint while you count down the days until your next student loan payment comes in. Here we go. It’s our picks for the best student bars in Edinburgh!
McSorleys has been one of Edinburgh’s best student bars for donkeys years for three simple reasons; the drinks are cheap, there’s live music and they show all the big matches. They also serve up a mean Fat Frog, if that’s your thing. The friendly Irish pub atmosphere means it’s really easy to get comfortable and by your second visit you’ll feel like a regular.
Those who hanker after the lilting tunes of the Emerald Isle will be delighted to know that McSorleys has a busy gig schedule packed with live Irish bands as well as local acts. There’s something on every single night of the week and regular lively Ceilidh nights if you fancy dusting down your dancing shoes.
If your idea of getting involved is more like cheering on your team as they destroy their sworn mortal enemies, McSorleys’ four 20ft HD screens and brilliant match atmosphere will keep you happy. They also have a great selection of hearty freshly-prepared meals to keep you going until the final goal. Add in the genuinely warm and welcoming staff, and you can see why McSorelys is one of Edinburgh’s most popular student bars!
The Voodoo Rooms (££)
Got a romantic date or a glamorous night out with the girls lined up? Start your evening at this chic little number and you’re guaranteed to impress with your Edinburgh bar smarts. The plush dark leather booths, original gilded ceiling and chandeliers of this Victorian period property instantly transport you to a bygone golden age where you’ll want to linger long over decadent cocktails skilfully whipped up by the suave waiters.
Favorite creations include the “Tip Of The Hat” which includes gin, ginger syrup, absinthe, fennel tea and the delicious “Millionaire’s Shortbread” made with Laphroaig Scotch whisky, walnut liqueur, espresso, caramel and brown sugar. There’s also a great selection of Scottish draught and bottled beers, a decent wine list and over 60 speciality tequilas on the menu.
There are regular live music evenings which are held in the venue’s dedicated Ballroom and draw a nice mix of young professionals and well-heeled students. If you fancy grabbing a bite to eat before the gig, they also have an elegant separate dining room which serves up British and international classics made with locally-sourced ingredients wherever possible. Or simply cosy up in a booth with a selection of tasty bar snacks and watch the world go by through the huge ornate windows.
The first thing you’ll notice about Pilgrim is the funky bar made out of old suitcases which really sets the tone for this quirky little drinking den. Take a look around and you’ll also spot the line of 1930s cinema seats repurposed as chairs and old wood-panelled walls. The thinking behind the curious decor developed when the bar underwent a big refurb a few years ago. Instead of going for a generic new and shiny finish, the management decided to use 98% recycled materials to create a space that is both unique and good for the planet.
The handy central location at the foot of Cowgate mean Pilgrim draws a lively mix of tourists, locals and students both during the week and on the weekend. A favorite night for students is Sunday when the bar holds a weekly karaoke session which kicks off at 10pm and includes a 50% discount on selected drinks.
Those on a budget should also snap up their VIP discount card which gives the holder a whopping 25% off food and drink any day of the week! Check out their decent selection of beers, cocktails and wine by the glass which you can pair with a hearty burger and curly fries from their short but substantial food menu.
Wee Red Bar (£)
The Edinburgh College of Art’s bar is a thriving hub of creative expression which easily ranks as one of Edinburgh’s top student bars thanks to the regular live gigs and reliably cheap drinks. This quirky little drinking hole welcomes all comers with a diverse range of events which might include German poetry recitals, Abba-themed retro nights or the regular gay disco club night known as “Hey QT”.
As you’d expect for a campus bar, the drinks on offer are well-priced and include a decent selection of bottled beers which rarely cost more than a couple of pounds. It’s the perfect spot to idle over a post-lecture beer and unlike many more impersonal bars in the city, the matey common room atmosphere makes it easy to strike up conversation with your fellow students or potential dates.
Although small in size, the Wee Red Bar more than makes up for this in personality and draws big crowds for its live gigs and fun DJ sets which cover everything from reggae to post-rock. Those who like a wild night out without the hassle of having to deal with a huge heaving club will love the monthly Saturday club night “The Egg” where you’ll hear a funky mix of indie, psych, garage, punk and new wave tunes. Best of all, entry is just £3 before 12 or £5 after!
Those who worship at the altar of the humble brew will love this craft beer oasis handily situated a short stroll from the University of Edinburgh on bustling Cowgate. This was one of the very first Brewdogs in the UK and it’s now considered to be Edinburgh’s finest craft beer bar.
The constantly changing beer list means there’s something always new to try and you can even check online to find out what they’re serving that day before you head out. Ask the friendly staff to recommend something new or simply settle in with a pint of their signature Punk IPA and enjoy the chilled out, easy-going vibe.
If you’re feeling peckish, Brewdog also does a mean stone-baked pizza. Delicious options include “Grazing Goat” made with goat’s cheese, red onion, mozzarella and tomatoes and the decadent “Spicy Meaty” which is finished with nduja, spicy pepperoni and chili. There’s also a vegan special called “The Hero” which is topped with wild mushrooms, courgettes, rosemary, pine nuts and smashed tomatoes. Head down from Monday to Thursday between 12:00 and 16:00 to enjoy their two-for-one offer on all their pizzas!
Panda and Sons (££)
While there’s no shortage of cool Edinburgh cocktail bars, it can be hard to decide which are worth trying and which are merely fads. The retro-style speakeasy Panda and Sons falls firmly into the former category thanks to the creative drinks, wonderfully warm staff and cosy atmosphere which invites you to linger late into the night.
Your quirky experience begins from the moment you head down the carpeted stairs under a barbershop’s facade on Queen Street and stumble across a hidden bookcase door. Step inside and you’re immediately transported back to the Prohibition era with a sleek bar, comfy leather booths and talented bartenders crafting magical libations.
Unmissable drinks include the “Must be the Monet” which is designed to be shared between two or three people. Sure to be a hit with History of Art students, this curious concoction involves half a bottle of Prosecco and fruit “paints” served up on a mixing palette! Another favourite is the Tiki Takeaway based on rum, almond syrup and soy sauce which comes served in a Chinese takeout box. A nice touch is that all tables receive complimentary chilli popcorn on entry and although it might be a little pricey compared to other Edinburgh student bars, the chic atmosphere and incredible drinks make it worth stopping by from time to time.
When you’re feeling flush with student loan cash, why not treat yourself to a trip to one of the world’s best bars? Ranked as one of the top 20 bars in the world by the Australian Bartender’s Magazine, Bramble is sure to hit the spot if you’re after mind blowing, original cocktails served up in a clandestine basement speakeasy. Although it might be a little tricky to find due to the secretive location down a flight of stairs beneath a dry cleaners on Queen Street, the creative drinks menu makes a handsome reward for your efforts.
The team is constantly changing and refining the menu, adding sublime concoctions with names like the “Golden Delicious Sour” made with apple and ginger syrup, gin and absinthe or the evocative “Exile on Queen Street” which is an unusual but delicious mix of cognac, Jagermeister, egg and salted caramel. If you’re feeling brave, or just confused by all the choice on offer, ask the helpful bartenders to pick out something to suit your tastes.
During the week Bramble is an ideal place to nurse a drink or two long into the night with a date thanks to the relaxed vibe. Come the weekend, though, you’re likely to find the place buzzing with Edinburgh’s young and beautiful who come for the delicious libations and buzzing DJ sets.
Holyrood 9a (££)
This cosy, intimate bar is the ideal spot to while away those long Scottish winter nights with a glass of whisky and a hearty dose of good conversation. Set in the heart of the old town, this spot was one of Edinburgh’s first dedicated craft beer bars and it’s beloved by locals for the relaxed, authentic vibe and top notch selection of brews and spirits on offer.
Their craft beer offerings cover everything from local classics like the Edinburgh Beer Factory Smoky Wheat and Barney’s Volcano IPA to curiosites like the Magic Rock High Wire Grapefruit which is a West Coast pale ale. There’s also a great collection of bottled beers including Belgian and speciality brews as well as seasonal specials on tap. If you’re not a big beer drinker, the strong cocktail and spirits list will have plenty to keep you entertained and there’s also a small but respectable choice of wine by the glass.
The Holyrood 9a also makes a first-rate breakfast spot if you’re in need of some hangover-busting cooked brekkie goodness. They also do a mean bacon roll for those with smaller appetites. Locals flock here for the mouthwatering burgers which are a cut above the standard ones found in many Edinburgh bars. For something a little different, try the vegetarian haggis and smoked cheese burger or the venison and black pudding burger!
There we go! That rounds up our picks of the best student bars in Edinburgh. We hope you’ve enjoyed your read, check out some of our other posts to explore the nations favourite student bars in other cities.