So many clubs and bars but so little time? Let me guide you through Edinburgh's vibrant nightlife with this guide to the best party spots in town - no matter what turns your crank.
Manolo's on? Looking good? Ready to hit the town?
Harvey Nichols 4th floor – glass walls, and a panoramic view across the city. This is the Sex in the City cocktail bar perfect for a Champagne cocktail to start the night off (www.harveynichols.com).
Oloroso has an incongruous entrance at the top of Castle Street at the west end of George Street. You go straight into a lift and whizz up to the top floor where you can take advantage of a unique view of Edinburgh Castle. They have a wonderful terrace in the summer; the moment the sun comes out everyone runs up here. Inside or out though this is a top spot to enjoy your Manhattan (www.oloroso.co.uk).
Bramble is seconds from George Street on Queen Street, but unless you know where it is you would never find this chilled, low-key, subterranean bar. Dark, intimate and a great wee place to hole up (www.bramblebar.co.uk).
Rick's has a low key vibe but full of the fashionistas in town. It's on Frederick Street just off George Street (www.ricksedinburgh.co.uk). You can stay at Rick's as well.
Tigerlily is like being transported back to the 1980s' glitz, shine and fun on George Street again (www.tigerlilyedinburgh.co.uk). If you want to go the whole hog for a big party weekend you can stay here too - Tigerlily.
DragonFly - West Port, on the road that runs up from The Grassmarket. Cocktails are the speciality in this cracking wee spot. Mixologists come to your table to talk you through the imaginative cocktail menu and you can buy spirits by the bottle too; it's stylish, chilled and fun fun fun (www.dragonflycocktailbar.com).
During August in Edinburgh it seems there are more comedians than locals. Happily, The Stand on York Place is here all year and delivers constant hilarity on a daily basis. Sometimes even at lunchtime. Centrally situated it's a minutes' walk from Princes Street, George Street and St Andrews Square with a great eclectic mix of stand-up (www.thestand.co.uk).
The first 3 listed are glam, mainstream, all in George Street and attract a sophisticated crowd.
Lulu - under hip hotel and bar Tigerlily, it's full of West End girls and boys. Often queues on Friday and Saturday nights. Open seven nights til 3am (www.luluedinburgh.co.uk).
Opal Lounge; it's just a few steps down to this moody, dark and sophisticated venue. Open all day for coffee, drinks and snacks, later on it turns into a club. Lots of different rooms give it a very intimate and somewhat confusing layout. Famously, it's where Prince William partied when down from St Andrews University for the weekend (www.opallounge.co.uk).
Shangai Club - under Le Monde Hotel, this is the late night dancing spot (www.shanghaiclub.co.uk).
This next group are more niche with a mix of club nights, DJs, gay and straight.
The Bongo Club just off The Royal Mile. Open daily til 3am; it's been going for years and has a great mix of clubs and music covering all genres. If clubbing is your thing you will find your way here (www.thebongoclub.co.uk).
Cabaret Voltaire - Set in underground vaults in the Old Town. It includes a gay club called Dare. Small, dark and some might say claustrophobic, though it is a really great intimate venue for live music. You can literally reach out and touch the stage (www.thecabaretvoltaire.com).
Citrus Club, just off Lothian Road on Grindlay Street. (Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat 10.30pm–3am; www.citrusclub.co.uk).
GHQ - a sexy gay club at the top of Leith Walk, Broughton area. There are three main bars with loads of club nights; very popular (Tues–Sun til 3am; www.socialanimal..co.uk/GHQ).
Liquid Rooms - does it all. There's an endless list of up and coming gigs: DJs, reggae,a Led Zeppelin tribute band, ska, folk; the club covers all genres so the best thing to do is check out the website (it looks wrong but is in fact correct - http://s335925931.websitehome.co.uk/wordpress/). It's in Victoria Street close to Grassmarket and The Royal Mile.
The Jazz Bar - not so much a bar as a way of life. Three gigs a day, seven nights a week; it's a basement jazz bar that's friendly with brilliant live sessions. Open til 3am every night and - gulp - 5am during the festival. Note: they take cash only and due to planning restrictions on listed buildings in the city, there is sadly no disabled access. It's in Chambers Street, two minutes from The Royal Mile www.thejazzbar.co.uk
Loopy Lornas - do a gentle Sunday afternoon jazz session at Churchill Theatre, Morningside Road, you can drink tea and eat scones or sip wine a gentle way to spend the day of rest. www.loopylornas.com
Sandy Bells. Despite the picture postcard image, traditional Scottish music isn't on every street corner, but this is a great place to pop in to hear a session. Between The High Street and the Meadows, a foot-tapping extravaganza is guaranteed. There are lots of bars where you can see traditional music and drink with the locals, have a look here for more information: Nightlife in Edinburgh: traditional bars, music and dancing.
Liquid Rooms, see above. A major music venue.
These next ones are the big venues where your household name acts play. You might as well see if your favourite is here.
The Queens Hall is a venue full of character on Edinburgh's Central south side. There's a gallery area of seating above the main auditorium, which is all on one level but often laid out with tables so you can enjoy a drink whilst listening to the band. Depending on the time of year and act, it can also be laid out in rows to accommodate bigger crowds. Enquire when you book as it will dictate where you sit and in what configuration (www.thequeenshall.net).
The Usher Hall, another landmark building in Edinburgh, recently refurbished and revealed looking splendid. On Lothian Road directly opposite The Sheraton. There are great acoustics in this purpose-built concert hall, which means an equal numbers of classical, rock, choral and accoustic concerts grace the stage here (www.usherhall.co.uk).
The Corn Exchange is a little out of town, so it's a taxi ride to an old abbatoir - the glamour. This place is popular as it is easy to access from all sides of town and has lots of parking. Again a good venue for major bands (www.ece.uk.com).
The Picture House in Lothian Road is a mix of club nights and live music and some major artists appear here. It's a good venue, not too big and when it gets rocking it's hard to beat. The only downside is Lothian Road is wild at the weekend, so I would bail out sharpish when you exit - whether clubbing or gigging (www.edinburgh-picturehouse.co.uk).
The Edinburgh Playhouse in Leith Walk is one of the biggest venues in Europe with a capacity of 4,500 people. The big West End musicals play here but so do artists such as Sting, David Byrne and Steely Dan. Big shows like Mamma Mia, We Will Rock You and Spam A Lot also decamp to Edinburgh to play here (www.edinburghplayhouse.org.uk).
You can also read advice on Nightlife in Edinburgh: traditional bars, music and dancing or visit Edinburgh nightlife.
Where to stay
You can see my full list of recommendations here – Edinburgh Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Edinburgh.