Freshers’ Week: an alternative guide to nights out

Because £40 for a wristband is absurd

The EUSA ‘Welcome Week’ is uninspired, overcrowded, and overpriced.

It’s easy to see why arriving students fall for the packaged fun of the watered-down Welcome Week. No amount of research can really inform you where the good nights are in a new city. It’s even harder to convince your brand new mates to come with you to a night they’ve never heard of, especially when it lies outside the comforting safe space of the Edinburgh Central campus.

The fact is though, Edinburgh isn’t a campus university, it’s situated within a vibrant, cultural city, with tons of great places and people. You don’t need to spend £40 on a naff wristband that allows you to go to a host of severely uninspiring events at one of the UK’s most notoriously expensive Students’ Union.

Instead, here’s a guide to just some of Edinburgh’s best spots for a good time:


Edinburgh’s most notorious club. With free entry and cheap drinks, Hive holds a certain anything-goes attitude. You definitely will never meet a wider variety of people at a club – every age, every music taste, every style of fashion – everyone ends up at Hive. Expect an eclectic mix of tunes and a mad, but friendly, vibe.

Sneaky Pete’s

The undisputed champion of Edinburgh’s underground music scene. Sneaky’s is small, but what it lacks in size, it makes up for in atmosphere. Nowhere on a Saturday night will you find a better crowd. If you’re into techno, house, funk, and soul then this is the place for you. Expect good intimate vibes and top-class music.


A real good pick for a freshers pre-drinks. Tron is not only a purveyor of ridiculously cheap drinks, including £1.75 pints of Carling on weekdays, it is also situated just off the Cowgate and less than one minute from Cabaret Voltaire. They also do a popular karaoke night. Expect a rowdy mixture of pissups and pre-drinks.

Paradise Palms

A buzzing, jungle-themed bar right next door to Central campus. Why wait two hours in the line for Potterrow when you can go right across the road to Paradise Palms? The easily distinguishable bar, come-club, come-transexual-burlesque house is a complete change of scene from its university-approved neighbour. The cocktails are great and it always attracts an interesting crowd. Expect strong drinks, unique entertainment, and the satisfaction of watching fellow students try and cram their way into Potterrow.

Henry’s Cellar Bar

An intimate venue for live music. If you’re into music but clubbing isn’t your scene, then Henry’s Cellar Bar might be for you. The Cellar, situated underneath The Big Lebowski Bar (another great drinking spot) is known for it’s live music and spoken word nights. A good spot to see student bands. Expect dark and arty.

The Jazz Bar

The home of jazz music in Edinburgh. Despite it’s uninspired name, The Jazz Bar is a top venue for all manner of professional live music. Jazz, funk, soul, ska, orchestral, it’s all played at the Jazz Bar. The atmosphere can vary here – some nights it’s a great spot for a quiet drink and some contemplation, others a rowdy rocking joint. Expect good cocktails, great live performances, and the perfect date spot.

Bow Bar

An old-time drinking hole with a great selection of beers and whiskies. Situated on Victoria Street, one of Edinburgh’s most colourful streets, Bow Bar is a beautiful return to simpler times, with a homely interior and classic pints such as milk stout. There’s a slightly older crowd, so definitely a spot for anyone who wants to get away from the student stupidity. Expect craft ales, single malts, and knowledgable barmen.