I tried to find the most tragic drinking establishment for students in Edinburgh

So you didn’t have to


I’m quite tame when it comes to my pubbing habits: Teviot for a casual pint, Peartree when the weather’s not shit, and Three Sisters when I’m feeling frisky. And when it comes to nightlife, like most Edinburgh students, I don’t really venture out of the comfy confines of Cowgate and George Street. But one Saturday night I was feeling particularly adventurous so I rallied up the troops and hit the town, on the search for the most tragic bar or pub in Edinburgh.

The Grapes – Newington 

In all it's glory

In all it’s glory

Walking into the Grapes felt like strutting right into the abyss. Greeted by old men who looked as if they’ve been there since this morning, fluorescent lights and 80s music, we uncomfortably tried to look for a table. Being what felt like the only people there under the age of 50, we got our fair share of stares, but it wasn’t until I went up to order a pint where I was hit with the unthinkable.

The bartender looked me dead in the eyes and said: “I’m sorry, you have to be 25 to order.” Total character assassination. I felt like I was in high school again. Going back to the table I told my oldest-looking friend to go up and see if she could get us a pint, just like you do when you’re in fucking high school.

After plan B failed we called the operation off and headed off to the next one, certain that even when I turned the big two five I probably wouldn’t return to The Grapes.

One day....

One day….

Pivo – Calton Road

Boom, there it is

Boom, there it is

Hidden in the far breaches of absolutely nowhere, I found Pivo through TripAdvisor, which one reviewer said was “as fun as having cancer.” Naturally, I had to check it out.

As far as the crowd went, Pivo’s was average. What you usually would expect – your lost tourists, regulars who aren’t even sure why they drink there, and a variety of strange characters. The pints were priced as you’d expect, running me £3.50 for a Red Stripe.

Not impressed

Not impressed

Madogs – New Town 

For when you're not really feeling Why Not

For when you’re not really feeling Why Not

Situated on George Street, I expected a lot from Madogs in terms of the cringe level. A la Lulu’s and Opal, it’s situated underground so walking into it felt like descending into the underworld.

On a mad one at Madogs with my dogz

On a mad one at Madogs with my dogz

It cost five quid for a Peroni and four quid for a vodka cranberry, not very student friendly. Everyone in here looked like an extra in The Office and one of my mates described it as “a stockbroker’s quiet night out.”

When the DJ started playing Missy Elliot, I was dangerously close to enjoying my time here until one of my mates leaned over and whispered, “can we please leave, I think I’m gonna catch something if I stay here any longer.”

Fingers Piano Bar – New Town 

Sick name.

Sick name.

A short walk away from Bourbon is Fingers Piano Bar. I was immediately hit with the smell of cleaning fluid and cinnamon, a winning combination. Fingers actually wouldn’t be that horrible if it didn’t cost me an entire year’s worth of tuition for a drink.

As I was sitting there, sipping on my five pound pint, a man got onto the piano and started playing Boulevard of Broken Dreams, which really solidified this place as tragic. I felt like I was in an episode of Peep Show. A nightlife experience so bad that it was good.

Bangers only.

Bangers only

As I looked around, I saw the same kind of crowd as I did at Madogs. Instantly I was struck by a panic, here I am at uni thinking I’m hot shit because I go to Sneaky’s and Bongo’s and listen to Skepta when in a few short years I could be here, at Fingers, out for a few with my colleagues. I’m sure all of the people here once had dreams, but now they’ve just ended up here, spending their Saturday night at a place called Fingers Piano Bar.

Stay young

Stay young

Opium Bar- Cowgate 

By the time I got to Opium, I was pissed off. Never had I experienced such an existential letdown, I was beginning to lose my faith in humanity.

Looks warm and inviting

Looks warm and inviting

I just wanted it to end, just wanted to head on over to the Three Sisters and call it a night, but I decided to take one for the team and see what Opium had to offer.

Desperately trying to convince myself that I'm having a good time

Desperately trying to convince myself that I’m having a good time

The upstairs area played heavy metal and why in the world would anyone listen to heavy metal is beyond me, but hey, there it was. The downstairs area was extremely well-lit, which is not what I was looking for at midnight.

In conclusion, it’s good to step out of your comfort zone. Edinburgh nightlife does actually extend beyond Hive believe it or not, but, for the time being, if you need me I’ll be somewhere that isn’t on this list.