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A guide to Edinburgh’s best Alternative venues and shops

ByJames Hanton

Oct 11, 2017
Niddrie Street

You have just finished applying some on point eyeliner. You climb into a trusty pair of Docs, pull on a thick leather jacket covered in patches and scuffs, and fasten on your best choker. You head outside, screaming along to the heavy metal blaring through your headphones, on your way to… the Big Cheese?

If you’ve grown tired of waiting in the Potterrow queue every Saturday night or you are sick of scouring clothes racks in high street stores for anything black, read on for a quick guide on some of Edinburgh’s best alternative bars, clubs and shops.

The Auld Hoose: Found almost at the halfway point between Pleasance and Pollock Halls, this somewhat magnificent pub has a wide selection of bottled beers and ciders as well as some guest ales on tap. Prepare to be drinking to the tune of metal and goth rock playing from their splendidly retro jukebox. What makes the Auld Hoose really worth a visit, rock fan or not, is their nachos. Teviot nachos are left quivering in the wake of the magnificent ‘multi-person’ feast that this pub claims are ‘the biggest nachos in Edinburgh’.

Banshee Labyrinth: With Halloween getting ever closer, Banshee Labyrinth is the perfect place to go for a delightfully spooky night out. It lives up to its name, the inside being a maze of different spaces, including a cinema and a live music room. Whenever a band is performing here, it is streamed on TV screens around the rest of the building, so everyone can watch. Some funky skeletons like to make an appearance and there is always a selection of awesome music. With plenty of variety at the bar, Banshee Labyrinth is a must-see for fans of Edinburgh’s night life, although the drinks can be quite pricey.

Opium: Promoted as one of the best alternative music venues in Europe, Opium is a magnet for all things rock. They have a different themed club night every day of the week, covering all genres of rock music and including karaoke on Mondays, as well as a solid selection of themed drinks. They often hold gigs too, which are never too expensive to attend. They also do a loyalty card with a selection of cheap deals, so you have even more of an excuse to mosh the night away.

Applejack: A stone’s throw away from central campus on South Bridge, Applejack is an independently run boutique full of fantastic clothes and accessories. Eye-catching window displays are just a teaser of the vast collection of alternative labels sold inside, as well as a range of shoes, make-up, posters and home décor. If quirky, darkly coloured and fashionable attire is your thing, Applejack can offer that and much more, whatever your budget.

Damaged Society: Filling the void left in Waverley Mall by Pulp’s departure, Damaged Society is an almost identical replacement. Despite selling less shoes and being slightly more expensive than Pulp, Damaged Society stocks more jewellery and offers a much wider variety of fashion items. Band tees with famous faces line the wall (Lemmy’s eyes follow you around the store), while Disney gets given a dark makeover on a selection of bags and dresses. Big brands like Iron Fist and Banned also have a heavy presence.

Who’s Who: Like Debenhams, Who’s Who seemingly always has a sale on. This Cockburn Street shop has a great array of geek-culture clothes, featuring some well-established labels such as Spin Doctor. It’s a bit pokey inside, but you won’t want to be leaving in a hurry. There is a distinct Scottish touch too, with your typical Loch Ness Monster and Trainspotting merchandise appearing alongside other homages to pop culture. Who’s Who is the perfect place for finding high quality items at fantastic discounts.

Edinburgh has an endless supply of quirky shops and pubs, so if you don’t fancy any of the recommendations here, go out and explore the city, there are many more waiting to be found.

image: Stewart Allan via flickr

By James Hanton

James is a former editor-in-chief having  been TV & Radio Editor before that, and has contributed over 100 articles to the newspaper. He won a Best Article Award in December 2016 for his feature about Universal Monsters in the film section, and also writes for Starburst Magazine UK and The National Student. James was part of The Student‘s review team for the 2017 & 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He can be reached at: jhantonwriter@gmail.com

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