Places of Worship: The Freshers’ guide to music venues in Edinburgh

Welcome, fellow students, to the city of Edinburgh.

Home to the famous Fringe Festival, your new home is proudly one of the most vibrant and long-established cultural epicentres in the UK, and as a student in this city, the world is truly your oyster.

However, walking through the iconic greyscale cobblestone streets you may not always know where to look when setting out to sample what the capital has to offer.

Never fear, look no further than this article for your music venue know-how, as we detail the greatest in alt. clubs and gig spots this side of the Pentland Hills.

Most of the music venues worth their salt are located on Cowgate, a street name you will become uncomfortably familiar with over your time studying here. Located just off Grassmarket, it runs parallel to Chambers Street but a level below. Filling the space beneath South Bridge its view, intersected by foreboding arching underpasses, is iconic, and the skyline punctuated with the spires that are typical in Edinburgh architecture makes it feel cathedral-like.

I guess, for many, frequenting Cowgate is a religious experience after all. That is if your religion revolves around sweaty dance floors and cigarette butts.

I like to think of it as the ‘Gotham City’ of Edinburgh. It may not sound particularly enticing but there’s something intriguing about Cowgate and the plethora of pubs, clubs, and gig spaces that inhabit it. It is as though these venues sprung up in every possible nook and cranny down there, even spreading into the infamous (and infamously haunted) Edinburgh Vaults.
And now without further ado…

Sneaky Pete’s
73 Cowgate

You have probably heard this name before whether that be from a friend who knows their way around Cowgate, or perhaps you know a Peter who is exceptionally sticky-fingered. Either way, this club is a must for music lovers. They are known for booking what’s hot in indie and rock.

Liquid Rooms
9C Victoria St.

Tucked away down what the tourists like to refer to as Diagon Alley, The Liquid Rooms is a nightclub venue worth checking out for their themed indie night Thursdays as well as for hosting some impressive musicians. This venue has a knack for snatching artists just before they make it big, so it’s the perfect space to see your favourites in a more intimate setting before they soar into stardom.

Mash House
37 Guthrie St.

Tucked away down an alley off Cowgate with only an inconspicuous sign to alert passers-by at its existence, Mash House is a well-liked and surprisingly expansive music space stretching over three floors. It is a favourite here in Edinburgh and hosts high-quality artists of a variety of calibres. Cosy bar space and an intimate stage set-up make for good vibes all around.

The Caves
8-10 Niddry St. S

The Caves is a fascinating venue that occupies the space beneath South Bridge. Nothing could be more Edinburgh than this venue as that iconic arching 18th-century architecture acts as a vessel for nights of culture. The University’s own Indie society is hosting a night here for punk band Baby Strange on the 27th of September which is a must-see.

Summer Hall
1 Newington

Summer Hall is a slightly more sophisticated venue located on the East side of Meadows. The venue used to be the dissection room for the old veterinary college that once occupied the building. The walls are high and clad rather ominously in white tiles, and there is an observation deck that runs the perimeter of the building. It is also known for hosting the occasional artsy rave.

The Wee Red bar
Lauriston Architecture Building, 74 Lauriston Pl.

The Wee Red Bar is a student union building that hosts local artists as well as themed music nights like Pulp Night and Heart of Glass. It is never very busy which can make getting on the dance floor a little awkward but there is something rather charming about that. The decor makes this venue. It is eclectic and kitsch with music posters all over the walls. Some are even available to take home at the end of the night, perfect for decorating your new home.

Other music venues worth checking out include Banshees, Opium, and The Voodoo Rooms to name only a few. The list is endless here in Edinburgh. Now go out there and make the most of what your new home has to offer!

image: yungblud at liquid rooms via Ella Cockerill