Every summer, the Scottish capital becomes the cultural capital of Europe - and the envy of every other tourist board in the U.K - when it hosts the Edinburgh Festival, which encompasses the Fringe, International Festival, Book Festival, and Jazz Festival. All totaled, they bring in thousands upon thousands of visitors to see hundreds upon hundreds of acts - in comedy, dance, drama, music, and more. In August, the Scottish capital becomes a proverbial "city that never sleeps."
While the yearly Festival (www.edinburghfestivals.co.uk) is no doubt the highlight of the year, Edinburgh offers a good selection of after-dark entertainment and activities year-round: from cinema, clubs, and pubs, to theater, opera, and the ballet.
The West End is the cradle of theater and music, with the legendary and innovative Traverse Theatre, as well as the Royal Lyceum Theatre and, for concerts, the classic and acoustically excellent Usher Hall. Nearby, the Filmhouse offers the best in independent and art-house cinema. Other venues for drama include the Playhouse and Festival theaters. The folk scene centers on a couple of pubs - Sandy Bell's and the Royal Oak. Two of the most active areas for bars and pubs are the Grassmarket in Old Town and Broughton Street in New Town, although the university precincts on the south side of the city are lively, as are the pubs on the waterfront in the port of Leith.
For a complete rundown of what is happening in Edinburgh, pick up a copy of The List, a biweekly magazine available at all major newsstands and bookshops. Or visit its website, www.list.co.uk. It previews, reviews, and gives the full details of arts events here - and in Glasgow.
The Club & Music Scene
Folk -- Although internationally touring folkies - performers such as Americans Gillian Welsh or Nanci Griffith are big in Scotland - usually get booked into one of the music halls, the day-to-day folk scene in Edinburgh takes place in unassuming public houses. Ceilidhs -- gatherings for music, stories, and especially Scottish country dancing - are hosted at places such as the Assembly Rooms on George Street in New Town (tel. 0131/220-4349).
Rock, Pop & Jazz -- Usher Hall hosts some major rock and pop acts. Murrayfield Stadium, the Scottish national rugby stadium, hosts the biggest of international acts - such as Oasis or rock dinosaurs like the Rolling Stones.
Dance Clubs -- Clubbing is not quite as huge as it was in the 1980s and 1990s, but it probably draws more people than the folk, jazz, and classical music scene combined. We have provided just a sampling of what is typically going on in the clubs around Edinburgh.
Gay & Lesbian Edinburgh
The heart of the gay community is an area near Calton Hill, incorporating the top of Leith Walk around the Playhouse Theatre and Broughton Street, though it is hardly a distinct gay quarter to rival districts such as Manhattan's Christopher Street or San Francisco's Castro.
Okay, it's Friday or Saturday night. You've been out to a play, the pub, or dance club, and now you're utterly starving, but it's somewhere between 11pm and 1am. You're not exactly sure - food will help. The area around Edinburgh University is your best bet. Try Negociants (45 Lothian St.; tel. 0131/225-6313). It serves food until midnight during the week and until 2am on Friday and Saturday nights (that is, Sat and Sun mornings). My favorite late night eatery is Kebab Mahal.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.