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Edinburgh Nightlife

8 Leven Street
Scotland EH3 9LG
Tel: 44 131 229 5143

This is a local workingman's pub—more than 100 malt whiskies are given pride of place along the tiered wooden bar—but proximity to a large student population and the King's Theatre next door save it from being the sole preserve of growling old Scottish men. Its beautiful Victorian interior has intricately carved wood booths, a cute, private snug at the end of the bar (no longer in use), and a front covered in leaded-glass panels. A second room, in the back, isn't nearly as impressive.

Bongo Club
37 Holyrood Road
Scotland EH8 8BA
Tel: 44 131 558 7604

Cafe and art venue by day, club, live music, and theater space by night, the Bongo Club has been pulling in crowds (albeit in a different—less savory—location) since 1996. Depending on the night, the tunes can be jungle, reggae, drum and bass, soul, electro, or hip-hop. A spacious dance floor and regular drink promotions add to the fun, laid-back vibe.

Bramble Bar and Lounge
16a Queen Street
Scotland EH2 1JE
Tel: 44 131 226 6343

This basement bar in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town is easy to miss. Inside, the dim lighting, bare stone walls, and multiple nooks and crannies don't make finding your way around any easier. However, for many booze hounds, it's a top choice for a quality cocktail in the city. The skilled bartenders will mix up an Old Fashioned or a Gibson, but, for a real fun night that you may not remember entirely clearly, just place yourself in their hands and let them roam the gantry. Favorites include the Bramble, which combines Plymouth Gin with fresh lemon juice, sugar syrup, and crème de mûres.—Jonathan Trew

Cabaret Voltaire
36 Blair Street
Scotland EH1 1QR
Tel: 44 131 220 6176

Probably the most active venue in town, Caberet Voltaire is set in vaults deep under the Old Town. Cool lighting and the odd painted red or wood-paneled wall has been added, but the interior retains most of the original stone finish and arched ceilings. There are two dance floors, the smaller one only opening later in the evening when the crowds start to pile in. The club is open every night, with live bands preceding the DJs. You really wouldn't want to lean against the walls in your most expensive shirt, but what it lacks in sophistication it makes up for in wild-eyed enthusiasm. The club nights run from house and garage to electro-indie and techno. Bands who have gigged at the Cab include Florence & The Machine, Hot Chip, Four Tet, Adele, and Mumford & Sons.

Joseph Pearce's
23 Elm Row
Scotland EH7 4AA
Tel: 44 131 556 41 40

This split-level bar at the top of Leith Walk retains the brass light fittings and tall gantry typical of a traditional public house, but the birdcage hanging from the ceiling, the pictures by local artists, and the daytime children's play area give it a more contemporary vibe. Popular with Edinburgh's artsy thirtysomethings, it has a Scandinavian feel (try the aquavit and crayfish parties) thanks to the Swedish owners, Anna and Mike Christopherson. The couple have breathed new life into this old pub (it's been serving up pints for well over 100 years), which also, believe it or not, has its own running club.—Jonathan Trew

Open Sundays through Fridays 11am to midnight; Saturdays 11 am to 1 am.

Opal Lounge
51a George Street
Scotland EH2 2HT
Tel: 44 131 226 2275

If you want to dance but aren't up for the all-out club scene, head for this central, super-sophisticated, and dimly lit 8,000-square-foot space, with a mixed (but mostly thirtysomething) crowd. The bar and restaurant both serve excellent cocktails and Asian-style dishes perfect for sharing. And those prepared to part with a yearly fee can get into the VIP members' lounge.

Pivo Caffé
2–6 Calton Road
Scotland EH8 8DP
Tel: 44 131 557 2925

Old stone walls and the location (under Regent Bridge) gives this bohemian Czech watering hole an authentic feel, but don't mistake it for a traditional pub—it's a popular preclub bar, open until 3 a.m. Pilsner Urquell and Staropramen are standard orders at the copper bar, which could double as an art installation with its bizarre fittings and fixtures (including cats and pressure gauges). One room has red upholstered seats, leather sofas, chunky wooden stools, and a TV in the corner playing classic films such as Citizen Kane, but it's standing-room-only in the other, where DJs spin seven days a week.

Sandy Bell's
25 Forrest Road
Tel: 44 131 225 2751

Long a focal point for traditional music in Edinburgh, this small, cozy pub is best known for the folk sessions that take place in the back room every night, on weekend afternoons, and at other irregular times. The sessions aren't a planned entertainment. There is no cover charge. It's just that Sandy Bell's has been a drop-in gathering place for musicians for decades. Anyone can join in or just listen from the bar with a pint of the local cask-conditioned ale, Deuchars IPA.

15 Charlotte Lane
Scotland EH2 4QZ
Tel: 44 131 225 6060

Its name is Sygn, but you'll have to take our word for it, since there's no sign outside. (When you come to the only building on this cobbled street with a pink light by the door, you've arrived.) The glamorous, low-lit main bar is done in dark wood and palm-print wallpaper, while a dramatic space out back has purple-velvet booths, gilt mirrors, and chandeliers. The adventurous should sample the extensive array of liqueurs, such as lychee, Kikor, and Tuaca, but even the timid-of-palate should be comfortable with the market pub grub (gourmet burgers and monkfish kebabs).

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.