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48 Hours in Edinburgh

The Backpacker's Guide to Edinburgh Nightlife

Edinburgh has always been a backpacker's favourite, with thousands of travellers flocking to the historic city to sample Scottish culture every year.

But there's more to Scotland's capital than bagpipes, haggis and a wee dram of whiskey. Dubbed the "Athens of the North" for its beautiful architecture, Edinburgh's Georgian streets really come alive when night falls.

Party All Year Round

The Scots know how to throw a good knees-up, and Edinburgh is an eternal party host, from the widespread 'Hogmanay' Celebrations and street party on New Year's Eve, to the raucous Burn's Night parties in pubs along the Royal Mile.

Come August, the city is consumed by the internationally renowned Edinburgh Festival, and throngs of tourists and performers crowd the city's pubs and clubs, which are open until the wee hours.

A Bargain Night Out

With a jam-packed events calendar, it's no wonder Edinburgh is popular with backpackers in search of a good time, and luckily the city caters to budget travellers.

There are several Edinburgh hostelswithin easy stumbling distance of Princes Street and the pubs of the Royal Mile, and with a compact city centre, excellent bus system and cheap cab fares, getting to the rest of the city's night-spots is no problem.

Over the past few years, though, swanky bars and chic lounge-clubs have sprung up in the city, and when the festival crowd comes around the prices are far from purse-friendly. So if you're backpacking or after the best night out on a budget, here's a quick rundown on what to do in Edinburgh after-hours.

Clubs and Gigs

Edinburgh's high student population means there's loads going on in the city all year, with bargain club nights mid-week drawing in a young, hip crowd. The Cowgate and Grassmarket areas, close to the Edinburgh University campus, are packed with underground clubs and intimate gig venues.

The Subway Cowgate is a bar/venue with bags of character and cheap drinks - knock back a shot of absinthe and watch live local bands perform. Cabaret Voltaire is a stalwart on the Edinburgh club scene, with acclaimed club nights and staging 30 gigs a month. Housed in a labyrinth of ancient underground caves under Cowgate, the line-up here is eclectic, ranging from throbbing house music to obscure indie acts.

Beneath the elegant Georgian buildings of Old Town you'll find The Hive, a popular student haunt known for its cheap drinks, and its 650 people capacity is often packed.

Pubs and Bars

Most of the city's watering holes are grouped together; the Old Town is the place to find traditional Scottish Pubs for a drop of Whisky or Scottish gin. Greyfriars Bobby's Bar is as old-school as it gets - the pub is named after the famous dog and city mascot who watched over his master's grave, and the pub is a cosy place for a pint, if a little crowded in tourist season.

Steer clear of the Irish Pubs along the Grassmarket - unless you fancy joining the numerous hen and stag parties that pack the bar. The New Town and George Street are lined with trendy bars and elaborate cocktails, and during the festival, Grassmarket and Cowgate come alive, as pubs are packed to the rafters. In August the Festival Venues often create 'pop-up' pubs where you can rub shoulders with the performers.

Most Edinburgh students embark on a pub crawl around the city's themed pubs, and they're great fun and not too pricey for first time visitors. Frankenstein's Pub is a hilarious ode to the cheesy monster flick, with Frankenstein movies screened over the bar, and décor in the style of a creepy dungeon.

Jekyll and Hyde is also decorated with horror-film paraphernalia, but goes the whole hog with spookily-themed drinks. The Three Sisters is Edinburgh's liveliest pub, with 3 bars and the capacity to house 2000 party animals - go when the rugby's on and you might never make it out.

The Bowery is a cooler drinking-hole, an attempt to emulate the shabby-chic of a New York Dive bar, with gin and wine served in tea-cups and old furniture artfully strewn across the room.

For something a little-more low key, the Cameo Cinema is Edinburgh's foremost independent cinema, with low prices and a wide selection of art-house and foreign films, The 'hangover movie marathons' on a Sunday are always popular with students, and a great way to recover from the night before!