Edinburgh may be renowned as the world’s leading festival city, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that Scotland’s capital also boasts a thriving nightlife and vibrant music scene, too.
From a selection of impressive large venues and concert halls to a wealth of smaller more intimate gig spaces, here is a guide to some of the best music venues you can’t afford to miss in Edinburgh.
Named after its benefactor Andrew Usher – a whiskey distiller who donated £100,00 towards the build in 1896 – this venue has all the elegance and grandeur you would wish for a night of live music. The beautiful circular building is reminiscent of the Royal Albert Hall and is just as integral to Edinburgh architectural heritage as London’s flagship concert hall is to the English capital.
Renovated back in 2007, it hosts the majority of Edinburgh's larger concerts, seating a massive 2200, with a standing capacity of 2800. Usher Hall hosts around 200 events a year making this fine landmark a beacon for arts and culture.
At the top of Leith Walk lies another titan of a music venue, the Edinburgh Playhouse. This venue regularly showcases the best of the world’s touring shows with West End plays and musicals a common feature on the schedule.
Designed by the Glaswegian architect John Fairweather as a variety theatre, the Playhouse was largely modelled on the Roxy Theatre in New York. And despite the fact that it is one of the most famous and recognizable venues in Britain, the Playhouse has had something of a chequered past.
Turned into a cinema in the 1930s to host the ‘talkies’, the Edinburgh Playhouse remained popular for the best part of 40 years under this guise. But in the 1970s its ability to draw in crowds waned and it was forced to close its doors. After changing hands several times in the subsequent decades, it wasn’t until a major refurbishment in 1993 that the building of today took place and began drawing in audiences from around the world once again.
Deep underground and situated in the caverns of Cowgate lies the atmospheric subterranean venue that is Cabaret Voltaire. A cosy rock venue with low ceilings and a reputation for attracting great musicians, Cabaret Voltaire hosts an eclectic mix of intimate gigs every month. The venue is also comprised of two floors playing a heady mix of drum ’n’ bass, techno and dance.
On the South side of Edinburgh lies Queen’s Hall - a converted chapel and a venue that every serious music lover must visit at one time or another.
Queen’s Hall is a generous participant in Edinburgh’s cultural festivals, regularly playing host to Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival each summer. It is perhaps loved most because despite being one of the city’s larger venues it has an uncanny ability to create a sense of intimacy that connects performers with their audience. There is no shortage of variety in its programmes either with everything from classical, jazz, blues, pop, rock, world and folk music playing its stage.
Situated on the South side of Edinburgh is the stunning glass front of the Festival Theatre. The building is a patchwork of architectural styles, merging contemporary design with art nouveau, beaux arts and neoclassicism. The site was extended in 1994 to create the largest stage in Britain. With a capacity of 1915 people, this well restored building is a popular venue for theatre and concert-goers alike.
With so many venues to choose from and so many great acts to see around the city, music lovers are guaranteed a fantastic time in Edinburgh. If you would like to have all of this and more on your doorstep, why not take a closer look at The Apartments here at Quartermile – fast becoming the city’s most desirable district.