Edinburgh: Student City Guide
Leaving home for university can be daunting, especially if you are accustomed to small towns. Edinburgh is popular with students who want all the benefits of vibrant city life without being overwhelmed by its fast pace. This capital city is surprisingly compact, boasting diverse culture and stunning landscapes side by side with vibrant night life and eclectic bars and shops, all of which is resided over by the famous Edinburgh Castle.
Our ’Student City Guide‘ series is a way for students, both new and current, to learn all about what is going on in their local city and about the typical student’s concern – where to go out on the cheap. Edinburgh is a large city with an intriguing past, and Edinburgh students find themselves making new discoveries and stumbling upon hidden gems well into their third or fourth year of studying.
However, Edinburgh students have to contend with the high cost of living in Scotland’s capital. This Edinburgh city guide will make your student life in Edinburgh easier on you and your bank balance; it will provide you with the lowdown on some of Edinburgh’s most important hidden student treasures, in addition to highlighting some well known student haunts.
(Note: Figures quoted are correct as of February 2012)
Examples of what students can expect to pay in Edinburgh:
Pint of Lager: £2.50 +
Double vodka & mixer: £3 +
Average Rent: £90 per week
Single bus ticket to uni: £1.30
Keep reading below for more detailed info on prices.
Universities and Colleges
Transport in Edinburgh is currently experiencing an overhaul in preparation for the reintroduction of an integrated tram system in the city center. Fortunately, most Edinburgh students find that they have little need for public transport in their day to day activity, because all of the student haunts are within walking or cycling distance of the university campuses.
Travelling in and out of Edinburgh is also easy. There are two train stations at either ends of the city, and cheap Megabus services to Glasgow, a popular destination for a night out or shopping trip, are also available .
Edinburgh also has a quirky way for tourists to see the city – by rickshaw!
Lothian Buses run throughout Edinburgh and into Midlothian and East Lothian, making getting around cheap and easy for students. There is a night service with a bus leaving every 10 minutes from Waverley Steps at the east end of Princes Street. This service gets you home safely from a night out and saves you having to splash out on taxis.
A single ticket for any journey at any time is £1.30, or you can purchase a day ticket for £3.20 if you are making a few trips in one day.
For students who live too far away from campus to walk to lectures, the best bet is to buy a Student Ridacard. The Student Ridacard costs £13 for one week, £40 for a month, or £468 for the year. You can also save further by paying via direct debit. Paying for your Student Ridacard this way will cost £36 per month, earning you a saving of £4.
- Edinburgh buses only accept the correct change, so be prepared with coins unless you think you can charm the driver!
Despite the cobbled streets, cycling is a popular way for students to get around Edinburgh. However, you may have to find an alternative mode of transport between November and January, when Scotland is often transformed into a white winter wonderland.
At peak times, cyclists are allowed to share the buses’ green lanes in the city center, thus enabling a much smoother cycle journey. The city also has around 50 junctions with advance cycle stop lines. These stop lines contribute to its extensive network of cycle routes, which enable cyclists to beat the traffic. Edinburgh’s infamous sneaky side streets also make cycling a faster way to hand that essay in before the deadline.
Due to the popularity of two wheeled transport, Edinburgh has loads of bike shops such as Macdonald Cycles.
Online, try The Edinburgh Bicycle Co-Operative for cheap deals.
For bike hire and repairs, Leith Cycle Co is your one stop shop should the cobbles take their toll on your tyres.
There are two major train stations in Edinburgh: Haymarket and Waverley, the latter of which is the closest to University of Edinburgh campus. Haymarket is closer to Murrayfield Stadium.
If you can, make sure you book your train ticket in advance online for big savings at First Trans Penine Express.
Best Student Nightclubs
While the increased price of drinks in bars at weekends in Edinburgh mean most students are accustomed to mid-week sessions, Edinburgh’s night life rivals its neighbouring Glasgow’s with its eclectic bars, pubs and clubs. The main nightclubs are to be found on George Street. Be sure to steer clear from George Street on student nights, however, for the entry and drinks prices are high. Loads of live music venues are situated on Lothian Road, and The Cowgate is a students’ paradise for cheap drink and loud music.
Here’s a few of the most popular clubs for student nights with the best drink deals. (Note: Scotland’s licensing laws mean clubs close at 1am ,except for during the Fringe Festival.)
The disheveled student fashion in Edinburgh is mirrored in its night life. Indie nights are common in all of the big clubs.
- The Liquid Room houses different music genres every night and has played host to many indie bands. Mansion Wednesdays and Indigo Thursdays are the most popular student nights.
- The Cabaret Voltaire - this cavernous live music venue is a student favourite. It is housed in historical vaults that make it the perfect setting for indie gigs.
- The Hive is the destination for rock and alternative music, with drinks from £1 attracting students to its underground labyrinth.
- Sneaky Pete’s ’intimate’ venue in the Cowgate also houses live indie music.
Pop & Retro
A lot of clubs in Edinburgh cater for cheesy guilty pleasures, and chart music regularly hits the decks on the student nights.
- Lava & Ignite Students flock to CAV on Sunday nights for the massive dance floor and alcopops from £1.50.
- HMV Picture House hosts Octopussy every Thursday night – student entry is £4 cheesy and chart music compliments the venue’s sticky floors.
- City Chart music, shots from £1, and a capacity of 1500 make City a student favourite.
- GHQ stationed at the heart of Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle, GHQ has drinks from £1 and cheap entry for students.
R&B, Funky House and Hip-Hop
Edinburgh has a great scene for those nights when you just want to dance.
- Shanghai on cosmopolitan George Street brings an Oriental twist to Scotland, with its own available student discount card making it popular for cheap drink and dancing.
- Silk On Thursday nights Silk hosts ‘Temple’, which boasts vodka mixers for £1 and a student friendly VIP package.
- Why Not? On George Street, Monday nights are students only, and the drinks deals reflect this.
- Lulu on George Street offers student drinks deals in a decadent setting.
Dubstep, Drum & Bass & Techno
Edinburgh clubs host great resident DJs, many who specialise in Drum & Bass.
- The Caves Although slightly less easy on the typical student budget, The Caves offers a unique clubbing experience in recently discovered vaults.
- The Lane hosts DJs frequently. A long standing student haunt for dubstep.
- The Bongo Club is the place to be for Hip Hop music.
Buy Advanced tickets for most of these clubs from our Fatsoma ticket rep page.
Edinburgh boasts some fantastic restaurants, particularly on George Street, but these are more of a treat for when the parents come to visit. Aside from all the expected chains like Bella Italia, Jimmy Chung’s, Prezzo and Gusto, there are many great eateries for students on a budget.
- El Barrio is a Latino bar and grill in the center of Edinburgh with huge portions for hungry students.
- The Mosque Kitchen is a cheap and cheerful canteen close to the lecture theatres, where you can get curry and rice from £4.
- Malones Irish Bar is near the main university campus and offers a £6.50 two course lunch menu.
- MUMS Monster Mash does great comfort food for times when you miss your mum’s cooking, with breakfast rolls from £1.20.
- The Three Sisters Students can get 2-4-1 main meals, 7 days a week in this large but cosy pub.
- Elephants and Bagels attracts students during lunch hour with its free WiFi and healthy, filling meal deals. Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter books, is also worth a visit for a coffee between lectures.
- Cafe Piccante is a chip shop with a difference – it has its own resident DJ! Try a Deep Fried Mars Bar.
Edinburgh’s history and culture manifests itself in its tourist attractions and scenic landscapes.
- The Royal Mile invites you to take a walk up Edinburgh’s famous street, stopping for a pint in one of its traditional Scottish pubs (just the one though – tourist areas charge high tourist prices). The regal Edinburgh Castle lies at the top of the mile. Don’t bother with the entry fee, but get a photo of yourself outside it, post it on facebook, and then never return!
- Hike the 287 steps of Scott’s Monument for stunning views of the city from a gothic tower.
- Princes Street Gardens are lovely in the summer after a day’s shopping on Princes Street and a drink on Rose Street, and the Grassmarket is a great drinking area and vintage shopping destination.
- Edinburgh is a different city depending on the season. Try to spend a summer here to catch the Fringe Festival, during which the city is overrun with tourists and performers. At Christmas, Princes Street Gardens acquire an ice rink and German Christmas Market – be sure to grab a hot chocolate or post-shop mulled wine.
Health & Fitness
Staying fit as a student in Edinburgh is easy even when the Scottish weather leaves you shivering.
CSE is University of Edinburgh’s gym, which boasts great facilities and a swimming pool. Student membership costs £100 for the year (excluding the summer), but off peak membership is £65. There are also options for memberships lasting one semester only.
Factory Gyms on Calton Road also offer students no joining fee and one-off entry for £3 per session.
The Meadows behind the main university library attracts runners and joggers, although it is best avoided after dark.
New section! Find student letting agents in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh differs from some student cities in that most of the student accommodation is flats rather than houses, so having 9 housemates isn’t really an option. A 5 bedroom flat in the city center will have an average rent of £1850 (£90 per week each).
For first years, there is catered accommodation in Pollock Halls for University of Edinburgh students and self catered in Frasiers Court, Kincaids Court, Sciennes and Hermits Croft
Marchmont, Morningside, and Bruntsfield are popular areas for students later in their studies.
Check out our guide to viewing a student house.
There are a lot of students flats in Edinburgh, so you don’t have to worry about finding somewhere to live. However, competition is stiff for the best flats, so be quick if you really like somewhere. If you are looking for a flatshare with other people nearby, then take a look at Easy Roommate.