Student life in Edinburgh

student life
Updated by vera2019 on 15 October, 2019

Edinburgh offers a wonderful quality of life for students, and if you choose to study in Scotland's capital, you won't be disappointed. As well as excellent academic facilities, you will find a buzzing nightlife scene, unrivalled culture, and stunning nature on your doorstep. Read on for everything you need to know about student life.

Student living in Edinburgh

In terms of accommodation in Edinburgh, students can opt to live either in private accommodation or halls.

Generally, UK students live in halls during their first year before moving out into private accommodation in the following years. Some universities also offer halls specifically for Masters students. “Halls” refers to University-owned flats, where flatmates are assigned based on a personal interest form that you fill out during an application. Halls usually include a private bedroom but shared bathroom, kitchen, and living area with other students. They can be either catered or self-catered. Halls often include a cleaner, and students do not pay any bills. This means that they are usually cheaper than if you were to rent accommodation privately, but it is seen as a “rite of passage” to live in halls, particularly in the first year of University. This type of accommodation is the best way to meet people, make friends, and practice English if it isn't your first language!

There are also privately owned halls, where students from all four Edinburgh universities can stay. These are generally kitted out to a higher standard and offer en-suite bathrooms and even studio flats. However, this is usually more expensive than university-owned options. Providers of private student accommodation in Edinburgh include IQ, Unite and The Student Housing Company, amongst others.

You could also rent a flat privately, which is a great option if you already have friends you wish to share with. You will be responsible for paying bills, cleaning, and sometimes buying furniture. It is possible to rent with bills included, which can make the process easier.

There are certain neighbourhoods where students tend to live, that you might want to look for accommodation in:

Newington: many students from the University of Edinburgh live in this neighbourhood. It has a central location with lots of restaurants and bars frequented by students, as well as affordable accommodation.

Bruntsfield: students from the University of Edinburgh and Napier University tend to live here as it is an excellent location for both universities.

Tollcross and Fountainbridge: students from Napier University tend to live in this neighbourhood due to its central location and proximity to student clubs. Many of the city's private student halls are found here.

Marchmont: this is a neighbourhood close to the Meadows, which is a beautiful park that students love, full of old Victorian houses. It is full of high-quality accommodation and shops, and less of a party scene than other student neighbourhoods. It can be expensive due to high demand.

Freshers Week in Edinburgh

The first week of term, known as ‘Freshers Week', is an integral part of studying in the UK. As well as formally matriculating for your course, this is a time to get to know your flatmates, coursemates, and the university campus. Each university organises its own programme of events. These are designed to introduce you to the city, and it is advisable to attend as many as you can. Your time at uni should be as much about having fun as studying!

Cost of living in Edinburgh


Compared to other European countries, it can be very expensive to study in the UK for people residing outside the EU. Edinburgh is one of the most expensive cities for international student tuition. In Edinburgh, the average university fee for international students is $35,000 (USD), according to QS World Rankings.

However, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) funds first degrees for EU students who wish to study in Scotland. If you are an international student, but from the EU, then Edinburgh could actually be one of the cheapest cities in the UK for you to study in! Check on the SAAS website to apply and see if your degree is eligible. SAAS do not sponsor one-year exchanges, only entire degrees. Due to the UK leaving the EU, it is unsure if this will continue, so it is always important to confirm tuition fees with your university first.


If you live in private accommodation or self-catered halls, you will need to cook for yourself. There are many food shops in the UK, but the most budget-friendly stores are Aldi, Asda, Morrison's, Sainsbury's and Tesco. Other, slightly more expensive, food shops include Co-op Food, Marks & Spencer, and Waitrose. If you live far from the city centre or shops, don't worry because most stores offer home delivery for a surcharge. Many students find it useful to go in on grocery delivery together. You can also get an NUS Extra card from your university. NUS is the National Union of Students, and it offers many discounts, including at food shops, the cinema, transport, and more.


Edinburgh has a very reliable public transportation system, comprising of buses and trams. The best option is to purchase a Student Ridacard, which costs £42 a month via Direct Debit. This provides unlimited travel on buses, night buses, and trams around Edinburgh.

For travel to the rest of the UK, Train travel is the best and easiest option. Students, no matter your age, are all eligible for a 16-25 railcard at an annual cost of £30, which gives 1/3 off fares.

Within the UK, you can also use National Express or Megabus for reasonably priced bus journeys. Both of these services also offer student discounts.

Student nightlife in Edinburgh

In Edinburgh, students socialise by going out clubbing or drinking at bars. In the UK, drinking is acceptable, and the drinking culture is more intense than in other places. Pre-drinking before going out is commonplace. You should be careful and not necessarily try to keep up with your UK counterparts! Also note: it is illegal to buy alcohol in shops before 10 am or after 10 pm in Scotland, although you can drink in Edinburgh's many bars and clubs until they close, between 1 am-3 am.

Students tend to go out during the week rather than on the weekends, which may seem opposite to you coming from a different country. This is because often drink prices or entry costs are raised on the weekends. In Edinburgh, students frequent the Cowgate and Lothian Road for well-priced clubs and bars. Popular clubs include Sneaky Pete's in Cowgate for indie music, Why Not on George Street for a more glamorous student night, The Bongo Club for hip hop, and many more. Edinburgh's nightlife scene is constantly changing, but you should receive introductory information on student club nights during your Freshers Week.

Where to explore as an international student

There is so much to do, see and eat in Edinburgh. Some fun things to add to your list include:

Climb Arthur's Seat - Edinburgh is home to an ancient (but extinct!) volcano, known as Arthur's Seat. You can hike up the volcano for free and enjoy some fresh air, a respite from the city, and breathtaking views.

Walk the Royal Mile - at the heart of Edinburgh city is the ancient Royal Mile, a stretch of shops, churches, government buildings, restaurants, pubs and more. It is the most visited street in Edinburgh.

Celebrate Hogmanay and New Years - make sure you are in Edinburgh over New Years so you can take part in the incredible “Hogmanay” celebration! No city does New Years quite like Edinburgh. The city is completely taken over by the festival, with torch lights, street parades, fireworks, concerts and more.

Go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival - another fantastic celebration in Edinburgh is the fringe festival, which attracts thousands of people from all over the world each summer. It is the world's largest arts festival and occurs in Edinburgh each August. You can apply to take part, go to workshops, and see upcoming theatre, art, and music.

Edinburgh is also only an hour's train journey from Glasgow and a short train journey from the highlands and beautiful lochs. For more to do in Edinburgh, look here.

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.