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Edinburgh’s best alternative study spots

Edinburgh’s best alternative study spots

Exam season = a very busy library. Worry not, though: Martha has you covered with her favourite alternative study spots!

We’ve all been there – wandering defeatedly around the Main Library because you failed to get a seat before the 11am rush of desperate students (9am in exam season!). Coming back for my fourth and final year, I was determined to find the hidden gem study spots in Edinburgh. As exam season approaches, I’m sharing these so you’re not forced to wake up before the sun rises to succeed in the Main Library hunger games.

New College

New College, The Mound
New College in all its glory. Photo credit: Mihaela Bodlovic, 2024


This is Edinburgh University’s best-kept secret. Towering over the Mound and across Princes Street, New College is the home of the School of Divinity. It’s also home to a newly-refurbished library and Rainy Hall – a large dining hall with a cheap cafe and decorations which put Hogwarts to shame. It may be an extra 10 minute walk from central campus, but New College is definitely worth it!

40 George Square

Following Teviot’s temporary closure, the newly-refurbished 40 George Square study space is a great spot if you’re between classes and don’t have time to travel further to find somewhere to work. There are three floors of study space, a small kitchenette, and places for social study, so whatever type of studying you’re doing, 40GS has you covered.

Bayes Centre Cafe

Hidden between the Informatics and Bayes Centre, the Bayes Centre Cafe is my favourite uni cafe to study in. It’s tucked away, meaning it’s quiet and doesn’t have a rush of people looking for a takeaway coffee between classes. When I’m doing some more chill studying on the central campus, this is my go-to.

50 George Square

50 GS is the home of the school of Languages, Literatures and Cultures, but also boasts a huge variety of study spaces. There’s a library on the first floor, as well as desks and sofas scattered throughout the building, so there’s no shortage of space to study. The first and second floors can get busy, but the numbers tend to decline as you go up the building.

Waterstones Cafe

The view of Edinburgh Castle
The view of Edinburgh Castle never gets old… and you can see it from Waterstones Cafe! Photo credit: Tomas Sarmiento Armendariz – People’s Choice 2018


When I’m craving an escape from studenty areas but still need to work, I go to the Waterstones Cafe on Princes Street. With large bay windows looking onto Edinburgh Castle, an array of affordable food and drinks, and reliable wifi, Waterstones has you covered. Plug sockets are lacking, so make sure to charge your tech beforehand!

So those are my five go-to study spaces when I need some time away from the Main Library – I hope at least one of them is new for you! As exam season approaches, remember to take time to rest and enjoy time outside, it’s all about finding a balance.

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