2022 Edinburgh
Winter Travel Guide

Winter in Edinburgh

In this definitive guide to spending winter in Edinburgh, we'll give you all the key insights you need to make sure your experience in the Scottish capital is amazing. We've divided the information in different sections so you can find exactly what you need:

Reasons to travel to Edinburgh in Winter

Bird on a branch with snow in Edinburgh

Many people (rightly so) hesitate if visiting Edinburgh in winter is a good idea or not. We think that any time is valid to do some tourism in Edinburgh. But of course, depending on the season you'll find unique and different reasons to spend your holidays there.

In favour of travelling to Edinburgh in Winter Against travelling to Edinburgh in Winter
Cheaper accommodation price It's very cold
Not so many tourists on the streets It gets dark very early
Beautiful Christmas decoration
Hogmanay (New Years Eve) and other events
Doesn't raint as much as in Autum

As a quick recap, depending on how much importance you give to the “cold” and “dark” factors, visiting Edinburgh in winter can be a great idea. At least, in Edinburgh, it doesn't rain as much as people think. However, be prepared for the wind!

Weather in Edinbrugh

Arthur seat with snow in Edinburgh during winter

One of the biggest concerns among those planning a trip to Edinburgh in winter is the weather. The Scottish weather, as it's well known everywhere, is famous for being rainy and cold.

Winters in Edinburgh are indeed cold. The worst months are January and February, although some years you can experience very low temperatures since November.

On the good side of things, it doesn't rain as much as people think. Autumn is actually worst than winter when it comes to rain.

Get ready: things to know before travelling in winter

winter clothes for the Scotish weather in winter

Appropiate clothes and shoes

Winter coats are a must! As soon as you get off the plane, you will know why. So, be ready to bring enough layers, and ideally also anti-slip shoes. As we have mentioned, in Edinburgh it doesn't rain that much but because of the humidity, the road is always wet. Be aware that with low temperatures, ice can be formed on the road.

Plan the itinerary thinking about sunlight hours

It's not really that great to design an itinerary of things to do in Edinburgh during winter without thinking about the time it gets dark. In November, December and January, the sunset is around 4pm. Ideally, get up as early as possible, so you get to see as many attractions and recommendable places as possible. But don't worry, for the night you can still do a lot of great activities! Keep reading to find out more.

Should I visit the Highlands in winter?

That's one of the most asked questions. The Scottish Government works actively during the coldest months of winter to make the roads accessible. With this, we mean that it is possible to do a road trip to see the Highlands. Although, if you have the option, we think that it is preferable to do that in summer. Since there is more sunlight, you can get to see more places and landscapes. A day trip to Loch Ness requires a lot of time travelling, and after 4pm you won't see much.

However, if you start your trip very early, you will still get to see a lot of the Highlands! We don't want to de-encourage you to visit the Highlands but only help you be ready for what to expect.

Edinburgh Christmas Essentials

Princes Street Gardens Christmas Market in Edinburgh

If you plan to travel to Edinburgh at Christmas, you absolutely must visit the Christmas market in Princes Street Gardens. Princes Gardens is by itself one of the best tourist attractions in Edinburgh, and at Christmas is even better.

In Edinburgh "Christmas Market" is a big deal. So big that the Scottish capital makes one of the best Christmas markets in Europe. The more than 100 stands feature handicrafts, souvenirs, food and drinks! The perfect place to visit at Christmas for couples, families and literally anybody that happens to be in Edinburgh.

Tip: Very close to Prince's Street, there is also another Christmas Market at George Street. It is smaller, but also an excellent place to go!

Best things to do in Edinburgh in Winter

Calton Hill in Edinburgh covered in snow during winter

Check our must-do list so you don't miss anything on your trip to Edinburgh :)

  • Christmas Market: Princes street Garden market is huge, and you will find plenty of shops, food and mulled wine there. Definitely a must see!
  • Edinburgh Free Tour: No matter rain, cold or snow, you can always enjoy the Old Town Tour in Edinburgh. Get your coat, maybe a hot coffee and walk around this beautiful city in the best possible way, with the company of an expert guide.
  • Christmas Market attractions Considering that is only temporary, the theme park that Edinburgh has at Christmas is quite good! You will find family attractions such as Helter Skelter and bumper cars, romantic activities like the Big Wheel... If you want to experience some high intensity, you even have an attraction that goes up almost as much as Walter Scott Monument. 64 metres nonetheless!
  • Selling stall on the Christmas market in Edinbrugh
  • Warm up a little bit with a good Scottish whisky: Edinburgh has more than 700 pubs, so you have plenty to choose from. However, if you want to enjoy whisky with a little bit of history, we recommend you to go the Whisky and History tours.
  • Botanic garden in Edinburgh: Any season is good to visit Edinburgh's botanical garden. Enjoy its exotic plants and flowers all year round!
  • Ice-Skating: Every Christmas, you can find an ice-skating rink in St Andrews square. You can buy the ticket online, and it is advised to be there around 20 minutes before the activity.
  • George Street: The luxurious street gets dressed for the special ocassion. Walk around the beautiful shops covered in Christmas lights and decorations.
  • Spectacles: Edinburgh offers a great range of shows and activities, especially for children. From magic-shows to theatres, you will find plenty of things to do.

New Year's Even in Edinburgh: Hogmanay

Fireworks celebration on New Years Eve Edinburgh

The celebrations to say goodbye to the year are unique in Edinburgh, they take nothing less than 3 days! Edinburgh has recently become one of the best places in the world to celebrate New Year's Eve. Hogmanay is a very popular celebration among locals and tourists.

Why is it called Hogmanay?

Hogmanay is how people referred in Scotland to New Year's Eve. The origin of the word Hogmanay is uncertain. Some believe that it might be in a mixture of French and Scottish Gaelic.

What is it particular about Hogmanay?

The way of celebrating the event may differ from town to town, but it usually includes giving presents and spending time with family and friends. In particular, the celebration is longer than in most places, since it starts one day earlier and extends to another day.

Hogmanay Events in Edinburgh

Torchlight Procession

Hogmanay starts on the 30th of December with the torchlight procession. Thousands gather around the Old Town and walk down the Royal Mile until they reach Holyrood Park. Then, some fireworks announce the end of the year.

Concerts and dance

On the 31st of December, you can choose where to spend Hogmanay: under Edinburgh Castle dancing ceilidh, Scottish traditional dance, or at a music festival on Princes Street Gardens with some of the most popular British musicians.

Loony Dook

People believe that the best way to cure a serious hangover and "clean your soul" is having a bath in winter in this river. It requires a ticket (to cover the organisation cost and paramedics!), and it's recommended to bring water shoes and clothes. South Queensferry features many little cafes and pubs to shelter those brave or crazy enough to have joined the Loony Dook.

Burns Night

If you happen to be in Scotland during winter, you must know that Christmas is not the only celebration in this season. One of the most remarkable nights of the year, when every family gathers, is on the 25th of January, exactly one month after Christmas. What's going on that day? Well, that's when Scots celebrate Burns Night, honouring the prestigious poet.

There are parties, dances and events all over the country, but the most magical moment belongs to the dinner. The whole family gathers around to recite a poem devoted to nothing less than the "Haggis", the national dish.

We are not going to tell you what haggis is made of. However, we strongly recommend you to try the vegan or vegetarian version, it's delicious!