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:
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
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
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
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
Best things to do in Edinburgh in Winter
Check our must-do list so you don't miss anything on your trip to
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!
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
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
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.
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.
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,