Welcome to the enchanting winter wonderland of Edinburgh! With its cobblestone streets, historic sandstone buildings, mesmerizing lights, captivating storytellers, and the finest whisky in the world, this Scottish capital is truly a unique destination. Having been the capital since the 15th century, Edinburgh exudes a rich history that can be felt as you stroll through its charming streets. The sandstone buildings, with their distinctive sandy color, take on a deep brown hue when rain falls, adding to the old-world charm of the city.
During the summer months, Edinburgh can become quite crowded with visitors, especially in popular spots like the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, and the museums. The city also hosts various festivals and events, further adding to the hustle and bustle. That’s why winter is the perfect time to visit. The atmosphere is both magical and mysterious, and you’ll feel like you have the city all to yourself. I’ve always had an incredible time exploring Edinburgh in winter.
Before we delve into the activities, let’s address some common questions about visiting Edinburgh in winter. Yes, it does get cold, but not unbearably so. The temperatures typically range between 33 and 44 degrees F, and with the right warm clothes and boots, you’ll be perfectly comfortable. While a white Christmas is rare, you can expect snowfall in January and February. However, do be prepared for rain, as Edinburgh experiences frequent showers throughout the year. Investing in a good waterproof jacket is essential.
Now, let’s talk about getting around in Edinburgh during winter. Despite being a small city, Edinburgh has reliable public transportation. Most of the attractions are within walking distance if you choose to stay in the town center. However, if it’s raining heavily or you need to travel a longer distance, you can rely on the buses that operate 24 hours a day. Additionally, there is a tramline with 15 stops connecting the city center to the airport, making it a convenient mode of transport.
With all the practical information out of the way, it’s time to discover the magic of Edinburgh in winter. Here are 14 enchanting things to do during your visit:
1. Immerse yourself in the festive spirit at the Christmas markets: Experience the traditional Christmas market in the heart of the historic center. With 70 stalls and funfair rides scattered around the city, you’ll be surrounded by medieval buildings, twinkling lights, and the majestic Edinburgh Castle in the background. Explore the stalls run by local businesses, find unique presents, and indulge in a variety of delicious food and drinks, including hot pies, pulled beef subs, pad thai, churros, waffles, chocolates, mulled wine, and local whisky.
2. Join the Hogmanay celebrations: If you’re in Edinburgh around New Year’s Eve, you’re in for a treat. Hogmanay is the city’s iconic New Year celebration and offers a plethora of events and activities. The festivities kick off on December 29th and continue into the New Year. From the torch procession to street parties, and concerts, there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss the torch procession, where thousands of torches light up the city, creating a breathtaking spectacle. The street parties are a lively affair with music, dancing, and larger-than-life creatures towering over the crowds. The night culminates in a grand fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle.
3. Take part in the Loony Dook: Immediately following Hogmanay is the Loony Dook, an event that showcases the eccentricity of the Scots. Participants dress up in costumes and take a chilly dip in the freezing waters of the Firth of Forth. What started as a small gathering in 1986 has now become a massive event, with thousands of people diving into the water on New Year’s Day. It’s a wacky and unforgettable experience.
4. Explore Edinburgh Castle: No visit to Edinburgh is complete without a trip to its iconic castle. Perched atop Castle Rock, the castle offers panoramic views of the city and houses various historical attractions. Explore the Great Hall, the Crown Jewels, and the Stone of Destiny, and learn about Scotland’s fascinating past.
5. Wander along the Royal Mile: Take a leisurely stroll along the Royal Mile, the historic heart of Edinburgh. This bustling street is lined with shops, cafes, and landmarks, including St. Giles’ Cathedral and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Immerse yourself in the city’s rich history as you explore the charming alleys and hidden gems.
6. Visit the Museum of Edinburgh: Step back in time at the Museum of Edinburgh. Discover the city’s history through a diverse range of exhibits, including artifacts, photographs, and interactive displays. Learn about famous figures who shaped Edinburgh’s past and gain insight into its cultural heritage.
7. Experience the Scotch Whisky Experience: As the home of whisky, Edinburgh offers the perfect opportunity to delve into Scotland’s national drink. Visit the Scotch Whisky Experience and take a guided tour to learn about the whisky-making process. Enjoy a tasting session and expand your knowledge of this beloved spirit.
8. Discover the eerie history of the Real Mary King’s Close: Venture beneath the streets of Edinburgh and explore the Real Mary King’s Close. This underground network of narrow streets and hidden passages offers a glimpse into the city’s dark and mysterious past. Join a guided tour and hear chilling tales of ghosts and hauntings.
9. Climb Arthur’s Seat: Lace up your boots and embark on a hike up Arthur’s Seat, an ancient volcano located in Holyrood Park. Enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the surrounding landscapes as you conquer this iconic landmark. It’s the perfect way to get some fresh air and stretch your legs.
10. Attend a traditional ceilidh: Immerse yourself in Scottish culture by attending a ceilidh, a lively social gathering with traditional music and dancing. Join in the fun as you learn the steps to traditional Scottish dances such as the Gay Gordons and Strip the Willow.
11. Explore the Scottish National Gallery: Art enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Scottish National Gallery. Admire the impressive collection of European paintings, including works by renowned artists such as Van Gogh, Rembrandt, and Monet. Take your time to appreciate the beauty and talent on display.
12. Indulge in traditional Scottish cuisine: Treat your taste buds to some authentic Scottish cuisine. Sample dishes like haggis, neeps and tatties, Cullen skink, and cranachan. Pair your meal with a glass of whisky for the ultimate Scottish dining experience.
13. Take a ghost tour: Edinburgh is famous for its spooky tales and haunted locations. Embark on a ghost tour and explore the city’s haunted sites, including the haunted underground vaults and the Greyfriars Kirkyard. Brace yourself for a spine-chilling experience.
14. Enjoy a traditional afternoon tea: Unwind and relax with a traditional afternoon tea at one of Edinburgh’s charming tea rooms. Indulge in delicate sandwiches, scones with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of delectable pastries. Sip on a cup of tea and soak in the cozy ambiance.
Edinburgh in winter is a truly magical experience. From the enchanting Christmas markets to the vibrant Hogmanay celebrations, there’s something for everyone. Embrace the winter chill, explore the city’s rich history, and create unforgettable memories in this captivating Scottish capital.Booking.com