Walking the cobbled streets of Edinburgh and catching that first glimpse of Edinburgh Castle is a dream. Some people imagine that sight with a warm hat and coat on and others with the sun beaming down and warming them.
Of course, this being Scotland, those scenarios could happen in any season!
I’ve visited Edinburgh as a tourist in all seasons throughout my adult life and I’ve never not enjoyed my time there. There’s loads to do no matter what the weather and that’s one of the great things about it.
As it’s a city, it’s busy and there’s no getting away from that whenever you visit – it’s just either a little bit busy or extremely busy! Be prepared for crowds no matter when you’re there and you’ll not go far wrong.
So if you’re planning a trip and wondering about the best time of year to visit Edinburgh or want to find out about what each season is like then read on for my answers!
A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.
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Table of Contents
So when is the best time to visit Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is really a year round city but if I was to choose a best month to visit I’d say June. It’s quieter than the other summer months, has long daylight hours and good weather.
In saying that, each season has its benefits and what you’re looking for in a trip will dictate the best time to go.
Will you stay in Edinburgh or explore more of Scotland?
Edinburgh is a wonderful place to go for so many reasons but the first thing you need to consider when planning what time of year to visit in is what kind of trip you might be wanting to take.
Are you looking to simply enjoy an Edinburgh itself, checking out all of the attractions, restaurants and nightlife? Perhaps taking romantic strolls around the Old Town and exploring castles, palaces and old streets?
If you’re solely heading to Edinburgh and not exploring further afield then you can’t go wrong at any time of year really. Summer and August in particular brings lots of crowds, but also plenty to do as well.
Or do you think you’d like to take the opportunity of being in the country to explore and do some day trips nearby? You can take tours to all round the country from Edinburgh, or get around easily without a car, so don’t discount exploring if you have the time.
If you only want to spend a day in Edinburgh and spend the rest of the time exploring further afield then better weather might be a consideration for you – perhaps late spring, through Summer will be best. Although Scotland’s weather can be tricky all year round it has to be said!
Weather in Edinburgh
When thinking about the best time of year to visit Edinburgh, it’s worth thinking a little bit about the weather. Scotland does have a little bit of a reputation for it!
The summer months give a greater chance of good weather – dry, sunny days where you might even be able to take your jacket off! Shorts might come out if you’re lucky!!
But, and it’s a big but, you can still get bad weather, storms and rain all year round in Edinburgh. Unfortunately, there’s really no getting away from the potential of bad weather!
I’ve visited Edinburgh when it’s been glorious sunshine, albeit cold, in February and had snowy weather in April!
Those summer days and long nights hit different though – beautiful if you’re lucky with some dry days.
Let’s take a look at some of the different seasons in Edinburgh and look at the pros and cons of each one:
Winter in Edinburgh
- Much quieter and less tourists around
- Some great celebrations around- Bonfire Night, Christmas, Hogmanay and Burns Night!
- Short days allow for less hours to explore.
- more likely to have storms and bad weather
- some attractions may not be open or have restricted hours
The weather in Edinburgh at wintertime can be just cold and damp or you could experience full blown snow and icy conditions. You might see on higher ground in the distance some dustings of snow even if it doesn’t reach the city. Check out Arthur’s Seat and see if that’s looking white!
You might visit Edinburgh in winter and just experience grey, dull weather as we have a number of times!
The short daylight hours in Scotland in the winter months can be a bit of an issue for travelers. It’s good to know in advance when attractions might shut or have their last admission times – I almost missed visiting Holyrood Palace because of this!
It gets dark as early as 4pm in the winter so you’ll find that lots of places close early.
Since it’s so dark in the evenings it can curtail any exploring or make solo travelers feel vulnerable. One idea is to go on one of the many guided walks that happen in the evening – many explore haunted or spooky locations!
Christmas time brings a huge Christmas Market to the city (around Princes Street) and the festive vibe is definitely fun.
Edinburgh celebrates New Years in an inimitable way and Hogmanay in the city is on many people’s bucket lists. It’s a huge party with loads enjoying the city, fireworks and concerts/events.
Overall winter is a great season to visit Edinburgh since it’s so different to how it is in the summer months. You’ll find a greater selection of accommodation available and what is around should be much cheaper than the summer too. (You can see our favourite Edinburgh hotel with castle views here)
Spring in Edinburgh
- Flowers out in bloom around the city are stunning
- Early spring is get out and good to explore the highlands before midges come out
- Days lengthen
- Easter and public holidays mean that it can get busy with families
- weather can still be unpredictable and cold at times
Spring can be a lovely time to visit Edinburgh. You have that promise of longer days coming through and better weather too! Don’t be complacent though – one April trip we had coincided with lots of snow! Not typical but can happen.
It’s a great time to go walking on trails – perhaps exploring Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags or just sticking to the city centre and walking up Calton Hill.
Flowers start to bloom in spring in the city and there’s some lovely places to check them out – try the Royal Botanic Gardens, Princes Street Gardens or Holyrood Palace Gardens.
Be aware of some of the Spring public holidays that can make Edinburgh busier. They change yearly but be aware that the UK Mothers Day is in March (this can make restaurants throughout the city very busy!), Easter brings a couple of weeks break for UK schools and May has some bank holidays and school breaks too.
Summer in Edinburgh
- Long days to explore – summer solstice is June 21st and is the longest day
- Best chance of good weather
- Lots to do and see – The Fringe Festival and the Royal Military Tattoo shows happen in August
- Queues should be expected through the summer months
- August can be overwhelming with the amount of tourists and events
- It’s the busiest time of year which can make accommodation expensive and hard to find
- If you explore elsewhere in the country midges can be a problem
Summer is high season in Edinburgh and with that comes crowds, higher prices and queues for attractions. On the plus side it also comes with long days, a promise of good weather and some amazing festivals to enjoy too.
When the weather is good in Edinburgh you should take advantage of it if you can. Take a picnic to one of the many outdoor spots in the city and soak up the atmosphere. I love to people watch!
You also have a lot of festivals to look forward to in the summer months from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo. Street performers are seen year round in the city but there are loads in the summer – especially around the Royal Mile.
If you’re up for exploring you might like to find a traditional Highland Games – lots happen all over the country.
One part of the outdoors that’s not so fun in the summer is the Scottish midge. These are biting flies that love to hang around coastal areas, woodlands and lochs – you shouldn’t find them an issue in Edinburgh itself but if you take any tours or head out of the city you might do.
Autumn/Fall in Edinburgh
- Spectacular colours as leaves begin to change
- As schools head back it’s a quiet time to visit
- Early autumn can still see some really warm weather
- Storms start to get more frequent, especially later in the season
Autumn is another favourite time of mine to visit the country. It’s when the UK schools are all headed back to work at the beginning of September (Scottish schools go back earlier than English and Welsh schools but they all should be back by then) and there’s a little more space to breathe in the city.
Edinburgh will still be busy but in comparison to those summer months it definitely doesn’t feel quite so crammed full. Accommodation should be easier to find, especially last minute.
The scenery around Edinburgh in autumn is wonderful with so many forests and hills that change to a beautiful orange and rust colour.
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🏴 Edinburgh Travel FAQ 🏴
Do I need insurance for traveling to Edinburgh?
YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!
Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.
Do I need a car for visiting Edinburgh?
MAYBE – if you’re staying in the city then you don’t need a car at all. YES – If you’re wanting to explore further afield in Scotland then a car is worthwhile.
I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Edinburgh
How to book accommodation in Edinburgh?
For apartments check out VRBO
Will my phone work in Edinburgh?
Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.
If you need a SIM for use in the UK I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.
What to pack for Edinburgh
Keep yourself dry and comfortable is my motto for Edinburgh travel! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.
See my post about what to pack for Edinburgh
Do I need midge spray for Edinburgh?
Edinburgh, as a city, doesn’t suffer from midges. You might see them if you travel to the west coast or lochs in the summer months. Check out my guide to midges and how to miss them in Scotland.
What’s the best guidebook for Edinburgh?
I really like the Lonely Planet Pocket Guides
Where to get flights for Edinburgh
Expedia is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Edinburgh and Scotland.
Do I need a visa for Scotland?
Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.
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