Edinburgh packing list: what to bring for a Scottish city break

Edinburgh draws you in with it’s beautiful streets that make you want to just wander all day. It’s no wonder that it’s such a popular city break destination! It’s always full of so many vibrant people enjoying the festivals, street performers or just exploring many musuems. If you’re thinking it’s time for you to join them, perhaps you’re wondering what you need to take?

I’ve been to Edinburgh so many times now, I’m starting to lose count! Every time we go I always have a set idea of what not to forget! This list has come from experience, especially when I do forget and regret bringing something!

Visiting the amazing city of Edinburgh is a bucket list adventure for so many people.  This Edinburgh packing list was designed specifically for people taking the trip and looking for tips on what to pack for their vacation.

Whether you are just in Edinburgh for a city break or moving on to explore the rest of Scotland and the UK – it always requires some thought to bring the right things with you.

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.

Edinburgh packing list for city break
Cobbled streets are the norm in Edinburgh – so make sure you bring footwear that suits it!

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First before we get into my recommendations here are some practical tips for packing for an Edinburgh trip.

Practical packing tips for Edinburgh

Most people tend to stick to one hotel when travelling to Edinburgh but if you’re also planning to travel the rest of Scotland you might want to think about your luggage beforehand so that it’s practical for you.

Suitcase or Rucksack?

Suitcases are definitely my favourite, especially as I’ve gotten older, but when in Edinburgh remember there are a lot of cobbled streets, specifically in the Old Town. This won’t be so much of an issue if you’re getting a taxi to your hotel, but could be if you’re walking.

It’s also always worth having some form of waterproof cover for your luggage too, whether it’s a suitcase or bag, so that if you run into a downpour you don’t get wet belongings before you start!

Organizing your luggage

My absolute top recommendation – Packing cubes.

I hate being unorganised when away so packing cubes are a lifesaver for me – I like to have one with with your night clothes for when I’m done for the day, one for worn underwear and one for clean stuff too.  

We use ours all the time when traveling, doesn’t matter if abroad or just a weekend away. We got different colours for each person so no getting mixed up too.

Flying from Overseas

If you’re flying in to Scotland then I also recommend some digital scales that can weigh your luggage.  I always worry I’m bringing too much back so this can really helps reassure me before checking my bags!! Airlines are much more strict nowadays so it’s always a good idea to be safe. Then you can buy all the whisky and shortbread you think you can fit in!

Midge spray?

Cities don’t generally suffer from midges so you’ll not need midge spray unless you’re planning to explore more of Scotland.

What to pack for Scotland – my top 10 essentials

Right, let’s take a look at some of my essentials that you’ll want to have on your Scotland trip:

1. Guide book

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I may be showing my age here, but I do love a traditional guide book. Perhaps it takes me back to my youth and backpacking!

Guide books are always my number one essential for the traveling – I always get one no matter where I’m headed. Edinburgh is no different, even though I’ve been there so many times! Things change and a guide book can help find all the cool new spots!

I know we all have internet, blogs like this one that can help get you around a city and, of course, Google Maps but having a good, old fashioned guidebook you can check and browse through on an evening can be so helpful.

It’s especially helpful to get some overviews on attractions to visit, day trips from the city and some bucket list items you didn’t even know were on your list! I love that many city guide books have short walking tours to take as well.

I have a soft spot for Lonely Planet books, and I highly recommend this one. Rough Guide are good too and if you’re exploring the rest of Scotland you can find specific books about that too.

2. Packing cubes

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I wrote a little about packing cubes earlier and they truly are my essential for any trip. Even if you’re staying in the same hotel or apartment in Edinburgh each night they can still be super handy.

We bought ours a quite a while ago now and use them all the time (almost 10 years and still going strong!) – we got eBags ones like these but there are a number of designs on the market these days. eBags definitely have lasted well though and they use really sturdy fabric. Highly recommended!

If you choose another brand I recommend going for a well known name – we also got some generic ones as a present one year and the quality is nowhere near as good.

A set of different sized packing cubes are good for different kinds of clothes. If you’re traveling with others consider different colours for different people.

3. Waterproof Jacket

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A waterproof outer layer is a good idea no matter which season you’re traveling to Edinburgh in – and yes that even includes Summer! Downpours and showers happen all year round so it’s really good to be prepared or you’ll end up buying an oversized, ugly poncho from a tourist shop!

I’d tend to go for a relatively light jacket like this one while also making sure it is big enough to add some layers underneath. Layers are my go to if it’s potentially going to be cold! If you’re travelling in winter you’ll perhaps want something a little warmer but it could still work with a fleece underneath.

Columbia is a good brand with quality items, my husband loves the trousers they do and has just bought another pair!

4. Ear plugs and sleep mask

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The city can be quite noisy at night, especially if you choose a hotel right on the Royal Mile or you decide to try out a noisy hostel (I’ve done both and regretted it – I much prefer this hotel with a castle view now!)

If you’re a light sleeper then it might be a good idea to get yourself something that will help you have a good sleep at night. I don’t normally have an issue with sleeping at home but when I’m out and about, and especially in cities, these help so much! I am a much nicer person the day after too!

I have recently tried the Loop earplugs and found them excellent – well worth the small price to have some that will last a while and not need to be replaced. Much more eco friendly too.

5. Day Pack

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A day bag of some sorts is essential when in the city – with plenty of space for a water bottle and some picnic items!

If you’re not heading out in to the countryside you might want something a little more modern and stylish for the city – I always love taking my Kanken with me. I don’t feel too much of a tourist with it but it holds everything!

Whatever you decide to go for, make sure it isn’t too big as many of the small shops in the city can be narrow with lots of items inside! Museums also might limit what you take inside so a small option is always better.

6. Umbrella

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Many of these items to take to Edinburgh are centred around the weather, but really if you don’t plan for some rainy days you can be upset at getting wet and it ruining your day. Planning for wet weather is really going to be helpful for you.

When exploring the cities a umbrella is a good idea. I always find that if the rain has soaked me and my jacket I don’t like to then go inside to museums and shops – an umbrella can help there.

Tip -take a plastic bag that you can put it in when going indoors or if the weather changes later.

When choosing an umbrella to travel with try and get one that is fairly windproof (although nothing is always perfect in that sense!) and something that will pack away nice and easy.

7. Travel adapter

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A travel adapter is a must if you’re traveling to Edinburgh from overseas but in actual fact, if you have one around it might even be useful for domestic travelers since it tends to have a number of usb ports you can use!

I have one like the above (not quite the exact brand) and it’s great because I can use it in any country, even my own as it has lots of different options. It makes traveling really easy!

8. Portable battery

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Phone batteries can be so fickle these days so I always like to take a small extra battery with me when travelling to charge up my phone when out and about.

If you love taking photos and videos, whether on your phone or on camera or go pro you’ll want something to keep it charged. Edinburgh has a lot to see and you’ll be disappointed if your batteries run low when exploring a once in a lifetime sight!

There’s quite a few brands around, especially on Amazon, but I like to stick to tried and tested ones like Anker. This one is good and something I always try not to forget!

9. Flat shoes

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Walking around Edinburgh can be really tough on your feet so you’ll want something flat and comfortable for a day of sightseeing.

Cobble streets and hills mean that anything with a heel can be damaging, especially if you stumble – I really recommend flat where possible.

I’m a big fan of wearing Vans shoes – they are nice and wide enough to accommodate my feet even if they’ve been stood on all day and they are comfortable. They also don’t look terrible and don’t make me stand out as someone visiting the city.

10. Refillable water bottle

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Finally on my list of essentials is a refillable water bottle. If you’re going to be sightseeing around the Edinburgh a water bottle is a must! It will really help keep your budget in check as well – buying water from shops can really add up!

I’ve fallen in love with these Yeti rambler water bottles recently after seeing a local shop stock them – they are a little bit of an investment but since they should last forever and a day that’s not too bad. I love that you can get different tops for them and they are so rugged too – definitely a keeper!

What to wear in Edinburgh – a guide on clothes and shoes to take

A little note on clothes to take. I’m not going to dive deep here because what everyone want to wear is different from person to person! I’m also not a fashion icon (really? I know – you’re surprised!)

Like much of the advice so far, taking into account the weather is going to dictate to you what you’l bring.

You’ll also want to bear in mind the time of year you plan to travel and what your intended itinerary will be like – are you planning to be full on going from attraction to attractions or are you planning to chill in the cafes and soak up the vibe?

Here’s some thoughts on what clothes to pack for your Edinburgh trip:

  • Light layers – even in summer you can find that it can be chilly
  • Light cover up for evenings – a jumper or cardigan is a good idea
  • Thermal layers can be useful out of high season.
  • Flat shoes are always a good idea. I like to bring at least two different pairs. (Bring blister plasters too, just in case)
  • Sunglasses are great for sunny days or avoiding people seeing how tired you are!
  • Hats are a good idea in summer – while never really scorching the sun can still pack a punch
  • Tourist t-shirts will make you stand out – you might not mind this though!

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland Travel FAQ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Do I need insurance for traveling to Scotland?

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 Scotland?

YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable

I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland

How to book accommodation in Scotland?

For hotels I recommend Booking.com

For apartments and cottages check out VRBO

Will my phone work in Scotland?

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 Scotland I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.

What to pack for Scotland

Keep yourself dry be prepared for any weather is my motto for Scotland! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.

See my post about what to pack for Scotland

Do I need midge spray for Scotland?

YES – if you’re traveling in the summer months to any of the west coast, highlands, islands or lochs it’s recommended.

Locals swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft!

If you’re sticking to the cities or traveling in winter, early spring or late fall then you likely won’t need it.

What’s the best guidebook for Scotland?

I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Where to get flights for Scotland

Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to 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.

Photo of author

Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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