Edinburgh has a lot of things to do even when it’s raining. Edinburgh is a beautiful and historic city located in southeastern Scotland. It is the capital city of Scotland and has a population of around 500,000 people.
Edinburgh is known for its stunning architecture, including the iconic Edinburgh Castle, which sits atop a hill overlooking the city. The Royal Mile, a historic street in the heart of the city, is also a popular attraction for visitors.
The city is also famous for its festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the largest arts festival in the world, and the Edinburgh International Festival, which celebrates music, theatre, and dance.
Edinburgh has a rich history and is home to several museums, including the National Museum of Scotland, where you can learn about the country’s past and culture. The city also has several green spaces, such as Holyrood Park and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Here are 10 Things to do in Edinburgh when it rains:
1. Visit one of the Edinburgh museums
With this option you could fill as many rainy days as you want, and Edinburgh is full of interesting museums… and free! Getting into most of the city’s institutions won’t cost you a pound (although they all accept donations), so put away your umbrella and get ready to dive into art and history for a few hours.
Below we compiled some of the museums in Edinburgh and we indicate which ones have free admission. For starters, we recommend the wonderful National Museum of Scotland.
Museums of history, science and literature
- National Museum of Scotland (free)
- Museum of Edinburgh (free)
- Surgeon’s Hall Museum
- The People’s Story Museum (free)
- Writer’s Museum (free)
- Museum on the Mound (free)
- Museum of Childhood (free)
- Gladstone’s Land
- John Knox House
- Georgian House
Museums and art galleries
- Scottish National Gallery (free)
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery (free)
- Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art (free)
- City Art Center (free)
You can get a full list of a lot of museums on edinburghmuseums.org.uk.
2. Browse the shops on Princes St
Despite the fact that only one side of the street is built up (the other is occupied by Princes St Gardens, great on a fine day), Princes St is Edinburgh’s great shopping artery. The stores follow one another from one end to the other, with clothing chains, bookstores, supermarkets such as Marks & Spencer…
Shopping on Princes St, even just to browse, is always a good alternative in Edinburgh when it rains. For independent shops with character, wander Victoria St or Cockburn St. And if it’s typical Scottish souvenirs you’re after, shop after shop awaits you along the Royal Mile with colorful tartans and bagpipe music in the background.
3. Go to the cinema
Although it is not a typical tourist plan, what better for a day spent by water than a movie on the big screen and freshly made popcorn? As in any big city, in Edinburgh you will find several cinemas. These are our favourites:
- Cameo Cinema, a beautiful classic cinema with a cafeteria included
- Filmhouse, for independent cinema
- Dominion Cinema, with giant sofas where you feel at home
4. Learn about whiskey and gin
Whiskey or gin? Choose your favorite drink and sign up for a tour to discover how it is made.
- Scotch Whiskey Experience. If you are a whiskey lover, visit the Scotch Whiskey Experience, on the Royal Mile, a journey through the process of making liquid gold where you will learn to distinguish the varieties of each region of Scotland. Here you can buy the ticket.
- Holyrood Distillery. This independent distillery, in the south of Edinburgh, offers tours where they show you how their whiskeys and gins are made. Here you can buy the ticket.
- Edinburgh Gin Distillery. Join a tour of this West End distillery to learn the origin of Edinburgh’s most famous gin. We recommend you book a place in advance, as visits tend to fill up.
5. Have an afternoon tea
In Scotland there is no better way to warm up than a good tea. And, if it is also accompanied by a tower of sandwiches and tempting sweets, all the better. So, if the afternoon turns out to be rainy, take refuge in one of the many cafes and hotels where you can have afternoon tea in Edinburgh and plan your next steps with a steaming cup in one hand and a delicious scone in the other. If you prefer something lighter, you can also have a snack in one of these Edinburgh cafes.
6. Visit the alleys of Mary King’s Close
Beneath the alleys through which thousands of passers-by walk every day, the Royal Mile hides a series of alleys that were bricked up centuries ago. Today, this underground universe has been turned into an attraction called The Real Mary King’s Close, which shows you how the residents of this place lived in the past.
Not only is it a very interesting visit, but also, in high season (and on weekends throughout the year), it is one of the few attractions that opens until late.
A great plan when it rains in Edinburgh!
7. A candlelight concert
Another very nice plan for a rainy day is to attend a Candlelight Concert, a concert by candlelight. These are concerts that take place in various cities around the world and that bring you classical music, or versions of other genres played by orchestras, in intimate settings lit by hundreds of candles. Is really a nice one among the things to do in Edinburgh.
Here you can see all the Candlelight Concerts in Edinburgh.
8. Visit Holyrood Palace
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile is bounded by two iconic historical sites: at one end, the Castle, and at the other, Holyrood Palace. We recommend saving Edinburgh Castle for a day when the weather is good, as much of the charm is walking around the outside of the buildings and taking in the views from there.
On the other hand, the visit to Holyrood Palace takes place mostly inside the palace (with the exception of the ruins of the abbey), so it can be a good plan for a rainy day in Edinburgh.
9. Listen to live music in a pub
When the wind and rain flood the streets, in the Scottish capital you will always find a cozy pub to take refuge in. And what better than accompanying beer with a music session? Here are some pubs where you can listen to live music in Edinburgh (most have free admission):
- Sandy Bell’s, a classic for listening to folk and traditional music
- The Royal Oak, also with live folk
- Whiski Bar. We love this restaurant and pub on the Royal Mile for dinner with Scottish and traditional music.
- Whistle Binkies. Live music every night. It is free except on weekends after midnight.
- Jazz Bar, for jazz lovers. Some sessions are free and others are paid.
- Bannerman’s. If rock is your thing, this is your bar.
10. Walk the streets aboard the tourist bus
If you have one of those rainy days in Edinburgh when it seems that the sky will not let up and you need a rest, hop on one of the city’s tourist buses. You will be able to contemplate the Castle, the Royal Mile or Princes St under cover and you will recharge your energies for the next and last section.
Here you can buy tickets for the Edinburgh tourist bus.
Don’t be intimidated by bad weather: the streets of Edinburgh hide a gloomy and mysterious aura that manifests itself especially intensely under rain, fog and gray skies. Wrap up in a good raincoat, go for a tour of the Old Town and feel how the legends and ghosts of the Scottish capital come to life in the rain.