Will you travel to Edinburgh in winter? That is a great choice. Whether you do it attracted by the Christmas magic or if the trigger is the deals on flights and hotels, here you will find some advices to make your trip an amazing experience. Although the winter days are short and cold, the Scottish capital is captivating at any time.
The city is transformed into a winter wonderland, with stunning views of the snow-covered buildings and streets. The city is also known for its festive atmosphere during the winter months, with Christmas markets, traditional Scottish ceilidhs, and Hogmanay celebrations to ring in the New Year.
Make the most of the daylight hours
We start with a piece of advice that we think is essential for visiting Edinburgh in winter: make the most of the daylight hours. In winter, light bathes Edinburgh for a few hours, so it is important that you organize yourself and take advantage of it for outdoor plans.
In December, it gets dark around 3:40 p.m.
In January, sunset is around 4:00 p.m. – 4:45 p.m.
In February, the sun lasts until 17:00 – 17:45.
The long days don’t arrive until March, with the change to summer time. As of the change, it already gets dark after 19:00. On Time and Date you can see when the sunrise and sunset in Edinburgh during your trip.
During all the winter months, the sun rises before 9, so get up early and take advantage of the morning for plans in the open air and to walk around the city. Especially for nature excursions, since for many of them you will have to travel to other neighborhoods.
On the other hand, in the heart of the city, the Old Town and the New Town, there is atmosphere even after sunset, so you can visit the most central places a little later.
The right clothes to visit Edinburgh in winter
And the cold? Winter in Edinburgh is cold, with maximum temperatures around 7ºC and minimum temperatures around 0 or 1ºC. Surely some days you will be tempted to flee the streets and lock yourself in some warm place, and, of course, there will be moments for everything.
For museums, cafeterias and also for walking. Because you’ll see that, with the right clothes, it’s not that bad.
You will need a good down jacket or thermal coat that can withstand low temperatures. And, if possible, waterproof.
We also recommend that the footwear be waterproof, accompanied by high socks, that do not leave any gap in the leg exposed.
Under the coat, we recommend you dress in layers. This is typical advice on what to wear in Edinburgh, but it will come in handy, as as soon as you walk into a restaurant or shop with the heating on full blast (which is very common), you may want to take off a layer so you don’t get roasted.
Complement everything with a scarf, hat and gloves. You may not carry them with you at all times, but there will always be a little while when you will be glad you packed them.
They say that in Scotland there is no bad weather, only the wrong clothes. So gear up and explore Edinburgh in winter! Here we tell you what to pack to travel to Scotland and here, what the weather is like in Edinburgh and what clothes to wear depending on the season.
Plan visits to museums and attractions
In winter, some Edinburgh attractions have reduced hours, and even some secondary historical sites, usually on the outskirts, close from November to April.
If you intend to visit a specific place, such as the National Museum of Scotland, St Giles’ Church or Edinburgh Castle, check the opening hours beforehand to find out what time they close. For example, the National Museum of Scotland usually closes at 5:00 p.m., so you can visit it in the early afternoon and take the opportunity to watch the sunset from the panoramic terrace.
Edinburgh is full of legends, spooky stories and paranormal phenomena, and one of the most popular activities in the city are ghost tours. Many start after the sun has set, so they are a good way to take advantage of the dark hours to see another part of the city.
Some visit only cemeteries and outer spaces, while others also go down to the underground vaults of Edinburgh. For example, the underground alleys at Mary King’s Close are open until after sunset.
And the ghost tours leave around 6 or 7pm, so they can be a great way to make the most of the night if you’re visiting Edinburgh in winter.
If you travel at Christmas, book the markets for the night
The Christmas celebrations in Edinburgh begin in mid-November, and at the end of December they are joined by the famous Hogmanay, the Scottish New Year’s Eve. At that time, it is difficult to walk through the center of Edinburgh without being tempted to visit the Christmas markets and attractions.
Many are open throughout the day, but if you can resist, save them for after sunset. At night, the image of the city illuminated by the lights is beautiful (if you want to go on the Ferris wheel or the elevated attractions, even more so!), and the center is full of atmosphere.
Go shopping in the center
In winter, most of Edinburgh’s independent shops close early, although many chains stay open until 8 or 9 PM. However, in the weeks leading up to Christmas, many stores have special hours, and many shopping centers are open until 9:00 p.m. or even 10:00 p.m.
So, if you visit the city during those dates, you can leave the purchases for later. You can visit shopping centers like the St James Quarter, the shops on Princes St or one of these great bookstores.
Have a pint in a Scottish pub
It doesn’t have to be so soon, since in almost any restaurant in Edinburgh you can also have dinner later, but a good plan for the evening could be to have dinner and then go to one of the thousand and one pubs that you will find in the streets from Edinburgh.
Some pubs have live music, and with a pint of beer or a dram of whiskey you can say goodbye to the day in a cozy atmosphere. In fact, many pubs also serve traditional food, so you can combine dinner and a pint. Some streets where pubs abound are Rose Street, Grassmarket, the Royal Mile and more.