10 Things to do in Edinburgh in Winter

Edinburgh is one of the most loved cities in the United Kingdom. It is always a great place to go irrespective of the time of the year, and the adventures that can be done in the city are too good to pass away.

No doubt, the time or season most tourists visit Edinburgh is usually the summer, and there is even an unspoken mindset of visiting Edinburgh only in the summer. The main reason for this is because of the Festival Fringe, which is an exciting famous festival that holds in August. However, this does not mean Edinburgh is not a fun place to be during other seasons, especially during winter. Winter in Edinburgh can be enjoyable if you know where to go and what to do. Edinburgh has one of the best Christmas Markets and one of the most exciting New Year eve parties in the world!

In this write-up, you are going to see the most amazing things you can do in Edinburgh during the winter months so that you can include Edinburgh as one of your possible winter destinations. Let us get down to the most popular activities you should try in Edinburgh.

See Also: 11 Best Things to do in Seville in Winter

1. Spend time in the Christmas Market in Edinburgh

Christmas Market in Edinburgh
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As earlier stated, Edinburgh has one of the best Christmas markets in the world. If there is one thing you should do when you visit Edinburgh in winter, it is going to the Christmas market. The market starts around November (usually late November) and closes early January. When this market is open, the insane amount of exciting activities you can engage in is almost unbelievable.

The popular Christmas market in Edinburgh combines both a Scottish as well as a German-style market, both of which give a beautiful uniqueness.

You will find several stalls selling all sorts of items that can be used as gifts to family and friends for Christmas. Some stalls sell food as well as drinks. You will also find areas where you can play fairground games and many more fun activities. 

There are also rides in the markets. The kind of ride you can choose depends on your age. The popular ones include the Star Flyer, the big Ferris, Christmas train, among others. There is also a Santa Claus as the market.

What makes the market more fun is that the kind of attractions and ride present in the market vary each year. You do not have to pay a dime before you gain entry into the market. However, to view certain attractions in the market as well as to go on a ride, you have to pay a set fee. The good thing about this is that you can pay for the ride online instead of having to be in a long slow queue.

2. Do not miss the chance to walk down the Royal Mile streets and the Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace
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The Royal mile is one of the most strategic places in Edinburgh. It is not a place in the actual sense but more of an area or zone. The Royal Mile is the name of a series of interconnecting streets. A number of the streets run for at least a mile. 

The royal mile is between the Holyrood Palace (which is the official residence of the royal ruling party in Scotland) and the Edinburgh castle. 

The Holyrood Palace symbolizes power in Edinburgh and as a result, it is worth a visit from you. Tours are allowed in the palace so you should make the most of it. The Holyrood palace is usually the place where the queen resides when she has official business in the city of Edinburgh. Part of the Palace was home to one of the popular 16th century Scotland queen, and it is also open to the public for touring.

Because of the way the Royal Mile is located and because of the attractions it leads to, the street is one of the few streets in Edinburgh where loads of tourists can be found. Some of the attractions it leads to apart from the fall include the Museum of Edinburgh, the Museum of Childhood, a museum for writers, etc.

3. Drop by the National Museum of Scotland

National Museum of Scotland
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The National Museum of Scotland is another interesting attraction to visit during winter in Edinburgh. The museum is just one of the several free museums in Edinburgh. This museum can also be accessed via the Royal Mile.

It does not matter what your main interests are; you will surely find something that interests you in the market. The museum is a good way of learning the culture, art and the history of the city.

 The museum is big. Thus, it might take you a bit of time to get through touring it. This makes it one of the places to go if you are very bored and have enough time to explore.

Note: If you are into art, you should consider going to the National Gallery of Modern Art. It is a Scottish gallery which is located just outside of the center of the city.

4. Go ice skating with the tourists and locals at Saint Andrews Square

Saint Andrews Square
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There are lots of Christmas or winter activities that can be done to reduce boredom. Most of these activities are also perfect ways of exercising the body. One of these activities is Ice Skating.

Ice Skating is an entertaining activity and the best condition to do them is provided at Saint Andrews Square. The square is easy to miss, so be sure to ask directions if you do not know. At the square, you will find rinks that make ice skating easier to do and they are all set in a way that they surround the square itself. This also helps it create an Elliptical Track. 

The main function of the track is to ensure that everyone skating goes the same way. This is one of the best ways of reducing collision before you are allowed to skate in the square you have to pay a stipulated fee.

5. Board the iconic Royal Yacht Britannia

Royal Yacht Britannia
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The iconic yacht is rated as the attraction which receives the most visitors of all attractions in Scotland. It served as the official yacht used by the royal family for forty years before it was removed out of service. When the yacht was still in service, it has traveled to different destinations around the world and has carried some of the most important dignitaries around the world.

Though it is no longer in service, the Royal Yacht is still berthed in Edinburgh’s ocean terminal (a permanent decision by those in charge of the ship). To get to the terminal, you have to take a taxi or a bus from wherever you are.

While you are aboard the ship, you will learn about some of the histories of the people who have spent most of their life commanding and taking care of the ship. You will also get more info about some of the paces the ship has been to. One of the most interesting parts of the tour is that you get to see the bedroom the queen owns on the Royal yacht! 

6. Do a Harry Potter themed tour of Edinburgh (if you are a fan)

There are only a few people who have not read Harry Potter, a fiction thrilling Novel series which was written by a very talented author – J.K. Rowling. The Novels were one of the bestselling titles in their division and are one of the reasons why J.K. Rowling is popular.

One of the amazing things about Edinburgh is that it shares a big connection with Harry Potter, and in fact, Edinburgh is the city where J.K. Rowling currently lives. There are a lot of places in the novel which were influenced by certain parts of the city. 

If you are a fan, you might be interested in visiting the pub J.K. Rowling claims she wrote the first novel of the series. There is also a graveyard and café which inspired some of the things in J.K Rowling’s hit novel. 

7. Shopping

Edinburgh is a perfect place to shop and this is something that can be done at any time of the year or season. However, because of the discount and the amount of items up for sale, the best time to go shopping in Edinburgh is during winter.

This is mainly because you will get to see many lovely Christmas installations and decorations. While you can certainly visit these shops during Christmas, the best time to shop is just after Christmas because there are lots of crazy discount sales up for grabs. 

8. Go on a tour of the Edinburgh Castle

Edinburgh castle
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Edinburgh Castle is one of the major attractions in Edinburgh and for a good reason. It is one of the things you have to try out in Edinburgh. The castle is built on a volcano, although it is extinct, and is located in the city’s center.

The castle is the most popular landmark in the country and also the most easily recognized. The Edinburgh Castle has been around for a very long time and it is even considered as one of the oldest buildings in the United Kingdom (UK) that is still being inhabited.   

9. Celebrate Hogmanay in Edinburgh

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There is no other place in the world where you will see New year’s eve parties like this. Hogmanay is Scottish for New years Eve and it is a celebration that kicks off one day to the end of December. When the party is on, you will come across a lot of musical acts, performers, bars, etc.

The main highlight of the party is the massive firework display that ushers in the New Year. The firework display is launched over Edinburgh Castle and it is an event during the party which draws people in their thousands. 

10. Explore some of the hidden gems of Edinburgh

John Knox’s House
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Hidden gems here refer to some of the best places in Edinburgh that were worth visiting. Below is a list of some of the places you can go to if you are feeling bored:

  • John Knox’s House, which gives you some insights into how people lived in the medieval era.
  • St Giles’ Cathedral
  • Pentland Hills Park; a lovely park and there are lots of winter recreational activities carried out in the park.

Other Things Worth Doing in Edinburgh in Winter

  • A Visit the iconic Calton Hill: This is an exciting place to be considering the Caton Hill is one of UNESCO’s world heritage building.
  • Go on day trips to nearby attractions outside Edinburgh: Edinburgh has a lot of attractions but why settle for those when you can still manage to see other attractions close to the city.
  • Climb the popular Arthur’s seat – a beautiful extinct volcano in Edinburgh: Edinburgh has a few Volcanoes and Arthur’s seat is one of them. The volcano, of course, is extinct and is always blanketed by snow.
Arthur’s seat
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  • Admire the Christmas lights and installations at some of Edinburgh’s popular attractions: Edinburgh during Christmas is a truly transformed place. The residents of the city hold Christmas high up, and it is one of the s reasons why there are usually so many installations to see at different places in the city. There are also events in the town that involves lights. One of them is Silent Light, which is a silent disco that is listened to via headphones under huge and beautiful Christmas lights. 
  • Visit the royal botanic garden: The royal botanic garden in Edinburgh is sometimes regarded as one of the best botanic gardens in the world. The garden was created in 1670, and there is a wide range of plants in the garden. During winter, you will see the plants and gardens as a whole covered in snow. The impressive thing about the plants in the garden is that if you are lucky, you might see the blooming of some plants.


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