Best Time to Visit Edinburgh

Edinburgh Skyline, Balmoral Clocktower, Scotland
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Like most of Scotland, Edinburgh boasts moderate temperatures in the spring and summer and cold, wet weather during the winter months. Known as "Festival City," Edinburgh hosts numerous events and festivals throughout the year, with most taking place during the summer. Travelers should consider school holidays, winter weather, and potential crowds when planning a trip. Still, Edinburgh has enough to do that it can make for a great experience in any season. Edinburgh's best times are May through August when the weather is good, and the city is lively, and September for fewer crowds.

Weather in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is coldest in January and February, with the average temperature around 35 F. Winter is typically windy and can bring snow, so be prepared with warm weather gear (and non-slick shoes). Spring tends to be mild and dry, with lots of sunshine expected in April and May, while summer is typically warm and pleasant. July is the hottest month, with average temperatures around 68 F (although it can get hotter during the summer).

Bring layers for any visit, but especially in the fall and winter. It's also a good idea to pack rain gear and waterproof shoes, particularly if you plan to hike Arthur's Seat or go anywhere outside the city. Snow boots and a warm jacket are also helpful in January and February.

Peak Season in Edinburgh

The weather tends to dictate how busy things get in Edinburgh, although big crowds come into the city around Christmas and Hogmanay. Late spring and summer are the busiest times of the year, thanks to the nicer weather and the constant festivals and events taking over Edinburgh. Because Edinburgh is such a walkable city with lots to do outdoors, many people opt to come when it's dry and sunny.

The school holidays can mean more crowds, especially around Christmas, but it's not enough that you should be deterred to book a trip. School holidays occur during summer, from July through September, and again at half-term, which takes place at the end of October and in mid-February. There is also a break for Easter and a few bank holiday weekends throughout the year. These breaks don't necessarily mean more crowds since some families may travel to other cities, like London, or head to more remote locales.

New Years fireworks over the city of Edinburgh

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January

After the New Years' celebrations die down, January in Edinburgh is fairly quiet, with short days and long nights. It can be a good time to visit if you want to avoid crowds, but be prepared for chilly, wet winter weather (January is the coldest month) and plan your visit to include mostly indoor activities.

Events to check out:

  • Burns Night is a Scottish tradition that marks a celebration of the poet Robert Burns's life and poetry. The holiday, which takes place on Jan. 25, typically involves a special dinner out, known as a Burns Supper.

February

Like January, February in Scotland tends to be cold and dark, although it can be a good time to take advantage of empty museums and local attractions. Scotland's schools take their half-term break mid-months, which can be some crowds.

Events to check out:

  • Valentine's Day is very popular in the U.K., including in Scotland. Many of Edinburgh's restaurants will feature special menus to celebrate with your loved one but book in advance if you want to get into one of the more acclaimed ones.

March

Edinburgh tends to be fairly quiet in March, with fewer tourists and fewer events. The weather can be a gamble, and it's often still wintery and dark before spring really arrives.

Events to check out:

  • Edinburgh Competition Festival brings together some of the best musical performers, each an expert in their instrument. The festival runs for 10 days each March and welcomes musicians of all ages.
  • Even though it's technically an Irish holiday, Scots love to celebrate St. Patrick's Day with a few pints and live music.
View of old town Edinburgh with flowers during spring in Scotland

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April

The weather starts to get nicer in April, with less rain and strong wind, although it can still be chilly. To avoid any crowds, plan around the Easter school holiday, which takes place over a long weekend in the spring.

Events to check out:

  • Register for Edinburgh Comic-Con, which takes place over two days in April, to shop comics exhibitors, watch panels, and experience cosplay. It's not the biggest con in the U.K., but it can be lots of fun. Comic-Con Scotland, held in October, also attracts lots of fans and celebrities.
  • Take on the Celtic ritual of Beltane at the annual Beltane Fire Festival, which takes place at Edinburgh's Carlton Hill to welcome spring.

May

May feels like spring, with blooming trees and flowers, but it's not quite busy in Edinburgh yet since kids are still in school. Take advantage of the shorter lines at attractions and the opportunity to walk around in the sunshine.

Events to check out:

  • Visit the nine-day Edinburgh International Children's Festival, held from late May to early June, to see the best in family-friendly theater and dance performances.
  • Runners hit the streets for the Edinburgh Marathon at the end of May, passing by many of the city's iconic monuments and buildings along the route.

June

June brings the kick-off of tourist season to Edinburgh, with many international visitors coming into the city. The weather is warm, sunny, and pleasant, and there's a lot to see and do outdoors. June can be a good choice for those who are planning a longer Scotland itinerary beyond Edinburgh.

Events to check out:

  • The Edinburgh International Science Festival arrives in Edinburgh at the end of every June, celebrating science, math, engineering, and technology.
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival is the world's longest-running film festival, bringing in a global selection of shorts, features, and documentaries to showcase cinema's best.
  • Scotland's biggest LGBTQIA+ event, Pride Edinburgh, takes over the city's streets and bars every June.

July

July brings the hottest weather and longest days to the Scottish city, making it an ideal time to explore and take advantage of outdoor activities. Since most of the big festivals are held in August, the crowds can also be less overwhelming.

Events to check out:

  • The annual Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival takes place in July and is a must-do for jazz music lovers. It features free and ticketed performances, as well as the beloved Princes Street parade.

August

Not only does August typically boast nice weather, but the late summer in Edinburgh is also the time to visit if you love art. It's known for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and the Edinburgh International Festival, which take over the city every August and draw in crowds worldwide. It's a lively, exciting time to visit Edinburgh, although it can be jam-packed.

Events to check out:

  • Edinburgh's most famous festival is the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a massive art festival that features everything from theater and dance to cabaret and comedy to children's shows and live music.
  • The Edinburgh International Festival is held simultaneously to Festival Fringe, showcasing the performing arts over three weeks in many of the city's renowned theaters.
  • The month-long Edinburgh Art Festival showcases various exhibitions and events, with most of the festival free to attend.
  • At Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo is a series of performances by British Armed Forces, Commonwealth, and international military bands. It draws a huge audience of adults and kids.
  • Princes Street Gardens hosts Edinburgh Summer Sessions over August, with major musical acts taking the outdoor stage for family-friendly concerts.

September

The temperatures remain pleasant in September, averaging around 60 F, and the crowds have cleared out from August. This is your best bet if you want to experience Edinburgh without the onslaught of events, and it can be a good time to explore the surrounding areas of Scotland as well.

  • Book a ticket to a screening at Ocean Film Festival, which features films that showcase the oceans above and below the surface. It's a U.K.-wide event, with Edinburgh's screenings taking place at Festival Theatre.
Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh

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October

October brings fewer crowds once students are back in school, but Edinburgh keeps its festivals going into the fall. The weather starts to dip, so pack layers and rain gear.

Events to check out:

  • The annual Scottish International Storytelling Festival, held around Halloween, highlights storytelling's art with performances and events throughout the city.
  • Edinburgh celebrates Halloween in a similar fashion to American cities, with various haunted houses, events, and costume parties.

November

The weather starts to turn cold, and days get shorter in November, but the lack of crowds at the various attractions makes it a good time to enjoy the city without lines. Scotland doesn't celebrate Thanksgiving, so students will remain in school throughout the month.

Events to check out:

  • Held every year on November 5, Bonfire Night, also known as Guy Fawkes Night, is a popular event in the U.K. Expect rowdy outdoor gatherings, fireworks, and, of course, bonfires.
  • St. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, so his saint's day, Nov. 30, brings a lot of celebration to Edinburgh. Festivals are often held over that weekend, which often has the Monday off for events.
  • The Edinburgh neighborhood of Leith hosts EH6 Festival, which features craft beer, food, and music.
Traditional winter side street in Stockbridge, Edinburgh

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December

Christmas is a busy, festive time in Scotland, and Edinburgh is a great place to experience the holiday magic. There's lots of shopping, holiday street markets and Christmas-related events, like plays and concerts. The weather can be cold and wet, with the potential for snow, but don't let that keep you away.

Events to check out:

  • December brings numerous Christmas markets to Edinburgh, but one of the best is Castle Street Christmas Market, which looks up at Edinburgh Castle. Edinburgh Christmas, which includes the markets and several events, usually runs from the end of November through December.
  • Hogmanay, the Scottish celebration of the New Year, is a raucous celebration taking place on Dec. 31 all around Edinburgh. It features live music and fireworks, which are also broadcast around Scotland.
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