The Best Time of Year to Visit Edinburgh

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by Santorini Dave • Updated: February 8, 2019

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When is the Best Time to Visit Edinburgh?

The best time to visit Edinburgh is in May, when days are long, comfortably warm (10°C to 15°C), and relatively rain-free (it’s the driest month of the year). Next best is during the first half of September, when, though a bit wetter, the weather is still pleasantly warm. Both see low airfare and accommodation rates and fewer crowds.

Clock tower of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland. The best months to visit Edinburgh are May and September.

  • Best Time for Sightseeing: The best time for sightseeing in Edinburgh is between May and September, when days are longer and the temperatures are usually pleasant. Arriving earlier or later during this period will also mean shorter lines and fewer tourists to get in the way of views.
  • Best Time to Visit for Good Weather: Summer months see the warmest temperatures in Edinburgh, particularly July and August, with the average high at 19°C, along with many wet days. The city may be most ideal during the second half of May and the first half of September, when no more than a sweater is usually necessary to stay warm, and precipitation is less likely. Both sunshine and rain can be expected during any given month in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland.
  • Best Time to Visit Edinburgh Castle: Many visitors come to Edinburgh Castle to experience the One o’clock Gun, which is fired at 13:00 every day except Sunday. So this time of day sees the biggest crowds, especially on a Saturday. To avoid long lines and other interruptions, plan to arrive early, a few minutes before opening on a weekday (or a Sunday, if experiencing the boom of the gun isn’t a must), especially during peak tourist season in July or August.
  • Best Time for Shopping: There are no specific periods for sales in Scotland, but the best bargains and discounts tend to come just after the holidays and again in late spring or early summer. The year’s biggest annual shopping day is Boxing Day, December 26, bringing big crowds and long lines (sometimes beginning before dawn) on popular shopping streets like Princes Street.
  • Best Time for Golfing: The warmer months of the year from May through September bring the majority of golf visitors, pushing room rates up considerably and keeping golf courses busy, due to slightly more reliable weather. By planning a golf trip during the months on either side of the peak season, May and September, discounts and less-crowded greens can be enjoyed. Keep in mind that some courses require golfers to use mats on the fairway to avoid creating divots during this time.

Edinburgh Travel Seasons

  • High Season (July and August): Summer is the warmest time of the year in Edinburgh, with average high temperatures around 19°C. While there are likely to be some sunny days, there are just as many wet ones, however. The city’s northern locale offers plenty of daylight for enjoying attractions and summertime festivals. This is when tourism is at its peak, so airfare and accommodation will be priced higher and need to be booked well in advance.
  • Shoulder Season (May and June, September and October): May and June brings fresh, crisp air, blossoming flowers, and pleasant weather overall with less rain than in the summer. September and October see little to no rain and clear blue skies with typically a slight chill in the air. These are the very best months to visit Edinburgh, with temperatures ranging around 11°C to 14°C, fewer crowds, and discounts on airfare and accommodation.
  • Low Season (November through April): Winter in Edinburgh is long, although with low temperatures typically a degree or two above 0 (centigrade), it’s not as chilly as many people imagine. The season’s shorter gray days aren’t to everyone’s taste, but this is a great time to go if you want to save on airfare and accommodation, and to enjoy attractions without long lines or crowds. Be sure to do some sightseeing research before setting out, as some spots will be closed during this quiet time of year.

Edinburgh Weather by Month

  • Edinburgh Weather in January: Edinburgh is generally coldest in January, with average high temperatures at 5°C and the average lows at 1°C. And though the moderating effect of the sea keeps temperatures from falling too low, the wind can make it feel much colder, so bundle up and prepare for both wind and cold rain. Occasional snow gives the already picturesque city a magical look. Do pack a warm, waterproof jacket, clothing that can be layered like sweaters and sweatshirts, long-sleeve shirts and thermal underwear along with a waterproof hat and wool socks. Plan itineraries around short days, with just over 7 hours of daylight on New Year’s Day and about 8 ½ hours by month’s end. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in February: February is similar to January in Edinburgh, though the average high temperature climbs a degree to 6°C and precipitation decreases somewhat with 50mm of rain falling over 20 days this month. With temperatures close to freezing, there is still a possibility of snow, mainly during the cold early morning hours. Lots of cloudy, short days, but by the end of February the sun will rise at just after 7 a.m. and set at 5:44 p.m. providing plenty of daylight hours for enjoying the sights while bundled up, prepared for rain. (Average Max Temperature: 6°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in March: Edinburgh warms with the arrival of March, with average highs rising three degrees to 9°C, though it will often feel chilly and wet. Rain gear and a warm jacket are still a must to be comfortable while exploring. Most days will see at least some rainfall, with 70mm on average over 22 days in March. Even on clear days it will be brisk, so gloves and wool socks recommended as well. Daylight hours increase significantly thanks in part to daylight savings; while there’s less than 11 hours early in the month, by late March there is just over 13 with sunrise at 6:47 a.m. and sunset at 7:48 p.m. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in April: Spring is one of the best times of the year to be in Edinburgh. Temperatures are gradually warming this month, while precipitation decreases by nearly half, to 40mm on average as the driest month of the year. The average high temperature climbs to 11°C, with the low at 3°C making snow unlikely. Mornings and evenings will be chilly, requiring a heavy jacket, but in the middle of the day it’s likely to pleasant sweater weather. With more sunshine now, packing clothing that can be layered is recommended, along with sunglasses for those especially bright days. (Average Max Temperature: 11°C. Average Precipitation: 40mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in May: With the warmest weather and the thick crowds of summer yet to arrive, May is one of the best times to visit Edinburgh. The average high has increased another three degrees to 14°C and precipitation only increases slightly to 50mm this month. Days are wonderfully long, ideal for sightseeing, with sunrise at 4:36 a.m. and sunset at 9:45 p.m., bringing over 17 hours of daylight to the city by late May. As in April, temperatures in the mornings and evenings will be chilly, so packing some heavier sweaters and a warm jacket is still necessary. Dressing in layers for exploring the city during the day is also advised. (Average Max Temperature: 14°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in June: Visitors begin to flock to the city this month thanks to warmer weather – the average high temperature is 17°C. Due to Edinburgh’s northern locale and proximity to the sea, summer will likely feel like spring or fall to those from more southern locations. A rain jacket is still needed with precipitation climbing again to 60mm, bringing 20 days of rain and 10 dry days to June. Pack as you would for May, bringing items that can be layered, and perhaps a few more short-sleeve shirts along with those sunglasses. (Average Max Temperature: 17°C. Average Precipitation: 60mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in July: July brings some of the warmest weather of the year to Edinburgh and Scotland as a whole. The average high temperature reaches its yearly peak of 19°C while mornings and evenings see average lows of 11°C during the very early morning hours. Prepare for periods of light rain, as there’s an average of 70mm of precipitation over 20 days this month. While hardy locals enjoy swimming at the beach this month and next, with the water at 14°C it’s likely to be too chilly without a wetsuit. It’s a good idea to pack short-sleeve shirts, shorts and dresses now, along with pants and a light sweater or jacket for going out at night. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in August: August in Edinburgh is just as warm as July, but it typically doesn’t bring as much rain; precipitation decreases to 50mm overall. The pleasant weather is ideal for all the lively festivals the city hosts this time of year as well as going to the beach and enjoying a dip (sea water averages 15°C now). Bring a mix of clothing like you would for July, including summer attire along with a sweater or jacket for cooler days, mornings, and evenings. (Average Max Temperature: 19°C. Average Precipitation: 50mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in September: Edinburgh’s short fall season begins in September. Early in the month it’s similar to August, with comfortably warm temperatures that gradually decrease as the days progress. Average high temperatures drops several degrees to 16°C and days are still long, especially in early September, with sunrise at 6:16 a.m. and sunset at 8:07 p.m. – there’s still plenty of daylight for taking in attractions. A mix of sunny and cool days require a variety of clothing, from gloves and sweaters to sunglasses and a few more long-sleeve shirts. (Average Max Temperature: 16°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in October: Most of October brings pleasant but cool days, many with rain, as precipitation increases to 80mm over 23 days this month. Especially in late October, prepare for cold blasts by bringing waterproof clothing that can be layered. The average high temperature dips another three degrees this month to 13°C, while the low is at 7°C, making snow unlikely. Another time change this month also means that itineraries will need to be planned around shorter days, with about 9 hours and 20 minutes of daylight on October 31. (Average Max Temperature: 13°C. Average Precipitation: 80mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in November: While the calendar says autumn, in Edinburgh November will feel like winter as temperatures take a significant dip. The average high is now just 9°C and the low average hovers a little above freezing at 3°C. Think cold and wet, with 70mm of precipitation and not much daylight either – sunrise at 8:16 a.m. and sunset at 3:46 p.m. by late November. This is the time to bring a warm, waterproof winter coat, waterproof hat, scarves, gloves, wool socks and the like. While you may not need them, when the sun does come out it’s very bright, so bringing sunglasses is still a good idea. (Average Max Temperature: 9°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)
  • Edinburgh Weather in December: One of the coldest months of the year in Edinburgh, the holiday décor and dusting of snow can make December a beautiful time to visit. The average high temperature has plunged four more degrees to just 5°C and precipitation on average remains at 70mm. There is unlikely to be much sunshine, with plenty of clouds and darkness, which means bundling up for enjoying the sights and preparing mostly for cold rain. (Average Max Temperature: 5°C. Average Precipitation: 70mm.)

Edinburgh Events and Festivals

Edinburgh in January

  • New Year’s Day – January 1 and 2 are national holidays in Edinburgh, celebrating the New Year. The parties continue from New Year’s Eve through January 5th thanks to the Hogmanay festivities that bring a traditional torchlit procession, street performers, fireworks, concerts, and ceilidh to the city. On January 1, there will also be a polar dip, with the courageous taking part in the annual splash in the River Forth known as the Loony Dook.
  • Edinburgh Zoo Giant Lanterns of China – January 1 kicks of the annual Giant Lanterns of China festivities at the Edinburgh Zoo. Held through mid-February, it features more than 450 beautifully created lanterns that light a magical trail through the zoo. Chinese artisans sell handmade crafts while the marketplace offers snacks and seasonal hot drinks.
  • Burns Night – Held throughout Scotland on January 25, Burns Night celebrates the birth of the country’s national bard, Robert Burns. Traditional meals of haggis, tatties, and nips are complemented by song, poetry, and a few drams at Burns Suppers that range from informal gatherings of friends to massive formal dinners that include a poetry recital.

Edinburgh in February

  • Edinburgh Lumen – Edinburgh Lunen brings spectacular light and sound displays to brighten the dark winter nights at three different locations around the city for over a month starting in February. In 2019, the Mound Precinct, St. Andrew Square, and Assembly Rooms Lane will host unique installations from February 8 through March 11.
  • Valentine’s Day – There are lots of ways to celebrate February 14, Valentine’s Day, in Edinburgh. Red hearts and other Valentine symbols will be displayed throughout the streets throughout much of February, and many restaurants will offer special romantic dinners.
  • Edinburgh Antiques & Collectors Fair – Held over the last weekend in February at the Royal Highland Centre, February 23 and 24 in 2019, this fair hosts an outstanding selection of high-quality antique, vintage, and retro wares. It typically includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, glass, furniture, ceramics, and more.

Edinburgh in March

  • Scottish Motorcycle Show – This event brings classic bikes and the latest manufacturer models to the Royal Highland Centre in mid-March, March 9-10 in 2019. Pick up bargains at the Bike Jumble and browse the Retail Village to pick up a helmet, riding boots, or leathers.
  • St. Patrick’s Day – Pubs and other venues offer a host of events for St. Patrick’s Day, but two highlights are the Cowgate St. Patrick’s Festival, a three-day event, March 15-17 in 2019, featuring nine stages in five bars and multiple outdoor venues with Irish music, dance, and plenty of green and Guinness, and the Edinburgh Festival of Ireland, a weeklong event which hosts films, concerts, pageants, and a charity ball.
  • International Science Festival – Hosted March 29 through April 19 in 2019, this festival held at Harbourside House features a diverse program of science exhibitions, workshops, tours, and innovative events.

Edinburgh in April

  • Edinburgh Harp Festival – The Edinburgh Harp festival brings a selection of workshops and concerts, hosted in the spectacular surroundings of Merchiston Castle School in early April. In 2019 it will take place from April 5 to April 10.
  • Easter Weekend – Easter weekend, which includes Good Friday through Easter Sunday (April 20 – 22 in 2019), is an important holiday throughout the country. Banks and post offices will be closed along with some other businesses, although most restaurants will stay open. There will be many church celebrations in Edinburgh, along with Easter favorites like egg hunts and special meals with lamb and potatoes, as well as battle re-enactments and horse displays.
  • TradFest – This festival brings 11 days of traditional music, dance, drama, and storytelling to Edinburgh, starting on April 26 in 2019. All the artists featured are carefully selected from throughout Scotland and around the world, and play at various venues throughout the city from The Queen’s Hall to The Traverse Bar.
  • Beltane Fire Festival – Hosted on April 30 at Calton Hill, the Beltane Fire Festival is a reinterpretation and modernization of an ancient Iron Age Celtic ritual. The largest festival of its kind, it begins with an elaborate procession and includes a bonfire, music, dancing, and plenty of food and drink.

Edinburgh in May

  • Early May Bank Holiday – The first Monday of May, May 6 in 2019, is a bank holiday throughout the U.K., including Edinburgh. Known as the Early May Bank Holiday, it’s celebrated as the start of the summer season and a day off for the general population with schools and many businesses closed. Most restaurants and shops will be open.
  • Festival of Museums – Held throughout Scotland, the Festival of Museums is a three-day festival in mid-May with more than 150 events. Museums throughout the city will be hosting special events for adults, children, and families alike. In 2019 it will take place from May 18 through May 20.
  • Edinburgh Craft Beer Festival – This carnival focused on the best of modern beer culture and brewing comes to the Biscuit Factory on May 24-25 in 2019. It features headline music acts, world-class breweries, and some of the best street foods from throughout Scotland.
  • Edinburgh Marathon – This popular marathon includes multiple events held over two days (May 25-26, 2019), including the main marathon as well as a half-marathon, junior races, and relay team events.
  • Edinburgh International Children’s Festival – Held for a week in late May, May 25 through June 2 in 2019, this festival is an international program that includes striking visual productions to inspire the young and the young-at-heart.

Edinburgh in June

  • Gardening Scotland – A national gardening fair and outdoor show, Gardening Scotland is typically held for three days around the first weekend in June. In 2010 it will be held over May 31 to June 2, bringing gardening lovers, food enthusiasts, and more to the Royal Highland Centre.
  • Leith Festival – This annual event will take place from June 8 through 16, showcasing live music, theater, comedy, a gala day, and parade.
  • Edinburgh Whisky Festival – Held on a Saturday in mid-June each year, June 15 in 2019, this whisky festival offers the chance to sample whiskies from throughout Scotland and around the world.
  • Edinburgh International Film Festival – Part of the internationally-recognized film festival circuit, the Edinburgh Film Festival brings premieres, screenings, and stars from across the globe to various venues throughout the city. The best in world and British cinema is celebrated, including some of the latest new movies. It also brings the opportunity to meet the artists.

Edinburgh in July

  • Scottish Real Ale Festival – This popular festival takes place over three days in early July, with 2019 dates still to be announced. It celebrates the best of real Scottish ale, with all beers brewed in Scotland. There will also be an excellent selection of real ciders.
  • Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festivals – A highlight of the festival season, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival is the longest running of its kind in the U.K. Top performers are showcased along with the annual Mardi Gras and Carnival, jam sessions, talks, and a parade. In 2019, it will be hosted from July 12 through July 21.
  • Edinburgh Art Festival – A month-long art festival, this event kicks off in late July each year, hosted at various venues starting on July 25 in 2019. The city’s leading galleries, artist-run spaces, and museums come together along with new public art commissions by both emerging and established artists.

Edinburgh in August

  • Foodies Festival – Held annually over the first weekend in August, August 2-4 in 2019, this festival offers the opportunity to enjoy live music and join top chefs for a feast at more than 30 street food stalls in the Street Food Avenue.
  • Edinburgh Fringe Festival – The world’s biggest arts event takes over Edinburgh for three weeks in August every year, starting on August 2 in 2019. It includes around 1,800 performances, drawing major talent from across the globe.
  • Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo – This atmospheric extravaganza held at Edinburgh Castle features singers, dancers, drummers, and piper throughout much of August, August 2 through August 24 in 2019. It’s been hailed as one of the world’s most spectacular events and is aired on TV to an audience of 100 million worldwide.
  • Edinburgh International Book Festival – The biggest book festival in the world takes place for over two weeks in mid-August each year, August 10-26 in 2019. It brings the opportunity to meet authors from around the world and attend workshops, discussions, lectures, and debates.

Edinburgh in September

  • Doors Open Day – This day observed in both Glasgow and Edinburgh, hosted one weekend in September, offers unique public access to landmark buildings that are usually off limits. The largest free festival celebrating Scottish heritage, it provides free access to more than a thousand venues.
  • Edinburgh Mela – This annual multi-cultural event is held in mid-September, with 2019’s dates to be announced. The country’s biggest festival of world music and dance it takes place in the heart of the city at Leith Links.

Edinburgh in October

  • Edinburgh Coffee Festival – For a day in early October (October 5, 2019), Scotland’s vibrant coffee scene is celebrated at Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange as a must-experience for any coffee enthusiast.
  • Scottish International Storytelling Festival – Held over about two weeks during the second half of October, October 19-31, this festival brings together weavers, national bards and poets who continue the oral tradition of storytelling through events around the city at various venues.
  • Edinburgh Cocktail Week – This week-long festival features a program of events and parties across the city from October 14 through October 20 in 2019. It includes a special Cocktail Village at Festival Square.
  • Edinburgh Horror Festival – All things horror are celebrated around Halloween, with movie screenings, comedy, magic, theater, stalls, and more from October 26 through November 3 in 2019.
  • Halloween – Halloween events take place through Edinburgh and the entire country on October 31st with everything from haunted walking tours and haunted houses to costume parties and festivals like the Samhuinn Fire Festival on Calton Hill.

Edinburgh in November

  • Guy Fawkes/Bonfire Night – November 5th is Guy Fawkes Night, also known as Bonfire Night. It’s celebrated by setting off fireworks and burning a “Guy,” an effigy made from old clothes, paper or straw, on a bonfire.
  • Edinburgh Festival of Wine – This festival is hosted by award-winning wine writer and publisher Tom Cannavan. A must-event for wine lovers, there will be over 350 wines that can be tasted at the Balmoral Hotel in the heart of the city.
  • EH6 Festival – Around the third weekend in November (2019’s dates still to be announced), the EH6 Festival is a craft beer, food, and music festival. It features over 150 bands in more than 10 different venues, with an incredible variety of music styles along with foods from across the globe, a beer market, children’s entertainment, and more.
  • Edinburgh’s Christmas – Starting in late November every year, Edinburgh’s Christmas brings a six-week season of festivities to the heart of the city at various venues. It includes markets, including a German Christmas Market, rides and attractions, ice skating and all sorts of holiday shows

Edinburgh in December

  • Edinburgh’s Christmas – Continues through December and beyond, bringing the majority of December’s events to the city.
  • St. Andrew’s Day – This bank holiday on the first Monday in December is a holiday for the general population, bringing school and business closures.
  • Christmas Holidays – December 24 through December 26, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Boxing Day, are all national holidays with many businesses closed.
  • Edinburgh’s Hogmanay – From December 30th through New Year’s Day and beyond, one of the world’s biggest New Year’s Eve parties takes place in Edinburgh, including the traditional torchlit procession, concerts, fireworks, street performers, and more. “Auld Lang Syne,” penned by Robert Burns, takes on special significance when sung through the streets.

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