When is the best time to visit Edinburgh?

by Alice

Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland, is a destination that boasts a rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture. Known for its medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town, it’s a city that attracts millions of tourists each year. However, the experience of visiting Edinburgh can vary greatly depending on the time of year. This essay will explore the four seasons to travel to Edinburgh, identify the peak tourist season, discuss the cheapest time to visit, and provide insights into accommodation options in the city.

The Four Seasons to Travel to Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s weather is famously unpredictable, but each season offers unique experiences and opportunities for visitors. Understanding the nuances of each season can help travelers plan their trips to make the most of what this enchanting city has to offer.


Spring (March to May)

Spring in Edinburgh is a time of renewal and awakening. As the city shakes off the winter chill, temperatures gradually rise, ranging from 4°C (39°F) in March to 13°C (55°F) in May. This season is marked by blossoming flowers and trees, particularly in the Royal Botanic Garden, which becomes a haven of color and fragrance.


Spring is an excellent time for outdoor activities. Visitors can enjoy walking tours around the historic sites, hiking up Arthur’s Seat for panoramic views of the city, or strolling through the city’s numerous parks and gardens. The longer daylight hours also mean more time to explore the city’s landmarks, including Edinburgh Castle, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and the vibrant Grassmarket area.Cultural events also start to pick up in spring. The Edinburgh International Science Festival, held in April, attracts curious minds with its interactive exhibits and workshops. Additionally, the Beltane Fire Festival on April 30th is a unique event celebrating the ancient Celtic tradition with a dramatic display of fire, drumming, and dancing on Calton Hill.


Summer (June to August)

Summer is the most popular season for visiting Edinburgh, and for good reason. The weather is relatively warm, with temperatures ranging from 11°C (52°F) to 19°C (66°F), and the days are long, with up to 17 hours of daylight. This is the ideal time for sightseeing, as the pleasant weather allows for comfortable exploration of the city’s outdoor attractions.

One of the highlights of summer in Edinburgh is the festival season. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, takes place in August and transforms the city into a hub of creativity and performance. Alongside the Fringe, the Edinburgh International Festival, the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and the Edinburgh International Book Festival offer an array of cultural experiences that cater to all interests.

However, summer also means larger crowds and higher prices. Accommodation can be scarce and expensive, especially during festival periods. It is advisable to book well in advance to secure a place to stay. Despite the higher costs, the lively atmosphere and plethora of events make summer an exciting time to visit Edinburgh.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn in Edinburgh is a time of stunning natural beauty and a more relaxed pace. The temperatures start to cool, ranging from 14°C (57°F) in September to 7°C (45°F) in November, and the city’s parks and gardens turn into a tapestry of red, orange, and yellow foliage.

This season is perfect for those who prefer a quieter visit. The summer crowds have dwindled, making it easier to explore the city’s attractions without long queues or crowded streets. Autumn is also a great time for photography, as the golden light and colorful landscapes provide a picturesque backdrop for capturing the city’s charm.

Cultural events continue in autumn with the Edinburgh International Storytelling Festival in October, celebrating the art of storytelling through performances and workshops. Additionally, the Samhuinn Fire Festival on October 31st marks the traditional Celtic New Year with a vibrant display of fire and folklore.

Winter (December to February)

Winter in Edinburgh is a magical experience, particularly during the festive season. Temperatures range from 1°C (34°F) to 7°C (45°F), and while snowfall is not guaranteed, the city often experiences frosty mornings and crisp, clear days.

The highlight of winter is undoubtedly Edinburgh’s Christmas celebrations. The city center is transformed into a winter wonderland with festive markets, an ice rink, and spectacular light displays. The Hogmanay celebrations, Scotland’s famous New Year’s Eve festival, are a major draw, featuring concerts, street parties, and a stunning fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle.

Winter is also a time to explore Edinburgh’s indoor attractions, such as its many museums, galleries, and historic buildings. The National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, and the Edinburgh Dungeon provide engaging and educational experiences away from the cold.

While winter is off-peak in terms of tourist numbers, it offers a unique and enchanting view of the city, with fewer crowds and a cozy, festive atmosphere.

Peak Tourist Season in Edinburgh

The peak tourist season in Edinburgh is during the summer months, particularly from June to August. This period coincides with the city’s famous festival season, which draws visitors from around the globe. The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, and Edinburgh International Book Festival are all held in August, creating a vibrant and bustling atmosphere.

During peak season, the city’s accommodation options, restaurants, and attractions are in high demand. Prices for hotels and other lodgings tend to be at their highest, and booking well in advance is essential. Popular attractions like Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile can be crowded, and visitors should be prepared for longer wait times and busier streets.

The Cheapest Season to Travel to Edinburgh

For budget-conscious travelers, the cheapest season to visit Edinburgh is during the winter months, from November to March, excluding the festive period in late December and early January. This off-peak season offers significant savings on accommodation and travel expenses, and the city is less crowded, providing a more relaxed experience.

Airfare to Edinburgh is generally lower during the winter, and many hotels and guesthouses offer discounted rates. Additionally, various attractions may have reduced entry fees or special offers during this period. While the weather can be cold and unpredictable, the charm of Edinburgh in winter, with its festive lights and cozy atmosphere, makes it a worthwhile time to visit.

Travelers visiting in the off-peak season should take advantage of the city’s indoor attractions, such as museums, galleries, and historic sites, which remain accessible and enjoyable regardless of the weather. Additionally, winter events like the Edinburgh Christmas Market and Hogmanay celebrations offer unique experiences that can be enjoyed without breaking the bank.

Accommodation in Edinburgh

Edinburgh offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets and preferences, from luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels. Understanding the different types of accommodation available can help travelers make informed decisions based on their needs and the time of year they plan to visit.

Luxury Hotels

For those seeking a lavish experience, Edinburgh boasts several luxury hotels that provide top-notch amenities and services. The Balmoral Hotel, located on Princes Street, is one of the city’s most iconic luxury hotels, offering elegant rooms, fine dining, and stunning views of Edinburgh Castle. Another notable option is The Scotsman Hotel, housed in the historic former offices of The Scotsman newspaper, combining traditional charm with modern comfort.

Boutique Hotels

Boutique hotels offer a more intimate and personalized experience, often featuring unique decor and a distinct character. The Witchery by the Castle, located near Edinburgh Castle, is a luxurious boutique hotel known for its opulent rooms and gothic atmosphere. Another excellent choice is the Eden Locke, which blends contemporary design with historical architecture, providing stylish and comfortable accommodation.

Mid-Range Hotels

Mid-range hotels in Edinburgh provide comfortable and affordable accommodation without compromising on quality. The Apex Waterloo Place Hotel, situated near Calton Hill, offers modern amenities and a convenient location at a reasonable price. Similarly, the Leonardo Royal Hotel Edinburgh Haymarket provides spacious rooms and excellent facilities, making it a popular choice for families and business travelers.

Budget Hotels and Hostels

Budget travelers have plenty of options in Edinburgh, with numerous budget hotels and hostels offering affordable accommodation. The Travelodge Edinburgh Central, located close to the Royal Mile, provides basic but comfortable rooms at competitive rates. Hostels like the Castle Rock Hostel and Safestay Edinburgh offer dormitory-style accommodation and a social atmosphere, perfect for backpackers and solo travelers.

Self-Catering Apartments

For those who prefer the flexibility and convenience of self-catering, Edinburgh has a wide range of serviced apartments available. The Staycity Aparthotels West End offers fully-equipped apartments with modern amenities, ideal for longer stays or families. Another option is the Holyrood Aparthotel, located near the Palace of Holyroodhouse, providing spacious apartments with kitchen facilities and easy access to major attractions.

Bed and Breakfasts

Bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) offer a homely and welcoming atmosphere, often run by local hosts who provide personalized service and insights into the city. The 23 Mayfield is a highly-rated B&B that combines Victorian charm with modern comforts, offering a cozy and inviting stay. Another recommended option is the Southside Guest House, known for its friendly hosts and delicious breakfasts.


Choosing the best time to visit Edinburgh depends on a variety of factors, including personal preferences, budget, and desired experiences. Each season offers its own unique charm and opportunities, from the vibrant festivals of summer to the tranquil beauty of autumn, the festive magic of winter, and the blossoming renewal of spring.

Understanding the peak tourist season and the cheapest times to travel can help visitors plan their trips more effectively, ensuring they get the best value and experience. Additionally, the wide range of accommodation options in Edinburgh caters to all types of travelers, making it easy to find the perfect place to stay.

Regardless of the season, Edinburgh’s rich history, stunning architecture, and vibrant culture make it a captivating destination that offers something for everyone. Whether exploring its ancient streets, attending world-class festivals, or simply soaking in the breathtaking views, a visit to Edinburgh is sure to be an unforgettable experience.



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