How to make the most of Edinburgh in winter

Edinburgh Castle at sunset. A young couple, man and woman at sunset in the open space by the castle, taking selfies of themselves, the landscape and the setting sun.

We all tend to go into money saving mode at the beginning of the year, hiding away at home on the couch with our favourite hot water bottle and re-runs of Friends.

While this is indeed a great chance to embrace the home comforts, it’s also one of the best times of the year to travel. And a short trip up to Edinburgh can be the perfect getaway during winter.

The city is ghostly quiet – thanks to there being so few tourists – and the nearby Scottish Highlands are still covered in snow, making for uninterrupted, postcard-like scenes. Visitors can wander around the cobbled streets, marvelling at the gothic architecture before huddling up in a traditional pub and getting stuck in to the local tipple and hearty grub.

The sights

A climb up to the summit of Arthur’s Seat has got to be at the top of the list of things to do when visiting Scotland’s capital. The extinct volcano offers some exceptional panoramic views across the city, sea and surrounding countryside. But it does get incredibly cold up here so do wrap up warm.

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You can’t visit Edinburgh without taking in the views from Arthur’s Seat. Photo by Andrew Pickett

Squeezing in a visit to Edinburgh’s most famous attraction, Edinburgh Castle, is also a prerequisite. It’s definitely worth going inside, but we equally love just wandering around the battlements during the day – especially if we are low on time.


Edinburgh also has a very dark history, leading many to believe that the city is haunted. The spookiest part of Edinburgh is reportedly Mary’s King Close; a 17th-century alleyway which now exists as an extensive labyrinth underneath the city. Take a haunted tour to feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up.

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Have a brisk winter walk around Edinburgh’s many public parks and gardens. Photo by Andrew Pickett

Then, if you can stomach it, also check out the Surgeon’s Hall Museum for a huge collection of creepy artefacts and stories of Edinburgh’s unsettling past. More history can also be explored at the National Museum of Scotland, while art lovers should head to the Scottish National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy.

Dining out

Whisky lovers are spoilt for choice in Edinburgh. Down a few drams at the decadent Kaleidoscope Whisky Bar in the old town before stumbling over to The Black Cat, Whiski Rooms, and the cocktail speakeasy bar Bramble.

And while the Scots might not be known for their food offerings – haggis aside – Edinburgh will really surprise with its take on modern dining. The Witchery restaurant is known for transforming traditional local dishes into works of delicious art.

One of our favourite spots would have to be The Colonnades, where diners can indulge in afternoon tea or a proper three-course meal set within an old library, surrounded by towering pillars and impressive chandeliers.

Another noteworthy mention is the Timberyard, which is a more modern and laid-back ethical restaurant in the heart of the town, full of a considerably younger crowd. Thankfully, it won’t cost you and arm and a leg, either.

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See the Scot’s in their natural habitat, hoping to see a few genuine kilts and bagpipes. Photo by Simon Winnall

Theatre & comedy

The city is known all over the world for its annual International Fringe Festival, but getting tickets and accommodation during this time of year is almost impossible – you’ll have to book close to a year in advance.

But the festival isn’t the only time to partake in great theatre, comedy and art. Head to the Edinburgh Playhouse (Britain’s largest working theatre), King’s Theatre, Traverse Theatre, and Usher Hall for a whole host of great shows throughout the year.

For stand-up, jokes can be heard at the world famous Stand Comedy Club, located right in the centre of town. Giggle all night long to famous comedians trying out new material as well as a few juniors trying to get a foot in the door.