Historic streets, cobbled lanes, stunning architecture and a world-famous castle of gargantuan proportions, Edinburgh is one of the most legendary cities in Europe.
Artistic, friendly, full of fun, and a very safe city for travelers, the capital of Scotland is a hugely popular tourist destination.
But visiting Edinburgh at the wrong time can make for an unpleasant trip, for a number of reasons. With unreliable weather, a packed program of annual events and several specific tourist-heavy periods, you have to make sure you choose the absolute best time to visit Edinburgh.
If you’re planning a trip to the city but not sure when to take it, then this guide is perfect for you!
In this article, we’ve assembled details about weather, events, and tourist seasons to help you decide on the best time for you to take your trip to Edinburgh.
Let’s dive in!
When Is the Best Time to Visit Edinburgh: Quick Answer
The best time to visit Edinburgh is in august or in may, depending on why you want to visit!
Though Edinburgh is fantastic year-round, there are two main standout periods to visit the city.
The first is August, during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The biggest (and maybe best) theater festival in the world, it absolutely transforms the atmosphere of the city, turning already-excellent Edinburgh into a vibrant, vivid spectacle of performers and performances, with activity lurking on every corner. Weather in August is very warm, offering Edinburgh’s highest temperatures.
If you aren’t interested in the festival, May is the best time. May brings great weather without too many crowds. It’s an excellent time to enjoy the city’s attractions and architecture without herds of other tourists blocking your path. If you have kids, May is the perfect time, as the month plays host to Edinburgh’s International Children’s Festival.
When to Visit Edinburgh: the Weather
Though UK weather is typically unreliable, here’s generally what you can expect from Edinburgh’s four seasons:
Summer (June to August)
Pleasantly high temperatures of up to 20ºC, along with long days. Be warned though – Edinburgh’s summer brings no guarantee of dry weather. You might still experience lots of rain.
Tourism is at its peak during this period, with a huge amount of festivals and events, including Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, Book Festival and Film Festival. If you aren’t too interested in events, it’s best to avoid summer, since the season brings the hustle and bustle of countless crowds.
If you want to visit Edinburgh during a quiet period, this absolutely isn’t the right time!
Fall (September to November)
With slightly cooler temperatures, this can actually be a pretty great time to visit if your priorities are saving money and dodging big crowds.
Temperatures sit at around 12ºC, and there aren’t too many other tourists. Fall in the UK can be particularly beautiful, with golden colors abound, and gentle weather.
If you like the outdoors, this is a great time to enjoy the crisp hues of fall.
Winter (December to February)
With cold temperatures, sometimes at around 2ºC (and occasionally lower!), winter can be cold, foggy, wet, windy and grey. The weather during this period can often feel colder than it really is, due to strong winds and wet days.
Days are also very short during this period – you may only get 8 hours of daylight per day to enjoy the city!
That said, if the city experiences a smattering of snowfall, which is possible but fairly rare, Edinburgh absolutely basks in its beauty.
Spring (March to May)
A fairly popular period, with crisp air and temperatures of around 14ºC. If you want fairly warm weather without lots of tourists, this is an excellent time to visit.
It’s also a fantastic time to enjoy the greenery of Edinburgh, and to take a hike up Arthur’s Seat, a 250m peak with fantastic views over the city.
Hikes outside of the city are also a good idea at this time, with perfect hiking weather.
Climate Charts for Edinburgh
Data source: weatherbase.com
Travel Seasons in Edinburgh
High Travel Season in Edinburgh
The high season in Edinburgh is absolutely summer, from June to August, with a huge amount of exciting events and vast swathes of tourists from all over the globe. The biggest summer events include:
- The Edinburgh Fringe Festival: perhaps the most famous theater festival in the world, with almost 2,000 different shows every single year. Each year, this festival takes over the entire city for almost a month.
- Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo: also held in August, these military parades feature singers, dancers, musicians and marching bands, along with an explosive array of fireworks.
- Edinburgh International Book Festival: another high-profile August extravaganza, this is the biggest book festival in the world, with discussions, workshops, writing lessons, lectures, readings and so much more.
To get a glimpse of the overall vibes you can find during Edinburgh festivals check out this beautiful video that is still relevant today.
Low Season in Edinburgh
The off-season in Edinburgh is typically from November to March, with its colder weather and shorter days.
But low season can sometimes be a traveler’s dream, especially if you’re working to a budget. Low season means cheaper accommodation and better deals, along with fewer fellow travelers.
Edinburgh still plays host to many events during this period.
The best of these include:
- New Years: or “Hogmanay“, as it’s known in Scotland. This is a huge occasion in Scotland – you’ve not experienced a real New Years until you’ve experienced it in Edinburgh.
- Burns Night: held on the 25th January, Burns Night celebrates Robert Burns, Scotland’s most esteemed poet. It’s a beautiful night full of food, friendliness and warm welcomes.
- Edinburgh’s Christmas: a huge deal in the UK, Edinburgh is one of the best places to experience a British Christmas, with bright lights, charming traditions and a huge selection of Christmas markets.
Shoulder Seasons in Edinburgh
Edinburgh has two shoulder seasons: during the spring and during the autumn.
The first, over April and May, is a pretty good time to visit. There will be way less tourists than summer, with only slightly lower temperatures. A small word of warning – double-check before you decide to visit during Easter. During Easter in the UK, you might find that many attractions, pubs and restaurants are closed.
Some highlights in this season include:
- Edinburgh International Children’s Festival: one of the best children’s festivals in the world, this is full of productions, events and exhibitions to appeal to children of all ages. It’s very fun and interactive, with many innovative and interesting events.
- Edinburgh’s parks and hikes are fantastic at this time of year.
- Edinburgh’s TradFest: for almost two weeks in April and May, TradFest fills Edinburgh with traditional music, dance and performance. If you’re interested in Scottish history or traditions, this is absolutely one of the best times to visit the city
The second shoulder season during September and October isn’t very popular with tourists, which means that this period is a perfect time to snatch a bargain. In this period, there are some excellent events:
- Scottish International Storytelling Festival: the UK has an excellent history of poets, writers and storytellers, along with a huge community of world-renowned artists still continuing the craft today. This festival celebrates the best of it all with a huge catalogue of events celebrating the oral word.
- Bonfire Night: another huge celebration in the UK, bonfire night features fires, fireworks and burning effigies. Hot drinks, bright lights and a cosy atmosphere make this an incomparable event.
When to Visit Edinburgh (Depending on the Type of Traveler You Are)
The Best Time to Visit Edinburgh for Shopping
Sales in Edinburgh are fairly frequent, so any time is good.
But if you really want to get your hands on some cheap goods, the best time is just after Christmas. During this period, shoppers rush to stores to grab bargains at super-low prices.
The best day of all is December 26th, when stores drive down their prices to attract post-Christmas shoppers.
The Best Time to Spend Your Honeymoon in Edinburgh
There are two types of honeymoon to enjoy in Edinburgh.
The first is with a jam-packed itinerary of non-stop exciting events and attractions. If that’s your plan, August is the best time.
Your second choice is to enjoy Edinburgh at its romantic best, which is in December. During December, the city is cosy, charming and quaint, full of festive cheer and roaring pubs. Under a blanket of snow (which is possible but unlikely!) it’s even better.
The Best Time to Visit Edinburgh for Culture and Museums
Undoubtedly, this is summer, with a huge program of festivals and events.
Museum queues are longer at this time of year, but it’s absolutely the greatest time to get lost in the city’s culture.
Edinburgh in August is one of the best cultural experiences the world can offer. From books to theatre to cinema, the art on offer is incredibly diverse – and of incredibly high quality.
The Best Time to Go to Edinburgh for Sightseeing and Outdoor Activities
May and June. These months bring great temperatures and long days, making them a perfect time to enjoy time outdoors.
This period is also before Edinburgh’s busy summer boom, so you can enjoy sightseeing without the chaos of too many crowds.
The Best Time to Visit Edinburgh on a Budget
October and early November. This period sits between the end of summer and the beginning of Edinburgh’s popular Christmas markets.
If you visit in October and early November, you can get some great bargains on accommodations, attractions and plenty more.
The Best Time to Visit Edinburgh with Kids and Families
This depends on what your family and children like! If you want to spend time outdoors in good weather, the best time is from May to July.
If your kids instead want to lap up the Christmas vibes, then December is of course the best time. For kids, a Christmas in Edinburgh can be a very magical experience.
A third – and perhaps the best – option is during the International Children’s Festival, which takes place in spring. The program is full of fun activities and events for children of all ages.
The Best Time to Go to Edinburgh for the Beaches
A northern British beach is unlike any of the warmer beaches you might be accustomed to. Northern British people are unlikely to spend time lying around on the beach to soak up the sun, since the temperatures are too low and the weather too unreliable.
In the UK, shorelines are largely a place for walking rather than swimming. Only the bravest beach visitors take a dip into the cold water. But if you want to get your feet wet, then July and August bring the warmest temperatures, and the most bearable water.
The Best Time to Go to Edinburgh for Surfing
Many surfers take to Scotland to enjoy the North Sea swells. Pease Bay and Coldingham Bay are two of the most popular spots close to Edinburgh.
Though cold, the best time of year is typically from September to December, with consistent waves and breaks, and a roaring community of fellow wave-lovers.
Scotland is an often-overlooked surfing destination – but a beach trip from Edinburgh is a great way to experience surfing on Scottish shores.
The Best Time to Go to Edinburgh for Hiking
There are two types of hiking to enjoy in Edinburgh. The first is by tackling small walks in the city center, to viewpoints such as Calton Hill and Arthur’s Seat. These walks are simple and accessible, and can be enjoyed during any time of the year.
If you want to venture further afield on a longer walk, to Pentland Hills, Garleton Hills or somewhere similar, the best times are from May to August. This period has good weather, good visibility and long days.
Edinburgh Events and Weather by Month
Edinburgh in January
This is typically Edinburgh at its coldest. While the temperatures aren’t intolerably low, it’s very windy at this time of year, which makes Edinburgh seem way colder than it really is.
You should expect an average of around 8 hours of light per day at this time of year, so it’s not a great period for extended sightseeing or outdoors activities. Make sure you dress appropriately – take waterproofs and warm clothes.
In January, there’s a small but unlikely chance of snow, which can make the city look particularly beautiful.
- Average Temperature: 3.9ºC / 38.9ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 6.6ºC / 43.9ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 1.1ºC / 34ºF
- Average Rainfall: 50mm / 28 days
Edinburgh in February
February is typically similar to January, but with vaguely warmer temperatures and slightly less chance of grey, rainy days.
Daylight hours start increasing a little. By the end of February, the city experiences almost 11 hours of daylight per day, making February an okay time for sightseeing.
In February, there’s a little chance of snowfall, but it’s fairly unlikely.
Every year in February, Edinburgh Lumen takes place, a fantastic event full of spectacular light and sound displays. It’s a great antidote to the dark and cold Scottish winter, and a wonderful way to experience the beauty of the city.
- Average Temperature: 4.2ºC / 39.5ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 7ºC / 44.6ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 1.3ºC / 34.3ºF
- Average Rainfall: 40mm / 23 days
Edinburgh in March
In March, Edinburgh begins to shake off the shackles of winter to enter a warmer, lighter period of better weather. That said, the city can still feel cold and wet – and there’s a little more rain than in February.
By March, there’s an average of 12 hours of daylight per day.
Though March is a little warmer than the cold Scottish winter, there’s still some chance of unpleasant weather, so you should still pack warm, waterproof clothes.
If you like brisk weather, this can be a good period to explore some of the city’s greenery. Though temperatures aren’t great, green spots will likely be secluded, making this a perfect time to catch some peace and serenity in the quieter parts of the city – and its outskirts.
- Average Temperature: 5.8ºC / 42.4ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 9ºC / 48.2ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 2.6ºC / 36.7ºF
- Average Rainfall: 40mm / 26 days
Edinburgh in April
This is a great time to visit Edinburgh. The temperatures really begin to improve during April, and you won’t find too many other crowds, so you can enjoy the attractions in relative solitude!
April is much drier than most months, and the daylight hours now significantly exceed the nighttime hours, offering plenty of time for adventure and exploration.
Mornings and evenings may still be cold, so you should still pack warm clothes – but you may not have to wear them. You might even need sunglasses!
TradFest is one of the city’s best events, and takes place every April. It’s a multi-day extravaganza of traditional Scottish music, arts and entertainment. If you like experiencing tradition on your travels, this is the event for you. You won’t find an event like this in any other country than Scotland!
- Average Temperature: 7.9ºC / 46.1ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 11.6ºC / 52.9ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 4.1ºC / 39.4ºF
- Average Rainfall: 30mm / 23 days
Edinburgh in May
This is one of the best times to visit Edinburgh if you want to avoid crowds without experiencing bad weather. In May, the weather is great, and the city is relatively quiet compared to the heights of summer.
By late May, the city enjoys almost 17 hours of sunlight, leaving ample time for adventures.
Though temperatures are warm, May does have more rain than you might expect, so just make sure you pack some waterproofs along with your summery garments!
Edinburgh’s two main May highlights are the Children’s Festival, making it the perfect time to visit if you have kids, along with the Edinburgh Marathon. The city indulges in this marathon, with a packed program of events for an entire weekend. If you’re a keen runner, you might even want to enter the race yourself!
- Average Temperature: 10.6ºC / 51ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 14.6ºC / 58.3ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 6.5ºC / 43.7ºF
- Average Rainfall: 50mm / 25 days
Edinburgh in June
Again, this is an excellent month to visit the city, with warm temperatures, slightly less rain than the coming summer months and a relative lack of crowds.
By June, the days in Edinburgh are very long, with around 18 hours of sunlight per day. These days are Edinburgh’s longest – so if you want to build a very busy itinerary, June is the best time to do it. These long days also make June a great time for exploring the outdoors.
Again, it’s important to note that Edinburgh weather can be wet year-round, so you’ll still need to pack plenty of waterproofs.
June brings the Edinburgh International Film Festival to the city. If you’re a film aficionado, it’s a great time to visit. It’s also a perfect time if you want to cram in a big program of sightseeing without many others cramping the queues.
- Average Temperature: 13.2ºC / 55.7ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 17.2ºC / 63ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 9.1ºC / 48.4ºF
- Average Rainfall: 50mm / 24 days
Edinburgh in July
Edinburgh temperatures begin to reach their peak in July, but there’s still some chance of rain. If you want high temperatures without the super-busy crowds of August, this is a great month. But it’s important to note that the city is still relatively busy at this time of year.
July is the best time to hit the beach. Swimming isn’t a great idea unless you’re particularly brave, but a seaside stroll in Edinburgh is a lovely experience.
You should pack summer clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen along with waterproofs.
In July, the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival takes over the city, with more than a week of music, jamming and chats.
- Average Temperature: 15.1ºC / 59.1ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 19.2ºC / 66.6ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 10.9ºC / 51.6ºF
- Average Rainfall: 60mm / 22 days
Edinburgh in August
Along with July, this is Edinburgh’s hottest month, making it the joint-best month for weather. It’s also an incredibly busy time, as thousands and thousands of tourists descend upon the city for the Fringe Festival, the biggest theater festival in the world.
In Edinburgh, August has around 15 hours of sunlight.
Again, you should pack summer clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen along with waterproofs.
If you aren’t interested in the Fringe Festival, you shouldn’t visit during this time. The festival absolutely dominates every aspect of the city, from the streets to the bars to the restaurants to the atmosphere. If you’re interested in the festival, it’s an incredible and incomparable experience. If you’re not, it can be unbearable.
- Average Temperature: 15ºC / 58.9ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 19.1ºC / 66.4ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 10.8ºC / 51.4ºF
- Average Rainfall: 60mm / 25 days
Edinburgh in September
Temperatures begin to drop a little, and the days begin to get a little shorter, but there’s still plenty of light to enjoy the city, with around 13 hours of daylight per day. The temperatures are still very bearable.
This can be a good time to visit Edinburgh – you get average weather along with a huge drop in crowds. After the energy of the Fringe Festival, Edinburgh in September can often adopt a very relaxed atmosphere.
You should ensure you pack warm clothes, especially for the colder evenings.
After the festival-packed month of August, there aren’t many events in Edinburgh in September, but that can make it the perfect time to explore all the city’s attractions and architecture, along with the hills and the ocean.
- Average Temperature: 12.9ºC / 55.2ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 16.6ºC / 69.1ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 9.2ºC / 48.6ºF
- Average Rainfall: 60mm / 23 days
Edinburgh in October
The beginning of October can be fairly temperate, but by the end of the month, you can absolutely feel the sudden chill of fall. October can also be very wet. This rain, combined with dropping temperatures, can make an Edinburgh October unpleasant at times. This isn’t a great time to visit.
Make sure you pack lots of warm clothes along with waterproofs.
By the end of the month, there are less than 10 hours of daylight per day.
If you do visit during this time, you’ll find less tourists, which is one advantage of visiting in October. Another advantage is the opportunity to visit the Scottish Storytelling Festival, which is a great slice of historic Scottish life. Scotland has a lengthy heritage of excellent spoken word and spoken performance, and this is a fantastic celebration of it all, both historic and modern.
- Average Temperature: 9.6ºC / 49.2ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 12.9ºC / 55.2ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 6.2ºC / 43.2ºF
- Average Rainfall: 60mm / 24 days
Edinburgh in November
During November, Edinburgh can start to feel very cold. Temperatures begin to drop suddenly, and there is quite a lot of rain. By the end of the month, there are less than 8 hours of daylight per day.
Make sure you take lots of warm, waterproof, appropriate clothing!
November can be an okay time to visit, with crisp air before the real winter chill sets in – and very few tourists. But it’s not ideal.
That said, there are some great reasons to visit Edinburgh in November, the first is Bonfire Night, with huge firework-full celebrations across the city. The beauty of Edinburgh makes for an excellent backdrop to an illuminating array of bangs, pops and bright lights. November also marks the beginning of the Christmas period in Edinburgh, with Christmas markets everywhere.
- Average Temperature: 6.4ºC / 43.5ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 9.2ºC / 48.6ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 3.6ºC / 38.5ºF
- Average Rainfall: 60mm / 25 days
Edinburgh in December
December in Edinburgh can be beautifully charming and romantic if snow falls upon the city. Though snow is fairly uncommon, December is the most likely time for it to hit the city. And if it does, it’s an unmatched experience.
By December, temperatures have dropped considerably, so make sure you pack very warm clothes.
Rain is likely, nights are at their longest and there won’t be much sunshine.
But the Edinburgh Christmas markets can make all these negatives seem irrelevant. The Edinburgh Christmas markets are excellent, and alone form a justifiable reason to visit the city in December. With festive decor, Christmas cheer and a barrage of trinkets, treasures and tasty treats, it’s a particularly seasonal experience.
- Average Temperature: 3.9ºC / 38.9ºF
- Low Temperature (Average): 6.6C / 43.9ºF
- High Temperature (Average): 1.1ºC / 34ºF
- Average Rainfall: 60mm / 24 days
The Best Time to Visit Edinburgh: Final Thoughts
Edinburgh is a fantastic city, with so many events, occasions and attractions. Many tourists come simply to experience the atmosphere and architecture of the city, while others journey halfway across the world for the world’s biggest – and perhaps best – theater festival.
From friendly locals to inner-city hikes to a fantastically imposing castle, Edinburgh has an unmatched – and unique – charm.
If you want to experience the city and its attractions without too many crowds, the best time is May. For the Fringe Festival, go in August. For a festive experience like no other, take your trip in December.
But whenever you choose to go, you’ll fall in love with Edinburgh, its people and its warm welcomes.
Paul is a handsome and hilarious travel writer and travel journalist from the UK. He’s hiked, hitchhiked and laughed his way through more than fifty countries, and he’s always looking for a new place to call home. Originally from Newcastle, he’s lived all over the UK, spent more than three years in Asia, and most recently lived in Vietnam. Here’s his website.