It may sound ironic that an ancient city with its winding medieval streets and gothic architecture would be one of the liveliest cities in Europe. Not only does it have a buzzing nightlife scene but every August four festivals including the world’s largest, “the Fringe”, take place there transforming the city into one big celebration. Beyond the city walls, visitors can explore the rural area of the Lothians: East Lothian, Midlothian and West Lothian. All three areas provide a relaxing break to the hustle and bustle of modern day life. Midlothian is probably the most visited thanks to its Rosslyn Chapel being featured in the recent Da Vinci Code film. Fans of the movie who are booking flights to Edinburgh should plan a stop to Midlothian as part of their visit.
The Gulf Stream keeps Edinburgh’s climate mild, although the weather can change quickly — a rainy morning can give way to a sunny afternoon. Edinburgh is also subject to the haar, a cold mist or fog that blows in from the North Sea.May and June are dry and sunny, with average temperatures ranging from the single digits (Celsius) to mid teens, and the temperature rises to the high teens for July and August. Summer days are long, staying light until 10pm or 11pm. Winters are damp and chilly, with temperatures close to, but rarely dropping, below freezing.
When to fly to Edinburgh
Edinburgh has up to six major arts festivals in August, and flights to Edinburgh get booked up very quickly. July and August are further inundated with visitors when the British schools are on holiday. For this time of year, reserve your hotels and event tickets well in advance.
Hogmanay, the New Year celebration, is also a holiday that requires advance reservations.
The winter months can be very harsh. The weeks following Hogmanay to Easter are low-season. Some tourist attractions close between November and Easter.
The "in-between" months of May-June and September-October (with the exception of the half-term school holidays) are shoulder season when visitors can enjoy mild weather, uncrowded attractions and lower hotel rates.
Search and compare: cheap flights to Edinburgh
Getting around Edinburgh
Bring some sturdy shoes with you to Edinburgh. Walking is the best way to explore and your feet will thank you while you trip over the cobblestone streets. Biking is popular as well. If you can get past the ups and downs of the hills, there are plenty of bike paths and lanes to pedal on. It shouldn’t take you more than half an hour to get anywhere. Buses are extremely efficient. They blanket the city and there’s a night bus service if you’re out late. Make sure you have exact change on you for a bus ticket, or purchase a day ticket if you’re planning on riding around all day. Sightseeing hop-on, hop-off buses offer guided tours and stop at major attractions.
Edinburgh insider information
- There are many places in Edinburgh to enjoy the views. One of the more unusual is the Scott Monument, a huge black Victorian gothic monument to honour Sir Walter Scott, directly opposite Princes Street. You can pay £3 to walk up to the top of the 200ft tower; there are fabulous views of the city centre from the top.
- One of the most exciting times to visit is during the Edinburgh Festival in August, however, the city is packed during this time, so be sure to reserve your hotel or hostel well in advance.
- The annual Edinburgh Tattoo has been running for more than 50 years. Taking place in front of Edinburgh Castle, around 1,000 performers take place in the Tattoo, in front of an audience of more than 200,000. Tickets for the Tattoo sell out extremely quickly, often six months in advance.
- If you want to buy tartan while you're in town, head for the Royal Mile. There are lots of kilt makers' shops and you can pick up anything from the genuine article, made in your own tartan, for around £500, to a more wallet-friendly acrylic imitation for £20.
- Edinburgh is a very green city: there are plenty of parks and public spaces to enjoy within the city centre. The Royal Botanic Garden is especially worth a visit. Founded in the 17th century as a place to grow medicinal plants, today the Botanics is one of the most popular tourist spots. Entrance to the gardens is free, but there is an admission charge to the glasshouses of £3.50 for adults.