Edinburgh is one of the most visited cities in the UK and a popular destination for visitors from all over the world. One of the most common questions you’ll find on travel forums such as Trip Advisor is when is the best time to visit Edinburgh?
The best time to visit Edinburgh really depends on what you’re looking for on your trip, what’s most important to you. If you’re thinking about travelling to Edinburgh some time this year, you might want to consider some of these factors before deciding when to book.
The most commonly asked questions about travelling to Edinburgh relate to
- Availability of hotels
- Cost of staying in Edinburgh
- Entertainment (What’s On)
- Weather and climate
We’ve collected some facts and figures on all of the above to help you make your decision. We’ve also created a handy infographic (at the end of this article) which you can download, print off or share with others.
Availability of Hotels
Edinburgh attracts around 4 million visitors every year and is the UK’s leading destination for overseas visitors after London. The city hosts numerous festivals all year round, including the world’s largest arts festival.
Edinburgh is also a world-renowned leisure and business destination, attracting more than 1 million overseas visitors every year, making it second only to London in UK terms.
Consequently, Edinburgh is always busy but the population swells and peaks in August and again during the Christmas holidays.
This is reflected in the recorded number of shoppers on the city’s famous Prince Street. Footfall levels here were recorded recently at over 1 million in most months with December ( Christmas period) and August being the busiest.
In terms of hotel availability, Edinburgh has more than 10,000 hotel rooms in the city, with over 40 four and five-star hotels. But such is the popularity of Edinburgh that most of these are booked fast and frequently in peak months. As a result, Edinburgh hotels have one of the highest average occupancy rates in Europe. In the UK, Edinburgh’s occupancy rates are second only to London (with an annual average of nearly 80%). Between July and September last year Edinburgh hotels enjoyed average occupancy rates of 90% or higher.
To summarise :
January and February are the quietest months and easiest time to find accommodation
- It gets increasingly busier from March
- July and August are the peak months
- It then gets increasingly less busy between September and November
- December can be very busy over the Christmas and New Year dates
- Book your hotel well in advance especially during the busier periods.
Cost of staying in Edinburgh
Edinburgh attracts a mix of different types of visitors: local visitors on short city breaks, leisure visitors from across the UK or from overseas on a short stay or on holiday, and a significant volume of business visitors.
The average daily expenditure of visitors to Edinburgh can be broken down as follows : (VisitScotland data)
Hotels and accommodation
£37.85 (41% of expenditure)
Eating and drinking
£22.90 (25% of expenditure)
£16.50 (18% of expenditure)
£10.20 (11% of expenditure)
£ 4.75 (5% of expenditure)
Clearly, hotels and accommodation represent the greatest spend by visitors to Edinburgh.
The average daily rate (ADR) is the average amount without tax and breakfast in pounds paid by guests to hotels for their night’s stay. This varies from month to month and for Edinburgh this is no different.
Our infographic shows the ADR for all 12 months in the year for Edinburgh hotels. Perhaps not surprisingly the ADR correlates very closely with the levels of visitors in the city at the time.
Winter (excluding Christmas) till early Spring is a quieter period for hotels when prices are generally lower and more special offers can be found. While June to September is the busiest and most expensive period for hotels with August the most expensive.
To summarise :
- Hotels and accommodation represent the biggest expenditure for Edinburgh visitors.
- January to March is the best value period to stay.
- April to May is the shoulder period with value prices.
- June to September is the most expensive period.
- August is significantly more expensive, as is Christmas week up to New Year.
Entertainment (What’s on in Edinburgh?)
The Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Fringe season dominates the social calendar every year in Edinburgh. There are 12 international festivals that attract huge numbers (over 4 million visitors) and most of them take place in August when more than 25,000 artists, entertainers and thinkers populate the city with over 1,000 shows per day. The number of tickets sold for Edinburgh’s festival events are only exceeded by the Olympics and the World Cup.
But there are many other events also taking place in Edinburgh throughout 2016. . Here are some of the most popular, broken down by time of year :
January and February
The Loony Dook (Jan 1st)
Burns Night (25th to 27th Jan)
Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival (4th to 5th Feb)
Rugby Internationals (kick off in Feb)
Edinburgh Student Arts Festival (12th to 19th Feb)
March to April
Meadows Marathon (6th March)
Scottish Motorcycle Show (12th March)
Edinburgh International Science Festival (26 March to 10th April)
Gastrofest (26th March to 10th April)
Edinburgh Beer Festival (16th April)
Beltane Fire Festival (Apr 30th to May 1st)
May to June
TradeFest Edinburgh (8th May)
Festival of Museums (13th to 15th May)
World Whisky Day (21st May)
Edinburgh Marathon (28th May)
Edinburgh International Film Festival (15th to 26th June)
Gardening Scotland (3rd to 5th June)
The Moonwalk (11th June)
Royal Highland Show (23rd to 26th June)
July to August
Scottish Car Show (17th July)
Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival (15 to 24 July)
Edinburgh Food Festival (5th to 7th Aug)
Edinburgh Art Festival (28 July to 28 Aug)
Edinburgh Fringe Festival (5 to 29 Aug)
Edinburgh International Festival (5th to 29th Aug)
Edinburgh Royal Military Tattoo (5th to 27th Aug)
Edinburgh International Book Festival (13th to 29th Aug)
Edinburgh Mela (27th to 28th Aug)
Sept to October
CycleFest (19th to 20th Sept)
Edinburgh Doors Open Day (24th Sept)
Edinburgh Oktoberfest (5th to 9th Oct)
The Scottish International Storytelling Festival (21st to 30th Oct)
Nov to December
Bonfire Night and Fireworks (5th Nov)
St Andrews Day (30th Nov)
Christmas and New Year in Edinburgh
Christmas time is magical in Edinburgh. Princes Street and it’s gardens features a Winter Wonderland, a German market, funfair, big wheel, ice rink and an array of lights and Christmas decorations. The annual torchlight procession down The Mound through the historic street, and past the vast Norwegian Christmas tree which overlooks the city, is like something out of a classic old Christmas movie.
The Christmas season finishes on a high with Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay celebration on the 31st December. Hundreds of thousands of revellers enjoy a huge street party along Princes Street with live music and culminating in the spectacular fireworks display at Edinburgh Castle.
Other Attractions and Nightlife
Outside of the huge range of events available, visitors are also spoiled by the many attractions Edinburgh has to offer and which draw visitors in their hundreds of thousands every year. These include Edinburgh Castle, The National Museum of Scotland, Scottish National Gallery, St Giles Cathedral and the Royal Botanic Gardens.
Locals and visitors enjoy an excellent variety of top restaurants and a vibrant nightlife. Edinburgh has more restaurants per head than anywhere else in the UK. Scotland’s capital also has more than 400 pubs and a diverse range of nightclubs catering for different tastes. Homegrown and international live acts and DJs perform regularly in Edinburgh.
To summarise :
- August is unbeatable for entertainment value when the city is awash with Festivals and events.
- Christmas and New Year are also hugely entertaining and popular.
- Outside of these very busy months, there remains a lot to offer Edinburgh visitors in terms of year-round entertainment, events, attractions, restaurants and bars.
Weather and Climate
Edinburgh has a mild temperate climate without any extremes of temperature and precipitation. Over the course of a year, the temperature typically varies between 1 or 2 degrees Celsius in the Winter to 19 or 20 degrees Celsius in the Summer.
In terms of rainfall, Edinburgh is one of the driest places in Scotland and the UK as a whole. Average rainfall doesn’t vary much throughout the year with August to October seeing slightly more rain than other months. February and April are statistically the driest with 41mm rainfall on average.
In the Summer, days are gloriously long with extended daylight and it rarely gets dark before 10pm. Good news for both residents and the huge numbers of tourists who come to Edinburgh for the Festival season.
No matter what time of the year, visitors should stay equipped for all 4 seasons. Edinburgh is quite typical of Scotland – in so much as the weather can change quickly from one hour to the next, and change back again just as easily.
- Edinburgh has a mild climate
- On average, January is the coolest month
- July and August are the warmest months
- Edinburgh has less rain than most places in the UK
- The driest months of the year are in Spring and early Summer
- October sees the most rainfall on average
So when is the best time to visit Edinburgh ?
There is no doubt that August is the busiest, liveliest, and most entertaining month. With the best of the weather and the longer days, it is easy to see why so many people arrive in Edinburgh during the peak Festival season.
Christmas and New Year are also very popular with so much going on at this magical time of year.
These busy periods will represent the best time for many to visit Edinburgh, as demonstrated by the sheer number of visitors at this time.
But as you can see, Edinburgh is a fantastic place to visit no matter what time of year. Hotels, bars, restaurants, shops, attractions and parks are open all year as are the numerous theatres, music venues and art galleries.
The best time to visit will depend on the type of person travelling and their reasons for coming to Edinburgh. International or domestic visitors, , people visiting friends or family, business travellers, younger adults, older adults, families, couples, and groups will all want different things from their trip to Edinburgh.
Take a look at our infographic below where we’ve compiled a lot of these facts and figures. Do you have a favourite time to visit Edinburgh?