6 Things To Do in Edinburgh During Chilly Winter

October 10, 2016

Edinburgh is a city begging to be explored come winter. Cosmopolitan, distinguished and just downright beautiful, it has tons of things to do when it's cold outside. From the bustling Hogmanay party to the amazing Street of Light, prepare to fall for Scotland's capital.

Despite the cold, wet weather, winter is an excellent time to visit Edinburgh. With numerous Christmas markets and the world-famous Hogmanay celebration, the festive air in the picturesque Lothian city brightens the dark winter months. Hayley Goerisch lets us in on six things you can do if you find yourself spending time in 'Auld Reekie' over the colder months.

1. Be Festive at Christmas Markets

The lit up wheel at an Edinburgh Christmas market

Edinburgh has two major Christmas markets: the European and the traditional Scottish. Located in the East Princes St Gardens, the European market runs from 19th November to 7th January. Perfect to wander through in search of last minute festive gifts, it features handmade and bespoke Christmas items from craftmakers, gift shops and artists. Make sure you make a pit stop and sample the gastronomic surprises to keep your energy levels up for your shopping spree. The more traditional Scottish Market running from 26th November to 4th December is located on West George Street and is a winter showcase of locally produced Scottish treats, drinks and crafts. Both markets are open from 10am - 10pm and are free admission but remember to bring cash to spend while inside. You'll not want to go home empty-handed.  

2. Be Dazzled at Street of Light

The multicoloured lights along George Street, Edinburgh, Scotland

In 2016, the ever-so-striking Street of Light moves to a brand new location: West George Street. Running from 21st November to 24th December, it features over 60,000 glowing, colourful light bulbs blazing alongside local choirs and bands including the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, Royal Scottish National Junior Chorus and contemporary fiddle music. Guaranteed to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, its magical opening night coincides with Light Night on 20th November - the official switching on of the city's Christmas tree lights. 

3. Peep through the 24 Doors of Advent

the front of the National museum of Scotland in Edinburgh

The 24 Doors of Advent event, working with Festival of Architecture and Royal Incorporation of Architects Scotland, lets everyone peep through the usually closed doors of the most prestigious buildings in Scotland's capital during Advent, from 1st December to 24th December. A number of new doors for you to explore include the Royal Lyceum Theatre, Chapel of St Albert the Great and the BT Murrayfield Stadium.

4. Keep Warm and Visit a Museum

Pile of Old Books

Visiting one of Edinburgh’s numerous museums is a great way to get out of the cold, plus they are totally free - hoorah. Edinburgh hosts five National Galleries, the National Museum of Scotland and a number of smaller museums, such as the Writer’s Museum, the Georgian Museum, the Museum of Edinburgh and the People’s Story. Make a rainy day of it and go on a museum crawl. If you are making a weekend of it and want to be in the middel of the action, a stay close to the museums at the spectacular and central hotel, Nira Caledonia is highly recommended. 

5. Underground City of the Dead Tour

View of Edinburgh castle at night

An underground city of the dead tour gives you a chance to get out of the cold and do something a little darker in this time of lights and Christmas festivities. These spooky tours go deep underground into the vaults beneath the city and explore the dark, sometimes sinister past of the city. For Adults only, a variety of tour companies offer daytime and nighttime tours in a number of languages throughout Old Town Edinburgh. Check out Viator for a range of ghost and vampire tours in the city. Be prepared for spine-chilling stories that'll keep you up until the wee, small hours. 

6. Ring in the New Year at Hogmanay

People looking at fireworks while celebrating Hogmanay in Edinburgh, Scotland

Hogmanay is what Scots call New Year’s Eve and they ring the new year in like no other place, with the whole celebration taking place over three days. It starts with a torchlit procession through the heart of the city with thousands of torchbearers walking up the Royal Mile to the beat of drums and the trilling of pipes, culminating at Calton Hill with a fireworks finale. Grab tickets for the Hogmanay Street Party on 31st December where you can watch the Edinburgh Midnight Fireworks display above the castle and join in on the world’s largest rendition of Auld Lang Syne. Festivities finalize with the Loony Dook: a bracing plunge into the freezing Forth on 1st January. Brr.

Have you got any other wintery things to do in Edinburgh? Tweet us @travioor or post a comment on Travioor's Facebook page.

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Hayley Goerisch After spending way too much time in her car driving through the western United States, Hayley now writes about her travel experiences from San Francisco, California. When she's not travelling, she's writing multiple choice questions for an online education platform.