What to Do When it Rains in Edinburgh

Yes, the stigma is true – Scotland is a rainy place. While it’s not usually a washout and more of a gentle mist, slippery slush and murky mud don’t create the best conditions for hiking Arthur’s Seat or exploring Edinburgh Castle. Trust us, you’ll want to leave those activities for the sunny days (and there will be some, we promise).

Edinburgh is a cozy city, and the rain makes it even cozier. Smell comforting fireplace chimneys as you splash down stone streets lined with warmly-lit pubs, inviting shops, and cozy cafes. Here’s how to turn those rainy days into the most memorable days of your trip.

The Milkman, Edinburgh
Photo by Instagram user @sushiksyusha

Cozy up in a coffee shop

We didn’t know this until we visited Edinburgh either, but this city’s coffee scene is huge. The cobbled streets of Edinburgh are sprinkled with tiny cafes boasting artisanal roasts, yummy pastries, and industrial-chic design. Each cafe feels like New York cool meets Paris tradition.

Try some of our favorite spots:

Sandy Bell's Pub in Edinburgh
Photo by Instagram user @jennyandersonphoto

Drink the grey away in a pub

What’s a better way to warm up than whisky, beer, live music, and friendly locals? Hey, you might as well throw some tasty bangers and mash in the mix. Enjoy a delightful afternoon of booze and bar food in one of Edinburgh’s vibrant traditional pubs. We promise, the last thing you’ll be thinking about is the weather outside. 

Not sure which pub to go to? Have no fear. These are loved by tourists and locals alike:

Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
Photo by Instagram user @soebart

Go gallery and museum hopping

What’s better than amazing artifacts and breathtaking artistic masterpieces? Free admission! Explore the National Museum of Scotland, the Scottish National Gallery, and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art – all at no cost. Be sure to check out Edinburgh’s wonderful smaller galleries, like Fruitmarket and Embassy.

Waverly Arches, Edinburgh
Photo by Instagram user @thearchesedinburgh

Hang out under The Arches

At first glance, it’s a row of 19 stone Victorian arches. When you get up-close, however, you’ll see that they are filled with an eclectic mix of shops, cafes, and restaurants. Find a souvenir you’ll treasure forever, then stop at Baba Budan and try our favorite doughnuts in Edinburgh. 

Tartan Weaving Mill in Edinburgh
Photo by Instagram user @tartanweavingmill

Snag some souvenirs

Just outside of Edinburgh Castle, you’ll find Tartan Weaving Mill and Experience – a five-story wonderland of kilts, rugby gear, cashmere, and much more! Let’s just say, this place could keep you occupied all day. Watch working looms produce kilts in front of your eyes, then go peruse rooms filled with Harry Potter memorabilia, swords, and Scottish treats. For a small fee, you can even have a staged photo of yourself taken in a kilt with a sword! You can tell your friends and family back home that the battle was real brutal.

With its convenient location, the Tartan Weaving Mill is a perfect stop to make if it begins to rain after you explore the castle. Be sure to follow Castlehill down to Victoria Street, where many other souvenir, craft, and specialty shops are located. Don’t worry; there’s a whisky shop. 

Cameo Cinema in Edinburgh, Scotland
Photo by Instagram user @tess2kill

Catch a flick

Ah, the classic rainy day activity: going to the movies. In Edinburgh, however, “going to the movies” is a unique old-school experience. Cinemas in Scotland boast red curtains, velvet red seats, cinema bars, and/or large recliners. Head to any of these independent movie theatres and see an artsy independent film or the latest blockbuster:

Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Scotland
Photo by Instagram user @dovecotstudios

Immerse yourself in royalty at Holyrood Palace

Nestled at the end of the Royal Mile near Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, the historic Palace of Holyroodhouse was once the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. Today, the palace allows visitors to explore ornate State Apartments, romantic ruins, and pristine royal gardens. See Her Majesty The Queen’s official residence up-close!

St. Gile's Cathedral, Edinburgh
Photo by Instagram user @toplesscoffee

Stare up in awe at St. Giles’ Cathedral

This is one of those churches – you know, the ones that take your breath away as soon as you step in. Feel your head bobble around as you admire sky-high ceilings, colorful stained glass, and artistic masterpieces. Whether you are religious or not, St. Giles’ is a work of art for everyone. And with its convenient location in the center of the Old Town, it makes for the perfect place to run in and hide from the rain for a while.

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