An engaging city with a medieval backdrop; Edinburgh is home to an array of experiences waiting to be enjoyed. The city is the capital of Scotland, with a population of approximately 480,000.
Edinburgh holds within it a vast and fascinating history and a collection of entertaining attractions that overall contribute to the remarkable atmosphere the city is renowned for. If you have a trip to Scotland coming up or are excited by the idea of visiting, here are a few inside tips to know.
The Seasons of Scotland and the Weather in Edinburgh
Despite the different seasons, weather in Scotland is typically cold. Even in the summer months, average temperatures do not exceed 20°C. When visiting, be sure to pack warm clothes and dress accordingly. The values below are an average and should provide an insight in regards to what temperatures to expect.
Summer: June, July, and August: 15°C to 17°C.
Autumn: September, October, and November: 8°C to 14°C.
Winter: December, January, and February: 5°C max.
Spring: March, April, and May: 7°C and 13 °C.
The Best Time to Visit Edinburgh
Summertime is typically the busiest time to visit Edinburgh. This is due to the higher, comfortable temperatures, longer days and the collection of festivals that take place during these months. If you are planning to visit at this time, book hotels well in advance and expect crowds.
November to March are the colder times of the year in Edinburgh. Temperatures drop as low as 5°C and the days are significantly shorter than in the summer months. Although, travellers can enjoy the Christmas vibes of the city and save a ton on accommodation. Keep in mind, the coldest temperatures will be throughout January and February.
The most ideal time to visit the city is between April and May. Temperatures are still on the colder end of the spectrum, however accommodations prices are reasonable and there aren’t many tourist crowds.
Flight Cost and Time
Flight costs to Scotland don't typically vary too much throughout the year. Usually, a flight from Australia to Scotland will cost anywhere above $1400 (unless you pick up a good deal of course). To save some money, shop around for a good price that suits you and avoid travelling to Edinburgh in peak season (June to August).
Needless to say, the flight from Australia to Scotland will be long. Although flight times will differ between cities, travellers can expect a journey from Australia to be approximately 18 to 20 hours. Bring some items to make your trip as comfortable as possible, such as a neck pillow and approved toiletries. A stopover in another country for a few days can be an exciting way to break up the long flight. China and Singapore are a few popular stopover destinations.
Accommodation in Edinburgh
Hotel prices in Edinburgh will vary depending on the time of year you are visiting. As June to October is the most popular months to visit the city, hotel prices will rise. The average price for a 3-star hotel in this timeframe is $184 (AU) for two people, per night. A 5-star hotel averages $369 (AU) per night.
During the April – May window, hotel prices drop. A 3-star hotel will cost, on average, $158 (AU) and a 5-star hotel will average $306 (AU) per night
Hotel prices are lowest during the year in the winter months. A 3-star hotel averages $123 (AU) per night whereas a 5-star hotel will average $270 (AU) per night.
When it comes to location, the inner city is convenient, although it will be more costly. If you are renting a car and are happy to drive 10 or 15 minutes into the city every day, booking accommodation on the outskirts will save you a lot of money on accommodation.
The Best Spots to Check Out In Edinburgh
Many of the attractions scattered around the city are in walking distance, which can save you big bucks on public transportation costs. As a lot of these attractions are located within Old Edinburgh Town, upon The Royal Mile, it may be a good idea to tweak your itinerary to feature a few these nearby sites on the same day. Finally, a lot of the best things to do in Edinburgh are also free, so be sure to throw a few of them on your itinerary if you are wanting to save a few pound when visiting.
The Edinburgh Castle is a highlight of Edinburgh’s cityscape. The best time to visit would be on the same day you’re visiting The Royal Mile, as the castle is located at the very top of the cobbled stretch. Upon entry through the towering gates of the castle, you have the option to purchase an audio guide. This guide proves to be very useful, navigating visitors throughout the maze of this enormous structure while providing an in-depth background of the history surrounding the structure.
The castle also sits upon an extinct volcano overlooking the city. Consequently, you will be provided with sweeping, remarkable views of the medieval city from above.
Entry Cost: Adult: £18.50. Child: £11.50. Pre-purchased tickets will be slightly cheaper.
Time to Allocate: 1.5 – 2 hours.
The Scotch Whiskey Experience
Also located upon the Royal Mile, The Scotch Whiskey Experience is a must do when visiting Scotland. The facility offers six different tours to guests, ranging in duration from 50 minutes to 3 hours. For those wanting a simple tour with whiskey tasting and information of how the substance is made, The Silver Tour is ideal. This option offers an insight into how Scotch whiskey is made via an entertaining barrel ride, a look at the world’s largest scotch whiskey collection and a few samples to taste. An expert guide will take you through the flavour and aromas you will be experiencing, making it all the more memorable. Children and individuals under 18 are offered an Irn Bru.
For those looking for more, the Tastes of Scotland tour is an in-depth 3-hour dive into Scotch whiskey. This option includes all aspects of the Platinum option (barrel ride, a guide into the aromas and flavours of the whiskey, a look at the Scotch whiskey collection and tasting glass gift) and more. Enjoy a 3-course Scottish meal and a dram of Scotch whiskey. It should be noted that this option is adults only. The Tastes of Scotland option should be booked up to three months in advance.
Tours can suddenly sell out, so it’s best to pre-purchase a ticket online to avoid disappointment. Otherwise, tickets can be purchased upon arrival.
Silver Tour: Adult: £15.50. Child: £7.50. Family (2 Adults and 2 Children): £38.
Platinum Tour: Adult: £38
Tastes of Scotland: Adult: £73.
Time to Allocate:
Silver Tour: 50 minutes
Tastes of Scotland: 3 hours
Platinum Tour: 1.5 hours
Hike up a collection of hills, right next to the heart of Edinburgh, to a rocky peak; Arthur’s seats offers travellers ever-extending views of Edinburgh from an elevation of 251 metres. Spot some of the iconic landmarks such as Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile, and Castle Hill.
Arthurs Seat is only a 10 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh Castle, otherwise, those wishing to walk can expect a 50-minute journey.
The hike itself weaves travellers in between lush, green hills and up against a gradual incline. An adequate fitness level is recommended. The time to hike up to the peak is approximately 40 minutes – 1 hour (depending on your walking speed).
Parking is available at the base of the hike on Queens Drive. This will also be the point at which the walk will begin. The best times to hike Arthur’s Seat is early morning or afternoon.
Entry Cost: Free
Time to Allocate: 1.5 – 2 hours
An alternative to Arthur’s Seat, also providing spectacular views of Edinburgh city; Calton Hill is excellent for those not wanting to engage in a 1.5-hour hike. Although the views from Calton Hill aren’t quite as extraordinary as Arthur’s Seat, they are much more convenient and still easy to appreciate.
All you have to do to reach the peak is walk up a steep set of stairs for 5 minutes. At the top, travellers will come across a few different monuments. The pillar-shaped structure is actually an unfinished acropolis, which intended to be a replica of the one in Athens. Although, funds ran dry and it remained uncompleted. Visitors enjoy climbing up its massive steps for photo ops, making it a highlight of Calton Hill.
The peak is only a 20-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle – through The Royal Mile and along Princes Street. The best times to visit are early morning and afternoon.
Entry Cost: Free
Time to Allocate: 30 minutes
Princes Street is well known to be the shopping hub of Edinburgh, holding within it a range of big brand shops to enjoy. Only a 15-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle, the hub is very convenient to reach. The street also offers beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle, along with up-close interactions with the Scott Monument. Every year, around November and December, the Princes Street Gardens put on a Christmas market to celebrate the holidays. Travellers can walk among the vibrant atmosphere, enjoy some local food, buy handcrafted goods and sip some mulled wine.
Entry Cost: Free
Time to Allocate: As long as you’d like
Located throughout the Old Town of Edinburgh, The Royal Mile a central point of the city. The cobbled street is a medieval dream, with towering iron lamps bordering the road, along with an array of neatly aligned stores and eateries. The Royal Miles hides within it a collection of attractions such as The Grassmarkets, The Scotch Whiskey Experience, The Real Mary King’s Close, St Giles Cathedral and many more. The streets also lead up to the entrance of the majestic Edinburgh Castle. Castlehill, Lawnmarket, High Street and Canongate are the four streets that make up the Royal Mile. Visitors can wander among the array of souvenir stores, whiskey shops, and charming restaurants while enjoying the unique atmosphere this area holds.
Entry Cost: Free
Time to Allocate: As long as you’d like to look around
Real Mary King Close
Also located in Old Town Edinburgh, upon The Royal Mile, The Real Mary King’s Close gifts travellers with an insight into how life was lived within the city hundreds of years ago. Wander beneath the streets of Edinburgh into a medieval, untouched world. Walk among buildings from the 17th century, accompanied by an in-depth, captivating guide to explain what life was like in this era.
It is very convenient to find a tour, with groups departing every 15 minutes, although it is still recommended to book tickets prior to avoid disappointment. This attraction is acclaimed by those who visit and must be experienced when visiting Edinburgh.
Entry Cost: Adult: £15.50. Child: £9.50.
Time to Allocate: 1.5 hours
Transportation around Edinburgh
Depending on your personal budget and requirements, there are plenty of ways to get around the city.
With an abundance of parking available, renting a car proves to be the most convenient option when it comes to getting around Edinburgh. Car hire will vary between companies, but will typically cost £35 per day.
Cars can be rented from the airport, making the initial journey into the city all the more comfortable. Booking a rental car before you arrive at the airport is always a good idea, just to be safe.
Also, if you rent a car and wish to venture up to the highlands of Scotland, you have the freedom to do so. Some cars often come with GPS’s, overall saving yourself phone data.
Public Transport (Bus)
Catching the bus is a much more cost-effective option when it comes to getting around Edinburgh. Buses run 24 hours a day with a variety of frequent and regular services. The two main bus services in Edinburgh are Lothian and First. Lothian is prominent when it comes to getting around the inner city, while First is more known for city outskirts.
A single bus ticket will cost approximately £1.70. Ticket prices can be slightly higher, depending on the distance of your trip. It is important to know that when you are purchasing a ticket, you should have the exact amount with you as the bus driver cannot give you any change.
Edinburgh cabs are similar to the classic, spacious black cabs in London. Riding in a cab is on most United Kingdom bucket lists and there is plenty of opportunity in the city. However, if this option were to be used as a regular transportation method, costs will add up rather quickly. The initial taxi cost will range from £2 - £5, along with an additional £0.25 - £0.5 for each 188m travelled. Additional charges for debit card payment, call outs and airport pickups can also be thrown on top. Uber is also available in Edinburgh. Cost estimates can be made on the Uber website.
Trams are present in Edinburgh, although they aren’t used often by tourists unless travelling to the airport. The closest one to the city centre is Princes Street and it takes approximately 35 minutes to reach the airport from there.
Foods to Try in Edinburgh
A key aspect of travelling is expanding your palate, and Edinburgh is home to a wide range of traditional Scottish foods to do so. According to Lonely Planet’s Scotland Guide, a midrange Scottish meal will cost around £10 at a pub and £25 at a restaurant. A high-end restaurant meal will cost above £40. Here are 5 traditional Scottish foods to try on your next visit to Scotland.
Oatcakes – a flatbread that often takes the form of a biscuit or pancake, with the primary ingredient being oatmeal.
Porridge – traditional oats that are made with salt rather than sugar.
Haggis – a savory pudding, traditionally encased in an animal’s stomach. The pudding usually contains a mince of onion, suet, oatmeal, spices, stock, and salt.
Full Scottish Breakfast – An English breakfast plus black pudding, sausage, tattie scones, haggis, white pudding.
Bangers and Mash – Beef sausages and mashed potato.
Edinburgh’s buzzing atmosphere continues to draw in travellers from all walks of life. With the diverse range of attractions and experiences to indulge in, it’s not surprising that a trip to Edinburgh delivers some of the most memorable moments of a journey to Scotland.
When navigating around the city, renting a car and walking proves to be the most convenient options. Otherwise, the public bus system is a cost-effective option that can be just as effective. Next time you are visiting Edinburgh, try to open up your mind and taste some of the local foods on offer.