Edinburgh provides exciting events and welcomes visitors all year round. In winter, snow often covers the historic buildings, which can be observed from various hills surrounding the city. Itching to get there? Check out our favourite things to do in Edinburgh this winter.
See a light show
Edinburgh Zoo will be reminiscent of Jurassic Park this winter, as its giant lanterns event comes back with a prehistoric theme.
Be transported back to a time where weird and wonderful creatures roamed the Earth. Discover 570 million years of wildlife, from when the origins of life appeared as a dazzling array of tiny microbes, to a world where dinosaurs were born. With an extended route for 2019 and over 600 brand-new lanterns, there’s more to explore this year as Giant Lanterns return to Edinburgh Zoo from 15 November to 26 January 2020.
Hit the shops
Edinburgh is a good city for shopping at any time of year, but winter (and the run up to Christmas in particular) is definitely one of our favourite times to go shopping in the city.
When it comes to January sales and shopping for the finest gifts, the iconic Jenners on Princes Street is a massive draw for many. The celebrated Harvey Nichols, meanwhile, is four floors of luxury designer shopping in St Andrew Square where visitors often come just for the exceptional views from its top floor restaurant. Worried about carrying all your bags back to your room? Apex Waterloo Place Hotel is right in the heart of the action, so you won’t have far to carry your new purchases.
Take a hike
This is one to tick off your Edinburgh bucket list if you’re staying in the city for the first time: a crisp wintry walk up Arthur’s Seat, located in Holyrood Park. Suitable for beginner hill walkers, the moderate climb to the top will reward you with panoramic views of Edinburgh’s skyline. Walking at a manageable pace, your climb should take approximately 2.5 hours with some time at the top. There's also Calton Hill if you don't fancy quite as big of a challenge.
See in the New Year
One of the world’s best New Years Eve parties is held every year in Edinburgh, and it is celebrated under the name ‘Hogmanay’, which is the Scottish name for New Year’s Eve. The Hogmanay celebrations start on the 30 December, on which there are various events including a huge torchlight procession through the city streets.
On New Year’s Eve itself, the city centre becomes a giant street party, with street performers, musical acts, bars, a Ceilidh, and more. There is also a concert in the gardens. This is a huge event that draws in thousands of people, and has to be seen to be believed. The highlight for many is of course the midnight moment itself, when a massive fireworks display launches over Edinburgh Castle.
Indulge in afternoon tea
When it’s cold and windy outside, a great way to get warm and cosy is to enjoy a traditional afternoon tea. We love a good afternoon tea – there are few better ways to enjoy delicious food in lovely surroundings. We have had afternoon tea at a few locations in Edinburgh, but our favourite in winter is at Elliot's in Apex Waterloo Place Hotel.
Tuck in to a selection of freshly prepared finger sandwiches, warm scones with clotted cream and preserves, with a variety of homemade cakes and your choice from a range of teas for £16.95, or £9.50 for kids.
You can also take advantage of our B&B with G&T offer, which gets you an afternoon tea for two, including a bespoke cocktail, expertly shaken at your table by our in house mixologist using our very own anniversary gin, ‘The 1819’. You'll also enjoy a dreamy overnight stay and a full Scottish breakfast, with prices starting from £145 throughout winter.
Visiting Edinburgh in winter doesn’t mean you need to skip out on the city's major attractions, which for the most part are open year round. Start your day the right way by fuelling up on breakfast at your hotel, then, a firm favourite on everyone’s list, head off to Edinburgh Castle. You’ve admired it from afar, and now it’s time to get inside.
The Castle sits perched on a base of volcanic rock in the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage site. From The Royal Palace, Crown Jewels, The Great Hall and the One O'clock Gun there’s plenty to impress. From here you can wander down the Royal Mile passing St Giles’s Cathedral. Pop in to the Real Mary King’s Close to learn about Edinburgh’s more sinister past or continue down the mile to the palace of Holyrood.
A stay at any of our Apex Hotels in Edinburgh could be a great place to kick-start your Edinburgh experience. With the ever-welcoming and knowledgeable staff at our Waterloo Place, Grassmarket, City of Edinburgh, and Haymarket locations all helping to give you the inside track on what’s best to do this winter.