The Best Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh in the Rain

Famously rainy, it’s going to take more than a little drizzle to keep you off the streets of Scotland’s capital city. When the downpour inevitably begins, be it winter or summer, there are many great things to do in Edinburgh in the rain.

When the rain starts to fall, take shelter in the National Museum of Scotland, visit the National War Museum in Edinburgh Castle, or peruse the paintings in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. 

Historic indoor sights like St. Giles’ Cathedral abound in Edinburgh, while you’re never too far from a cozy cafe, concert halls, or indoor attractions like the world-famous Scotch Whisky Experience. And if all else fails, a bit of rain is always a fantastic excuse to visit the nearest pub!

Even when it’s raining, there are so many things to do in Edinburgh. To help you prepare, we’ve compiled our list of the best things to do during your rainy days in Edinburgh. Stick to these fun and unique recommendations and there’s no doubt you’ll have an amazing time exploring the gorgeous Scottish capital!

The 10 Best Things to Do in Edinburgh in the Rain

1. Visit the National Museum of Scotland

Best Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: National Museum of Scotland

If it’s raining in Edinburgh, then one of the best places to visit is the National Museum of Scotland. One of Scotland’s oldest museums, you’ll start in the Grand Gallery, a magnificent glass exhibition hall opened to great fanfare in 1866. 

The Grand Gallery is home to the Window on the World, a four-story-high exhibition that offers a snapshot of world history and culture. The National Museum of Scotland is packed with other exhibitions, and chronologically, you can explore Scottish history from the prehistoric era right through to the British Empire and onto the modern nation as it is today. 

And among the history, you’ll find exhibitions delving into dinosaurs, natural history, science, ceramics, art, and textiles. You can even see Dolly the Sheep, the first animal ever to be cloned (or at least, you’ll see Dolly’s taxidermied remains). 


2. Stay Dry at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Cool Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: Palace of Holyroodhouse

A visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh when it rains. You’ll find this magnificent royal palace, which is the official residence of the British monarchy in Scotland, at the end of the Royal Mile. 

The palace is on the same site as the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, which dates back to the 12th century, and much of the Gothic architecture of the palace itself dates to the 16th century. Inside, you can tour through the lavish stately rooms when the royal family isn’t in residence, with the King’s Bedchamber being the most glamorous room of them all. 


3. Seek Shelter in St. Giles’ Cathedral

Fun Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: St. Giles’ Cathedral

Towering over the Royal Mile, St. Giles’ Cathedral is one of the most famous sights in Edinburgh. It’s the perfect place to save for a rainy day, too, as the monstrous Gothic architecture will keep you warm and dry.

St. Giles’ Cathedral is one of the city’s oldest buildings, with a history dating back to at least the 12th century, possibly earlier. Much of the Gothic design you see today was built in later centuries, as the cathedral constantly evolves with the times. This is the “High Kirk of Scotland,” the most important cathedral in the country and one of Edinburgh’s best sights. 


4. Visit the National War Museum 

Best Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: National War Museum

Edinburgh Castle’s ramparts and towers might be soaked through in the rain, but within the city’s most famous landmark, you can visit the National War Museum. Not only will you find the shelter you’re seeking, but you’ll have the chance to learn about Scotland’s military history through the ages. 

This is where you can uncover the truth about Braveheart and Scotland’s many medieval wars with the English. You’ll learn about the infamous Highland soldiers of the British army and see how Scottish regiments fought all over the world at the height of the British Empire.

But the museum isn’t just packed with old muskets, swords, and rifles. There’s a human side to the exhibitions, as the National War Museum shows what drove ordinary Scots to serve in the military and shares personal stories from history. 


5. Check Out the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Cool Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: Scottish National Portrait Gallery

If you’re looking for indoor things to do in Edinburgh, then the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is the perfect place to escape the rain. Located in an impressive neo-Gothic building on Queen Street, you’ll find hundreds of portraits of historical figures, pop culture icons, and royalty inside.

Offering a glimpse into the people who have made Scotland what it is today, you’ll find original portraits of Scottish kings and queens, including Mary Queen of Scots. Move forward through time, and modern-day characters like the comedian Billy Connolly and Queen Elizabeth II are all present and accounted for. 

Take some time out at Cafe Portrait after, where you can wait out the rain with coffee and cake. 


6. Step Back in Time at the Real Mary King’s Close

Fun Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: Real Mary King’s Close

A visit to the Real Mary King’s Close is one of the best indoor activities in Edinburgh. This quirky historical attraction is located beneath the Royal Mile, where enthusiastic tour guides in full-period costumes bring an old Edinburgh street to life. 

Dating back to the 16th century, the Real Mary King’s Close was home to generations of Edinburgh families, who endured plagues, conflicts, and poverty. At the end of the 19th century, the residents were forced out, and the street was built over by the expanding Royal Exchange building.

The street was preserved beneath Edinburgh, though, and over the years, became associated with tales of hauntings and ghosts. It was brought back to life as a tourist attraction and now offers a unique insight into the local lives of Edinburgh’s people through the ages. 


7. Have a Pint in an Old Edinburgh Pub

Best Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: Old Edinburgh Pub

If it’s tipping it down, you’ve got the excuse you need to spend all day in the pub! The capital is home to some of the oldest pubs in Scotland, so happily, you can even count your pub trip as sightseeing. 

You’ll find some of the most historic pubs along the Royal Mile or within a short walk of Edinburgh’s historic, central thoroughfare. Deacon Brodies Tavern, with its tartan carpets, has been serving punters since 1806. The White Hart Inn dates back to 1516 and used to be a favorite of Scottish kings, and The World’s End, built into the Flodden Walls, is thought to have first opened sometime in the 16th century. 

On the other side of Holyrood Park, The Sheep Heid Inn claims a history dating back to 1360, which, if true, could make this the oldest pub in Edinburgh. It’s perfectly located for a quick retreat if it starts raining when you’re hiking to Arthur’s Seat.


8. Cozy Up in an Edinburgh Cafe

Cool Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: Edinburgh Cafe

If you prefer your coffee to your ales, you’ll prefer cozying up in a cafe to crawling through pubs during those rainy days in Edinburgh. Luckily, there’s no shortage of quirky cafes serving up fine brews and excellent cakes across the city. 

If you’re a big “Harry Potter” fan, then make for The Elephant House, where J.K. Rowling spent many long days writing “Harry Potter.” The Milkman is an independent cafe that’s known for its blistering coffee roasts, while Quinn’s Cafe, Southern Cross Cafe, and Cafe Portrait all come highly recommended. 


9. Have a Wee Dram at the Scotch Whisky Experience

Fun Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: Scotch Whisky Experience

Visiting The Scotch Whisky Experience is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh in the rain. This famous Edinburgh attraction is dedicated to all things whisky, and you’ll explore the history of Scotland’s most renowned alcoholic beverage before having a few wee drams yourself.

Located on the Royal Mile, a tour of the Scotch Whisky Experience will show you the different ingredients and aging processes that produce the best whisky. You’ll have a chance to see the Diageo Claive Vidiz Whisky Collection, which is home to 3,384 different bottles of whisky, and you’ll then join an expert-led tasting in the Amber Whisky Bar. 

If it’s still raining, you could even book a table at the Amber Restaurant, where 450 different whiskies accompany the Taste of Scotland menu, which offers haggis, Scottish venison, and sea bass, among many more traditional Scottish foods.


10. Catch a Concert at The Usher Hall

Fun Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain: The Usher Hall

The Usher Hall is one of Scotland’s most prestigious performing arts venues, and it’s a fantastic choice when it comes to indoor activities in Edinburgh. The concert hall dates back to 1914 and is named after Andrew Usher, a wealthy whisky distiller who contributed greatly to its construction. 

The venue’s magnificent dome and curved design were groundbreaking at the time, and over the last century, The Usher Hall has cemented its place as one of Edinburgh’s foremost venues. Today, the palatial interior remains magnificently art deco in style, and events include everything from comedy acts to Scottish opera. 

There you have it! The 10 best things to do in Edinburgh in the rain. What are your favorite rainy-day indoor activities in Edinburgh?


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Author

  • Richard Collett

    Richard is an award-winning travel writer based in Southwest England who’s addicted to traveling off the beaten track. He’s traveled to 75 countries and counting in search of intriguing stories, unusual destinations, and cultural curiosities.

    Richard loves traveling the long way round over land and sea, and you’ll find him visiting quirky micronations and breakaway territories as often as he’s found lounging on a beach (which is a lot).

    When he’s not writing for BBC Travel, National Geographic, or Lonely Planet, you can find Richard writing for the Wandering Wheatleys or updating his off-beat travel blog, Travel Tramp.

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