If you hate crowds and love all things spooky, autumn is a great time to visit Edinburgh.
You can explore the city without having to navigate your way through throngs of tourists. And if you’re a big fan of Halloween, you’re in for a treat – Edinburgh is home to one of the best Halloween celebrations in the world.
In this post, I share my top recommendations for visiting Edinburgh in autumn, including where to stay, best things to do, and what to pack. So, let’s dive right in!
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Autumn in Edinburgh: what to expect
Autumn is a truly special time in Edinburgh.
It sets in quietly, just as the summer crowds start to fizzle out and brown-tipped leaves dance in the cool breeze.
The weather in Edinburgh in autumn is a mixture of rain and sunshine. On some days, the air is crisp and the sky is clear. On others, all you get is rain.
However, don’t let the bad weather ruin your trip. In fact, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Edinburgh, even when it rains.
Where to stay in Edinburgh in autumn
If you’re looking for a central hotel in Edinburgh, I highly recommend staying at ibis Edinburgh Centre on South Bridge (just around the corner from the Royal Mile).
My husband I have stayed here a couple of times and we loved it. The rooms are very clean and modern – and the beds are super comfy!
Best things to do in Edinburgh in autumn
From exploring the city’s dark side to indulging in hearty food and good coffee, here are some of the best things to do in Edinburgh in autumn.
1. Celebrate Halloween the pagan way
The modern celebration of Halloween has its roots in the Celtic sabbath of Samhuinn (or Samhain). Every year, the Beltane Fire Society pays tribute to this ancient celebration with a fiery festival in the heart of Edinburgh.
The Samhuinn Fire Festival takes place on Calton Hill and is characterised by fire, dancing and drumming. This event is very popular so try to get tickets in advance.
2. Venture into the city’s underground vaults
It is believed that Edinburgh’s underground vaults, which are the site of several murders and tragedies, are one of the most haunted places in the country.
These vaults are located under the old tenement buildings in the historic centre and some of them remain accessible.
If you’re brave enough to delve into Edinburgh’s dark past, I highly recommend going on an evening tour of the underground vaults – I’ve been on three different tours and they all spooked me out!
3. Get your pumpkin spice fix
One of the best things to do in Edinburgh on a cold and dreary day is to go on a coffee crawl. Many coffee shops in the city will even serve popular autumnal drinks and Halloween-themed treats.
There are many cosy coffee shops in Edinburgh where you can sip your favourite brew. Some of my favourite places include:
- Black Medicine Coffee (Nicolson Street)
- Wellington Coffee (George Street)
- Cairngorm Coffee (Frederick Street)
- Lovecrumbs at West Port (they make amazing cakes here, too).
4. Listen to Scottish folk tales
If you have a keen interest in folk tales, make sure not to miss the Scottish International Storytelling Festival which takes place in October.
Storytelling is at the heart of Scottish culture and the country has a rich collection of tales and ballads. During the festival, several talented storytellers bring these stories to life with engaging performances.
This festival also celebrates folk tales from other cultures, bringing together local and foreign artists and musicians.
5. Take photos of the beautiful autumn foliage
Edinburgh is home to several parks where you can enjoy a nice walk and take pretty photos of the autumn foliage.
These include the Royal Botanic Garden, which is spectacular at this time of year.
Other places in Edinburgh where you can enjoy some beautiful autumn colours include Bruntsfield Links and Harrison Park.
6. Watch a film… in Spanish
Don’t let bad weather ruin your time in Edinburgh. There are plenty of indoor attractions and events to keep you occupied.
Another interesting event that takes place in autumn is the Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival, which showcases a variety of Hispanic film productions.
Don’t worry if your Spanish is a bit rusty – many of the films have subtitles.
7. Hike along the Water of Leith
If you want to go hiking in Edinburgh, check out the scenic Water of Leith Walkway.
The Water of Leith is a small river that runs through some of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Edinburgh, including Stockbridge and Dean Village.
The walkway is shared by both walkers and cyclists, so be careful when approaching bends along the path.
8. Get a taste of Bavarian culture (and beer!)
The Edinburgh Oktoberfest is a celebration of all things Bavarian, including beer.
The event is held in a tent next to West Princes Street Gardens. You can pair your drinks with delicious Bavarian food, including bratwurst and schnitzel, while listening to live German music.
9. Beat the cold with Scottish comfort food
Want to get a real taste of Scotland? I highly recommend booking a Secret Food Tour of Edinburgh.
I took this tour on a cold autumn day and simply loved it. We sampled a variety of Scottish dishes and desserts during the tour, and I also learnt some fascinating things about Edinburgh.
The Secret Food Tours are led by locals and take place in the Old Town.
10. Step into a world of horror
The Old Town is packed with ghost stories, creepy alleys and haunted places. But things get a bit spookier during Halloween, thanks to the Edinburgh Horror Festival.
This festival is a mix of events, including stand up comedy, magic shows, storytelling and movie nights.
Many of these events are held in The Banshee Labyrinth, an underground vault bar with Goth-themed decor (and which is believed to be haunted).
11. Treat yourself to a Halloween dinner
Every year, Newhaven Quay Brewers Fayre serves a tasty Halloween menu for the whole family.
From steak burgers to fish & chips, there’s a mouthwatering selection of tasty pub classics to keep everyone happy.
And if you want to add a spooky twist to your dining experience, you can pair your dish with a Halloween cocktail or mocktail.
Frequently asked questions about autumn in Edinburgh
Still not sure about visiting Edinburgh in autumn? Let’s look at some common questions!
What’s on in Edinburgh in the autumn?
There are many autumn activities in Edinburgh. These include the Samhain Fire Festival, the Edinburgh Horror Festival, and the Scottish International Storytelling Festival.
Is Edinburgh worth visiting in October?
Yes! October is one of the best months to visit Edinburgh. The city is quieter and it’s not that cold yet.
Oh, and you get to enjoy the beautiful autumn foliage!
What to wear in Edinburgh in autumn?
If you’re visiting Edinburgh in autumn, you’ll need to pack some warm clothes. Temperates are still fairly warm in September, but October and November can be quite cold.
Also, you’ll want to take a waterproof jacket and good walking boots (the ground can be very slippery in frosty conditions).
Recommended Edinburgh tours in autumn
From spooky ghost walks to hearty food tours, here are some of the best Edinburgh tours in autumn.
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