Grumpy Camel


10 Awesome Things to Do in Edinburgh in Summer

Edinburgh is a hive of activity in summer. There’s so much going on – street performances, fireworks, festivals, concerts, and a lot more.

While many people visit Edinburgh in summer for the Fringe, the festival commotion can take its toll on you after a couple of days. Thankfully, you can easily escape the crowds without the leaving city.

In this guide, I share my favourite things to do in Edinburgh in summer, from visiting popular summer attractions to soaking up the sun in beautiful quiet spots.

Things to do in Edinburgh in summer | Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh in summer. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Edinburgh summer weather

The weather in Edinburgh in summer is generally mild, with average temperatures ranging from around 12 to 18 degrees. Of course, being Scotland, there’s always a chance of rain, so you’ll want to pack a waterproof jacket just in case.

The city also gets the occasional heat wave, though temperatures rarely exceed 30 degrees in summer.

While the weather in Edinburgh in summer can be a bit unpredictable, it’s a great time to visit and experience all that this wonderful city has to offer. Just be sure to pack a mix of clothing and be ready for anything!

Best things to do in Edinburgh in summer

Edinburgh is alive with festivals and events during the summer months. You’ll find street performers, musicians, and comedians on almost every corner, and the atmosphere is electric.

Plus, there are plenty of outdoor activities to enjoy in the city. So, let’s look at some of the best things to do in Edinburgh in summer.

1. Leap into the crazy world of the Fringe Festival

Edinburgh’s world-famous Fringe Festival is known for its spontaneity. Held at different venues across the city, the festival is made up of hundreds of shows, including concerts, artistic performances and stand-up comedy.

A street performer at the Fringe, Royal Mile.
A street performer at the Fringe. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

If you want to enjoy the Fringe without spending a lot of money (many shows cost between £10-£20), there are plenty of free shows you can attend. Moreover, there are street performances on the Royal Mile all day long.

If you’re in Edinburgh during the Fringe opening weekend, you might get some free tickets to some of the shows. Many performances get reviewed by critics and journalists on the first weekend, so a lot of performers give away free tickets to their first show to fill up the venue.

Just head to George Square and Bristo Place (University of Edinburgh campus) for a chance to snag free tickets!

2. Attend the Edinburgh Military Tattoo

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo brings together military bands and dance schools from different countries. Each performance features bagpipe tunes with its a cultural twist.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo dancers
Edinburgh Military Tattoo. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

The show takes place on the castle esplanade, where colourful lighting and animations are projected on the walls. 

The show normally ends with a firework display (weather permitting). Try to buy tickets as soon as they’re released as the show tends to sell out fast.

3. Go for a swim at Portobello beach

Swimming in Edinburgh? Yes, it’s possible!

Portobello is a quaint seaside neighbourhood, with a row of beautiful Victorian houses overlooking a long stretch of sandy beach. On a nice summer day, you can enjoy a pleasant stroll along the promenade, or go for a dip in the sea.  

Portobello Beach | things to do in Edinburgh in summer
Portobello. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Portobello is just a short bus ride from Edinburgh city centre (around 20-30 minutes). Alternatively, you can head to Musselburgh (another pretty seaside town) and walk along the coast to Portobello beach.

4. Have a picnic in The Meadows

The Meadows is a popular hangout spot among locals.

This beautiful park is an ideal place for a picnic or BBQ. On a warm day, you can also find several sunbathers.

The Meadows, Edinburgh
The Meadows, Edinburgh. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

If you’re in Edinburgh during the festival season, you can grab some food from the stalls in George Square (just around the corner) and enjoy your lunch in The Meadows.  

If you’re looking for a quieter picnic spot, cross the road and walk up the hill to Bruntsfield Links.

5. Cycle along the Union Canal

Enjoy cycling?

The path running along the Union Canal is ideal for those who want to explore the non-touristy side of Edinburgh by bike.

Union Canal, Edinburgh.
Union Canal. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

The canal cuts through some beautiful Edinburgh neighbourhoods, including Polwarth. You can stop for a wee break in Harrison Park, or grab a bite to eat from one of the indie cafes in Fountainbridge.  

If you’re not an avid cyclist, you can go for a nice evening walk along the canal and take photos of the colourful barges.

6. Enjoy an ice-cream in South Queensferry

If you feel the need to get away from the craziness of the Fringe, take a trip to South Queensferry.

This gorgeous town overlooks an estuary and is home to the Forth Bridge – a 19th century structure and UNESCO World Heritage Site that is regarded as an engineering marvel.

South Queensferry, Edinburgh
South Queensferry. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

The town centre has several pastel-coloured houses, a few good restaurants (try the fish & chips!) and ice-cream parlours serving a variety of flavours.

7. Soak up some sun in Princes Street Gardens

Princes Street Gardens is a popular sunbathing spot in summer. On a warm day, the green slopes are dotted with sunbathers, picnic goers, and greedy seagulls.

If you just want to spend the afternoon chilling under the summer sun, plant yourself in a nice wee spot in the gardens.

Princes Street Gardens wheel
Princes Street Gardens in summer. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

There’s a nice kiosk and cafe in West Princes Street Gardens that sells delicious ice-cream. You’ll also get a nice view of Ross Fountain and the castle from this spot.

8. Dine out in Leith

This non-touristy Edinburgh neighbourhood has a thriving food scene. On a nice summer evening, you can dine al fresco at one of the restaurants on the Leith waterfront (known as The Shore).

Leith Shore
Leith Shore. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Another great dining spot in Leith is Commercial Quay, a modern office and retail estate. This area is home to a mix of quirky cafes, bars, and restaurants with outdoor seating.

9. Go kayaking or canoeing

Want to get away from the hectic city centre? Go on a kayak or canoe trip!

You can hire a canoe or kayak and travel along the Union Canal, which takes you all the way to Glasgow.

Union Canal kayaks
Kayaks on the Union Canal. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

The Union Canal starts from Fountainbridge in Edinburgh, and passes through some of the most picturesque neighbourhoods in the city.

10. Spend an afternoon at the botanic garden

The Royal Botanic Garden is one of my favourite spots in Edinburgh, especially during spring and summer.

This place is a like a labyrinth, made up of different landscapes, from the Rock Garden to the Woodland Garden and Chinese Hillside.

The Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens
The Royal Botanic Garden. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

The botanic garden is also home to ten glasshouses, each one housing exotic plants from different climatic zones, including arid deserts and tropical rainforests.

This is a great place to visit on a warm summer day. Entrance to the garden is free, but you will need to buy a ticket for the glasshouses.

There are various nice spots where you can sit down with a book and soak up some vitamin D.

You can also enjoy some nice lunch from the Terrace Cafe, which is situated on a wee hill with stunning views of Edinburgh.

What to pack for Edinburgh in summer

Summers in Edinburgh are quite mild – and rather unpredictable. You’ll want to pack a mixture of summer clothes and some warm jackets.

On most days, you’ll probably be walking around in jeans and t-shirt. However, here are some other essentials you’ll want to pack.

Waterproof jacket

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Edinburgh gets a lot of rain in summer. Therefore, you’ll want to pack a light raincoat and carry it with you at all times (even on nice days – the weather in Edinburgh can turn in an instant!)

This packable raincoat by Outdoor Ventures is perfect for Scottish summers. It’s lightweight and waterproof, and quite compact!

Scarf with secret pocket

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Edinburgh is super busy in summer! During the festivals, popular attractions like the Royal Mile can get quite crowded. Therefore, you’ll want to keep your valuables safe.

Recently, I’ve started packing an infinity scarf with a secret pocket for my trips. I use it to store valuables like bank cards and money, so I don’t have to worry about theft in busy places.

The Pack Wolf Company has a lot of nice colours to choose from!

Anti-theft bag

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You may also want to carry an anti-theft bag. Edinburgh is quite a safe city, but pickpocketing is not uncommon in summer.

This beautiful LaRechor bag comes with a metal hook and a zip, and it’s the perfect size for mobiles phones, purses, and other essentials.

Comfy walking shoes

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If you’re planning to explore Edinburgh on foot, you’ll need a sturdy pair of walking shoes with thick soles.

Recommendation: I love these boots from Mountain Warehouse. They’re comfy, waterpoof, and versatile – I’ve worn them for hiking trips as well as city walks!

Want to explore Edinburgh with a local guide? Here are my top recommendations!

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