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10 Things to Do in Edinburgh in Summer

Visiting Edinburgh in the summer? Prepare your agenda, because there's a lot to see. I show you what you can't miss.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

10 min read

10 Things to Do in Edinburgh in Summer

Old Town Edinburgh | ©cattan2011

Edinburgh is a city whose charms are seasonless. But there are few better times to do so than in the summer. Not only because of the good weather, but also because of the extraordinary atmosphere and cultural life that takes over the Scottish capital in the summer months.

Edinburgh is often referred to as the "city of festivals". Summer is undoubtedly the time of year that lives up to this nickname. The variety of festivals is huge, so you will not get bored. In this list I show you the most interesting ones and I also propose a little getaway to take a break and get away from the madding crowd for a while. These are, of course, some selected plans of what to see and do in Edinburgh, but you have to start somewhere!

1. Journey to the heart of Scottish culture: the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Royal Military Tattoo Festival| ©Dan McCarthy
Royal Military Tattoo Festival| ©Dan McCarthy

If you want a total immersion in Scottish culture, you will love the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. It consists of the grouping of various Scottish military bands that, on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle, show their musical skills to the attendees.

The interest of this Festival is, above all, for its location. And for its massive bet: more than 1000 people usually participate in it. Otherwise, it is all a display of musical folklore: bagpipes, drums, fifes ... and, of course, people parading in traditional Scottish attire.

The finale of this Festival, which takes place during most of the month of August, consists of a piper playing a moving song illuminated only by a spotlight. At the end a choir bursts in, as well as fireworks and even military planes flying over the esplanade. Absolutely thrilling! You can buy a ticket from 20 €.

If you are fascinated by the surroundings of the castle where it takes place, I advise you to reserve a few hours to visit it in detail. Here you can find all the information on how to visit Edinburgh Castle. If you want maximum comfort, you can always resort to one of the many tours that take you into the castle as well as other significant places in the city.

Book a guided tour of Edinburgh

2. Get to know the origin of festival Edinburgh: The International Festival

Edinburgh International Festival| ©Nik Watt
Edinburgh International Festival| ©Nik Watt

We start with the Edinburgh International Festival, the mother of all cultural festivals. It begins in the first week of August and usually lasts the whole month. During these days all kinds of shows take place, prioritizing theater, musicals, dance and opera.

When I mentioned that it is the mother of all festivals, I wasn't just saying that. Although it was the first to appear, around it have been orbiting the countless festivals that today characterize Edinburgh as one of the most culturally vibrant cities in the world.

Still today, the Edinburgh International Festival has this focus on classical music, dance and opera performances, although it is usually called by the same name to all the festivals that enliven the city throughout August. However, they should not be confused.

It takes place in many theaters and auditoriums of the city, although the most important are the following:

  • Usher Hall: Specially dedicated to music concerts.
  • Kings Theater: Usually hosts opera performances.
  • Royal Lyceum Theater: Intended to host theatrical performances.

Ticket information

The price depends on many variables. On the one hand, it depends on the artists that will take part in the event. On the other hand, if you have a festival membership. This means that, for the payment of an annual fee, you can access first to the reservation of tickets. There are different fees, from 60 € to more than 200 €.

If you do not have this type of patronage, then you have to wait until the tickets for the general public are released (usually in April).

Therefore, if you want to buy a ticket on time, the price will depend a lot on what the patrons have already chosen. The price, therefore, is not easy to determine precisely, although it is estimated that, for a classical music concert, tickets can be purchased from 40 €.

3. A bit of swing with the Jazz & Blues Festival

Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival| ©David M. Gray
Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival| ©David M. Gray

The Edinburgh Jazz Festival is an established musical event that has been livening up the summer days of the Scottish capital for more than 40 years. It usually takes place during the second half of July, a few days in which some of the most renowned jazz and blues artists in the world congregate.

But that's not all. The Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival also aims to showcase the young promises in these two musical styles. Therefore, you will be able to enjoy authentic glories but also rising stars. Can you ask for more? You might say a good location. You can make this wish come true because, taking advantage of the good weather, there are a lot of concerts taking place outdoors in the center of the city.

Some of them, however, take place in some of the best venues for shows, such as the Edinburgh Festival Theater. Tickets vary in price, depending on the artist, although you can get tickets from €15.

4. Something a little more alternative: The Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Fringe Festival| ©Edinburgh
Fringe Festival| ©Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is an event closely related to the International Festival, although it runs in parallel. Its original purpose, when it emerged in the late 1950s, was to give a voice to more alternative artists than those who were part of the International Festival.

This fact has made the Fringe Festival, today, one of the best forums to learn about new trends in the world of the performing arts. The genres and types of shows are very varied, although always maintaining that independent touch. This is what you will find:

  • Dramatic and comic theater
  • Music shows
  • Performances
  • Mime theater
  • Experimental theater
  • Circus shows
  • Children's performances
  • Living statues
  • Street performers

The shows are street shows, so it can be a great way to get to know Edinburgh if you are traveling during the month of August when this event is taking place. As for the price, you pay the artist directly whatever you want - exactly the same as with a street performer!

It is, without a doubt, a great plan if you travel to Scotland with your family. By the way, if you want perfect plans for kids in Edinburgh, don't miss the Harry Potter tours in Edinburgh or the mystery and legends tours in Edinburgh.

Book a Harry Potter Tour of Edinburgh

5. Visit the exhibitions of the Edinburgh Art Festival

Edinburgh Arts Festival| ©The Fruitmarket Gallery
Edinburgh Arts Festival| ©The Fruitmarket Gallery

Another exceptional festival: the Edinburgh Arts Festival. It takes place at the end of July and usually lasts until the end of August. It is the biggest event of these characteristics in Scotland and it brings together renowned artists and also emerging promises. Usually there are around 40 exhibitions, all of them related to contemporary art and abstract art.

It takes place in various galleries, museums and urban spaces in Edinburgh, among which stand out:

Ticket prices

The price of the ticket will depend on the place where you want to access. To give you an idea, the entrance to the National Museum of Modern Art, one of the privileged spaces of this festival, can be purchased from 10 €.

6. A plan for culture: the Edinburgh Book Fair

Edinburgh Book Fair| ©Viator
Edinburgh Book Fair| ©Viator

The Edinburgh Book Fair is another of the most famous festivals in the Scottish capital. It usually takes place in the second half of August. The numbers of this fair are almost unbelievable. Hundreds of events take place during its approximately 15 days of duration. Not to mention the visits of authors, which are counted by dozens.

The strong points of this event are also the books on offer. If you like to get lost in bookshelves and mountains of books, this will be your paradise. In addition, there are also workshops and conferences (highly recommended if you are fluent in English).

And, if you are passionate about literature, keep an eye out, since this festival is visited by the best authors of the moment. In fact, Murakami, Vargas Llosa, Paul Auster... and many others have already visited it!

It all takes place in Charlotte Square, one of the city's World Heritage attractions. As for prices, you will have to pay for the workshops, for the conferences and for the possibility of having your favorite author sign a book for you. However, prices are usually affordable: you can get your pass from 4 €.

7. A film plan: the Edinburgh International Film Festival

International Film Festival| ©MV
International Film Festival| ©MV

The Edinburgh Film Festival, active since 1947, is considered the oldest continuously running film festival. It takes place from the second half of the month and lasts around 8 or 9 days.

During these days there are screenings of films, documentaries, animation and experimental cinema. It also counts with the participation of professionals of the seventh art and also with workshops and conferences.

Most of the screenings take place at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh, although the opening takes place at the Festival Theater. Tickets have affordable prices: they are available from 9 € and from 4 € for those under 25 years.

Book a tour of Outlanders

8. Multiculturalism and music with the Edinburgh Mela

People at the Edinburgh Mela,| ©Edinburgh Mel
People at the Edinburgh Mela,| ©Edinburgh Mel

At the end of August takes place the Edinburgh Mela, an ideal festival if you like World Music and cultural diversity. "Mela" in Sanskrit means "welcome" and this is precisely what the festival offers: a welcome to the music and dance of the different cultures of the planet.

These are open-air performances, although there are also other parallel activities such as a multicultural market and a fashion festival. The places where these events take place is the Leith Links, one of the main outdoor spaces of the city.

If you travel to Edinburgh at the end of August, when the festival atmosphere begins to subside, it can be a great idea to approach this colorful event. Tickets can be purchased from 3 €.

9. Greet the summer with the Royal Highland Festival

At the Royal Highland Centre| ©Des Colhoun
At the Royal Highland Centre| ©Des Colhoun

The Royal Highland Festival is the perfect way to kick off the summer. It takes place at the end of June, always after the 21st. It is 3 days of celebration of rural Scotland, an immersion in the traditional ways of life of the country, especially through its agricultural and livestock activity.

It is, in fact, a festival that attracts thousands of people every year. It brings together numerous activities. From livestock competitions to markets of handicraft products. All enlivened by live folk music. It is held at the Royal Highland Center, located near the Edinburgh airport. You can buy the ticket from 25 €.

10. A short break: take advantage of the good weather to visit the Highlands

Excursion to the Highlands| ©Viator
Excursion to the Highlands| ©Viator

To take a break from all the festivities, how about going to the Highlands? Undoubtedly a good place to take a breath of fresh air, enjoy the silence that nature provides and enjoy the good weather.

The Scottish Highlands are an immersion in the landscape of the country: extensions of land covered with green, wild coasts, steep cliffs and beautiful views of the sea and its islands.

In addition, it is in this area of the country where the famous Loch Ness is located. We cannot guarantee that you will see Nessie, as he may be on vacation. However, we can assure you that you will enjoy your experience to the fullest if you check out this article about tours in the Highlands and Loch Ness.

Book an excursion to the Highlands and Loch Ness

What is the weather like in Edinburgh in summer?

Summer in Edinburgh| ©cattan2011
Summer in Edinburgh| ©cattan2011

The best time of the year is undoubtedly the summer. Between the months of June and September the weather in Edinburgh is pleasant without being hot. In fact, the maximum temperatures usually range between 18 and 19 degrees while the minimum stays around 8 or 9 degrees.

Nevertheless, due to the particular oceanic climate of Edinburgh, we should not think directly that summer, as in Spain, means clear weather. In fact, even in summer there is more likelihood of cloudy skies than sunny ones. Only in mid-July does this ratio of cloudy to sunny skies even out at 50%.

What to pack

Luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich
Luggage| ©Vlada Karpovich

I advise you to reserve space in your suitcase to take with you some clothes that can keep you a little warm in case the weather is not good. Summers in Edinburgh can also be cloudy and temperatures can be 8 or 9 degrees. That's why it never hurts to bring some long sleeves just in case.

How crowded is Edinburgh in summer?

Streets of Edinburgh| ©cattan2011
Streets of Edinburgh| ©cattan2011

Yes, in fact summer is the peak tourist season in the city. Tourism is generally constant throughout the year (Edinburgh is not seasonal), but there will be a slight peak especially in mid-July. This is largely due to the intense cultural life of the city in summer, especially through its many festivals.

Prices in Edinburgh in summer

European Money| ©Pixabay
European Money| ©Pixabay

Summer is the most touristic time of the year in Edinburgh. Many people come to the Scottish capital to enjoy its festivals, which function as a major tourist attraction. That is why prices increase, especially for tickets and accommodation. To give you an idea, the average cost of a Madrid-Edinburgh flights can be purchased from 80 € and exceed without difficulty the 200 €.

As far as accommodation is concerned, a night's accommodation for two adults during the month of July is available from 150 €. From this amount can climb up to 250 € if it is a three-star hotel.