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There’s no denying that Scotland is wet. It’s what makes the country so lush, right? But how do you keep your sightseeing itinerary intact when there is a downpour in the city? No stress! Our guide to things to do in Edinburgh on a rainy day has got you covered.
Speaking of covered, remember to pack a decent raincoat and plan your wardrobe. Check out our packing list for more.
Things to do in Edinburgh in the Rain
1. National Museum of Scotland
There is always something new to see with ever-changing galleries and collections, making it a great way to spend a rainy afternoon in Edinburgh.
The exhibits include art and design, science, Scottish history, nature, cultures worldwide, technology, and more.
It’s full of family-friendly fun things to do in Edinburgh, and has fantastic options to keep everyone entertained.
As a bonus, if the rain clears up, there is an accessible roof terrace with truly amazing views of the city.
2. Museum of Edinburgh
Inside it’s a maze of 16th Century buildings that tell the fantastic story of Edinburgh, everything from the glorious to the gruesome.
It has permanent collections as well as frequently changing exhibits that bring something new and fresh to each visit making it a great thing rainy day activity in Edinburgh.
3. The People’s Story Museum
Just across from the Museum of Edinburgh is The People’s Story Museum.
It is a museum inside the historic Canongate Tolbooth that tells Edinburgh’s working-class population from the late 1800s to today.
The unique part of this museum is that it relies heavily on oral history to tell its stories.
If you’re wanting to get a good look at the life of the average Edinburgher while trying to dry off from the rain, this is the place to do it.
Read next | the top ten museums in Edinburgh
4. The Palace of Holyroodhouse
Holyroodhouse is The Queen’s official residence in Scotland and where she stays when she makes her annual trip up north to fulfill her royal engagements.
Located at the far end of The Royal Mile, Holyroodhouse is open for visitors all year (not when the Queen visits, though) and offers various exhibitions, courses, lectures, activities, and private tours.
The perfect afternoon for anyone fascinated by the Royal Family to escape a sudden rainstorm.
5. Scotch Whisky Experience
When looking for things to do in Edinburgh on a rainy day, look no further than the Scotch Whisky Experience, located near the Edinburgh Castle.
They offer various tour options as well as tastings, a shop, and even a restaurant- you could spend nearly the entire day there.
Experts will help you on your search for the perfect dram by showing the best regional whiskies that Scotland has to offer.
6. Edinburgh Gin Distillery
If whisky isn’t your thing and you prefer gin, the Edinburgh Gin Distillery is a great thing to do in Edinburgh when it rains.
Located in Edinburgh’s hip West End, visitors can pre-book tours of the distillery and indulge in a tasting that will leave you with a Scottish pep in your step.
7. Scottish Parliament
Whether you’re a political buff or not, the Scottish Parliament is an ideal thing to do on a rainy day in Edinburgh.
The pre-booked tours show off various parts of the building, and if you’re lucky, you might even be able to witness parliament in action!
You can also chime in on your opinion of the building’s design, a divisive topic among the Scots.
8. National Library of Scotland
Book lovers will adore the National Library of Scotland, it is one of the biggest in the United Kingdom, making it a great way to escape the rain in Edinburgh.
Among its numerous collections and texts are Shakespeare’s First Folio, the last letter written by Mary Queen of Scots, and the world’s most extensive collection of Scottish Gaelic material.
9. Edinburgh Hop On and Off Bus Tour
The Edinburgh hop on/off bus tour isn’t for every type of visitor, but hear me out.
The bottom deck is covered, the guide is informative and entertaining and there are three routes to choose from.
The majestic tour goes as far as the Royal Yacht Britannia in the lesser-known area of Leith which is our next suggestion. A great option if you only have one day in Edinburgh.
The official starting point is St Andrews Square in the New Town but you can hop on, or off, at any of the stops.
Or consider a 1-day Highlands day trip where most of the time will be spent admiring the landscape from the bus window.
10. The Royal Yacht Britannia
If you are a fan of The Crown, a short trip up to Leith will take you to The Royal Yacht Britannia, as seen in season two.
The royal family used the yacht for over 40 years to sail around the world.
The interactive tour includes a free audio guide so you can explore at your own pace and learn as much as you desire, making it a perfect indoor thing to do in Edinburgh.
Reserve your ticket here.
11. Afternoon Tea
A trip to Edinburgh wouldn’t be complete without having an afternoon tea.
If you’re hoping for some luxury, look no further than The Colonnades at the Signet Library.
The seasonal menu offers sweet and savory options to suit every tastebud, and the library is the embodiment of grandiose.
If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat, you’ll get a gorgeous view of the Old Town, Princes St Gardens, and Edinburgh Castle.
For full details, here’s our afternoon tea in Edinburgh guide.
12. Go Shopping
The Stockbridge high street is famous for its row of charity shops filled with wonderful and quirky finds, (all supporting amazing causes), where you can buy everything from a wedding gown to a vintage tea set.
In North Leith, you’ll find Ocean Terminal which has a cinema, lots of different food options, and a wide variety of shops- many of which support local independent Scottish artists.
There is even an indoor park for skateboarding and rollerblading.
13. Edinburgh Playhouse
The Playhouse is an iconic Edinburgh staple that deserves a visit, whether rain or shine.
It is the United Kingdom’s biggest working theatre and has been around for nearly a century.
The Playhouse hosts concerts, touring musical theatre performances, comedy acts, and everything in between, so there is always something to see and the best things to do at night when raining in Edinburgh.
14. Head to the Pub
If when in Rome, you do as the Romans do, then when you’re in Scotland, you do as the Scots do – and that means go to the pub.
Many pubs don’t open until late afternoon, so this option is best if you’re looking for things to do in Edinburgh at night.
It first opened in 1360 and is still running today, thankfully with a more modernized menu-less sheep heads and a more traditional pub fare.
If you’re in the Old Town when the rain clouds hit, Cold Town House, located in Grassmarket, is a popular destination for locals and tourists alike due to its quirky layout, amazing pizza, and (covered) rooftop bar.
Here’s a list of our very favorite pubs in Edinburgh’s Old Town.
15. Make Chocolate and Sample Haggis Chocolate
Just off the Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s only chocolate tour, The Chocolatarium!
Don’t be fooled, while this is a fun activity for kids, adults get a big kick out of the chocolate experience too.
Learn how bars of chocolate are made and then make one yourself!
The tour lasts for 90 minutes and during that time you get to drink, make and sample chocolate, one of which is haggis flavoured.
16. Eat Brunch
Edinburgh has an amazing array of places to eat brunch some of which serve all-day menus.
Many of the brunch spots welcome dogs and are kid-friendly so you can enjoy your pancakes with the pack.
17. Lane 7 Bowling
The movies Grease 2 and Drive just made a baby and named it Lane 7.
Think neon lights, graffiti, dirty burgers, cocktails and Gen Z and you are in the right lane. Boom boom.
New kid on the block at St James Quarter, Lane 7 is a UK brand with locations in Aberdeen, Newcastle and Manchester.
Open from 11am until late, a rainy day Edinburgh activity that can be enjoyed with drinks or not. Strike!
Not into scoring? Play pool, darts, shuffle board, ping pong or mini-golf instead.
18. NQ64 Retro Games Pub
Sticking with the game’s theme, Lothian Road is where you will find NQ64 the pub rammed with retro games such as Pacman, Street Fighter (get over here) and Mariokart.
Over 18s only, this is a late-night arcade bar that serves game-themed cocktails.
You’ll also find NQ64 in our cool things to do in Edinburgh guide.
19. Indoor Rock Climbing
Don’t climb the walls when it downpours, boulder at Alien Rock instead.
Scotlands first dedicated indoor climbing centre opened in Newhaven in 1994 and provides safe climbing environments for beginners through to advanced.
Also caters for group bookings.
20. See a Movie
Edinburgh has really impressive cinemas in nearly every neighbourhood.
Support the independent cinemas Cameo and Edinburgh Film Theatre which play mainstream and niche shows.
Buy drinks and sit on comfortable sofa seats at The Scotsman Picturehouse (image below) and The Dominion.
This is a recommended date idea. For more read our romantic things to do in Edinburgh guide.
No more wondering what to do in Edinburgh in the rain! This guide will help you duck undercover when the Scottish skies open, which, let’s face it, might just happen while you visit!
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