10 of the best things to do in Edinburgh when it rains
From art galleries to escape rooms, from whisky tastings to record hunting; here are some indoor activities to keep you entertained during a rainy day
If you live in Edinburgh, you know you're bound to encounter rain at some point as you go about your daily business. But don't let a little drizzle (or a full-blown storm) ruin your fun, because the city is packed with places and activities that are ideal for those cold and rainy days. Whether you're looking for something culturally stimulating, kid-friendly or just a nice spot to warm up, here are some suggestions.
1. Catch a film (festival)
Going to the cinema has to be the ultimate rainy day activity and when it comes to catching the latest blockbuster films, arthouse indie flicks or festival hits, Edinburgh's got you covered. While the Vue and Cineworld cinemas follow the mainstream wave with occasional theatre on screen events, Filmhouse and Cameo offer a more unique selection from the contemporary and classical film canon with regular screenings as well as seasonal events. Not to mention the high number of moving image festivals you can easily run into throughout the year: Manipulate Visual Theatre & Animation Festival usually launches at the end of Jan; Edinburgh Mountain Film Festival kicks off in mid-February; Edinburgh International Film Festival runs from the second half of June; Take One Action Film Festival starts in September; Africa In Motion Film Festival from late October, while the Edinburgh Short Film Festival screens films in October and November.
2. Find your new favourite art
Edinburgh is in no short supply when it comes to art. The RSA, the Scottish National Gallery and the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art One and Two remain popular choices with their rich permanent and exciting temporary exhibitions. But why not try one of the many smaller galleries? The Fruitmarket and Embassy galleries are renowned for their range of contemporary art, the City Art Centre focuses on Scottish artists while Stills Gallery has regular photography exhibitions and courses. The Talbot Rice Gallery's solo and group showcases explore how the University of Edinburgh contributes to the art world whereas in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery you can meet the people who shaped the country's past, present and future.
3. Get your daily caffeine dosage
If you're into your coffee, you'll know that Edinburgh has a number of speciality coffee shops dotted around the city that are perfect for hiding out in when it rains. Our recommendations include Brew Lab Coffee, Cairngorm Coffee shops, Cult Espresso, Mr Eion Coffee Roasters, Fortitude Coffee, Lowdown, The Edinburgh Larder, The Milkman, Black Medicine Coffee Co, and The Coffee Mill Cafe. No matter whether you're looking for a delicious mug of coffee, a unique cup of tea, a nice scone or a light brunch, these places will exceed your expectations.
4. Hide under the Arches
The Waverley Arches at the New Waverley development have a range of cool and quirky places to peruse, giving you a break from the hustle and bustle of the city centre. Shops like 6 Yard Box have unique designer clothes while the buff. sells organic lifestyle products and offer relaxing manicures. For food and drink head to Gannet & Guga for tasty gourmet sandwiches, salads and sweet treats or Tempo Tea Bar for custom bubble teas. For a proper lunch or dinner Chop House Market Street offers high quality steaks and Pop Up Geeks have got you covered for a decent drink to finish a tiring day in style.
5. Try to escape
Room escape games have become all the rage in recent years and with the amount of fun that you can have with a group of friends in an hour, it's no real surprise why. Edinburgh has plenty of options, from the Escape Hunt and the Escape Edinburgh to Can You Escape? and Escape Reality. Summerhall's Locked in Edinburgh invites you to a gin distillery, a cutting room and a laboratory-themed room while the Escape Edinburgh Haymarket has various rooms with some magic, spies, Sherlock Holmes and a carnival.
6. Go crate diving
There are a number of record shops in Edinburgh that you could easily spend a rainy afternoon in, getting lost in the various selections of new finds and second-hand wonders. Underground Solu'shn is a haven for electronic music and equipment from mixers to turntables. VoxBox Music in Stockbridge sells mostly pre-owned vinyl for a variety of tastes while you may find more than a few hidden gems in Vinyl Villains. Just down the road, Elvis Shakespeare also has an awesome selection of rare vinyl as well as second-hand books.
7. Get your spirits up
Drinking is definitely one way to pass the time when it's wet and gloomy outside. Luckily, Edinburgh offers a wide range of gin and whisky tastings to warm up and explore Scottish flavours. Edinburgh Gin organises distillery tours so that you can learn all about how their gin is made while simultaneously sampling the product. For something a bit more special, sign up for the Gin Making Experience, where you can take part in a tutored-tasting session, bottle a custom-made gin and of course, sample some of Edinburgh Gin's finest recipes. Pickering's Gin, based in Summerhall, also offers a distillery tour where you can get a sneak peek at how a small batch gin is made. The recently opened Holyrood Distillery invites you to try their gins and gin liqueurs while The Tower Street Stillhouse in Leith has some sherry on their tasting menu to complement your gin drinks. Henrick's Bar's Ginthusiasts are a series of gin-centric seminars where your welcome cocktail is followed by four gin samples as well as some snack and edible cocktails. Not ready to drink on an empty stomach? 56 North paires their gins with delicious cheeses.
But I'm in Scotland – where's my whisky? No worries if you've already ticked The Scotch Whisky Experience off your list, there are other distilleries and pubs to explore. Alongside their more traditional tours and tastings, The Holyrood Distillery organises masterclasses, talks and cheese pairings while the Glenkinchie Distillery has a shuttle bus from Waterloo Place taking you to their 200-years old distillery where you can do a tasting tour, a warehouse experience or their exclusive behind the scenes tour. However, if you don't have long hours you can visit Jeffrey St Whisky & Cigars, Cadenhead's monthly sampling sessions, The Whiski Rooms' cheese or chocolate pairing or Henrick's Bar's Aqua Vitae tastings. And if you want to take it to the next level, become a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, which has one of the richest selection of whiskies in town.
8. Find something for the wee ones
While you might not mind the bad weather that much, kids are a whole other story. To keep them busy and entertained you can always turn to classics like the highly interactive and free National Museum of Scotland or the touristy – but for a good reason – Camera Obscura where the day goes fast. The Museum of Childhood is a fun place to spend a nostalgic hour in and tell your stories to your children; but if you prefer someone else to tell the tales, head to the Scottish Storytelling Centre for different workshops, shows, screenings and sessions. Dynamic Earth awaits everyone interested in geology and the history of planet Earth while the Department of Magic is a must for wizardry-lovers with their potion making classes and their Harry Potter-themed puzzle and escape rooms. The more active ones can explore the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena, the Jump in Trampoline Parks or the Clown Around indoor playground in Leith. And if your wee one is so restless that they need more than one activity for the day, head to Fountain Park for bowling, dino-themed minigolf, laser tag or try their trampoline park.
9. Win a pub quiz
Don't you worry if the weather does not clear out by the evening, just sit in one of Edinburgh's numerous pubs, grab a light dinner, have a pint or two and test your general knowledge in music, film, history and art. A pub quiz is always a great option to finish a long day with some fun and friendly competition. On Monday head to the Brass Monkey in Leith, The Cuckoo's Nest, the Hanover Tap, The Dog House, The Old Bell Inn, The Pear Tree or The Tron just to name a few in the centre. Tuesdays are covered by Akva at Fountain Bridge, Brewhemia, Kilderkin, Pilgrim and The Three Sisters where you can celebrate with some dancing whether you win or not. If it's Wednesday, visit Cabaret Voltaire, Frankenstein, The Golf Tavern, Indigo Yard or The Raging Bull to test those little grey cells. On Thursday you can choose between Black Bull, Harry's Bar, Thomson's Bar, The Wee Pub or The City Cafe. It gets a bit trickier to find a pub quiz come the weekend but the Dreadnought and The Pond have got you covered for Friday with The Artisan Bar, The Bonnington, Innis & Gunn (until 31 May), Queens Arms, Tolbooth Tavern and The Windsor offering quiz nights on Sunday.
10. Breathe in some culture
With the Scottish Broadway that is the Edinburgh Playhouse and additional theatres and concert halls there is always a good chance you can catch a major show on tour or an individual classical concert. With current and past hits like The Lion King, Wicked or Dreamgirls, the Playhouse is a good place to start should you feel like finding solace in culture when the weather is dreadful outside. The King's Theatre and the Festival Theatre also offer exciting plays and shows that shape the mainstream while The Lyceum, the Assembly Roxy, the Leith Theatre and the Traverse Theatre showcase modern, experimental or amateur pieces for a slightly narrower audience. For classical music your best bets are The Usher Hall and The Queen's Hall.
Visiting the National Museum of Scotland is a staple when it comes to rainy day activities for all ages, not just for kids. It's their temporary exhibitions that can especially appeal to adults. But Edinburgh has lots of other museums with intriguing and often peculiar collections that are well worth a visit. The Surgeons' Hall Museums are an example, with many items on display that were originally meant for the teaching of medical students. Wander around and you'll see bone and tissue specimens, works of art and even a letter from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in which he credits Royal College of Surgeons Fellow Dr Joseph Bell as the main inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. The Anatomical Museum at the University of Edinburgh is equally strange and wonderful, with exhibits including death masks, George Buchanan's skull and the skeleton of infamous serial killer William Burke. Plan your visit carefully though because it's only open on the last Saturday of every month.