Edinburgh On a Rainy Day: 13 Things To Do
You cannot deny that Scotland sees more than its fair share of rain. This is why the green scenery always looks so vibrant and lush! Enjoy plenty of sightseeing while visiting and never let wet weather stop you. Pack an umbrella and rain boots and have a few rainy-day activities on your itinerary.
Edinburgh on a rainy day really is not a bust, there are plenty of interesting and fun activities for the entire family to enjoy when it is too soggy outside to explore. From museums showcasing Scottish history and art galleries (don't miss the Scottish National Gallery) to chocolate making workshops, you will find plenty to keep you busy on a rainy day in Edinburgh.
Remember you can always take public transit in Edinburgh, with convenient stations like the Edinburgh Bus Station and Waverly Station. Read our guide on how to get around Edinburgh here.
Once you decide which rainy day activities you want to check out, find a luggage storage service and drop off your extra belongings. Most indoor activities will not allow larger bags and many do not have bag checks so it is more convenient for you to use Bounce luggage storage in Edinburgh for all your short-term storage needs. Stowing your things for a few hours keeps them dry, too!
National Museum of Scotland
Galleries are always changing and that's the beauty of them! If you are stuck trying to find things to do on a rainy day in Edinburgh, the National Museum of Scotland should always be at the top of your list. It is also one of the best free things to do in the city and will transport you through time as you stroll through the galleries.
Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town on Chambers Street, this museum is easy to find and close to other attractions. Learn more about Scotland’s history and folklore, technology, art and design, cultures from around the world, and even the flora and fauna of Scotland. If the rain happens to stop while you are visiting, head up to the roof terrace for some breathtaking views of Edinburgh.
The People’s Story Museum
Located inside the Canongate Tolbooth in Old Town and just down the street from the National Museum of Scotland, The People’s Story Museum tells the story of the working class of Edinburgh beginning in the late 1800s through the present day. One of the best parts of the museum is listening to the history being told by storytellers and even recorded audio from some of the people showcased.
You can stroll through and see the exhibits and then sit down and listen to storytellers weave their tales of life in Edinburgh for the working class people. Keep out of the rain while you soak up the history of the average Edinburgh citizen and see how they lived in the past versus how they live today.
Edinburgh Hop On, Hop Off Bus Tour
While you probably would not think of a bus tour for a rainy day, it is actually a fantastic idea. The bottom deck of the bus is covered and will keep you out of the rain and the guide that gives you interesting tidbits about the attractions is entertaining and informative. There are three different routes to pick from, each covers a different section of the city.
While you may not want to hop on and off as much as you would normally if it were a dry day, you will still get to see several fantastic attractions. The most popular tour is called the Majestic and it will take you all the way out to the Royal Yacht Britannia. The starting point is at St. Andrews Square in Edinburgh’s New Town but you can get on or off at any of the stops.
Scotch Whisky Experience
Head toward Edinburgh Castle and visit the Scotch Whisky Experience where you can choose from several different tour options, take part in tastings, do a little shopping, and enjoy a great meal at the on-site restaurant. You can literally spend an entire rainy day learning about the Scotch Whisky Experience.
Find out about the history of Scotch Whisky and the pride the distiller or whisky maker puts into each batch they make. From small distilleries to large-scale operations, the Scots are proud of their whisky and are happy to share a drink with you and teach you about the different whiskies of Scotland.
Museum of Edinburgh
Located in Edinburgh’s Old Town across the street from The People’s Story Museum, the Museum of Edinburgh is a fantastic place to visit on a dreary rainy day. One of the best museums in Edinburgh, you most definitely cannot miss the first building; it is sunshine yellow and will instantly lift your spirits when you see it.
When you step inside, you will be astounded by the vastness of this museum. The museum is spread out through several buildings that date back to the 16th century. The history of Edinburgh, from the most gruesome, darkest days to the most splendid, brightest days, is showcased throughout this massive museum. While the permanent collections are here to stay, the temporary exhibits change often.
National Library of Scotland
Spend a rainy day in one of the largest libraries in the United Kingdom. Even if you are not a book lover, you will find the National Library of Scotland simply fascinating. Shakespeare’s First Folio is on display here as is the most extensive collection of Scottish Gaelic material in the world. The last known written letter from Mary Queen of Scots is also on display and is interesting to see.
Aside from seeing all the historic collections on display and the art that can be found, you can curl up with the latest bestseller, listen to an audiobook while sipping coffee, or watch the kids as they discover the mysteries of the written word and begin to let their imaginations soar.
The Palace of Holyrood House
So, what is the Holyrood House? It is the official residence of the Queen when she visits Scotland. This is where she stays when she comes to take care of all the royal engagements for the northern regions. When the Queen is not in residence, you can sign up for a tour of certain parts of the residence.
Head to The Royal Mile and plan to visit the Holyrood House to enjoy a guided group tour or a private tour, sign up for lectures or courses, and view interesting and different exhibitions that are currently on display. If you are fascinated by the Royals, this is a must-see especially if you are visiting Edinburgh on a rainy day.
This palace dates back to the 12th century and has been used by the current Queen, Queen Elizabeth II, at the beginning of the summer for about one week. During this week, it is closed to tours and other activities that are not state occasions. Stroll through the same suite of rooms that Mary, Queen of Scots used; the room still has much of the original furnishings from when she was in residence.
Edinburgh Gin Distillery
Sometimes Scottish whisky is just a little too strong and you are in the mood for something a bit different and milder. The Edinburgh Gin Distillery is another wonderful thing to experience when it rains and being outdoors just is not feasible.
Head to the West End and sign up for one of the distillery tours and partake in the tastings that are available. You will get schooled on the distillery process and maybe appreciate Scottish gin just a little bit more. Grab your friends and spend the afternoon sampling delicious gin and learning how it is made.
You don’t have to be passionate about politics to appreciate the Scottish Parliament. It is one of the most ideal activities for a rainy day, and you can pre-book your tour. During the tour, you will see only certain parts of the building, especially if Parliament is in session. If Parliament is in session, you may get to sit and watch them in action from one of the viewing galleries.
The Scottish Parliament building was completed in 2004 and is a fabulous example of modern Scottish architecture. Some of the more traditionalists are not keen on the modern architecture but the building is unique and interesting against the backdrop of the older styled buildings. The Scottish Parliament is located on The Royal Mile at the bottom, directly across from Holyrood Palace and Holyrood Park.
St. Giles Cathedral
Located on The Royal Mile, St. Giles Cathedral is one of the most recognized buildings in Edinburgh. Religious or not, you will still really find the cathedral fascinating with its ornate architecture and historic significance. The crown steeple dates back to the 15th century and is one of the most photographed features of any building in Edinburgh aside from Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle.
St. Giles Cathedral has been at the center of most religious activities in the city for well over 900 years. The current building dates back to the 14th century and is a marvel to see in person. If it is raining out, you probably won’t be spending much time admiring the exterior of the cathedral. But you will not want to miss the enormous stone pillars from the first cathedral that burned.
Since it is on The Royal Mile, the cathedral is a popular tourist stop as it sits between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace. Stop at the car park and check out the plaque that marks the gravesite of John Knox, the leader of the Scottish Reformation. Admission to the cathedral is free.
Enjoy Afternoon Tea
No visit to Edinburgh is complete until you experience a true afternoon tea. Even if you are not a fan of tea or dainty finger sandwiches, you do not want to miss the chance to enjoy afternoon tea. Head over to The Colonnades located in the Signet Library for an elegant afternoon tea.
The Colonnades has a delicious seasonal menu that has savory and sweet dishes that will tempt even the pickiest eater. The grandeur of the library lends an air of elegance and will make you feel as if you are enjoying tea with the royal family.
If you are looking for something a little less fancy, head to the tea room above Romanes & Paterson located on Princes Street. This is a more budget-friendly option and offers gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle, Old Town, Holyrood Park, and Princes St. Gardens.
Chocolate Making Tour
While not on the Royal Mile, The Chocolatarium is an absolute must-visit when you are looking for something to do on a drizzly day. The guided tour is geared more towards children, but adults love spending time learning about the different chocolates and how to make unique and yummy creations.
You will see how chocolate bars are made and will even get to make one yourself. You will want to save your chocolate bar for later since there will be plenty of chocolate samples while on the 90-minute tour. A drink will be provided and chocolate samples passed out throughout the tour; one of the most interesting flavors you will try is haggis. Make sure you save plenty to drink if you are not a huge haggis fan.
Royal Yacht Britannia
Don't let bad weather in Edinburgh slow you down! Those who are big fans of The Crown will definitely enjoy heading to Leith, just outside of Edinburgh, to see The Royal Yacht Britannia which was featured in season two of the show. This yacht has been used by the royal family for more than 40 years.
You can take a self-guided tour which includes an audio guide, for free, and explore this massive yacht at your own pace. The interactive tour allows you to learn more about the building of the yacht and the royals and other important historical figures who have been on board. You can spend hours exploring this impressive vessel while the rain pours down outside.
Modern Art, Amazing Food, and More
You may think there is nothing to do in Edinburgh on a rainy day, but really there are a ton of activities just waiting for you to discover, from learning about the British monarchy and the Holyrood House to afternoon teas and art museums. Or plan a delicious Edinburgh brunch and then head to the Royal Botanic Gardens Glasshouses for a different perspective.
Check out the Scottish National Portrait Gallery or the Scottish National Galleries, explore the city center and its fascinating history, and stop by the Edinburgh dungeons or the Edinburgh Playhouse. Some of the best indoor attractions are located in or near the city centre or along The Royal Mile.