Top 10 things to do in Edinburgh this autumn that are good for your soul

I love autumn. I love autumn and I wait for it because it’s always amazing to see my favourite places shoving off different seasons’ coats.

When summer fades away, when days are growing shorter, and suddenly temperatures don’t go over 10’C;  I know it’s a time of new beginnings and it’s time for my trip to Edinburgh.

My return visit to Edinburgh in September where the blank space between the madness of the Fringe Festival in August and the Christmas Season in December was planned meticulously and therefore gave me an opportunity for countless new impressions.

I had the fortune of arriving at dusk and thus eagerly grabbed a chance to walk around the old part of Edinburgh where buildings show strength and tell stories all by myself.

By now, I have visited Edinburgh countless times, and I doubt I’ll ever get tired of feeling my pounding heart every time I wander down the Royal Mile admiring the skilfully curved windows and facades of the shops.

It was equally beautiful, if not more, at dusk – strolling past golden glowing windows, peeking into dimly lit alleyways and seeing everything in person again, still gave me a rush; Edinburgh is just as magically dressed in blackened coats from soot and smoke as I recall from my visit last December.

“I always feel that when I come to Edinburgh, in many ways, I am coming home.” – Alan Rickman

Picture-perfect Cockburn Street in Edinburgh’s Old Town.


Top 10 things to do in Edinburgh this autumn that are good for your soul

Edinburgh was our adaptive home for three consecutive years, so we know our way around it. Throughout those three years, we immersed ourselves in everything the city has to offer and collected the knowledge we are now willing to share with other world travellers.

Edinburgh is an amazing place to visit during the fall, it’s when things get back to normal and it’s when the majority of tourists sort of trickle away.

Don’t fear that by visiting in autumn you’ll be missing out on the fun as there are many fantastic festivals and events to look forward to.

Scottish International Storytelling Festival brings together musicians and storytellers from around the world and takes place in October. Edinburgh Short Film festival and Bonfire Night, which is also known as Guy Fawkes Night takes place in the autumn month too.

#1. Discover Edinburgh’s Museums 

Don’t look down on touristy things and take advantage of one of many free museums in the city and see Dolly the Sheep in the National Museum of Scotland, find out what a million fake pounds looks like in the Museum of the Mound and have a peak of Edinburgh’s skyline from the roof terrace at National Museum of Scotland.

Some of the lesser-known museums are located on Royal Mile, and several of them are free to enter too. This includes the Museum of Childhood, the People’s Story and the Museum of Edinburgh – perfect for anyone visiting Edinburgh on a budget.

The view of the Edinburgh skyline from the roof of the National Museum of Scotland.

#2. Unwind in a cosy place

Autumn arrives in Edinburgh with plentiful rain and cold, delivering an easy excuse to wrap up in cosy knits and stay indoors by the roaring fire.

Although the best way to get into the spirit of autumn is to spend time outdoors, there’s nothing wrong with taking the in-between break exploring.  Pick one of many cafés scattered throughout the city to discover the comfort of a friendly space and find a quiet moment to write down your thoughts.

If a coffee shop isn’t your thing, choose one of the friendly pubs, some of them even dating back to the 1850s, on Rose Street where you can easily run into a colourful local willing to entertain and share a few stories. Choosing a place on Rose Street dubbed the ‘Amber Mile’ is no easy feat as there are 12 great pubs in total.

You can also pop over to the Royal Mile where most of the pubs are overflowing with character and charm, and you might even be able to catch a live traditional folk and acoustic session. Two of the places worth visiting are The Royal Oak on Infirmary Street or Sandy Bells just beside the Meadows for some great entertainment.

The Milkman Café on Cockburn Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.

#3. Explore its corners and alleyways

Wander around Edinburgh’s Old Tows cobbled streets and quiet corners where houses are stacked on top of each other – and venture down in one of the moody alleyways between them.

Take Fleshmarket Close down to Cockburn Street or use a shortcut through Advocates Close on the Royal Mile. Try the Playfair Steps instead of walking up the Mound and to access Calton Hill from the Old Town enjoy Jacob’s Ladder. And then there are New Steps and Scotsman Steps all providing great shortcuts.

Ancor Close on Royal Mile, Edinburgh.

#4. Be fascinated by autumn colours 

Anyone that has ever visited can easily agree that Edinburgh is beautiful at any time of the year, yet there’s that extra dose of magic during the autumn months.

Not only do the trees start to change colours, but you’ll also be surprised by how beautiful ivy-covered buildings look. You’ll fight the urge to use every single adjective and autumn colour out there – orange-red, scarlet, crimson.

On the day that I arrived, the soft light slipping through the shielding canopy in Princess Street gardens created beautiful patterns. The gentle breeze and golden yellow colours only added more magic to the early autumn morning.

Botanic Gardens, The Meadows, as well as Princes Street Gardens, are all great places to see the beautiful autumn leaves. You can also hop on a Lothian Bus and travel to Liberton Kirk church to gauge the ivy-covered facade. Although the church is situated slightly outside of the city, it is worth a small detour.

Old Calton burial ground is one of the most historic cemeteries in Edinburgh.


#5. Browse through its bookstores

If you are a book lover, dodge Edinburgh’s city centre once the bustle starts to climb and find a state of peace and quiet only bookshops can provide. In Edinburgh, you can discover some of the world’s most beautiful stores that can easily gratify even the fussiest bibliophile’s fantasies.

If you consider yourself a book lover who is eager to refresh reading shelves, then be prepared to gasp out loud in excitement because this is your scene in Edinburgh; Cabaret Antiques, Curios & Books where you can browse more than you can dream of, Southside Books for a cheap read and an absolute bookworms dream – Old Town Bookshop with beautiful editions dating back to the 1600s.

And, then there’s even more:

  • Golden Hare Books | This charming bookstore located in Stockbridge features children’s books, novels, signed editions and fiction. Address: 68 St Stephens Street, Edinburgh
  • Edinburgh Books | Stocking a wide range of second-hand books, this book shops let you wander through a maze of literary gems and is just perfect for the voracious reader. Address: 145-147 West Port, Edinburgh
  • Tills Bookshop | An independent second-hand bookshop situated close to the Meadows is a perfect place to spend a couple of hours browsing shelves in search of unique treasures. Address: 1 Hope Park Cres, Edinburgh
  • Armchair Books | Located just off Grassmarket, this beautiful shop with densely packed bookshelves full of old books on various subjects is perfect for reading addicts. Address: 72-74 West Port, Edinburgh
An independent bookshop located in Stockbridge, Golden Hare bookshelves is a dream to browse through.


#6. Chase the golden hour

With sunsets and sunrises not starting until 7am/pm, photo enthusiasts get to take advantage of the not-so-early golden hour to capture shapeshifting light and incredible texture.

Waking up early and watching the dawn of a new day before anyone else arrives awards you a chance to feel like you are alone in the beautiful city.

Add to the already magical scene splashes of colours and moodiness of an early autumn morning that comes with its own flurry of scents and sounds, and you’ve got yourself a moment to remember.

A view of Edinburgh city from Calton Hill is one of the best.


#7. Dive into Doors Open Days

If you plan on visiting Edinburgh in autumn, then planning your trip around the time when Doors Open Days take place would be a smart idea.

Celebrating Edinburgh’s heritage, culture and architecture, this particular event provides an opportunity to explore some of Edinburgh’s most amazing buildings that are usually closed to the public. Some of the buildings only open once in a lifetime. Not to mention the free entry.

It just happened that Doors Open Days were taking place during my visit to Edinburgh, and I had a fantastic chance to deepen my knowledge and feast my eyes upon many architectural and historical wonders.

Entering the Playfair Library was a dream come trough moment while visiting Edinburgh!

#8. Celebrate seasons with Farmer’s Markets

The best way to celebrate the seasons in a city like Edinburgh, where autumn arrives with piles of fresh produce waiting to be picked and tasted, is through food and outdoors.

One of the best places to do just that is to seek out local markets.  Head out to Castle Terrace where The Edinburgh Farmers’ Market takes place every Saturday from 10am-2pm to browse the stalls stacked with juicy jams, fresh bread and organic chocolate and support local vendors.

  • Stockbridge Market is yet another place to satisfy your food cravings and rub shoulders with locals while shopping for handmade jewellery, aromatic soaps and artisan bread. Opened every Sunday from 10am-5pm, Stockbridge Market can be found in Jubilee Gardens.
  • Check out the handcrafted goodies and homegrown produce at the farmers market located in the Grassmarket, which is only a short walk away from the Royal Mile too. It’s a nice place to stop and sample a bit of everything before you continue exploring Edinburgh. Opened every Saturday from 10am-5pm.
Grassmarket Farmers Market in Edinburgh.

#9. Take part in Samhuinn

If you love all things spooky and if Halloween gets you excited then you are in for a great time because no one does Halloween like Edinburgh.

Forget cutely carved pumpkins and fancy Dracula outfits, although they are plenty of those too! Celebrating Halloween in Scotland is taking part in the Samhuinn Fire Festival and embracing it the old pagan way with drums, acrobats, fire and dancing.

Every year, the Beltane Fire Society pays tribute to the Celtic sabbath or Samhuinn with fiery celebrations on top of Calton Hill. Keep in mind that the celebration takes place at the end of October,  in the dark with hundreds of other spectators, so make sure you dress up warmly and act accordingly.

Calton Hill, from where you can enjoy fantastic views over the city, is where Samhuinn takes place.



#10. Endure Ghost hunting tours

When you see the sea mist drawing over the city, it becomes alive, and your imagination instantly wanders off. It becomes so alive you can almost envision Cannibal of the Canongate chasing after its victims and ghosts lingering in the spooky graveyard near Princess Street Gardens.

Known for its twisted and dark past, Scotland’s capital provides the perfect setting for tales about body snatchers and murderers. There are also creepy underground vaults and plenty of ghost stories to keep you awake for a while.

Auld Reekie Tours and City of The Dead tours offer plenty of evening and late-night tours where you can explore the South Bridge vaults and Greyfriars Graveyard.

Located at the Southern edge of Old Town, Greyfriars Kirkyard is one of the most hunted graveyards that’s perfect for ghost tours once the night falls.

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Now, over to you!

Have you been to Edinburgh? Let us know in the comments below!

Let us know if you are plotting a visit to Edinburgh and have travel-related questions!


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42 thoughts on “Top 10 things to do in Edinburgh this autumn that are good for your soul

    1. Edinburgh in the autumn is such a joy to explore and photograph. Although I was too early for proper foliage, there was plenty of gothic architecture and interesting sights to see. Hope you’ll get to visit one day – just be prepared to fell under its spell. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The autumn sun was shining on me for my time in Edinburgh, allowing be to enjoy the city at its very best. I try to visit every year and even after a decade of return trips I find more and more things to do, it’s such a charming city that keeps on giving. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I am not a writer and certainly not the best curator yet penning our family adventures in ink and sharing them with the rest of the world makes my heart full – thanks for your comment and lovely words. It’s easy to fall in love with Edinburgh, the constant sound of bagpipes almost everywhere you go, cobbled streets, beautiful architecture and some of the most incredible viewpoints make for an extraordinary place to explore and photograph.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. We have been to Edinburgh a few times since our honeymoon in 1977. It is where my Grandpa came from and in 1977, I still had living relatives there. It is a great place to visit and I agree, autumn is a good time to go. Thanks for sharing. Allan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Allan and thanks for stopping by. Edinburgh is one of the best cities to wander and get lost in. There is so much to discover around every corner. It’s not that big either, and the layout is rather easy to get the hang of so you will find your way back to where you need to be eventually. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Writing about my adventures in Edinburgh and going through the photos make me want to pack up and go back again. I’m not generally a fan of big cities, I get anxious and overwhelmed in crowds, yet I managed to fall in love with Edinburgh as soon as I set my foot on Scottish soil a decade and a half ago. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva


    1. We had a chance to live in Edinburgh for three consecutive years and had an opportunity to see the Fringe Festival from a locals point. Even with the crowds and madness that comes with it, Edinburgh remained as charming and appealing as always. We never saw the Tattoo – it’s still on my wishlist. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva


  2. I went to Edinburgh almost four years ago over Christmas. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a lot of time to see much, but I fondly remember the Museum of Childhood, the Royal Mile, and views of the Edinburgh Castle from the Princes Street Gardens. The city is incredibly beautiful like a painting, and I would love to go back and take my time seeing more of what it has to offer. Happy traveling!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I could visit Edinburgh once a year and not get tired of it. Everywhere you turn, there are amazing buildings, big rolling hills, market vendors, and talented musicians – you’ll always find something new and exciting to see. I am so fortunate to live only a 40-minute flight away – can’t wait to go back for more. Have a good day and thanks for stopping by. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Caroline. Edinburgh is an amazing city to visit – walking up the cobblestone street with the giant castle ahead of you, a breathtaking cathedral on your left-hand side, and excitement all around you doesn’t ever get old. I am yet to visit all the beautiful bookshops in Edinburgh and write a post about it, there are lots of them, each deserving at least a couple of hours! Thanks for stopping by and have a good day.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful pictures and descriptions. I would love to peruse the bookstores and farmer’s market, and museums, okay just about everything except #9 and #10. I’m not a fan of all things spooky. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much – Edinburgh is my favourite city in Europe and whenever I find myself writing a blog post about it it’s challenging to keep my enthusiasm levels down. I’m not a fan of all things spooky, and nothing would convince me to visit a graveyard in the nighttime yet gritty stories about ghosts and body snatchers is one part that makes Edinburgh interesting. Thanks for stopping by and have a good day, my friend. Aiva


    1. The enchanting capital of Scotland is a real gem, and it will leave you speechless for sure. If there is one thing I learned from Revisiting Edinburgh over the last decade – there’s never enough time to see everything! I had a chance to explore Edinburgh last month and instead of finishing off my ‘Edinburgh bucket list’ it doubled in size – I guess one more trip is on the cards some time next year. Thanks for s reading and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Autumn in Edinburgh is a beautiful and vibrant time of year to enjoy the city – it is hard not to fall in love with the quiet cobbled streets and autumn colours. Have a good day and thanks for stopping by. Aiva


  4. I love Edinburgh, I haven’t yet been in Autumn though. Two summer trips, one Hogmanay visit and then a brief work visit in the spring so hopefully I’ll get back there one Autumn to see how it compares 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, you had a chance to visit Edinburgh in Hogmanay – hope you had heaps of fun because nowhere does New Year celebrations quite like Scotland! Autumn foliage in Edinburgh and beyond is a sight to behold – though Scots Pine is the king of the Highlands, in autumn it lets other trees outshine it with beautiful colours, making for fantastic photo backdrops.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hogmanay was a lot of fun, I’d definitely do that again. Definitely want to see further North of Edinburgh though so I’ll keep Scots Pine in mind 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I have to agree with you – it’s one of the friendliest cities and visiting Edinburgh means being part of a vibrant city which combines old and new, art, culture, science and study. Edinburgh is stimulating and inspirational and never, ever dull – I guess I can go on and on…. so I better stop. Thanks so much for stopping by and have a good day. Aiva

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I absolutely adore independent bookshops, they are my strongest weakness, and sometimes I even choose a particular travel destination solely because of them. Thanks for reading, I hope you get to browse through the ones in Edinburgh, make sure there’s an extra room in your suitcase. Aiva


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