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Calton Hill is a great vantage point over the city / Photo: Getty Images

In summer, Edinburgh transforms into the arts capital of the world, its exuberant festivals filling every space and attracting tens of thousands of visitors. Come winter, the vengeful Scottish weather and the greyed sandstone of the buildings can give it an initially sombre air – but spend a bit of time here and you'll realise its inhabitants know well how to make the most of this season. Brisk walks up urban hills, warming drinks in couthy pubs and head-to-toe woolly clothing will make everything seem jollier. Embrace the winter and you'll see a side to Edinburgh you'll want to return for. 

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The UK and Scottish governments advise against foreign travel while the countries are in lockdown. To keep up-to-date with the latest travel restrictions visit the Foreign Office’s travel advice site, and to learn more about how the pandemic affects your travel view easyJet's Covid-19 and disruption Help Hub.

Fill your belly with Scotland's national dish

Fill your belly with Scotland's national dish
Haggis: the ultimate comfort food / Photo: Whiski Bar

Haggis is one of the world's great comfort foods – stodgy, spicy and served piping hot. You'll find it all over Edinburgh, but the version at Whiski, a modern whisky bar on the central Royal Mile, is worth seeking out. It strikes a balance between tradition and fanciness, and comes with the proper neeps (turnips) and tatties (potatoes). Have it with a peppery and sweet Talisker whisky on the side. 

Clad yourself in Edinburgh's cosiest shop

Clad yourself in Edinburgh's cosiest shop
Keep the chill at bay with Dick's

Stockbridge, a handsome neighbourhood off the tourist trail, offers lots for the cold-weather visitor – a great farmer's market, walks by the rushing Water of Leith, and Dick's, purveyor of the kind of clobber to see you through the wildest winter. As well as warm coats, stout boots and wraparound scarves, there's plenty of handmade jumpers and cardis from the likes of Jamieson's of Shetland. Scottish knitwear is second to none, for good reason.

See the Christmas lights in the city's green heart

See the Christmas lights in the city's green heart
The Royal Botanic Gardens become a winter wonderland

A treat in all seasons, Edinburgh's esteemed Botanic Gardens grow in the Inverleith area and are well worth the walk from the city centre. This year, from 26 November to 3 January 2021, it'll be lit up like, well, a Christmas tree as part of its annual festive celebrations, with luminescent sculptures, glowing decorations and over a million lights bringing extra sparkle. Candles, laser displays and floating light installations will be dotted around the verdant grounds too – a bright end to a dark year.

Spend a day like the locals

Spend a day like the locals
Arthur's Seat is Edinburgh's very own mountain / Photo: Getty Images

Edinburgh residents are justifiably proud of Arthur's Seat – where else can claim to have an extinct volcano in a royal park in the middle of their city? A hike up here ticks off several chilly-day must-haves: some brisk exercise to warm you up, a spectacular 360 of the city and surrounding country, and an opportunity to drop by one of Edinburgh's finest pubs, the ancient and atmospheric Sheep Heid Inn in Duddingston, for a reviving drink.

Take some insider advice

Take some insider advice
Lovecrumbs bakery: a slice of Scottish hospitality / Photo: Hollie Reid

North of the city centre is Leith, the traditional dockland area with a proud past and an independent spirit. It's here that Andy Colman set up the Port of Leith Distillery, the first single-malt purpose-built distillery in Edinburgh for over a century. Their whisky isn't quite ready yet – these things take time – but their Lind & Lime gin is popular all over the city, meaning Andy's a great person to ask about where a visitor should go this winter in search of some local hospitality.

The artisan bakery
"Edinburgh has a wealth of fantastic coffee shops but our favourite has to be Lovecrumbs, the original on West Port or Mini Lovecrumbs in Stockbridge are great spots to cosy in for a coffee and indulge in a cake. They recently opened their own bakery, Nice Times Bakery, and the cakes have been elevated to another level." 
The local cocktail stars
"We head to Nauticus Bar in Leith. Kyle and the team curate a list of wonderful modern cocktails as well as having a fantastic whisky selection which the team are always happy to help you explore."
The secret wine bar
"Good Brothers wine bar, tucked away up Dean Street in Stockbridge, has a fantastic list of wines by the glass, or the bottle if you feel like settling in for a while."
The neighbourhood bistro
"For somewhere more central, LeftField is a small bistro on the corner of Bruntsfield Links serving a menu of local, seasonal fare with a focus on seafood. Their sharing platter is a particular treat." 
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