Christmas is a truly enchanting time no matter where you are, but experiencing it in Edinburgh really takes the biscuit. With its rich history and undeniable charm, Edinburgh captivates with its stunning Georgian architecture adorned in festive lights. The traditional bustling Christmas Markets and world-class theatre add to the city’s charm, making it the perfect place to fully immerse yourself in the festive spirit. Surprisingly, Christmas was only recognised as a public holiday in Scotland in 1958, and it wasn’t until the 1960s that it began to be widely celebrated. Fast forward 60 years and Christmas is now a staple celebration in Scotland, and Edinburgh pulls out all the stops to transform the city in to nothing short of a wonderland. We have created a guide of the best things to do in Edinburgh to get you ready this Christmas, so let’s explore what this beautiful city has to offer.
Edinburgh Christmas Markets are like a treasure trove of festive delights, with so many attractions that capture the true spirit of the season. Here are our top picks;
Keep reading for more tips on how to get the most out of Edinburgh this Christmas!
About the Markets
Edinburgh is home to arguably one of the best Christmas markets in the UK, with offerings that you just wouldn’t find anywhere else. It’s widely known that J. K. Rowling wrote most of the Harry Potter novels in Edinburgh, and as a result you’ll be able to find some magical harry potter themed gifts at the Christmas Markets. Alongside magical merchandise, you’ll also be able to find traditional festive food and drinks with a Scottish twist, such as mulled Irn Bru! The markets are informally divided into two sections: the “German Market” located at Princess Street Gardens, and the “Scottish Market” situated on George Street. The markets will run from 24th November 2024 to 3rd January 2024 and is free to enter for members of the public. Not only can you pick up a beautiful selection of hand made produce and festive food offerings, but the market is also situated next to Santa Land, an immersive grotto experience.
Santa Land is an enchanting outdoor Christmas-themed pop-up experience that includes a dedicated children’s area, a magical grotto where you can meet Father Christmas himself, and a delightful Christmas Tree maze! This immersive event not only allows your little ones to meet Santa but also offers the opportunity to listen to a Christmas Tale told by him, in a special segment called “Santa’s Stories”. Santa’s Stories will feature BSL and audio-described sessions, dedicated sessions for dog owners, and each child will receive an age-appropriate gift during their encounter with Father Christmas! Tickets for Santa’s Stories can be booked online, with each session lasting 20 minutes. Santa Land also features family-friendly fairground rides and a delectable selection of food and drink stalls. To secure your time slot for Santa’s Stories, please visit the Edinburgh’s Christmas website.
Edinburgh at Christmas time could give Blackpool a run for its money! Edinburgh doesn’t do illuminations by halves, so here are our top choices for festive lights;
This gorgeous city sparkles at Light Night, the annual Christmas light switch on event. The sparkling lights, fireworks, lighting of the christmas tree and live music are sure to get you ready for the festive season. Light Night is also a free event to attend, no booking required! Alongside, the Christmas light switch on there are other opportunities to see some illuminations. The Royal Botanic Garden offers a stunning evening light trail. With a strong focus on conservation The Royal Botanic Garden will light up its grounds and the Inverleith House, with a stunning and vivid display. From incandescent flowers to vibrant pampas grass, this is one trail you don’t want to miss, after all Christmas and lights go together just like, well, Santa and Elves! Tickets are available to book on their website. If those two weren’t enough of a treat for your retinas, then Edinburgh’s Castle of Light event definitely will be. Immerse yourself in the spellbinding experience of “Magic and Mystery” as new projections gracefully dance across the castle walls. Follow the mesmerising illuminations and captivating installations through twinkling lights and vibrant displays. Tickets for this festive spectacle can be purchased here.
The Dome bar and restaurant transcends it’s already stellar reputation at Christmas time to become one of the best must-see attractions that Edinburgh has to offer. This venue has become famous for it’s decadent christmas decoration, with its beautiful external columns becoming adorned with magnificent lights and regal Christmas tree taking centre stage in the luxurious dining area. Decorations at the Dome seem to become more popular every year with the site becomming an instagrammable dream! The Dome comprises of three stunning eateries, The Grill Room, The Club Room and The Georgian Tea Room, all with their own festive menu. For more information about The Dome visit their website – https://www.thedomeedinburgh.com/
The Scottish capital is teeming with charming independent boutiques, department stores and even shops solely dedicated to Christmas. Here are our recommendations for Christmas shopping;
This city truly offers everything for your Christmas shopping needs, ensuring you’ll find exactly what you’re looking for, and even a few surprises you never knew you needed! Start your shopping adventure on the historic and charming Royal Mile in the Old Town, where you’ll find quaint boutiques like the Nutcracker Christmas Shop and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. Here, you can find stockings, gifts, and even traditional Scottish tartan decorations. Don’t miss the Christmas Markets, where you can pick up unique handmade gifts and enjoy a glass of mulled wine. In addition to independent shops and handcrafted items, Edinburgh also boasts a variety of high street brands and department stores. For a touch of luxury, head to Multrees Walk, home to prestigious brands like Swarovski and Harvey Nichols.
Now, I think we can all agree that Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a trip to the Theatre, and lucky for you Edinburgh has lots of incredible productionss for you to choose from. Edinburgh is renowned for its captivating theatre productions, after all the city is home to the famous Fringe Festival! This years festive pantomime is Peter Pan, oh yes it is! This fabulous production featuring incredible special effects, breathtaking sets, exquisite costumes, and heaps of laughter, The Pantomime Adventures of Peter Pan promises an unforgettable journey to Neverland for the entire family.
Hogmanay is a renowned and highly anticipated Scottish celebration marking the onset of the New Year. This vibrant tradition is steeped in history and folklore, and it is recognised for its symbolic fire ceremonies, lively street parties, and the famous “Auld Lang Syne” sing-along as the clock strikes midnight. An intrinsic part of Scottish culture, Hogmanay encapsulates the spirit of togetherness, new beginnings, and the promise of a fresh start.
Edinburgh really goes all out to celebrate Hogmanay in style. This year will feature a torchlit procession which will kick off at the Meadows, where a vibrant display of live Street Theatre, Fire Performers, Pipe Bands, and Drummers awaits. Leading the procession through the historic Old Town of the capital, the South Mainland Up Helly Aa’ Jarl Squad from Shetland will create a breathtaking river of fire. A donation of £2 from each Torch sold (£20.00 inc. fees) and £1.50 from additional Procession Tickets (£7.50 inc. fees) will be donated to Social Bite and the event will see torch carrying revellers draw attention to the issue of homelessness and the important work being done to tackle it in Edinburgh and throughout Scotland. Tickets for Hogmanay in Edinburgh can be purchased here.
In conclusion, Edinburgh’s festive season is truly a spectacle to behold. From the sparkling light displays and the vibrant Christmas markets to the captivating theatre productions and the traditional Hogmanay celebrations, Edinburgh encapsulates the essence of festive cheer. This city offers an unrivalled array of festive attractions and activities that promise to create unforgettable Christmas memories. Come and immerse yourself in the magic and enchantment of an Edinburgh Christmas – a festive experience like no other, that will surely make your holiday season all the more special.