Uncover the Enchantment of Christmas in Edinburgh with Our Ultimate Holiday Handbook
Christmas in Edinburgh is magical and the perfect place to visit during the festive season. Whether you are planning a trip to the city centre or would like to do something on the outskirts, there are some fabulous options to choose from, and we can’t wait to share the best places and seasonal activities to do at Christmas time. We hope you enjoy this Christmas guide. Starting with the enchanting Scott Monument lighting up the night and offering a spectacular backdrop for festive celebrations.
Immerse yourself in the holiday spirit at the Artisan Christmas Market, where local producers showcase their craftsmanship, creating a bustling hub of warmth and creativity. Explore the city’s rich cultural offerings with events like Social Bite’s Festival and Local Motive, emphasizing the community spirit and the joy of giving during this special time. Whether you’re enjoying the Night Afore Disco Party or finding a moment of reflection at religious services, Edinburgh’s Christmas celebration promises a harmonious blend of festive merriment and cultural richness.
1) Explore the Christmas Markets
Edinburgh hosts several Christmas markets, including the famous Edinburgh Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens and the Christmas Village in St Andrew Square. You can shop for unique gifts, savour delicious food, and enjoy the festive atmosphere. We love a traditional Christmas market and Edinburgh does this so well. Check out East Princes Street Gardens while you before the main Christmas market too…
2) Christmas Crafting Workshops
Join crafting workshops to create your own holiday decorations, wreaths, or personalised gifts.
3) Edinburgh’s Christmas Tree
Don’t miss the lighting of the gigantic Christmas tree on the Mound. It’s a magical sight and a great place for festive photos. Don’t forget to visit some of the amazing food stalls in new town too. Seriously one of the best places around!
4) Christmas in Edinburgh – Savour the Lights
Take a stroll along the historic streets of Edinburgh, especially the Royal Mile and George Street, to see the city illuminated with beautiful Christmas lights and Christmas decorations. You won’t be disappointed and it will definitely get you into the Christmas spirit as well as visiting Edinburgh’s Christmas market too.
5) Edinburgh’s Hogmanay
If you’re in Edinburgh for New Year’s Eve, the Hogmanay celebrations are a must. Festivities include a torchlight procession, live music, and a spectacular fireworks display over Edinburgh Castle. Don’t forget to visit Castle Street too and could a ride on the big wheel be a good options too? We loved doing dancing the night away at a Hogmanay street party last year and can’t wait to do it again. Listen out for a pipe band, wander around the old town and have fun! A hogmanay street party is essential for everyone at this time of year – at least once in your life!
6) Christmas at the Royal Botanic Garden
Enjoy a magical light show in the Royal Botanic Garden, where the trees and glasshouses are beautifully illuminated. Savour your favourite hot drink – one of the best things about Christmas in Edinburgh over the festive period. The Botanic Gardens really are beautiful in this Scottish capital.
7) Festive Afternoon Tea
Many hotels and tearooms in Edinburgh offer special Christmas-themed afternoon teas. Indulge in some tasty treats and festive beverages, and don’t forget your hot toddies, mulled wine, and more! Delight in the seasonal ambiance as you savour delectable pastries, sandwiches, and holiday-inspired desserts. Whether you prefer the cozy atmosphere of a traditional tearoom or the elegant setting of a luxury hotel, these Christmas-themed afternoon teas provide a delightful and indulgent way to celebrate the holiday season in the heart of Edinburgh.
8) Christmas Concerts and Shows
Check out the Christmas concerts and shows happening at venues like the Usher Hall and the Festival Theatre. From classical music to festive theater productions, there’s something for everyone. Immerse yourself in the enchanting melodies of holiday-themed concerts at the Usher Hall, showcasing the talents of renowned musicians, or experience the magic of festive theater productions at the Festival Theatre, where captivating performances bring the spirit of Christmas to life. Whether you’re a fan of classical tunes or prefer the charm of holiday-themed plays, Edinburgh’s vibrant cultural scene during the Christmas season offers a diverse array of entertainment options to suit every taste.
9) Christmas Ghost Tours
Join a Christmas-themed ghost tour and explore the city’s dark and mysterious history with a holiday twist. Delve into the chilling tales of Edinburgh’s past as you wander through its historic streets adorned with festive lights, experiencing a unique blend of the eerie and the enchanting. Engage with ghostly narratives intertwined with Christmas lore, adding a spine-tingling and magical dimension to your exploration of the city’s haunted secrets. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker or simply intrigued by the supernatural, a Christmas ghost tour in Edinburgh offers a captivating and unforgettable experience that merges the spirit of the season with the city’s haunting past.
10) Christmas in Edinburgh – Shopping
Edinburgh is a great place to do your Christmas shopping with a wide range of shops, boutiques, and markets. Look for unique, handcrafted gifts and Scottish specialties. Explore the charming cobblestone streets of the Old Town or the bustling shopping districts in the New Town, where you’ll find an array of stores offering everything from bespoke jewelry to traditional tartan accessories.
Venture into the festive Christmas markets that dot the city, showcasing local artisans and their beautifully crafted goods, ensuring that your holiday shopping experience in Edinburgh is not only convenient but also filled with one-of-a-kind treasures that capture the essence of Scottish craftsmanship.
11) Christmas Carol Services
Attend a traditional Christmas carol service at one of Edinburgh’s historic churches, such as St. Giles’ Cathedral, or join in a carol-singing event in one of the city’s squares. Immerse yourself in the joyous sounds of the season as choirs fill the air with timeless melodies, creating a festive atmosphere that captures the spirit of Christmas. Whether you choose the solemn beauty of a church service or the communal warmth of a public square, participating in these musical traditions adds a touch of magic to your Edinburgh holiday experience, allowing you to embrace the heartwarming traditions that make Christmas in the city truly special.
12) Christmas in Edinburgh – Visit Santa’s Grotto
Take the kids to visit Santa Claus and his very helpful elves at one of the many grottos around the city, where they can share their Christmas wishes and receive a small gift. Whether it is their first time visiting Santa or they have been before, there are so great options around this Scottish capital. Don’t forget to write a letter for Santa’s special post-box with any last minute Christmas requests. Make sure you get your pics taken when meeting Santa and Santa’s elves – one of our favourite Christmas-themed photo opportunities.
13) Christmas Dinners and Festive Feasts
Edinburgh’s restaurants and pubs offer special Christmas menus and festive dining experiences both on Christmas Day and in the lead up to Christmas. Enjoy a traditional Scottish Christmas dinner or sample some haggis with a twist. Don’t forget to save room for mince pies!
14) Christmas in Edinburgh- Film Screenings
Some venues in Edinburgh host Christmas movie screenings, allowing you to enjoy classic holiday films in a cozy atmosphere. Dive into the festive spirit as iconic venues transform into cinematic wonderlands, providing a delightful escape with beloved movies that evoke the magic of the season. Whether it’s a charming independent cinema or a unique pop-up screening in a historic setting, these events offer a perfect opportunity to gather with friends and family, share in the joy of timeless holiday tales, and create cherished memories in the heart of Edinburgh during this magical time of year.
15) Christmas in Edinburgh Pantomimes
Experience the fun and laughter of a Christmas pantomime, a beloved British holiday tradition. The King’s Theatre in Edinburgh often hosts one. Perfect fun for the whole family, which usually runs until early January.
16) Christmas Crafts Workshops
Get creative and make your own Christmas crafts or ornaments at workshops and classes held throughout the city.
17) Christmas Light Shows
Look out for special light shows and projections on historic buildings, which add an extra layer of magic to the city’s festive atmosphere.
18) Christmas Tree Maze
Edinburgh’s Christmas Tree Maze is a delightful and festive attraction that adds a unique twist to holiday celebrations. Set against the backdrop of the city, the maze is adorned with twinkling lights and beautifully decorated Christmas trees, creating a magical atmosphere for visitors. Families can wander through the maze, enjoying the enchanting displays and embracing the joyous spirit of the season in this whimsical and immersive experience.
19) Christmas Eve Torchlight Procession
Join the torchlight procession on Christmas Eve, where thousands of people walk through the city holding torches, culminating in a grand display on Calton Hill.
20) Christmas Shopping at the Royal Mile
Explore the historic Royal Mile, where you’ll find charming shops, boutiques, and market stalls selling a wide variety of gifts, from Scottish souvenirs to handmade crafts.
21) Christmas Themed After-Dark Tours
Some tour operators offer Christmas-themed walking tours that provide a unique perspective on the city’s history and legends with a festive twist.
22) Winter Walks in Holyrood Park to enjoy Christmas in Edinburgh
Enjoy a crisp winter walk in Holyrood Park, which offers stunning views of Arthur’s Seat and the city skyline, all while being dusted in a serene layer of snow.
23) Festive Food Markets – Christmas in Edinburgh
Visit one of the city’s festive food markets to sample traditional Scottish treats, seasonal delicacies, and international cuisine.
24) Scottish Whisky Tasting for Christmas in Edinburgh
Warm up with a whisky tasting experience at one of the many whisky bars in Edinburgh. Learn about Scotland’s national drink and savour some of the finest selections.
25) Stockbridge Market
Explore the Stockbridge Market for unique and artisanal gifts, as well as fresh local produce and street food.
26) Charity Runs and Walks
Get active and participate in a Christmas-themed charity run or walk, which often takes place in and around Edinburgh.
27) Christmas Light Tours
Some companies offer guided tours of the city’s festive lights, ensuring you don’t miss any of the spectacular displays. The Edinburgh Christmas lights really are something to behold, often described as an illuminated winter wonderland.
Christmas in Edinburgh: Gliding on Ice and Basking in the Glow of Festive Lights
28) Ice Skating
Lace up your skates and glide on the ice at the ice rinks that pop up during the holiday season. The ice rink in St Andrew Square is a popular choice. Enjoy a hot chocolate after and imagine you are in the North Pole! The alpine ice rink is so much fun, whatever your age. This year’s rink looks amazing and we can’t wait to visit.
29) Christmas in Edinburgh Train Rides
Take a scenic Christmas-themed train ride on the Bo’ness and Kinneil Railway, where you can enjoy the winter landscapes of central Scotland.
30) Edinburgh’s Nativity Scene
Edinburgh’s Nativity Scene is a cherished Christmas tradition, typically showcased in the heart of the city. The scene often features intricately crafted figurines depicting the biblical characters central to the Christmas story, set against a backdrop that captures the city’s historic charm. Residents and visitors alike gather around the Nativity Scene each year, fostering a sense of community and festive spirit in Edinburgh.
31) The Magical Santa Train – Christmas in Edinburgh
The Magical Santa Train in Edinburgh transforms the festive season into a whimsical experience for families. As the train departs from Waverley Station, children are captivated by enchanting decorations, holiday-themed activities, and the anticipation of a visit from Santa Claus himself. The journey creates lasting memories, blending the magic of Christmas with the scenic beauty of Edinburgh, making it a joyous and memorable adventure for all on board.
32) Candlelit Tours
Some of Edinburgh’s historic attractions, like the Real Mary King’s Close, offer candlelit tours during the Christmas season, providing a unique and atmospheric experience.
So what do you think? As well as all of our suggestions above, Edinburgh’s Christmas celebration transforms the city into a winter wonderland with a diverse array of attractions. From the captivating Castle of Light to the magical Christmas Tree Maze in West Princes Street Gardens, the festivities include a Night Afore Disco Party and an enchanting Ice Adventure. Stay updated with the latest news on events like the Loony Dook, where brave souls take a plunge into the chilly waters, and explore the cultural richness of pipe bands and Culture Trips. For a family-friendly experience, don’t miss the Helter Skelter and the Double Carousel, or indulge in the artisan offerings at the Christmas Market featuring goods from local producers. Embrace the holiday spirit at the Letter Writing Station, and make a contribution to the Tall Kindness Tree at the Gift Donation Point. Beyond the city lights, Edinburgh Zoo hosts unique events, while the historic Gardeners’ Cottage provides a cozy retreat to enjoy seasonal delights. The festive season in Edinburgh truly encompasses a magical blend of tradition, innovation, light night and community spirit.
As the festive season unfolds in Edinburgh, the cityscape becomes a mesmerising tapestry of lights, with iconic landmarks like the Scott Monument illuminating the night. Amidst the joyful chaos, there are serene moments to be found through religious services, offering a sense of reflection and tradition. The Artisan Christmas Market, nestled in the heart of the celebrations, showcases the craftsmanship of local producers, creating a hub of warmth and creativity. Social Bite’s Festival and Local Motive initiatives underscore the community spirit, emphasising the importance of sharing joy and kindness during this special time. Whether wandering through the enchanting maze, enjoying the Night Afore Disco Party, or taking a moment of quiet contemplation at the Scott Monument, Edinburgh’s Christmas celebration is a harmonious blend of festive merriment, cultural richness, and the spirit of giving.