Edinburgh is *always* a good idea and even more so during the festive season. Edinburgh at Christmas time is truly magical. The whole town comes to life, the streets are decked in lights, the Christmas market is in full swing and there is a truly wonderful atmosphere in the town.
It’s hard to imagine that Christmas Day only became a public holiday in 1958 in Scotland! Indeed, Christmas was banned for almost 400 years but we’ve sure made for it since then!
There are free events including the Night Light switch-on, nativity Carol Concerts and more. Edinburgh’s Christmas normally kicks off mid-November so there’s plenty of time to get into the spirit of things! Read on for some of our favourite things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas. We also made a video just for you – scroll to the end!
Have a mulled wine! [25/11/22 – 03/01/23]
There’s an incredible Christmas market in Edinburgh! It will run from Friday 25 November 2022 to Tuesday 3 January 2023. It’s made up of a Scottish market section as well as a German Christmas market that sprawls across the whole of East Princes Street Gardens. You’ll find all kinds of crafts, gifts, food and drink. Stop off for a warming mulled wine or a hot chocolate. The markets are open daily from 10am – 10pm but note that they’re closed on Christmas day.
Check out the Winter Light Trail Evenings at the Botanics
This.is.amazing! We went on Christmas Eve a few years ago and and what a magical experience it was ! The Edinburgh Botanical Gardens have launched a wonderfully festive event during the Christmas period – the Winter Light Trail. You’ll be mesmerised by the decorations, lights and magical atmosphere. Highlights include the Cathedral of Light, the Scented Fire Garden and visiting Santa and his Elves. It will take place between 17 Nov – 30 Dec 2022.
Booking ahead is essential – check out their website for details.
Have a glass of fizz at the Dome
Nothing says Christmas quite like the Dome in Edinburgh! A hot chocolate, a glass of bubbles🥂… the Dome is the place to go to and is most definitely something of an institution in Edinburgh. You will be blown away by the lights and Christmas decorations. It’s our go-to place to mark the beginning of the festive period in Edinburgh. It definitely need to feature on your Edinburgh bucket list!
We recommend you check the Dome’s website for booking guidelines and of course, to check their festive menu.
Go to a Panto!
Christmas isn’t complete without a trip to the Panto! The Pantomime is a quintessentially British stage-show that everyone should experience once in their life – whether you have kids or not! There are goodies and there are villains and before you know it, you’ll find yourself booing the baddies and shouting ‘he’s behind you!’. We have been known to go several times before our children were even a twinkle in our eye. It’s great fun – laughter and good times guaranteed. We recommend the highly popular yearly Panto that takes place at the Kings Theatre. This year (2022), the King’s Theatre will be putting on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” from Sat 17 Dec 2022 to Sun 22 Jan 2023.
Catch a festive show
If a panto isn’t your thing, there’s lots of other options! You’ll find plenty of other shows on offer that often have a festive twist. This year, the Lyceum theatre is putting on “An Edinburgh Christmas Carol” (check here for tickets) from 24 Nov – 31 Dec 2022. For something more classical, admire the graceful dancers of the Scottish Ballet in “The Snow Queen” at the Festival theatre from 19 Nov – 10 Dec 2022 (check here for tickets).
Get your skates on and enjoy a trip down memory lane. Located on West George St, between Castle Street and Charlotte Square, you’ll find an alpine icerink ! If you’re tired from the exertion of skating, you can finish off the event with a mulled wine. The price of skate hire is included in the entry fee and you’ll be allocated a specific time slot. Click here to book tickets.
Go on the rides at the Christmas market
Find your inner child and take a ride on the thrilling star flyer, helter skelter, the chair-o-planes, the big wheel or a carousel. Click here for price information.
Check out the Christmas tree at Jenners
Jenners, the department store, was something of an institution and although it has now changed hands, the new owners have confirmed that they will continue the tradition of erecting a giant Christmas tree in the building on Princes Street. Every time we visited the store, we wondered how on earth they manage to get it into place… Well apparently, the tree is squeezed through the entrance on St David Street (the door is taken apart) and in true James Bond style, acrobats abseil down from the beams within the shop to hoist it into an upright position. Decorations and lights are then placed on the giant tree. You must pop in to check it out!
Go on the big wheel at the Christmas market
For a fantastic panoramic view of Edinburgh, jump on the large Forth 1 Big Wheel. You’ll get a unique view of the Edinburgh skyline as well as the Christmas festival from one of the 36 enclosed, weather-proof pods. We recommend you buy tickets ahead to avoid having to queue up. The tickets are date-specific but you can choose whichever time-slot you like between the hours of 10am and 10pm.
Santa’s Stories in West Princes Street Gardens
If you’ve got little ones, be sure to visit Santa! Head to West Princes Street Gardens in Santa Land to meet the man himself in the comfort of his own grotto. He welcomes groups every half hour and the visit lasts 25 minutes.
You may also wish to explore other parts of Santa Land! Highlights for the little ones will include the Santa Train, the Christmas Tree Maze as well as Reindeer Rides. It’ll be a truly memorable experience for them.
Tip for locals: 20% EH discount is applicable
Take part in the Santa Run – 4 Dec 2022
Video credit: Sophie Maulevrier from Ooh My World
This is definitely on our bucket list! How fun does this look? Every year at the start of December, hundreds of keen adults, kids and even dogs take part in the Santa Fun Run and Walk in Princes Street Gardens. This 2.5 km run is open to everyone and the money raised from the event helps the charity ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’. This is a charity that works at granting special wishes for children who are living with a life threatening illness. There is an entry fee and the grown ups are asked to commit to raising a minimum of £15 in sponsorship. The event will take place on Sunday 4th Dec 2022.
Santa half marathon, 14k or 7k (18 Dec 2022)
Head down to Silverknowes in your fancy dress and take part in either a half marathon, a 14km or 7km run. The race will take place on Sunday 18th Dec 2022 and you can sign up here. All finishers will be rewarded with some tasty mince pies.
Go Christmas shopping
This might seem obvious but why not take the time to get ahead with some of your Christmas shopping. You can head to the main shopping area (Princes Street and George Street) or alternatively find some quirky, unique gifts at the Christmas market.
Castle of Light at Edinburgh Castle
This is a relatively new event that’s been put on by Edinburgh Castle during the festive period. Head to the castle for a special evening of lights and colour at the Kingdom of Colours event. The castle is lit up in projections, illuminations and colourful twinkling lights. Check the website for details and to book your tickets.
If you’re visiting Edinburgh in November fear not as the Christmas market actually kicks off mid-November so you’ll get a chance to enjoy the start of the festive celebrations before it gets too busy. And if you time your visit, you’ll get to enjoy ‘Light Night’ – the night when they switch on the Christmas lights. Can it get any more magical? The event includes the light switch-on (obviously), choirs singing and spectacular fireworks. It gets busy so leave plenty of time to get there and travel by public transport.
Edinburgh at Christmas Video
In case you needed any more convincing, check out our video on Edinburgh at Christmas time for plenty of festive inspiration.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our round-up of 14 best things to do to celebrate Christmas in Edinburgh. We’re very excited about spending Christmas in the capital this year and have many of the above activities planned for the festive season.