Family-friendly Winter Days Out in Edinburgh

08 November 2021

Santa At Edinburgh Zoo

As the winter and the festive season approaches, what better way to celebrate with family and friends than by checking out all the must-do things in the capital this Christmas.

So, this Christmas why not make your season merry and bright by experiencing some of these family friendly activities – who knows, you might just find your new family tradition!


Add some sparkle with a night light trail

Christmas At The Botanics Main Image

Edinburgh really does sparkle during the festive season, and this year is no exception, with several attractions opening their doors after dark and inviting you to step into a magical, sparkling wonderland.

Wander through the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s sparkling tunnels of light, gasp at trees drenched in jewel-like colour and marvel at the newly designed Fire Garden, themed around pinecones to reflect seasonality and the environment. Or get into the festive spirit as you stroll through candy cane lane and dazzle in the twinkling fairy lights of Edinburgh Zoo’s Christmas Nights.

Edinburgh Castle Of Light

For an evening of wonder, enchantment, spectacular colours and dazzling animations, Castle of Light at Edinburgh Castle takes you a mesmerising journey of this historic attraction, all in the company of Rex, the castle’s famous red lion.

Outside of Edinburgh, West Lothian’s Five Sisters Zoo Christmas Illuminations will light up the festive season, and who knows, you may also see one of your favourite nocturnal animals going about their night-time activities!

In Midlothian, Spectacle of Light returns to Dalkeith Country Park, complete with the magical Sky Maze and new sparkling installations including the Nutcracker garden.


Step aboard a floating palace

Two Corgis With Hats On For Christmas

Her Majesty The Queen’s former floating palace for over 40 years, The Royal Yacht Britannia is now permanently berthed at Leith’s shore. Step aboard this 5-star attraction and find out about life on the open seas for both the Royal Family and her crew.

From 1 December the ship will be adorned with stunning decorations for the holiday season – can you spot all the hidden corgis in the Christmas Cuddly Corgi Treasure Hunt?

Taking place on 4 and 5 December, The Britannia Christmas Weekend is the perfect place to get into the festive spirit – enjoy complimentary shortbread and warming mulled wine in the Crew’s Mess, whilst being entertained with festive songs by local choirs.


Visit a jolly man in red

Santa At Home Official With Book

It may be his busiest time of the year, but Santa’s always able to make time to pop along to see Edinburgh’s children and see what’s at the top of your Christmas wish list.

Let’s just hope you’ve made the nice list this year as Santa Claus is coming to town!

Find out where you can meet Santa this Christmas in our Santa’s Grotto Trail


Buy presents at the markets

Summerhall Xmas Market Credit Jess Shurte

(Image Credit: Jess-Shurte)

There are several markets throughout the city that offer a fantastic selection of artisan gifts and delicious food, so whether you're looking for a gift for a loved one, a decorative ornament for your home, or a foodie treat for yourself, you're bound to find something special.

And not only will you find an array of unique products, you’ll also be supporting local businesses.

Set against the magnificent Edinburgh Castle, Castle Street Christmas Market has a stunning backdrop. This popular market opens daily from 26 November – 23 December and will be filled with an abundance of quality gifts and delicious food for unique Christmas gifts.

Art And Craft Fair Assembly Rooms Dec 2019

Expect an exceptional selection of textiles, clothing, homewares, art, jewellery and woodwork at The Assembly Room’s Christmas Art, Craft and Design Fair, which this year is hosting 120 of the country’s finest artists and designers, all selling their own hand-crafted work. This special event will take place 4 -5 December under the magnificent shining chandeliers of the Assembly Rooms.

Summerhall will once again be hosting online Christmas Market, but in addition there will also be a physical market, held at Summerhall on Sunday 5 December.

Home-made mulled wine, free floral decoration demonstrations, seasonal music, delicious food, not to mention the chance to meet Jupiter’s Festive Donkeys are all waiting for you at Jupiter Artland’s Christmas Fair, which this year is taking place 11- 12 December.

Further afield, in the gardens of Teasses Estate in the picturesque East Neuk of Fife, Teasses Christmas Market will take place on 4 December and will feature food and drinks stalls in the Stables Courtyard and a craft market in the beautifully wintery Walled Garden, as well as music, storytelling and a special appearance by Santa.


Get your skates on

Edinburgh Christmas Ice Skating

As part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, the popular ice skating rink returns to the city centre, in its new setting of George Street.

Special kids skating sessions will take place at selected times every Saturday and Sunday between 20 and 23 December. Skate along to festive music while practising your skills on the ice.

Did you know - The painting, The Skating Minister (1795) by Sir Henry Raeburn depicts Reverend Robert Walker, minister of the Canongate Kirk skating on the frozen Duddingston Loch. A keen skater, Walker was a member of the Edinburgh Skating Society, which was established in the 1740’s and was the first figure skating organisation in Britain!


Treat the family to a festive afternoon tea

Edinburgh Castle Christmas Afternoon Tea

Tiny sandwiches, dainty savouries and delectable cakes, accompanied by tea or Prosecco – who doesn’t love the traditional pastime of afternoon tea. And with the festive season upon us, many local restaurants and cafes are offering a seasonal twist, with Christmas favourites such as mince pies and gingerbread taking centre stage.


Go for a winter walk

Inverleith Park In Autumn

The holiday season always brings with it a bit of downtime, and a chance to take a nice wintry stroll around Edinburgh. 

Whether you take a frosty walk along the Water of Leith or visit the Royal Botanic Gardens, you're bound to discover something new. So, wrap up warm and take a jolly walk this winter to see what nature has to offer. It's also a good excuse to work off the Christmas pudding, or maybe it's just an excuse to warm up with a hot chocolate when you get home!

In need of some inspiration, check out our guide to Outdoor Adventures in Edinburgh


Have a night at the theatre

Phil Cunningham Credit Sean Purser

(Image Credit: Sean Purser)

Whether you love howling with laughter at a traditional pantomime being captivated by the beauty of ballet, or the top-tapping delight of live music, there’s an array of exciting performances taking place at Edinburgh’s world-renowned theatres this year.

Featuring stories and a feast of both modern and traditional Christmas music, Phil Cunningham's Christmas Songbook returns to The Queen’s Hall this December.

Christmas just wouldn’t be Christmas without a pantomime and this year The Brunton Theatre are hosting the traditional tale of Hansel and Gretel, while The King’s Theatre bring the timeless Sleeping Beauty to the stage.

Follow Clara on an imaginative journey as she meets the dashing Nutcracker Prince at Scottish Ballet's The Nutcracker, taking place at the Festival Theatre.

Indulge in the magic of Christmas as the Usher Hall hosts a variety of feel-good shows – from Dickens classic with a twist, The Muppet Christmas Carol - Film with Live Orchestra to festive classics with one of the original and best classical cross-over groups, Christmas with Il Divo

Home to some of the world's biggest musicals, this Christmas Edinburgh Playhouse brings the much-loved White Christmas to the city. An enduring romantic comedy, it’ll warm up the coldest of cold winter nights.

Read more in our guide to The Best Shows in Edinburgh this Christmas


Looking for more events that are taking place in Edinburgh & the Lothians this festive season? Check out our What’s On guide