Festive Family Fun in Edinburgh

09 November 2022

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.

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

Beecraigs Light Trail 22 Photo Credit 21CC Group(Image Credit: 21CC Group)

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 dancing waterside reflection. Or grab your shipmates and swashbuckle your way through the after-dark adventure trail at Dalkeith Country Park’s Spectacle of Light, which this year is inspired by Treasure Island.

For an evening of wonder, enchantment, spectacular colours and dazzling animations, Castle of Light at Edinburgh Castle takes you a mesmerising journey of one of Edinburgh’s most historic attractions.

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! Meanwhile at Beecraigs Festive Forest experience a winter wonderland as you make your way through the country park beautifully lit up for the festive season.

Visit a jolly man in red

Santa At Home Official With Book

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

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

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.

From Castle Street Christmas Market with its stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle, to an exceptional selection of textiles, clothing, art and more at The Assembly Room’s Christmas Fair, you’re never far from a great festive market in Edinburgh.

Explore Edinburgh's Christmas Markets >


Get your skates on

Edinburgh Christmas Ice Skating

As part of Edinburgh’s Christmas, the popular Ice Skating Rink returns to the west end of George Street in the city centre.

Practise your moves on the ice as you admire the street’s Georgian architecture, while gliding along to some festive music.

Toddler skating sessions (for 5 years and under) and relaxed sessions (with softer lighting & sound with no flashing or moving lights) are available on designated dates.

Don't fancy the chill? You can always spectate clutching a mulled wine or hot chocolate from the comfort of the nearby cabin bar.

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! See this serene painting for yourself in The Scottish National Gallery


Treat the family to a festive afternoon tea

Xmas Afternoon Tea Copyright Historic Environment Scotland(Image Copyright:Historic Environment Scotland)

Tiny sandwiches, dainty savouries and delectable cakes, accompanied by tea or a glass of something bubbly – who doesn’t love the traditional pastime of afternoon tea.

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.

Book your Festive Afternoon Tea now


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 crunch through the leaves at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, 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 that extra helping of Christmas pudding!

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


Have a night at the theatre

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.

Choose from the hilarious slapstick pantomime comedy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Festival Theatre, or dastardly pirates at the swash-buckling Sinbad The Pantomime at The Brunton.

Indulge in the magic of Christmas – from a Dickins classic with a twist, Edinburgh Christmas Carol at the Royal Lyceum – to festive classics with one of the original and best classical cross-over groups, Christmas with Il Divo. While Phil Cunningham's Christmas Songbook at the Queen’s Hall features stories and a feast of both modern and traditional Christmas music,

Read more about Shows coming to Edinburgh this Christmas >


Have a Great Day Out

Edinburgh Castle Gun Salute

Looking for some fun and inexpensive ways to entertain the family?

Whether you’re seeking outdoor fun, family friendly or adult activities, VisitScotland’s Great Days Out could be the answer to your dreams. Running until 31 March 2023, save up to 50% at a wide range of attractions and experiences.

Take a step back in time and explore Edinburgh’s past on a walking tour with Mercat Tours, see the UK’s oldest Crown Jewels and cover your ears as your witness the firing of the One o’clock gun at Edinburgh Castle or feel the wind in your hair and join A Wee Pedal for a tour of Edinburgh on 2 wheels – whatever you choose, this fantastic campaign offers something for all the family.

View all Edinburgh & Lothians attractions and experiences taking part in Great Days Out >


Be spellbound by MagicFest

Kevin Quantum Credit Colin Hattersley(Image Credit: Colin Hattersley)

Edinburgh International Magic Festival, also known as MagicFest is back for 2022 with a bumper programme of shows and events – including the return of the popular Magic School.

A heart-warming mix of thrilling magic with a sprinkling of comedy, expect captivating performances featuring top magicians from throughout the UK and Europe. From cutting-edge illusions and mind reading to mesmerising sleight-of-hand magic and edge-of-your-seat levitation, this is one Christmas cracker not to be missed.


Have a royal time at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

Palace Of Holyroodhouse Visitscotland Kenny Lamb(Image Credit: VisitScotland Kenny Lamb)

This festive season The Palace of Holyroodhouse will be decking the halls with stunning Christmas wreaths, garlands, sparkling lights and Christmas trees.

As part of their seasonal programme there are a wide selection of events on offer. For adults,  delight in the music of season with Carols by the Christmas tree, or enjoy an Exclusive Christmas Evening Tour, complete with a glass of champagne and a mince pie.

For children there’s the chance to get creative with both a Christmas Activity and Christmas Craft Day.


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