As the festive season approaches, what better way to celebrate with family and friends than by checking out some of the top things to do in the capital this Christmas.
From ice skating and festive shows to shopping at a traditional Christmas market, there’s no shortage of things to see, do and experience – all sure to make your season merry and bright!
Shop at a traditional Christmas Market
Stocking up on gifts for all the family.
With the soaring Scott Monument and the city’s majestic skyline as its backdrop, East Princes Street Gardens hosts the traditional Christmas Market.
Free to enter, shoppers can browse around 70 stalls featuring everything from clothing and jewellery to handmade gifts for the home. And when hunger calls, the tempting aromas from the various local and international food and drink stalls are sure to tempt you.
The market is also where Scotland’s largest ferris-wheel, the Big Wheel is found. Standing at 46m tall, it offers a unique view of the city. Thrill seekers will also be able to enjoy an exciting selection of rides including a Helter Skelter and Starflyer.
The Christmas Market is open daily (excluding 25 December) from 18 November 2023 to 06 January 2024.
Add some sparkle with a winter light trail
Enjoying the beauty of nature at night
Edinburgh really does sparkle during the festive season, and this year is no exception. 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. 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.
Explore more in Winter light trails in Edinburgh, Lothians and Borders
Get your skates on
Perfecting your skills on ice.
The popular Ice Rink on George Street returns with an undercover rink, so you can enjoy the fun no matter the weather. Toddler skating sessions and relaxed sessions (with softer lighting and sound) are available on designated dates.
A short bus ride from the city centre, Edinburgh Zoo is celebrating the festive season with a variety of events taking place at their Winter Village. Rockhopper Rink is ideal for both novice skaters and those with some skating experience. Available for 30 minute slots, skaters can choose from either the daytime or evening sessions. The rink is suitable for wheelchair users, provided the wheels are non-heavy duty and with white or grey tyres. Please note, skating tickets do not permit entry into Edinburgh Zoo.
Be captivated at Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
Capturing the perfect Instagram photo.
Have a day out filled with wonder and surprise at 5-star Camera Obscura & World of Illusions. With 5 floors and over 100 interactive exhibits, there’s something for the whole family to enjoy.
Festive frolics wait around every corner, with themed decorations and seasonal projections. Don’t miss the upside-down Christmas tree, the OptiMusic exhibit with its cheerful tunes and the jolly holiday patterns at the Colour Shadow Wall. No visit would be complete without a visit to the panoramic Rooftop Terrace, from where you can see Edinburgh’s Christmas lights, markets and Big Wheel laid out in all their glory.
Open daily, early until late (except 25 December).
Learn new skills with Edinburgh New Town Cookery School
Getting into the festive spirit, while picking up some new tips
Enjoy demonstrations and festive baking days with Edinburgh New Town Cookery School.
Courses include the Christmas Baking Day, where you’ll learn how to make your own mincemeat and pastry; tips on how to produce delicious savoury and sweet canapes with Christmas Canapés Demonstration, and Gluten Free Christmas Baking, where participants will bake a variety of gluten free bakes, including mince pies and a Christmas cake. For young bakers, the Children’s Christmas Baking Morning / Afternoon are a great opportunity to get into festive baking.
Courses run from 02 to 22 December 2023.
Step into a Christmas wonderland at Dynamic Earth
This Christmas, join Dynamic Earth’s Christmas Experience for a magical expedition through time, space and evolution.
Intrepid travellers will start their expedition by travelling back to the dawn of our planet, exploring volcanoes, glaciers and the deepest oceans, before meeting Santa in his real iceberg grotto. Then it’s time for a thrilling 4D cinema flight into the heart of the rainforest, immersing yourself in the sights and sounds of this lush and vibrant ecosystem, before finishing with a visit to the Planetarium for a Christmas stargazing session like no other.
The Christmas Experience is available on selected dates from 01 to 23 December 2023.
Have a royal time at the Palace of Holyroodhouse
Exploring royal history.
The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the King’s official residence in Edinburgh, will be decking the halls with stunning Christmas wreaths, garlands, sparkling lights and Christmas trees.
As part of their seasonal programme there are a selection of events on offer for all ages. 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 Day and Royal Rhyme Time: Festive Fling.
Events run on selected dates from 23 November 2023 to 01 January 2024.
Step aboard a former floating palace
Both sea and land lovers.
Feel full of the festive spirit with a complimentary glass of mulled wine, or juice and piece of buttery shortbread as Queen Elizabeth II’s former floating palace welcomes visitors to Christmas Weekend at The Royal Yacht Britannia.
Head below decks to see the Crew’s Quarters where 220 Royal Yachtsmen lived and worked. Spot the corgis in the Cuddly Corgi Treasure Hunt whilst learning about life on board with your audio guide (included with admission). Then enjoy waterfront views in the Royal Deck Tea Room where soup and sandwiches, and freshly baked cakes and scones made in the Royal Galley are served.
Christmas Weekend at The Royal Yacht Britannia takes place on 09 and 10 December 2023.
Be spellbound by MagicFest
Those who love mind-boggling fun! .
Edinburgh International Magic Festival, also known as MagicFest, is back for 2023 with a bumper programme of shows and events.
A thrilling mix of magical shows, events and workshops, audiences can expect captivating performances from both new and established magicians. From cutting-edge illusions and mind-reading to mesmerising sleight-of-hand and edge-of-your-seat tricks, this is one Christmas cracker not to be missed.
MagicFest runs from 20 December to 31 December 2023.
Enjoy music and dance reimagined at The Christmas Tipi
Anyone who lives a good boogie!
The beautiful Archerfield Walled Garden in East Lothian will play host to Scotland’s newest Christmas experience, The Christmas Tipi.
This high-energy theatrical experience aims to turn Christmas upside down, with Christmas music reimagined and remixed. Audiences can expect a feel-good party atmosphere with some of the UK’s leading performers including multiple world champion beatboxer, Hobbit from The Beatbox Collective, BBC Dancer of the Year 2022 finalist, Lauren Scott and freestyle rapper, Kingpin.
Suitable for all ages, The Christmas Tipi will be performing on specific days between 15 and 23 December 2023.
Find fun for all the family at Dalkeith Country Park
A festive family day out.
Around 10 miles from Edinburgh city centre, Christmas at Dalkeith Country Park is bursting over festive activities for all the family.
Little ones will enjoy a fabulous array of events including cookie decorating workshops, Christmas crafts and elf storytelling. While adults can get creative with festive foliage and apothecary workshops. Don’t miss the chance to take part in the 1k Elf Dash, with prizes for the best festively dressed elf and most jolly looking dressed-up dog!
Christmas at Dalkeith Country Park is on from 25 November to 24 December 2023.
Take a magical ride on The Polar Express
Capturing the magic of Christmas.
Based on the popular festive film, this year the theatrical experience, The Polar Express pulls into Edinburgh’s Waverley Station.
See the magic come to life with songs and stories from the Conductor. Remember to keep an open for the arrival of Santa!
Departing and returning from Edinburgh Waverley Station, the journey lasts approximately 1 hour.
The Polar Express runs on designated dates between 30 November and 22 December 2023.
Experience an Edwardian Christmas at Lauriston Castle
Exploring Christmas from days-gone-by.
Carefully curated to reflect an Edinburgh middle-class home at the beginning of the 20th century, Lauriston Castle is hosting a variety of festive events for all the family.
Explore Christmas traditions with curator-led talks, make seasonal decorations, or enjoy a screening of the family-favourite film, The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Events run on specific dates from 17 November to 15 December 2023. See their What’s On page for details.
Santa’s Grottos in Edinburgh
Looking to pay a visit to a jolly man dressed in red this Christmas? Santa will be popping up at several locations across the city.