Edinburgh truly sparkles during the festive season.
Each year from late November until early January, the city centre comes alive with a wide variety of family-friendly activities and events.
Whether it’s a traditional pantomime, an after-dark light trail with warming hot chocolate, or a trip to a Christmas market, there’s plenty going on to ensure the whole family have a merry little Christmas – read on to discover more!
Experience all the fun of the fair at Edinburgh’s Winter Festival.
Practise your moves at the popular ice rink on George Street or take-in breathtaking festive views of the city from the spectacular heights of the Big Wheel - an unmistakable landmark during Christmas in Edinburgh, it's a fantastic way to experience the panoramas of the city’s UNESCO Heritage Old and New Towns and admire Edinburgh in all its sparkling glory.
Nestled in the heart of the city, the traditional Christmas Market in Princes Street Gardens has a range of European and Scottish food and drinks, unique crafts, clothing and gifts for the home and is a lovely place to browse for some special Christmas gifts.
Be dazzled by the festive illuminations on George Street, stop by St Andrews Square for the charity installation Festival of Kindness, pop by the Santa Experience in West Princes St Gardens, then round off the evening at one of the family-friendly festive events taking place at the Ross Bandstand.
Be sure not to miss taking a picture of the majestic Christmas tree on the Mound, which each year is donated by Norway’s Hordaland County Council.
Festive Light Trails
Experience stunning visuals, larger-than-life illuminations, trees drenched in jewel-like colours and sparkling tunnels of at one of the many festive light trails that take place throughout the city.
Edinburgh Castle, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and Dalkeith Country Park are well known for their magical after-dark family-friendly trails - keep an eye on their social channels for 2023 updates.
Christmas Fares and Markets
Nothing beats a wander through a Christmas fare or market to get you in the Christmassy mood!
As well as the traditional Christmas Market on Princes Street, you can stock up on unique gifts at a variety of festive markets and fairs, including Hopetoun House, Castle Street Christmas Market, Summerhall, Assembly Rooms and Jupiter Artland.
Of course, there are some great markets all year round that are perfect for picking up that ideal Christmas gift. Stockbridge, Leith and Grassmarket are all local favourites, showcasing the best in local produce, crafts and gifts. While for even more foodie treats, head down to Castle Terrace every Saturday from 9am to 2pm for the Edinburgh Farmers' Market, where the stallholders often grow or rear what they sell.
Have a Night at the Theatre
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For many of us, a trip to see a live show over the Christmas period is a must.
From the traditional side-splitting pantomime to the top-tapping delight of live music, there’s a packed line-up of shows to choose from in Edinburgh at Christmastime.
Sign up to newsletters from city theatres such as The Festival Theatre, Usher Hall, Edinburgh Playhouse, The Royal Lyceum and The Queen’s Hall to be one of the first to hear about this year’s performances.
(Image Credit: Roberto Ricciuti)
Nothing is quite like New Year - or Hogmanay as it’s known in Scotland - and Edinburgh does Hogmanay better than most with a multi-day festival to celebrate the changing of the year.
Generally regarded as the most important Scottish holiday, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Festival dates back to 1993 and has evolved to become one of the greatest outdoor celebrations of New Year’s Eve in the world.
Celebrations include the world-famous Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party and Concert in the Gardens on 31 December – against the stunning backdrop of Edinburgh Castle.
Keep an eye on Edinburgh’s Hogmanay website for full details of this year’s exciting programme.
From dancing the night away at a traditional ceilidh, to first footing and redding the house, there are a number of customs associated with Hogmanay – discover how many of these you have done (or get in some practice before this year’s celebrations!) in our guide to Having a Traditional New Year in Edinburgh >