Happy December! If you’re not in the festive spirit yet then what are you waiting for? Get those Christmas tunes blasting and turn on your fairy lights and may as well snack on a mince pie or two whilst you’re at it. Edinburgh at Christmas is wonderful as the whole city transforms into a Winter Wonderland with decorations everywhere you could possibly imagine. I wanted to highlight some of my favourite aspects of Edinburgh at Christmas time from the market and food to shop displays and of course, ice skating.
Edinburgh’s Christmas officially kicks off in November when the Christmas lights are switched on by a celebrity guest. This year, the honour was given to Saskia Eng, a contestant on The Voice who was mentored by Tom Jones. There were a number of performances on Geroge Street and then the event concluded with a spectacular fireworks display. My friend Sarah and I watched from the Mound, only a few feet away from the enormous Christmas Tree, a gift from the Hordaland City Council in Norway. Whilst we missed the performances, we had a fantastic view of the fireworks as there were very few people watching from the same place as us.
Edinburgh’s Advent Calendar
In December, Edinburgh opens up its doors to become an advent calendar. Every day a new hidden gem of the capital is opened to the public for free, though some do require an advance booking. I’m particularly excited to see the Anatomical Museum and the Robert Burns Monument in the coming weeks and I’ll perhaps see a couple more if I have time between revising.
The Best Decorations Around Edinburgh
Not only does the Edinburgh Christmas Market bring a festive look to Edinburgh but so do the shops, hotels and restaurants. I wanted to include a list of some of my favourites and would highly recommend checking them out for some fabulous photos!
- The Edinburgh Grand: The luxury hotel is guarded by two nutcrackers outside the front entrance.
- Jenners: Edinburgh’s most famous department store always has an enormous tree and balconies draped in thousands of fairy lights.
- Waverley Train Station: You are welcomed by a large Christmas tree as you step off the train into the city centre.
- The Dome: Always one of the first places in Edinburgh to get out their Christmas decorations. The pillars of the Dome have been lit up for Christmas since mid-October!
- Badger & Co: The restaurant’s wispy theme has always been pretty but at Christmas, it’s truly magical.
- The Waverley Centre: You’ll be in with the opportunity to win a £200 voucher if you post a picture of yourself and their sparkling star and Christmas tree.
- Contini: The restaurant on George Street has a gorgeous row of golden Christmas trees outside.
- Brewhemia: With decorations that change by the season, Brewhemia always looks fabulous but I particularly love the snowflakes that currently decorate the entrance.
- The University of Edinburgh: With the tree on the Old College Quad and Teviot draped in lights, the University feels festive despite being in the midst of exam season.
If you unfortunately miss Edinburgh during the festive period, then you haven’t missed out completely. There are two Christmas shops on the Royal Mile that are open all year round, The Nutcracker Christmas Shop and Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. I used to walk past them both on my walk to uni during my first year and they both have gorgeous window displays.
Food & Drink
There are so many options for food and drink at the Christmas markets and you can certainly smell it when walking around East Princes Street. Mulled wine is a favourite of many people but I’m personally a huge fan of hot chocolates and now that I’m old enough, I’ll have to try it with Bailey’s. Though I will take food over drink any day and with so much choice, how could I resist? I’m really looking forward to getting another Chimney Cake this year as well as mini pancakes and candyfloss. As well as sweet treats, I’ll definitely have a hot grilled salmon sandwich, the smell of it is incredible!
Rides and Attractions
Amongst the stalls of the Christmas market are rides and attractions for all ages. The Ferris Wheel and the Star Flyer provide unmatched views of the city and Santa Land with a carousel, helter-skelter and bumper cars. Even Santa himself sits in his Grotto on Castle Street, near the incredible lights of George Street. Every year I visit the markets I visit the Christmas Tree maze because it makes me feel like a proper kid again, running around trying to find all the stamps. It’s also really pretty to do at night because you are surrounded by so many lights. Light Night on George Street looks spectacular
Of course, one of the main highlights of Edinburgh at Christmas is the ice skating rink at St Andrew’s Square. It’s unique from most other rinks because it’s ring-shaped and not rectangular. If you want to go when it’s not as busy, the morning is quieter but I prefer the atmosphere at night under all the fairy lights.
I really hope you all get the opportunity to visit Edinburgh at Christmas time, even if only passing through. It’s a truly magical place and who doesn’t love the sight of thousands of fairy lights all at once? Visit Edinburgh’s Christmas’ website for more information on pricing, opening times, tickets and anything else you need.