Scotland’s capital knows how to do Christmas right. In December, Edinburgh turns into something of a winter wonderland – with amazing spots to eat, drink and generally make merry! I’m not long back from a solo mini-break to Edinburgh, where I decided to spend a few days soaking in the city’s holiday atmosphere, exploring some hidden gems and checking out the best festive things to do in Edinburgh in the run-up to Christmas.
From the famous German markets to the city’s best Christmas tree, here are five festive things to do in Edinburgh this December…
See Edinburgh’s Most Impressive Christmas Tree at The Dome
Walk along George Street in December and it would be hard to miss The Dome. The beautiful A-listed building was constructed in 1847 as a bank HQ, but it’s now home to a classy tea room, restaurant and bar. It may have become a bit touristy, and yes, you’ll more than likely have to queue at the door to get in (as well as wait in a seven-deep line at the bar should you want an actual drink!) but The Dome features what is possibly Edinburgh’s most spectacular Christmas tree.
I hadn’t been to The Dome in a few years, and I was a little disappointed to find out that they no longer have a “snow” machine outside, but the Christmas decor in this place is still unreal…
They’re now fully booked for Christmas afternoon tea in December (you might want to book for next year…now!) but it’s still completely worth the trip to The Dome just to see that amazing tree, the gorgeous entrance hall with its decorated chandeliers and the beautiful fairy-lit columns outside.
14 George St, New Town / www.thedomeedinburgh.com / Open 10 am – 12 am
Have a drink under the lights at the George Street Christmas Market
While you’re on George Street, head for the Christmas Market where you’ll find fun rides, arts and crafts stalls, handmade gifts, food vendors and some great places to grab a warm (alcoholic or otherwise!) drink. You’ll spot the start of the market easily by the huge, blue-fairy light dome around the William Pitt statue.
For families, the George Street Christmas Market is also home to Santa’s Grotto and the newest addition to Edinburgh’s festivities, the “Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland” experience.
Running until the 24th Dec 2017 / Tickets for the Ice Adventure from £7
Visit Edinburgh’s own Christmas Wonderland in Princes Street Gardens
Edinburgh’s annual East Princes Street Gardens Christmas Market is guaranteed to put you in festive spirits! This is where you’ll find the city’s biggest collection of Christmas market stalls, rides and attractions – including the 60m high Star Flyer and the big wheel.
On the lowest level of the gardens, this year’s Santa Land is perfect for visitors with young (or just big!) kids, with a Christmas tree maze, mini-railway and lots of festive-themed rides.
I spent most of my time trying out the market’s food and drink stalls (shocker!), eating here at least once a day during my trip. If you’re looking for something filling, I’d highly recommend the haggis mac and cheese or halloumi fries from the mac bar!
Running until 6th January 2018, except Christmas Day / Open 10 am – 10 pm
Shop for Unique Gifts at the Tron Kirk Royal Mile Market
If you’re looking for some last minute gifts for Christmas, the Royal Mile Market inside Tron Kirk is a great place to find handmade presents, local art prints and some unique clothing/home accessories.
As well as being an excellent place to shop and warm up on a cold December day, the Tron Kirk is marking its 370th anniversary this year – making it the perfect time to visit the historic, A-listed church and see its beautiful stained glass windows.
175 The Royal Mile / Open 10 am – 6 pm / www.royalmilemarket.co.uk
Hunt down the Best Christmas decorations in the City
From checking out the festive decorations on the colourful buildings of Victoria Street to Christmas-tree counting along the bay windows of Royal Circus (where you’ll also find some beautiful doors…if you’re into that kind of thing! #doorporn!), everywhere in Edinburgh looks gorgeous during the festive season.
If you’re already visiting the Christmas Markets in Princes Street Gardens, the Balmoral Hotel‘s twinkly fairy lights and the daily “Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar” projection on General Register House are just a short walk away.
On George Street – alongside The Dome and the Christmas Market – many of the hotels and bars have gone all out on Christmas lights and decorations, including my personal favourite festive display at Tigerlily…where you can spot Santa himself making a quick escape down the front of the building!
Festive Things to do in Edinburgh: Need to Know
I travelled to Edinburgh from Stirling via ScotRail, which cost £8.70 for a standard ticket. If you’re coming from Edinburgh airport, you can jump on one of the Edinburgh Trams (which run every seven minutes and take 30 minutes to get into the city centre) for £5.50 (single)/£8.50 (return) or take a FirstBus for around £2.
Where to Stay:
You could easily see the best of Edinburgh’s festive sights in a day, but if you want to make a mini-break of it (like I did!) the city has some great accommodation choices for all budgets. I checked-in to the super swanky Baxter Hostel for two nights, which cost £30.40 and included free breakfast and WiFi (I’ll be writing a full post about my stay at The Baxter very soon!)
Everything on this list is free, but if you have a bigger budget and are looking for more festive things to do in Edinburgh this December, check out the official Edinburgh’s Christmas website for more information on all the shows and events taking place.
What’s your favourite festive thing to do in Edinburgh? Please feel free to leave a suggestion below!
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