There are many ways to enjoy the festive season in Edinburgh with many Christmas events throughout the city. Head to the official Edinburgh’s Christmas website to see what events are scheduled during your visit. The official events this year are being held from November 16th 2018 to January 5th 2019, check out the Edinburgh Christmas website here
We suggest staying for at least a few days but you could fit in a lot in just 1 day…
From within the UK you can fly into Edinburgh Airport or take a train, which arrives at Waverly Station in the heart of Edinburgh, you can park your vehicle in the centre of Edinburgh, but it can be pricey, alternatively you can park at a park and ride and take a bus or tram into the city centre (more details at bottom)
Start your day off by having a hearty but quirky breakfast- we are recommend Oink! Which can be found in either Grassmarket or just off Princes Street. Here you can choose how big you can go with fillings of pork served straight from the hog lying in the shop window. (Sorry if you are vegetarian or vegan…)
Every trip to Scotland’s capital must include a visit to the world-famous Edinburgh Castle. We recommend going as early in the day as possible to beat the crowds, as it can and will get extremely busy. Then take a wander on the Royal Mile which is the main area of Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town. The Royal Mile is the best place to soak up Scotland’s history and unique architecture as you wander its cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways, here you will also find shops galore selling Scottish products, such as tartan scarves and shortbread- great Christmas presents for sure! From here you can walk down to Princes Street Gardens.
Located within Princes Street Gardens you will see the main Christmas Market which is a traditional European Christmas Market with stalls selling arts and crafts, scarves, leather goods, Christmas ornaments and trinkets plus a whole load more, including food stalls selling German bratwurst, waffles, chips, crepes, churros, and hot drink stalls selling hot chocolate and coffee, and alcoholic options like hot cider, mulled wine (Glühwein), and hot toddies, our favourite this year was hot ginger and gin!! Stop here to grab a bite to eat, before….
Carrying on your Christmas shopping- grabbing those last-minute items from the market and then head down Princes Street to Jenners department store, which is one of the oldest department stores, and if you only window shop there, be sure to check out their amazing Christmas lights and decorations.
After a walk around the shops, head back up the Royal Mile and visit the Museum of Scotland (free) or what sounds much better is to head to The Tower which is adjacent to the Museum of Scotland and treat yourself to a festive afternoon tea.
Other things you can get up to is going ice-skating this is located a few streets back from Princes Street at St. Andrew Square, this been transformed into a circular ice-skating rink surrounding the Melville Monument. Very Christmassy indeed!
Or why not take a trip on The Big Wheel. Dominating East Princess Street Gardens, the Big Wheel has 36 enclosed, weather-proof pods, each seating six people, that offer a leisurely way to take in the sights and views of Edinburgh. The fun ride also gives you a short historical tour of the city.
For dinner we can only recommend The Witchery just off the Royal Mile which is an Edinburgh institution, located in a sixteenth-century merchant’s house, it is named so for the hundreds of women burnt in the 17th century on Castlehill for Witchcraft. The Witchery has rich baroque surroundings with the dining room being oak panelled with tapestries lining the walls. This is one of the city’s most exceptional and memorable dining destinations. (Must reserve your table in advance)
After dinner we think that a cocktail is in order, head to George Street, in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town to The Dome with its Graeco-Roman façade and Corinthian Portico, it is simply gorgeous any time of the year, but especially when it’s the holiday season and they go over the top with their decorations, lights, garlands and gigantic Christmas tree. Visit anytime of the day, but we recommend going for cocktails to round the evening off.
Being the capital of Scotland, of course there is many other non-Christmassy things to see and do if you are visiting over November, December or January. If this will be your first time in Edinburgh, we’d recommend checking our guide to 24 hours in Edinburgh blog
Where to stay in Edinburgh:
It is best to book your accommodation far in advance, not only will it be very busy, and hotels will fill up fast, the prices could rocket too.
You can try Airbnb for quirky and different accommodation, which might be your last resort or treat yourself to luxury at the Radisson Blu Hotel, located on the Royal Mile or The Scotsman Hotel. Our recommendations are the Apex Grassmarket Hotel, situated in the Grassmarket area, it is in such a perfect location for Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, and the Premier Inn just off the Royal Mile, here you can snap up soon amazing prices (we are staying on 23rd-24th December for £23!)
How to travel to and from Edinburgh:
Trains arrive at Waverly station from all over Scotland, and the UK, but if you are here on a day trip make sure you check when the last train leaves.
Last train is around 2315 and the next one is not until after 5am
last tram is around 2305 and the next one in the morning doesn’t start until after 6am
If you are driving, be expected to pay a considerable amount to park your car in city centre locations, instead for day trippers- park your car at a park and ride in Ingliston where you can then jump on a bus or tram for a few pounds return. If you are staying in the city overnight that park and ride is not suitable but try Hermiston park and ride which allows overnight parking.
If you do stay overnight check if your hotel offers discount parking.
*Notice to residents of Edinburgh- if you have an EH postcode you will be eligible for discounts on Edinburgh rides, attractions, and shows. Just show proof of address.
A guide to a day in Edinburgh
9am : Breakfast Oink
10am : Edinburgh Castle
11am : Christmas markets snack
12pm : Shopping
2pm : Afternoon tea
4pm : Ice skating or the big wheel
7pm : Dinner at the witchery
9pm : Evening- cocktails at the Dome
Have you been to Edinburgh over the festive season? Or has this blog encouraged you to visit?!...