Edinburgh at Christmas: A Fairytale Setting
The fact that the capital of Scotland is one of the most famous, vibrant, and beautiful in Europe might not surprise anyone anymore, but perhaps what's surprising is that Edinburgh at Christmas is one of the most charming places to visit in the world at this time of the year. Like a story unfolding, from late November to the celebration of Hogmanay (the Scottish New Year), Edinburgh dresses up with Christmas markets, special events, concerts and plays, meticulously decorated Christmas trees, and the wonderful seasonal lighting of the castle. You can't miss Edinburgh at Christmas, and if you're not convinced yet, keep reading to learn all the reasons you have to book your trip as soon as possible.
Christmas Markets in Edinburgh: Tradition and Modernity
Edinburgh's Christmas markets are among the most famous in the UK and even Europe, for very good reasons. Not only do their aesthetics, craft stalls, and attractions make them irresistible for Christmas-loving travellers, but they are framed by the elegant streets and gardens of the New Town and the ever-beautiful and watchful silhouette of the castle. It's interesting that Edinburgh's Christmas markets are so popular considering that this festivity, once celebrated as Yule**, was prohibited by the Presbyterian Church for a long time. It only became an official holiday in 1958, with celebrations focusing much more on Hogmanay until then. It's a fact that often surprises visitors! Perhaps precisely because of that prohibition, Scots nowadays go all out for Christmas, embracing all its traditions and events, as seen in Edinburgh's Christmas markets**.
What to See in Edinburgh During December: Attractions and Activities
As mentioned earlier, Edinburgh in December, far from being a dull and sleepy winter city, is a lively, bustling place full of original activities suitable for any type of travel group.
Some of the attractions and events you can find in Edinburgh this Christmas, besides the Christmas markets, include the special lighting of the castle known as Castle of Light, Christmas at the Botanics in the Botanic Garden, the International Magic Festival, traditional dances with the Edinburgh ceilidh club, the special Polar Express train from Waverley station, and, if you stay until New Year's, the fantastic Scottish Hogmanay.
Don't miss heading to The Mound to admire the giant illuminated Christmas tree installed there every year. This tree holds significant historical meaning as it's a gift from the Vestland province in Norway, given to Edinburgh every Christmas since 1947 to celebrate the cultural ties between Scotland and Scandinavia. A tradition filled with warmth! Moreover, if you're wondering what to see in Edinburgh in December in general, you can't miss visits to the castle (which hosts very special characters during these dates), Holyrood Palace, the National Museum of Scotland, and the highlights of the Old Town, such as the Royal Mile, Grassmarket Square, or the historic Greyfriars Cemetery. The best way to explore all these places comfortably is with an English-speaking walking tour!
Plan Your Visit to the Edinburgh Christmas Market
There are several Christmas markets in Edinburgh you can visit, but undoubtedly, the largest and most famous of all is the one on East Princes Street in the New Town. Open from November 17, 2023, to January 6, 2024, the East Princes Street Christmas market in Edinburgh offers visitors the experience of the most charming and traditional Scottish market, with dozens of craft and gift stalls and plenty of places to taste gastronomic delights and drinks like mulled wine or spiced mulled cider.
If you visit this market with children, you'll find many attractions for them. What they surely won't want to miss is Santa's Grotto to place their favourite gift orders. For travellers who are no longer children but enjoy thrills, there are always popular star flyers, and for everyone in general, the giant Ferris wheel, which offers wonderful panoramic views of a fairytale-like Edinburgh. If you're lucky, you might see it covered in snow! Other Christmas markets in Edinburgh you can explore include those on George Street (hard to miss, as it's next to the above-mentioned one and is where the ice skating rink is usually located), on Castle Street, and at Summerhall. If you're in the city on Sundays, the traditional Farmer's Markets in Grassmarket and Stockbridge also dress up in bright colours in December and are well worth a visit.
Tip: How to Make Your Trip to Edinburgh a Unique Experience
Edinburgh at Christmas is full of good vibes, fun, Christmas markets, and special events in an incomparable architectural setting, so take at least three days to fully enjoy the city. This way, you'll have plenty of time to explore its streets, monuments, and even its theatres, which showcase pantomimes, a typical Scottish show that's truly original during these dates. In conclusion, if you want to visit Edinburgh and its wonderful East Princes Street Christmas market, as well as enjoying the rest of the season's events and attractions, book your flights, accommodations, guided visits and free tours now... And get ready to experience a magical Scottish Christmas!