15 Things to Do in Edinburgh This Christmas

Edinburgh is an exceptionally beautiful city to visit at any time of the year. Imagine what it’s like during the Christmas holiday season, with all its striking street decorations, eye-catching lights, and uplifting festive atmosphere! In fact, it’s considered one of the ultimate places to visit during the holidays.

Here are 15 festive things to do in Edinburgh this Christmas to make your holidays even more festive and memorable:

15 Festive Things to do in Edinburgh This Christmas

1. Visit Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets

Christmas Market Edinburgh Scotland Ryan Air

Of course, the first thing to do in Edinburgh this Christmas will be centered on food! Do you even know me? Treat yourself to indulgent hot chocolate and other delectable European specialities, and then take some edible souvenirs home. Many stalls selling treats such as traditional and unconventionally flavoured fudges, chocolates, and more await! If you’re not too much of a foodie, then there are also many unique Christmas gifts that you can also buy for yourself, your family and friends, or… yourself, obviously.

There are two Christmas Markets in Edinburgh: European Christmas Market (Princes Street Gardens) and Scottish Market (St Andrew’s Square).

2. Go Ice Skating in St Andrew’s Square

Ice Skating Rink Edinburgh Christmas

Winter to me means ice skating; maybe because I used to be a figure skater back when we had an actual ice skating rink in Lebanon. Never mind my childhood sorrows – we got to ice skate in Edinburgh during our 1-night stay in the capital city and it was awesome! No photos of me here since I was rather busy repeatedly falling on my derrière :’) It’s not like riding a bike.

3. Ride the Ferris Wheel at Princes Gardens

Edinburgh Ferris Wheel at Night

Sit in an enclosed chilly-weather-proof capsule and gaze at the festive Christmas decorations and magnificent views of Edinburgh from the top! I happily enjoyed that pretzel I saved from the market up here on the wheel.

4. Go on a Carousel Ride

Edinburgh Carousel Fun Christmas 2

Release your inner child and go round and round the merry-go-round mounted on a majestic horse. Fancy. Plus, it’s right next to the Big Wheel; you have no excuse. Come on, look how much fun I’m having!

5. Ride the Star Flyer

Star Flyer Edinburgh Visit Scotland

If you dare, you can go for a ride on Edinburgh’s Star Flyer. Sit 60 meters high and “fly” 360 degrees. If you manage to keep your eyes open, then you will be able to see lovely views of the city. I’d rather have mine shut, thanks!

6. Get Lost in a Festive Christmas Tree Maze

Christmas Maze Edinburgh Christmas Market

Not too far from the Big Wheel you took for a spin earlier, is the Christmas Tree Maze! You can actually try to cheat your way through it since you can spot the maze once you’re at the top of the wheel 😉

7. Climb an Ice Wall

Ice Wall Edinburgh Christmas

From just £5.00, become an arctic explorer and scale Santa Land’s ice wall. If you make it to the top, see if you can climb these ice walls in Scotland next!

8. Take the Kids to See Santa

Santa Grotto Edinburgh Christmas

Until the 24th of December, your child/children (accompanied by max. two adults) can visit Santa’s grotto to meet him in person and tell him what they wish for the most this Christmas. They also get a gift – lucky! But wait, it’s not just for kids! Fully grown adults (such as myself) can also visit Santa and make a wish of their own. I need a phone upgrade.

9. Visit the Street of Light

Street of Light Edinburgh Christmas

The spectacular Street of Light occurs every year in Edinburgh. Just stand back, watch, and listen to the huge effort put into this beautiful colourful singing street! Over 60,000 bulbs of light in Edinburgh’s Old Town paired with incredible music from local choirs and bands (I got goosebumps!). There are 1-2 shows per day and it’s free of charge. It’s a must-see unique attraction this year and every Christmas to come!

10. Watch a Musical Production

Five Guys Named Moe Edinburgh

Edinburgh is now hosting a fantastic musical production by Clarke Peters featuring the legendary Louis Jordan’s greatest jazz hits this Christmas, presented by Underbelly in association with Cameron Mackintosh.

Five Guys Named Moe was such a colourful and uplifting theatre experience – we even got to dance and sing along at some point!

11. See a Pantomime

pantomime Edinburgh Spotlight

Apparently, seeing a Pantomime is a great, however not-so-elitist, cliché Christmas tradition in UK. I thought I would mention this one just for fun. This type of theatrical spectacle involves music, comedy, drama, and ridiculous costumes and is usually based on fairytales or children’s stories – and it’s not only for children! In fact, adults will get the ambiguity of the jokes more than the children. Check out the list of available Pantomimes in Edinburgh this Christmas! 

12. 24 Days of Advent: The Key to the City

24 Doors of Advent Edinburgh 2016

In organization with the Cockburn Association, Edinburgh has now given the public the key to the city! The 24 Doors of Advent event allows you to peek through “forbidden” doors of buildings around Edinburgh which are usually closed to us mere commoners. One usually locked door will open for every day of the month of December until the 24th, free of charge. Take a peek through the Royal Lyceum Theatre or the Scottish Parliament!

13. Have Hot Chocolate and Gelato

Mary's Milk Bar Storefront

Gelato in this weather?! Yup. Mary’s Milk Bar offers some delicious hot chocolate (if you’re an addict like me) and is particularly famous for its decadent velvety-smooth ice cream. You can even sign up to a Sundae School class where you can learn the art of gelato and taste it too 😉

14. Join the Santa Fun Run on December 11th

Santa Fun Run Website

On December 11th at 11am, help raise money for charity and take part in the Santa Run, where 100s of Santas will be running, jogging, walking or just going for a leisurely stroll around West Princes Street Gardens. You can always watch if you’re not a fan of dressing up like an over-sized white-bearded man in red, but where’s your Christmas spirit?

15. Go Christmas Shopping

Edinburgh Christmas Market Souvenir Shopping

Enjoy the lively Christmas atmosphere on Princes Street, Edinburgh’s main shopping street, and do your annual Christmas gift-hunting at the same time. Plus, it’s right next to the must-see Edinburgh Christmas Market (where you can also shop, by the way). Two birds, one stone 😉

Notice how Christmas shopping came last on my Christmassy things to do in Edinburgh. I’m just not a huge fan of going in and out of shops frantically searching for a Christmas present hoping that the receiver actually likes what I took 2-3 hours (or more) to choose for him/her. They usually do, but it’s a hassle. Yay for online shopping!

And that concludes my list of 15 festive things to do in Edinburgh this Christmas! There are also many more activities you can do in Edinburgh which don’t necessarily have to be Christmas-related. There’s the beautiful Edinburgh Castle which is a must-visit landmark in the city and there’s the interactive Camera Obscura & World of Illusions and the traditional Scotch Whisky Experience which are both definitely worth a visit as well – and they’re all just a few meters apart!

Dancing in Edinburgh Castle
Doing a happy dance at Edinburgh Castle

For specific dates, times, prices and other information regarding Edinburgh Christmas markets, shows, rides and other activities, visit Edinburgh Christmas.


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