Magical Christmas Activities in Edinburgh: Your Ultimate Guide

Best Things to Do in Edinburgh this Christmas

The Christmas season is almost here, and holiday festivities will soon take place all over the world. If you're looking for a more unique time of the year to visit Edinburgh, this post is perfect for you. To make this Christmas truly special, there are many ways to experience Edinburgh's festive spirit in style and comfort.

Edinburgh is a beautiful city that is full of Christmas cheer. It’s the perfect setting to spend the holidays with your loved ones and enjoy some of the best things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas.

This year, we are bringing you a list of some of the best things to do in Edinburgh over Christmas. From festive walks and tours to festive markets and events, there’s plenty to keep you entertained during this festive time of year!

We hope this guide helps you plan your trip over the festive period and make sure you get the most out of it!

.Not sure which walking tours are the best? Check out this article too

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Table of Contents

Here we have listed 17 top places where you can enjoy an unforgettable holiday:

1. Winterfest at Edinburgh Christmas Market

If you want to get away from everything then why not try out the famous Edinburgh Christmas Market. Here are just a glimpse of things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas and what will happen from Friday 17 November 2023 to Saturday 6 January 2024.

  • East Princes Street will host market stalls selling arts and crafts and festive food and drinks and the Christmas Market
  • The top of East Princes Street Gardens will also be home to the Big Wheel and Helter Skelter
  • West Princes Street host to the Festive Family Funfair will include Santa Land, featuring the magical Santa’s Grotto and family-friendly attractions.
  • The West Gardens will also hold the Winter Windows Schools Art Project, Garden’s Cottage Lighting and festive illuminations
  • Nativity Carol Concert 28 November in St Andrew Square at 3 pm.
  • The ice rink on the famous George Street will be undercover, allowing visitors to enjoy the fun in any weather
  • Castle Street will host the LocalMotive Castle Street Christmas Market from 18 November to 24 December.
  • Santa Experience at St Andrew Square includes relaxed sessions designed for Children with additional needs, learning disabilities, sensory or communication disorders
  • St Andrew Square also hosts Social Bite’s Festival of Kindness, and Tree and Gift Donation point, dedicated to giving the gift of Christmas to those who need it most
Best Things to Do in Edinburgh this Christmas_Christmas market
Best Things to Do in Edinburgh this Christmas_Christmas market

Looking for a gift from Scotland? Check out our guides

Winter Lights are back this year – see what’s happening when it gets dark outside.

 

Christmas at Botanic Garden 

Ever wonder what it would be like to live in a botanical world, immersed in the joy of Christmas?

Join Christmas Lights at The Botanics where you can experience all the festive cheer. Christmas Cathedral, Digital Rain, Laser Garden, Santa, there are just a few sparkling illuminations.

A delicious twist of tasty treats is also available. Toasted marshmallows for anyone?

Starting  16th November 2023 – 30th December 2023. Trail times start from 4:15 pm with the last entry at 8 pm. See the booking page for details

PHOTO CREDIT_Edinburgh Castle _Castle of Light
PHOTO CREDIT_Edinburgh Castle _Castle of Light

Castle of the Light: Magic and Mystery

The festive season is the perfect time to visit Edinburgh Castle. The castle, which has been at the very centre of Scottish history for over 1000 years, will be filled with state-of-the-art lighting installations.

It will illuminate the iconic landmark walls with holograms to make it even more enchanted.

Expect wonder, enchantment and a spectacle of colour this festive season as Edinburgh Castle, the defender of the nation, becomes an indoor winter wonderland.

Access night – Sunday 3 December

On Sunday 3 December Castle of Light for visitors with specific access needs (BSL Tours with Interpreter – 5.15pm & 6.45pm

Autism accessible time slot – 7pm

DATES

24 & 25 November. 1-3, 8-10, 15-17, 21-23 & 27-30 December. 2 & 3 January

TIMES

4.30pm to 9pm (last entry between 7.30pm & 7.45pm)

See the booking page for details

Check the price and available dates for the guided tours here!

3. Christmas at the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The must thing to do in Edinburgh at Christmas is to visit the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

The Great Gallery will display a 15 foot, glittering Christmas tree adorned with decorations of all sorts.

There will also be lights, making the entire palace seem to shine even brighter this time of year.

They will decorate apartments and the Royal Dining Room with flowers, wreaths and spires of faux candied sugared fruits.

Palace of Holyroodhouse will offer festive events for adults and children through November and December. You can find here the details of the events. 

Do not forget their gift shop offers a wide range of exclusive gifts inspired by the royal palaces and the works of art in the Royal Collection.

Insider tip: Complete your visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse or The Queen’s Gallery with homemade cakes and tea.

Thursday, 23 Nov 2023
Every Monday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday (Thursday, 23 Nov 2023 – Monday, 1 Jan 2024)
Excl dates: Monday, 25 Dec 2023, Tuesday, 26 Dec 2023, Wednesday, 27 Dec 2023

PHOTO CREDIT_Palace of Holyroddhouse _Christmas at Palace
PHOTO CREDIT_Palace of Holyroddhouse _Christmas at Palace

4. Edinburgh Afternoon Tea Experience

The best way to get around Edinburgh is by foot, but if you don’t have time or the Edinburgh weather is not what you like, then opt for a tour on the vintage 1966 Routemaster Bus.

We found what might be the coolest way to do afternoon tea in Edinburgh on a double-decker bus! So whilst you take in the stunning sights of Edinburgh, you can indulge in first-class traditional afternoon teas. 

Red Bus Tour Departing at 12 pm or 3 pm, Tuesday to Sunday 

Below, you can find the best ticket prices during your holiday

5. Experience a night of glitz and glam at The Dome's Hogmanay Masquerade Ball.

This Instagram-worthy spot in Edinburgh is always bustling with tourists and couples trying to capture the perfect picture against the stunning backdrop.

During Christmas, it becomes one of the most photographed places in the city. This place is not just popular for its award-winning restaurant and bar, but all year round it’s a special treat. But during Christmas time, it just gets even more magical!

The Dome boasts a jaw-dropping grill hall, a fancy Georgian tearoom, and an absolutely stunning club room. Located in New Town, this place is the ultimate spot to indulge in delicious food and drinks.

This year, The Dome has prepared something very special. If you’d like to have a night to remember, be sure to join the Dome’s Hogmanay Masquerade Ball on George Street! It’s going to be something really special and you definitely don’t want to miss it. 

There’s so much excitement waiting! Let’s start with the dress code: Black Tie or Masquerade Fancy Dress is required for the night.

In addition to prosecco and canapés, you can take the party upstairs to the luxurious Georgian Tea Room for some lively Ceilidh fun.

And if you’re feeling lucky, you can try your hand at the deluxe in-house casino in the Club Room.

 
Sunday 31st December 2023, 9pm Arrival, Carriages 2am. Tickets Sold At £95pp
 
This Includes: 
  • A red carpet welcome
  • An arrival drink
  • Magic from Edinburgh’s favourite magician Elliot Bibby
  • Casino in Club Room
  • Ceilidh in Georgian Tea Room
  • A selection of Canapes
  • A glass of bubbly to welcome the bells

6. Guided tour and whisky tasting

Winter is perfect for enjoying a dram or two of the finest whisky. This guided tour will introduce you to the aromas of the drink while walking you through the production stages.

A ride in a whisky barrel? Oh man, you can’t wait to see the World’s biggest collection of Scotch whisky!

PHOTO CREDIT_ Scotch Whisky Experience_Guided Whisky Tasting
PHOTO CREDIT_ Scotch Whisky Experience_Guided Whisky Tasting

7. Chocolatarium Tour, Tasting & Chocolate Making

Edinburgh’s winter visit could not be completed without tasting and making chocolate.

This tour is one of the best things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas. 

This unique tour allows you to make your chocolates using various chocolate moulds.

In the Chocolate Kitchen, you can choose your bar design, select your favourite flavours and create your personalized bar.

The entire experience is very interactive for both children and adults, whilst you learn a lot about the history of chocolate from the Aztecs to the first chocolate bar and the newest inventions.

st Things to Do in Edinburgh this Christmas _Christmas shop Nutcracker at Royal Mile
Best Things to Do in Edinburgh this Christmas _Christmas shop Nutcracker at Royal Mile

You also might like

Have a limited time in Edinburgh? Then the Royal Edinburgh ticket is a perfect solution. For the 48h, you can use all three City Tours (Edinburgh Tour, Majestic Tour and CitySightseeing Edinburgh) plus entry to Edinburgh Castle, Palace of Holyroodhouse and The Royal Yacht Britannia.

9. Hogmanay New Year's Eve Fireworks

Edinburgh Cityscape with fireworks over The Castle
Edinburgh Cityscape with fireworks over The Castle

Oh, New Year’s Eve celebrations – the event takes place every year on December 31st and has become something of a symbol for the city.

You get to enjoy spectacular fireworks displays over the castle and other historic venues in town. It doesn’t get more exciting than this! 

Check the info here

You can watch the fireworks for free (they are visible all over the city) but if you like to join the street party you need to buy the tickets

Friday 29 Dec 2023 – New Year’s Day 2024

10. Torchlight Procession

Get ready for an awesome time at the rebooted event – it’s gonna be a carnival extravaganza!

Get ready to soak up the lively atmosphere with tons of live Street Theatre performances, mesmerizing Fire Performers, energetic Pipe Bands, and talented Drummers.

Before the procession, the Vikings from Shetland’s South Mainland Up Helly Aa’ Jarl Squad create a magnificent river of fire through the Old Town of the capital.

Fri 29 Dec 2023 6pm – 8.30pm

The Meadows to City Centre
(New start location!)

Buy your tickets here

Check the prices and available dates for the guided tours in Edinburgh!

11. See Scottish Opera & Ballet

Enjoying opera and ballet performances during the holidays is something everyone should do once in their lifetime. And what better way than watching them live from the magnificent stage of the Usher Hall?

Check available shows and tickets here

Grill Christmas Tree at the Dome
Christmas Tree at the Dome

12. The Snow Queen at Royal Lyceum Theatre

Get ready for a magical and winter wonderland extravaganza! We’re tagging along with Gerda, a brave young soul, on her mission to rescue her brother from the wicked grip of the evil Queen.

Brace yourself for a breathtaking spectacle filled with snow, ice palaces, and thrilling adventures like never before!

Buy your tickets here

23rd Nov 2023 to 1st Jan 2024

13. JK Rowling's Edinburgh and the Writing of Harry Potter Tour

This tour is not like the others. You get to see areas tucked away from main tourist areas and items relevant to Harry Potter. The guide is a ‘Harry Potter’ fan who shares fascinating details about the wizarding world in Edinburgh.

It takes 4 h of listening and walking, so come prepared for 5 km of up-and-down walking through Edinburgh’s hilly old town. You’ll see the inspiration for many locations in the Wizarding World, including Old College and Greyfriars Kirkyard.

14. Candlelit Concert at St. Giles’ Cathedral

Sun 31 Dec 20 6.30pm – 8pm

A festive celebration seeing in the New Year in the candlelit atmosphere of St Giles’ Cathedral as it celebrates its 900th anniversary in 2024.

This year’s concert marks the festive season with the first three cantatas from J.S.Bach’s Christmas Oratorio: Bach at his most exuberant.

Buy your tickets here

15. THE POLAR EXPRESS™ Train Ride Edinburgh

How about you and your fam hop aboard The Polar Express for an awesome immersive theatrical event? It’s the perfect experience for everyone, from the little ones to Granny and Grandpa. Get ready to feel what it’d be like to embark on this magical journey together! You’re gonna love the characters in this story, like the chefs, the Conductor, and maybe even the ghost on the train.

Waverley station 30 November 2023 to 22 December 2023

16. Edinburgh International Magic Festival

“The best magicians in the world, in the world’s most magical city.”

The Europe’s biggest festival of innovative and cutting-edge magic that promotes magic as an art form and celebrates the limitless possibilities of human imagination. 

Get ready to have your mind blown with an amazing lineup of shows, events, and workshops that will bring so much wonder and fun to the holiday season

20-31 December 2023

17. Markets and Fairs

Where to stay in Edinburgh this Christmas

As mentioned earlier, it doesn’t matter what your budget is; whether you’re looking for a romantic escape or simply want to enjoy a few days off work, Edinburgh offers everything that makes a holiday memorable. For a taste of home away from home, book now one of Edinburgh hotels with the best festive decorations.

Below, you can find the best prices during your holiday

Booking.com

Looking for gift guides?

Check the prices and available dates for the guided tours in Edinburgh!

Magical Christmas Activities in Edinburgh: Your Ultimate Guide
About me
Scotland Itinerary planning

My name is Kate and I created Scotland Itinerary Planning to give you those life-changing experiences right in the beautiful country I call home.

I’m proud to live in Edinburgh, Scotland, one of the world’s most beautiful capital cities. Living in Edinburgh has provided me a base to explore extensively around this magical little country.

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