Edinburgh Christmas 2023: Our guide to the perfect festive weekend in Edinburgh including Christmas markets
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For some, the city centre attractions mark the beginning of the holiday season, with the sights, sounds and smells of the Christmas market encapsulating the spirit of the season. From the towering Big Wheel, the George Street ice skating rink, to mulled wine, hot food and arts and crafts stalls – you’ll find it all within a close proximity.
A short walk from the city centre you’ll also find some great attractions, including the magical illuminated evening walks at the Botanical Gardens. Whether you’re a tourist visiting the city or a resident who fancies soaking up the festivities, here is how we would advise you spend a Christmassy weekend in the Capital.
The launch of the Christmas markets is a busy day indeed with last year seeing queues along Princes Street as the entry was staggered due to busy crowds. If you plan to visit on the opening day, our tip would be to get there early on Friday to avoid queues in the afternoon. The market at East Princes Street Gardens hosts roughly 80 stalls selling food, mulled wine to bespoke arts and crafts and with the flagship attraction being the 46m tall Big Wheel – Scotland’s largest Ferris Wheel. If you’re out and about with wee ones there’s also the Winter Wonderland and other rides including the Helter Skelter and the Santa Train. Should the queues be too much on Friday – a short walk to West Princes Street Gardens offers festive food and drinks and similar attractions and has a wider range of rides for children of all ages.
Navigating through the busy crowds can make you work up an appetite and you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to eating out in Edinburgh’s city centre. Boasting a selection of cuisines from all over the world you won’t have any trouble finding a place to dine. But a great place to visit during the season of giving is Social Bite cafe at 131 Rose Street. Each time you buy a meal or a drink at the charity’s cafe, you contribute to helping end homelessness in Edinburgh and you can also buy a warm meal for someone else via their pay it forward scheme.
If classical music is your thing you can check out ‘Vivaldi Four Seasons by Candlelight’ at St Giles’ Cathedral – where musicians of the Piccadilly Sinfonietta will perform a selection of classical masterpieces against the backdrop of the stunning cathedral. If that’s not for you, a leisurely walk around Old Town is a perfect way to finish the day, taking in the breathtaking views of Edinburgh at this time of year and exploring all the historic closes off the Royal Mile.
The St Andrew Square Winter Garden opens on Saturday, November 18 at 11am. Here you’ll find Santa and his merry elves ready to welcome children and families - guests can also book for Santa’s Stories on the Edinburgh’s Christmas website where groups of up to 22 can meet Santa and receive a gift.
The Dome on George Street transforms into a magical Christmas venue every year and have become famous for their incredible decorations. Just a short walk from St Andrew Square, it’s a great place to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a winter drink during the festive period.
You won’t need to venture far for the next attraction - the George Street ice rink. Open from 12pm to 10pm between November 18 and December 24, the ice rink will be under cover allowing visitors to enjoy the fun in any weather. A short walk from here, you will find a host of food and gift stalls along George Street as well as the LocalMotive Castle Street Christmas Market just down the road.
Edinburgh Farmer’s Market on Castle Terrace runs every Sunday from 9am to 2pm and it’s a great way to start the day.
Lunch and shopping
With Christmas just around the corner it’s never too early to have a browse around the shops - and the St James Quarter is a one stop shop where you’ll find floor upon floor of top retailers as well as a considerable selection of places to eat. With the shopping centre’s festive events kicking off on November 15 – there is sure to be some extra festive cheer during your visit.
Christmas At The Botanics
What better way to wind down after a fast paced weekend than a tranquil winter walk around Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens. Taking place on selected dates between November 16 and December 30 – Christmas At The Botanics sees the beloved park transformed into a magical wonderland, where visitor tour the grounds, illuminated by lights, music and where the kids also get to meet Santa. Back for another year, promises to deliver a memorable night for all ages and a perfect end to a festive weekend.