Everything you need to know about Christmas in Edinburgh

With the festive season fast approaching, Edinburgh is being transformed into a winter wonderland.

Thursday, 16th November 2017, 5:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 12:05 pm
Edinburgh's Christmas festivities. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Kicking off tomorrow evening, Edinburgh’s Christmas programme includes everything from traditional European markets to Christmas cabaret shows.

Light Night

To celebrate the launch of Edinburgh’s Christmas, Light Night takes place on 19 November.

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Master ice sculptor Jack Hackney puts the finishing touches to an ice sculpture of a unicorn for Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

The event sees Christmas lights across the city switched on for the first time this season, including the new domed light feature on George Street.

Special guests Laura Main and the cast of Shrek the Musical will be switching on the Christmas lights during the celebrations.

Light Night also includes entertainment from choirs across Scotland, and culminates in a spectacular firework show at 5pm.

Open: 19 November, 3-5pm

St Andrew Square Gardens ice rink. Picture: Contributed

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Christmas lights go up in Glasgow and Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets

Edinburgh’s Christmas markets are split across two city centre locations this year - East Princes Street Gardens and George Street.

Shoppers will be able to find a huge variety of festive gifts at the stalls, from handmade Christmas decorations to cashmere scarves.

Master ice sculptor Jack Hackney puts the finishing touches to an ice sculpture of a unicorn for Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire

There are also lots of foodie treats to be had within the markets, including traditional German bratwurst and gluhwein (mulled wine), as well as street food stalls from local vendors.

Open: 17 November – 24 December (George Street) and 18 November – 6 January (East Princes Street Gardens), 10am-10pm

Ice Adventure: A Journey Through Frozen Scotland

New for 2017, Ice Adventure is an immersive experience that allows visitors to walk through a magical, icy look back at Scotland’s history.

St Andrew Square Gardens ice rink. Picture: Contributed

Located on George Street, the venue is kept at a temperature of -10°C to keep the stunning ice sculptures in tact.

The handcrafted ice and snow sculptures feature lifelike versions of Scottish animals and mythical creatures, as well as historical figures and cultural icons.

Open: 17 November – 24 December, 10am-10pm

Family-Friendly Rides in Santa Land

Santa Land, the festive hub in East Princes Street Garden, is full of rides and attractions for all the family, including the much-loved Christmas Tree Maze.

Rides range from the gentle Reindeer Ride (a festive merry-go-round) to the more daredevil attractions like the helter skelter and mini rollercoaster.

Open: 18 November – 6 January, 10am-9pm

La Clique Noel

For some alternative Christmas entertainment, cabaret troupe La Clique are taking over the Spiegeltent in Festival Square with their special festive show.

With a variety of circus, comedy, cabaret, magic, burlesque and musical acts, La Clique Noel is set to be a memorable show full of adults-only festive treats and seasonal surprises.

Open: 17 November – 6 January, 8pm (5/6pm and 8/9pm on Friday and Saturday)

The Ice Wall

Another returning feature of the Edinburgh’s Christmas programme, the Ice Wall is an impressive climbing wall made entirely of ice.

Those with an adventurous side can attempt to scale the wall for a fantastic view of the surrounding Santa Land.

Open: 18 November – 6 January, 10am-9pm

Festive Thrill Rides

In addition to the ever-popular Star Flyer ride (which climbs almost 60 metres into the air), visitors this year will be able to experience the new gravity-defying Drop Tower attraction.

Located on George Street, the Drop Tower offers amazing bird’s-eye views of the city, before plunging back to earth at high speed.

Also look out for the return of the popular Chair-o-Planes and the Big Wheel rides in East Princes Street Gardens.

Open: 18 November – 6 January, 10am-9pm

Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar

A brand new concept for 2017, Edinburgh’s Giant Advent Calendar is a free event taking place between 1 and 25 December.

A giant calendar will be projected onto the front of General Register House at the east end of Princes Street, and each day a different photo will be revealed.

The archive photos (which have been supplied by Historic Environment Scotland, National Records of Scotland and National Library of Scotland) show a glimpse of winter in Edinburgh from years gone by.

Open: 1 December – 25 December, 5.30-10pm

Ice Skating

Returning to St Andrew Square, the circular ice rink which winds its way round the Melville Monument is always one of Edinburgh’s most popular festive attractions.

Skates are available to hire for both children and adults, allowing the whole family to skate their way around the winter wonderland.

Open: 17 November – 6 January, 10am-10pm

24 Doors of Advent

Visitors can explore some of Edinburgh’s most iconic buildings as part of the 24 Doors of Advent event.

Each day in December, a different building (which is normally closed to the public) will offer behind the scenes tours.

Some of the buildings taking part in this year’s 24 Doors of Advent include BT Murrayfield Stadium, The Victorian Schoolroom, Edinburgh Festival Theatre, and McEwan Hall.

Open: 1 December – 24 December