‘Tis the season to be jolly! And what better place to enjoy all the festive cheer than Edinburgh – a city that really knows how to celebrate Christmas? Edinburgh is never more magical than at Christmas time when the streets are adorned with twinkling lights, the shops are full of festive shoppers and the air is filled with the sound of carols.
Break out your best Christmas jumper and get ready to enjoy all that Edinburgh has to offer this festive season. From Christmas markets and ice skating to cozy pubs and festive concerts, here are 20 things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas.
20. Get your shopping fix at the Edinburgh Christmas Market
Edinburgh’s Christmas markets are one of the best Christmas markets in Europe and are a must-visit for anyone spending time in the city over the festive period. Located in East Princes Street Gardens, the main market is full of traditional German-style wooden huts selling everything from delicious food and drink to handmade gifts and Christmas decorations.
If you’re feeling brave after some Christmas shopping, you can even take a ride on the giant Ferris wheel for stunning views over Edinburgh’s rooftops.
19. Go ice skating
Whether you’re a seasoned ice skater or a complete beginner, you’ll love gliding around the open-air ice rink on George Street this holiday season! The kids and the kids at heart are going to fill the air with laughter as they attempt to stay upright on the slippery surface. Nothing says Christmas like a bit of outdoor ice skating!
Don’t forget to bring your camera along to capture some memorable moments on the ice. And when you’re done skating, warm up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate from one of the kiosks surrounding the rink.
18. Take a photo with the giant Christmas tree at Jenners
Every year, the famous department store on Princes Street gets a stunning Christmas tree to rival any other in the city. The tree is always an impressive sight, and it’s a popular spot for taking photos, especially at night when it’s illuminated by hundreds of fairy lights.
If you’re doing your Christmas shopping on Princes Street, be sure to pop into Jenners to see the tree and do a bit of window shopping while you’re there. A Christmas postcard doesn’t get much more Scottish than a photo of Edinburgh’s iconic Christmas tree!
17. Book a private Christmas tour with a local guide
First-timers to Edinburgh at Christmas will want to make the most of their visit by booking a private walking tour with a local guide. What better way to learn about the city’s festive history and traditions than from someone who knows them inside out? But even if you’re a local yourself, you’re sure to learn something new on this tour.
Depending on where you agreed to meet your guide, there are several different itineraries to choose from. All of them include a visit to Edinburgh’s Christmas markets, as well as other festive highlights like the Royal Mile and East Princes Street Gardens. You can even customize your tour to include stops at places that are particularly special to you.
And oh, did we mention there’s mulled wine and hot chocolate included? Now that’s what we call a Christmas tour!
16. Meet Santa in Edinburgh
Looks like Santa is doing a quick stopover in Edinburgh on his way to deliver presents to all the good girls and boys around the world!
Don’t forget to bring your milk and cookies when you meet him at West Princes Street Gardens and many more of his grottos around the city.
The little ones will be over the moon when they finally get to meet Santa in person and tell him all about what they want for Christmas. This is truly a magical experience that your family will remember for years to come, so make sure to stay off the naughty list!
15. Experience royalty in the Edinburgh Castle tour
Edinburgh is known for its grandiose castles, and Edinburgh Castle is undoubtedly the most iconic of them all. This is your chance to travel back in time and experience what it would have been like to live like royalty.
The best part about this tour is you can skip the line and avoid the crowds! This is especially useful for those who just can’t wait to get inside the castle.
In this 1.5-hour tour, you’ll learn about the castle’s fascinating past, from its days as a royal palace to its more recent role as a military stronghold. You’ll also get to see some of the most important parts of the castle.
14. Quietly boogie at the Silent Disco Adventure Tour
The words silent and disco might not seem like they go together, but that’s exactly what you’ll experience on this unique tour. If you’re looking for something a little different to do at Christmas, this is it!
This is a hilarious and interactive way to see Edinburgh, where you and a parade of other people will be guided through the city streets whilst wearing headphones and listening to booty-shaking, hip-popping tunes.
You’ll feel like you’re in your own little world as you boogie away on this walking tour, but be warned – it’s addictive!
13. Watch a Panto (or two!)
No Christmas is complete without a good old-fashioned Pantomime show, and Edinburgh has some of the best in the country.
From traditional tales like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to more modern takes on classics like Alice in Wonderland, there’s sure to be a panto that appeals to everyone.
You’ll find yourself at the edge of your seat in suspense, laughing until you cry, and singing along to all the classic Christmas music. You won’t regret adding this to your list of things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas!
12. Visit The Dome
Make sure to include this in your bucket list of things to do in Edinburgh for Christmas! Every December, the Dome is completely decked out with fairy lights, making it one of the most magical places in the city.
This is the perfect place to come if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city center and enjoy a more relaxed Christmas atmosphere. With its beautiful setting and festive decorations, The Dome is the perfect spot for a romantic date to have festive afternoon tea or a night out with friends and have a glass of bubbles.
11. Go sightseeing on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour
This is the perfect way to see all of Edinburgh’s Christmas lights and decorations in one go! Sit back, relax, and let the festive sights and sounds wash over you as you travel around the city on a double-decker bus.
You’ll be able to hop on and off at any of the stops along the route, so you can explore the city at your own pace. You can use your 24-hour pass to get on the bus at any stop, so you can make the most of your time in Edinburgh. With live commentary from your expert guide, you’ll learn everything there is to know about this historic city.
10. Have a sweet tooth on the Chocolatarium Chocolate Tour!
Come on, what’s Christmas without chocolate? Your dentist may not be happy to see you after this experience, but your taste buds will be! On this tour, you’ll learn all about the history of chocolate and how it’s made, as well as taste some delicious samples along the way.
You’ll also get to try your hand at making your own chocolates, which you can take home with you at the end. And of course, there will be plenty of opportunities to buy some delicious treats to take home for your family and friends. This tour is great for all ages, so it’s perfect for families.
9. Try the world-famous Underground Ghost Tour
What was that? I swear I felt something touch my shoulder…
Edinburgh is known for being one of the most haunted cities in the world, so what better place to go on a ghost tour? This tour will take you through some of the spookiest places in the city, including Greyfriars Kirkyard and Mary King’s Close.
You’ll descend into the dark and atmospheric underground vaults of Edinburgh, where you’ll hear stories of ghosts, murders, and other gruesome goings-on. This tour is not for the faint of heart, but if you and your family are looking for a different kind of Christmas thrill, this is the perfect activity for you.
8. Pose for the ‘Gram on Circus Lane
This picturesque little street is located in the heart of Edinburgh’s New Town, and it’s the perfect place to take some festive photos. The street is decorated with string lights and garlands, and lush greenery that hangs from the balconies.
If you’re looking for a romantic Christmas photo with your partner, this is the perfect spot. Or, if you’re visiting Edinburgh with family or friends, this is a great place to get a group photo. Either way, you’ll want to make sure Circus Lane has a spot in your Instagram feed this Christmas day.
7. Say cheers to the Edinburgh Pub Crawl!
Did somebody say free shots? On this pub crawl, you’ll visit some of Edinburgh’s most popular pubs and bars, where you’ll enjoy free shots, discounts on drinks, and plenty of festive fun. This is the perfect way to celebrate Christmas with your friends, and you’re sure to have a night you’ll never forget.
Since when was a shot or two (…or six) with your friends during Christmas celebrations ever a boring idea? Not only will you get to know Edinburgh’s nightlife scene, but you’ll also get to meet some fellow travelers from all over the world. So put on your Santa hat and yell cheers! Or shall we say, Slàinte Mhath?
6. Join the Edinburgh Santa Fun Run
The Christmas spirit is all about giving, isn’t it? The Santa Fun Run is a heartwarming event where people dress up as Santa Claus and raise money for charity. It’s a beautiful sight to see a parade of Santas running through the streets of Edinburgh to help the less fortunate, and it’s a great way to get some exercise before all the Christmas meals.
It is a 2.5 km run, so it’s suitable for all fitness levels. Just the thought of all those Santas running is sure to put a smile on your face. So why not join in the fun and sign up for the Santa Fun Run this Christmas season?
5. Warm up at the Ultimate Whisky Experience
We can already hear the dads cheering – it’s time for some whisky tasting! Head on over to the Scottish Highlands for a day of whisky tasting and learning about the Scottish history of this iconic drink. This tour includes transportation from Edinburgh, so all you have to worry about is enjoying your dreams.
You’ll visit different distilleries where you’ll get to see how whisky is made and, of course, taste some of the final products that most tourists have not yet had the privilege to try. This is a must-do for any whisky lover, and it’s a great way to get out of the city for a day.
4. Experience the Secret Food Tour in Edinburgh
If you didn’t already know yet, Scotland is known for its delicious food. And no, it’s not just haggis (although we do recommend trying it at least once). This is a walking food tour and you can never miss out on any opportunity to walk around the area, especially at Christmas time.
You’ll get to try some of Scotland’s most iconic dishes as well as lesser-known local favorites. You’ll also get to explore different neighborhoods in Edinburgh and learn about the city’s passion for food and culture. However, this 3-hour tour is for a small group of no more than 10 people, so be sure to book your spot early!
3. Take home some cheese!
For the foodies and cheese junkies, this will make your entire Christmas. The Edinburgh Cheese Crawl is a guided tour where you’ll get to try different cheeses from all over Scotland while learning about the history, production, and aging process of cheese. You’ll also get to visit some of Edinburgh’s best cheesemongers, where you can buy some to take home with you.
After the tour, you can take home some cheese to add to your Christmas Eve charcuterie board, which will impress your family and friends. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find your new favorite cheese?
2. Drive through town in your own private black taxi
One of the best ways to enjoy a great Edinburgh Christmas is from the comfort of your own private black taxi. This tour takes you around different parts of the city, where you can admire the festive lights and decorations while learning about the history and culture of Edinburgh. You’ll even get to see some of the city’s most famous landmarks and monuments.
We don’t know anyone who won’t be mesmerized by the classic Edinburgh Christmas scenery, so trust us, this is a tour not to be missed.
1. Become a wizard on the Original Harry Potter Locations Tour
Any Potterhead (and really, who isn’t?) will agree that Christmas day at Hogwarts is the ultimate winter wonderland! And while we can’t all get an invitation to the wizarding school, we can still explore some of the Harry Potter filming locations in Edinburgh including Lord Voldemort’s grave.
To be able to see the iconic locations that brought the wizarding world to life is a truly magical experience and one that any Harry Potter fan will treasure. Even if you’re not quite familiar with JK Rowling’s work, this tour is still an enjoyable way to explore Edinburgh and by the end of it, you’ll wish you could take the Hogwarts Express to get there.
As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, there’s no better place to be than Edinburgh during Christmas. And if you’re looking for things to do in Edinburgh during Christmas, this is our list for you. We hope you have a magical time!