Edinburgh’s famous Christmas celebrations seem to get bigger and more elaborate with every year…
This time around, visitors can expect to see a brand new circular ice rink appear in St Andrew Square, alongside old faithfuls like the European market and the observation wheel in Princes Street Gardens.
If you think you’ve experienced everything Scotland’s capital city has to offer at Christmas time, think again. Here in (almost) chronological order are our top 15 things to see and do that will spark those feelings of festive cheer in even the most miserable Scrooge.
1. Have an ‘a-maze-ing’ time
Christmas Tree Maze, Santa Land, East Princes Street Gardens
21 Nov-4 Jan, £3 – more info
You might not have the space (or an efficient enough hoover) for a real Christmas tree at home, but you can still enjoy a fir or forty at the Princes Street Gardens’ Christmas Tree Maze. True, the maze itself may not be overly challenging for grown ups, but it will still help to get you into the spirit.
2. Witness the big switch on
23 Nov, 1.30pm – 5pm, free entry – more info
Over 1,000 performers will be appearing in George Street to serenade onlookers for Edinburgh’s annual Light Night. An as yet unannounced celebrity will officially switch on the city’s Christmas lights, and celebratory fireworks will round off the ceremony. If you would rather avoid the crowds, Edinburgh’s firework displays can always be enjoyed from a variety of quieter viewing platforms, including Calton Hill, Bruntsfield Links and Arthur’s Seat and the landscape will be well worth the climb.
3. Wrap an eco-friendly present
Remade in Edinburgh, 17 Guthrie Street
25 Nov, 6:30pm – 9pm, £22/£18 – more info
If you’re in the mood to get crafty (and simultaneously do your bit to save the planet) Remade in Edinburgh are offering a Reusable Gift Wrap workshop which will teach attendees how to use scarves and other fabric in place of wrapping paper. Perfect your wrapping skills and learn how to dress gifts in a unique and environmentally friendly way.
4. Wrangle your own wreath
Narcissus Flower School, 11 Gayfield Square
27 Nov, £95 – more info
During November and December, the Narcissus Flower School are hosting several seasonally themed flower arranging evening classes. The most festive sounding of these has to be the ‘Alternative Christmas Wreath’ workshop, although there is also a ‘Garland Masterclass’ on offer.
5. Rediscover Roald Dahl
The BFG, The Royal Lyceum, 30b Grindlay Street
28 Nov-3 Jan, from £19 – more info
As proven by the success of Matilda the Musical, the stories of author Roald Dahl translate perfectly onto the stage and are loved by children and adults alike. This Christmas The BFG (‘Big Friendly Giant’) – all 24 feet of him – comes to Edinburgh’s Lyceum as a play.
6. Make a Christmas decoration creation
The Precious Metals Workshop, 32-36 Dalmeny Street
29-30 Nov, £105 – more info
The Precious Metals Workshop offers weekend jewellery making classes all year round, but they are hosting a special enamelled Christmas tree decoration course in the run up to Christmas. Suitable for both beginners and advanced crafters, attendees will learn various techniques over the weekend before finally producing their own unique Christmas decoration design to hang on their tree at home.
7. Go to ‘Sundae School’
Mary’s Milk Bar, 19 Grassmarket
Once a month in winter, £60 – more info
Not to worry – no hymn sheets will be required for Mary’s ‘Sundae School’. In fact, this festive cooking class doesn’t even involve Mary’s Milk Bar’s famous ice cream. Instead, participants will learn how to make two different types of chocolate truffle by hand in a two-hour workshop for 4-6 people. You’ll even be presented with a ‘Truffler Certificate’ at the end, and take home a box of your tasty creations worth £20.
8. Receive the key to the city
24 Doors of Advent, Edinburgh
1-24 Dec – more info
Similar to September’s Doors Open Day, Edinburgh’s official Christmas organisers are working with The Cockburn Association to give the public access to what’s behind one normally locked door around the city for every day of Advent. There aren’t many specifics to share about 24 Doors of Advent at the moment, but more information is due to be announced at the end of the month.
9. Choose your tree
Green Fir Christmas Trees
From 1 Dec, £40 or more – more info
In the information age we live in, it was only a matter of time before it would become possible to order a real Christmas tree online and in advance. One of several similar local companies, Green Fir Christmas Trees will deliver your desired tree next day and for free throughout Edinburgh city centre and its outskirts, even during December.
10. Try an alternative Christmas market
Summerhall Christmas Market, 1 Summerhall Place
14 Dec, £2 – more info
As beautiful as the outdoor European market in Edinburgh’s city centre looks, trudging through it for the millionth time probably won’t help you on your quest for Christmas gifts. Instead, stop by Summerhall to browse the wares of more than 45 different stallholders, listen to carols sung by the Summerhall Singers and eat food provided by local Edinburgh restaurants.
11. Watch a Christmas classic
Cameo Picturehouse, 38 Home Street
21 and 24 Dec, £10 – more info
Yes, they show it ever year and yes, we adore it every year – Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life will screen at the Cameo cinema in Tollcross both on December 21 and Christmas Eve. Enjoy one of Jimmy Stewart’s finest performances on the big screen, and try your hardest not to shed a tear at this emotional Christmas classic.
12. Break open some bubbly
Valvona & Crolla VinCaffé, 11 Multrees Walk – more info
Nothing takes the edge off hectic Christmas shopping like a cold glass of fizz. Valvona & Crolla’s VinCaffé on posh Multrees Walk offers a range of prosecco and champagne by the glass, as well as a tempting array of sweet treats. Leave your worries (and shopping bags) at the door, and make sure to pair your glass of bubbly with one of their delicious cupcakes.
13. Linger by Old Saint (Harvey) Nick’s window
Harvey Nichols Edinburgh, 30-34 St Andrew Square – more info
It may not be Sak’s Fifth Avenue, but Edinburgh’s branch of Harvey Nichols tends to go the extra mile when it comes to their Christmas window displays. Although generally quite edgy and ‘high fashion’, there is always a hint at tongue in cheek humour about the usually bizarre but glittery Harvey Nick’s Christmas windows.
14. Become reacquainted with the Pub Landlord
Al Murray – The Pub Landlord’s Festive Saloon, Spiegeltent, St Andrew Square
29-31 Dec, from £23.50 – more info
He won’t arrive until after Santa has been, but you can still buy your ticket to see Al Murray the Pub Landlord perform a short run of festive shows in the centre of Edinburgh. Joined each night by a variety of special guests, ticket holders can look forward to a night of comedy, variety and music in the Landlord’s saloon.
15. Pop to the panto
King’s Theatre, 2 Leven Street
29 Nov-18 Jan, from £14 – more info
Did we just finish this varied list of festive activities with an extremely clichéd visit to this year’s Christmas pantomime? (Oh yes, they did! Oh no, they didn’t!) Serial panto villain Grant Stott is back in residence at the King’s Theatre for another winter season, this time playing Jafar in Aladdin. It might not be highbrow entertainment, but nothing screams Christmas more than elderly men in drag, right?
Pictures: TSPL / contributed
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