Grumpy Camel


Christmas in Edinburgh: A Complete Guide

Christmas starts early in Edinburgh. Many places in the city bring out their Christmas decorations right after Halloween and the Edinburgh Christmas Market opens in mid-November.

You don’t have to visit Edinburgh over the holidays to experience the Christmas spirit. But if you visit during Christmas week and the New Year, you can attend a lot of exciting events, like the Hogmanay street party and the popular torchlight procession.  

If you’re thinking of spending Christmas in Edinburgh, here’s a quick guide to help you make the most of your stay!

Where to stay in Edinburgh for Christmas

If you’re looking for a central hotel in Edinburgh, I highly recommend staying at ibis Edinburgh Centre on South Bridge – just around the corner from the Royal Mile.

My husband and I have stayed here a couple of times and we loved it. The rooms are very clean and modern – and the beds are super comfy!

The ibis has a bar and restaurant, and offers free WiFi. It’s a great place for couples and families, and there are plenty of restaurants in the area.

Plus, you can get to the Edinburgh Christmas Market and Princes Streets in just five minutes (on foot!).

Best things to do in Edinburgh during Christmas

There are plenty of amazing things to do Edinburgh during Christmas! Let’s look at some of them.

1. Visit the Edinburgh Christmas Market

The Edinburgh Christmas market is set up in Princes Street Gardens, and it’s huge. It starts from street level, where you can find a variety of food stalls and rides, and goes all the way down to the bottom of the gardens.

The Edinburgh Christmas Market
The Edinburgh Christmas Market. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

The paths of the gardens are lined with colorful stalls. You’ll find a wide range of products, including Christmas decorations, warm clothing, jewellery, artisan sweets, and more.

The Edinburgh Christmas Market is open every day, from early afternoon till around 11pm.

2. Explore Edinburgh Castle at night

During the festive season, Edinburgh Castle becomes a kaleidoscope of colours. Vibrant light displays are projected onto its ancient walls, walking you through the history of Scotland.

Castle of Light, Edinburgh.
Castle of Light. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Castle of Light is an annual Christmas event. You get to explore the castle at night and learn more about Scotland’s past with interactive storytelling.

Note that you’ll need to purchase your ticket in advance.

3. Experience magic at the Royal Botanic Garden

Every Christmas, Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden is turned into an enchanted forest. Christmas at the Botanics will make you feel like a kid again, as you walk through tunnels of light and sparkling trees.

Christmas at the Botanics, Edinburgh.
Christmas at the Botanics. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Along the way, you can grab a hot drink and snack from one of the street food vendors. You’ll also come across some of the garden’s landmarks, all lit up with beautiful colors.

Christmas at the Botanics is a ticketed event, with timed entries. If you’re purchasing tickets in advance, you’ll need to choose a date and time.

4. Dance your way into the new year

The Edinburgh Hogmanay celebrations draw thousands of people to the city every year. The New Year’s Eve party on Princes Street is one of the biggest of its kind in the world.

You’ll get to welcome in the new year with live music and beautiful firework, under the watchful gaze of Edinburgh Castle. Since the Hogmanay street party is very popular, you’ll want to buy your tickets well in advance.

If street parties are not your thing, you could dance the night away at a ceilidh instead. This is a traditional social dance with Gaelic folk music.

The Hogmanay Snow Ball Ceilidh is fun-filled event with a cosy Scottish ambiance. Tickets might be a little expensive, but it will be a night to remember!

Here are more fun things to do in Edinburgh in winter.

Tips for spending Christmas in Edinburgh

Edinburgh is extremely busy at this time of year. If you want to dine at a particular place, I highly recommend making a reservation at least a day in advance.

You’ll find a variety of delicious snacks at the Edinburgh Christmas Market, including currywurst, grilled salmon, and chocolate-covered marshmallows.

Marshmallows and chocolate at the Edinburgh Christmas Market.
Marshmallows and chocolate at the Edinburgh Christmas Market. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

However, the food at the market is a bit pricey. Expect to pay at least £5 for a wee snack.

There are many places in the area where you can get a decent meal for a reasonable price. My favourite restaurants in Edinburgh include The Standing Order on George Street and The Auld Hundred on Rose Street.

Sunday roast at the Auld Hundred.
Sunday roast at the Auld Hundred. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

I also recommend staying in the city centre. That way, you wouldn’t have to worry about queuing for the night bus or trying to get a taxi, especially if you’re planning to attend the Hogmanay celebrations.  

Tickets for Hogmanay events are normally out in August or September. Some of the events sell out fast, so you’ll need to plan your trip in advance if you want to attend parties and concerts.

And finally, you’ll need to pack a lot of warm clothes. Edinburgh is freezing cold in November, December, and January.

I’ve put together a winter packing list for Scotland to help you stay warm (and dry!)

Frequently asked questions

Is Edinburgh a good place to visit at Christmas?

Edinburgh is a great place to visit at Christmas. While its Christmas market is not as big as the markets in central Europe, there’s still an amazing atmosphere in the city.

Plus, it hosts one of the largest New Year’s Eve celebrations in the world!

Which is the best Christmas market in Edinburgh?

There’s only one Christmas market in Edinburgh, which takes place in Princes Street Gardens. However, you might find other little markets scattered across the city.

Do you have to pay to go to Edinburgh Christmas market?

No. The Edinburgh Christmas Market has always been a free event. However, this might change in the future.

A stall at the Edinburgh Christmas Market.
A stall at the Edinburgh Christmas Market. Photo by Daniela Frendo.

Is it worth going to Edinburgh in December?

Yes! While the days are short and cold, there are still plenty of things to do. However, if you’re thinking of spending Christmas in Edinburgh, hotels will be super pricey during this season.

How cold is it in Edinburgh at Christmas?

Very cold. However, the days tend to be clear and crisp.

What do people wear in Edinburgh in December?

Waterproof clothes and boots. You’ll also need to wear gloves and hats to keep yourself warm in the biting cold air.

Does Edinburgh get snow at Christmas?

It rarely snows in Edinburgh at Christmas. However, frost is very common at this time of year.

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