Hidden Gems, 'tis the seaon to be jolly With glowing lights, tinselled trees and snowy streets, Christmas is a magical time, and nowhere more so than in Scotland’s capital.

Now that the winter season is upon us, Edinburgh comes alive with a multitude of festive celebrations, not to mention hosting the world-famous Hogmanay party.

Edinburgh at night

On Sunday 24 November the Christmas celebrations kicked-off in style, with George Street providing a beautiful backdrop for the opening ceremony. This year’s event chose ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ as its theme and began with performances from more than 800 local residents. Groups of dancers, singers and musicians took to the stage, each performing an act to celebrate one of the twelve days. After all the singing, dancing and merry-making, a truly inspirational Scot did the honours of switching on Edinburgh’s Christmas lights; Sir Chris Hoy. To round off the afternoon’s fun, there was a street-wide sing-along, led by a mixture of Norwegian and Scottish musicians, before the grand finale; a dazzling firework display.

Enjoy the following festive activities throughout December and early January as Edinburgh proves it is the capital of Christmas entertainment.

Indulge in treats and sweets at the Christmas Markets

Christmas market

Nestled below the Mound is the unique collection of Christmas markets that Edinburgh has to offer. With the wonderful aroma of mulled wine wafting gently across the surrounding area, it’s difficult to refrain from heading straight to the German market for a warming mug of the traditional spiced drink. Once there, it’s impossible to resist the tempting array of gastronomic delights on sale – from bratwurst to waffles and from gingerbread to cheese, there is something for every hungry visitor. Aside from culinary indulgences, there are plenty of stalls manned by crafters and artists selling jewellery, festive decorations and toys. Once you’ve had your fill of Germany, you can move onto the nearby Highland Village market, which sells a wide range of Scottish produce. There’s even a market catering to those most full of the joys of Christmas; the children’s market in St Andrew Square has a range of quality toys and treats that children of all ages will enjoy.

Catch a show at the Spiegeltent


This winter St Andrew square will become home to the Paradiso Spiegeltent, a unique venue where you can take in a range of shows along with the elaborate décor. The Christmas season will see child-friendly productions of Captain Flinn and the Pirate Dinosaurs and Little Red Riding Hood, the latter providing the pantomime that is a prerequisite of the festive season. For those wanting a more sophisticated evening at the theatre, there is the innovative circus extravaganza, Limbo. Fresh from acclaimed seasons in Adelaide and London, this sensational show blends energetic dance, live music and heart-stopping illusions, all wrapped up in fantastic costumes. In addition to the show itself, the Paradiso Spiegeltent offers the chance to make the evening into a lavish event, with drinks, canapés and dinner being served in private booths before the entertainment begins. The menu, created by award-winning Scottish chefs, includes such treats as Edinburgh Gin cured salmon bilinis, warm mini pumpkin pies and ham hock terrine.

Experience the attractions

Ice rink

Alongside its markets and shows, Edinburgh city centre offers a range of attractions for both children and adults over the festive period. The ice rink on East Princes Street Gardens Terrace is always popular with the crowds, as is the Big Wheel, which grants a superb birds-eye view of the city and a chance to see the top of the Scot Monument up close. If you can handle the heights of the Big Wheel with ease, there is something infinitely more daring; the Star Flyer. At almost 60 meters high, this open-air ride offers a bewitching view of Edinburgh - if you can keep your eyes open.

See in the New Year in true Scottish style

Hogmanay fireworks

Hogmanay is the biggest celebration of the year in Scotland and people come from all over the world to celebrate in the capital. Start the evening with an atmospheric candlelit concert in St Giles’ gothic cathedral on the Royal Mile, before heading to Princes Street for the Concert in the Gardens where Pet Shop Boys will head this year’s line up. If you’re looking for more traditional Scottish pursuits, you can dance your way over to an outdoor ceilidh, complete with a bar, food village and live music from men in kilts. Or if you just want to join the crowds and get a taste of everything Hogmanay has to offer, the Street Party is for you.

Cllr Steve Cardownie

"Edinburgh’s winter festivals are an integral part of the Scottish events calendar and this year’s fresh and exciting programme proves that, once again, the capital is the place to be at Christmas time. From the light switch-on with Sir Chris Hoy to the extraordinary LIMBO circus show, St Andrew Square bursting to life with the Spiegeltent, children’s markets and Star Flyer, plus the return of some old favourites such as the Big Wheel and Christmas Market, there really is something for everyone."

Edinburgh's Festivals & Events Champion,
Cllr Steve Cardownie