Getting to know all that Edinburgh has to offer is a good plan no matter what time of the year you decide to travel there. The charms of Scotland's capital are really impressive, even though it is not a very big city.
If you are visiting the city in December and you have already taken into account the most fun tourist activities such as a ghost tour of Edinburgh, a sightseeing bus tour of Edinburgh or the iconic Harry Potter tour of Edinburgh, the time has come for activities outside of the traditional.
1. Go shopping in Edinburgh's traditional Christmas Markets
From November to the beginning of January the Christmas market season starts in Edinburgh. It is, without a doubt, the ideal time to buy Christmas gifts for the family, buy decorations for your home, find a unique handmade piece or just enjoy a drink and a hot meal in the festive atmosphere.
If you visit Edinburgh in December you will realize that the Christmas markets are numerous and, although some are much larger and popular, the truth is that they all have a particular charm. Here is a small list of the must-see Christmas markets:
- Christmas Market on Princes Street: The largest of all markets in Edinburgh. With hundreds of stalls, variety and fun are guaranteed. Open every day from 10 am to 10 pm; from the last weeks of November until the first week of January, except Christmas Day.
- Castle Street Christmas Market: Organized since 2007 by the team of Local Motive Markets, it is located in the vicinity of Edinburgh Castle from November until the day before Christmas.
- The Assembly Rooms: At the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh, a two-day art, craft and design fair is held every Christmas. Come and find beautiful creations!
2. Take a tour to admire the city's Christmas lights and decorations
Fans of Christmas lights and decorations will love visiting Edinburgh in December because of the care that the city and business owners (of all sizes) put into creating a unique festive atmosphere for tourists and locals to enjoy. My advice is to take a moment to walk the streets and admire the Christmas lights while sipping a delicious hot drink.
The best places with Christmas lights in Edinburgh
- The Dome: You can't miss The Dome bar-restaurant during the festive season. In this impressive building of Greco-Roman architecture, the pillars that make up the central colonnade are draped with twinkling foliage. Inside you can see a gigantic Christmas tree that reaches to the top of the impressive dome inside.
- George Street: One of the main shopping streets in Edinburgh, famous for hosting luxury stores and numerous boutique hotels that add to the festive atmosphere of the city and its light show.
- St Andrews Square: The Ivy on the Square is a well-known restaurant that offers fabulous decorations every year. Come and admire them for yourself. In the square you will find these and other decorations.
- Multrees Walk: Another important shopping street in the city full of luxury stores, every year they install shiny white Christmas trees, beautiful and elegant.
3. Have fun at the Santa Claus charity run
Every year, in the first days of December, a charity event takes place in Edinburgh, the Santa Fun Run & Walk, whose objective is to raise funds for charity. It is one of the most fun activities to do if you visit Edinburgh with children during the holidays.
The reason? Two particularities make this event fun and interesting for the little ones: first, it is a race open to all public and even minors can participate; second, a mandatory requirement to participate in the race is to be dressed up as Santa Claus.
Where it takes place
It is 2.5 km along West Princes Street Gardens. The race takes place in the morning to take advantage of the coolness of winter mornings, usually between 9.30 am and 11 am.
How to buy tickets
The price categories are set according to the age of the participant; about 17€ for an adult ticket; about 6€ for children from 5 to 11 years old; about 3€ for children from 2 to 4 years old and free for children under 2 years old.
4. Ride the Princes Street Ferris Wheel
Known as the Edinburgh Festival Wheel, it is a large red and white Ferris wheel that is installed in the city only twice a year: in summer during the festival season in August (you can write it down in case you are going to travel in that month) and in winter.
The attraction is available from the last days of November until the first days of January, although it is advisable to visit the official website to keep an eye on the dates.
The Big Wheel, as the locals call it, rises above the surrounding buildings to offer stunning views of the entire historic center of Edinburgh, the views allow us to see the Firth of Forth to the Kingdom of Fife when the day is clear. Do not miss it!
Where it takes place
The temporary structure of the beautiful Edinburgh Ferris Wheel is placed every year in a prime location in the center of the Old Town, specifically in East Princes Street Garden. It operates every day from 10 am to 10 pm.
How to buy tickets
You can buy the ticket directly at the ticket office, the cost is about 12 € per person; you can buy family packages for four people for 35 €.
5. Experience the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens Light Trail
One of the best things to do in Edinburgh in December is to attend the Royal Botanic Gardens' trail of lights.
This light park is installed at the end of November and remains open for public enjoyment until the first days of January.
The show is carefully staged to impress you: with flowers, dancing reflections, illuminated trees, colored lights and music effects that are distributed in a magical winter trail that runs through the different areas of the garden.
Where it takes place
The event takes place in the Royal Botanic Garden; you can reach the facilities using the city's public transportation. The nearest bus stop, called Royal Botanic Garden, is only a 7-minute walk away.
How to buy tickets
It is a popular activity in the city during this month that attracts even tourists from nearby, so my recommendation is to book tickets as far in advance as possible through their website.
6. Hot chocolate and giant marshmallows at The Marshmallow Lady
Marshmallow Lady is an adorable cafe in Edinburgh that you can't miss. Their specialty is their giant, crazy marshmallows served in extravagant hot chocolate cups.
You can buy to go or sit in the establishment if you can find a table - a social media photo is a must before you take your first sip!
- Address and directions: Located at 14 Rodney Street in Mansfield Traquair, the cafe is very close to the Royal Botanic Gardens, so you can combine your visit to the Marshmallow Lady with a trip to the Park of Lights.
- Hours: Closed from Tuesday to Thursday; from Friday to Sunday, the place is open to the public from 11 am to 6 pm.
- Price range: Between €13 and €30.
7. Don't miss the George Street Ice Skating Rink
Every year, from the end of November until the beginning of January, the most fun ice rink in the city is installed in Edinburgh, by now a classic of the winter season.
In addition to being able to skate on it, this place offers skating lessons for children. Please note that skate rental is available from size 9 and up.
- Address and directions: Between Castle Street and Charlotte Square. There are several public transportation stops nearby.
- Hours: The regular hours of operation are Monday through Friday from 12:30 am to 9:15 pm. On weekends, extended hours are from 10:15 am to 9:15 pm. On Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve they work with reduced hours until 19h.
- Price range: An adult ticket usually costs around 12€; family tickets including two adults are available from 28€. Please note that prices may increase during peak hours, weekends and Friday nights.
8. In December take the Edinburgh Silent Disco Tour
Walk through the beautiful streets of downtown Edinburgh in a fun and peculiar adventure: the silent discos! During the tour participants wear high-tech headphones to tune in to the frequency that the DJ-guide will choose for you beforehand.
During Christmas in Edinburgh, some local companies offer this experience in a Christmas version that includes exclusively Christmas carol tracks and rhythms, laughter is more than guaranteed!
- Price range: It may vary depending on the company you choose, however the price to pay is about 20€ approximately.
- Duration of the experience: You must reserve at least one hour of your itinerary.
9. Enjoy the snowy scenery of Edinburgh Castle
While it is true that Edinburgh is not usually covered with snow in December, it is also true that the first snowfalls of winter usually occur in this month. If you are in town for this important occasion, my advice is to take the opportunity to visit Edinburgh Castle which looks, if possible, even more charming under a fine white snow.
The landscape of the castle, located at the top of its hill, emits a magical glow of medieval fairytale, especially when seen in combination with the charming Christmas markets and the winding streets of the Royal Mile.
Keep in mind that while Edinburgh Castle is the most popular and arguably the most beautiful, it is just one of many castles in Edinburgh. So if you love photography, architecture and wintry landscapes, take this opportunity to get some amazing shots of the city's most iconic landmarks!
10. December, the best month to enjoy the Scotch Whisky Tour
Edinburgh is the Scottish city where fans of good whisky will feel at home. If you are one of them you can not miss its popular whiskey tours, where a group of tourists is taken to visit some of the best distilleries in Edinburgh and then conclude the adventure with a tasting of this drink in a luxurious wooden room.
The cold weather months are the best for this adventure, as it allows you to warm up while you learn about the history of Scotch whisky and its complex production process. If you don't know English, the experience is offered in several languages including Spanish.
Useful information about Edinburgh Castle
- Price range: From 23€ per person.
- Duration of experience: You should reserve one to two hours for this experience.