Knowing all that Edinburgh has to offer is a good plan no matter what time of the year you decide to travel to this city. The charms of the capital of Scotland are really impressive, even though it is not a very big city.
If you are visiting 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, it's time for activities outside of the traditional.
1. Enjoy the snowy scenery of Edinburgh Castle
Although Edinburgh is not usually covered in snow in December, the first snowfall of the winter usually occurs 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 enchanting under a blanket of fine white snow.
The castle's hilltop setting gives off a magical medieval fairytale glow, especially when viewed in combination with the enchanting Christmas markets and winding streets of the Royal Mile.
Keep in mind that although 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!
2. December, the best month to enjoy the Scotch Whisky Tour
Fans of fine whisky will feel right at home in Edinburgh. If you are one of them you can't miss the popular whisky 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 learning 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.
- Pricerange: From 25€ per person.
- Duration of the experience: You should reserve one to two hours for this experience.
3. Take a trip to Loch Ness and see the incredible winter scenery
Mind-blowing icy landscapes, towering snow-capped peaks, mountains imbued with a magical wintry atmosphere... If you spend enough time in Edinburgh, you might want to get out of the city and see the spectacular landscapes of the Highlands, the Scottish Highlands that, at this time of the year, look even more impressive.
This 12-hour tour will also take you to visit Loch Ness and Stirling Castle and, afterwards, you will have free time to warm up in a typical Scottish pub. A unique and unforgettable experience that will surely remain in your memory.
- Price range: From 73€ per person.
- Duration of the experience: 12 hours.
4. 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 spend some time wandering the streets and admiring the Christmas lights while sipping a delicious hot drink.
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 in 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 commercial street in the city full of luxury stores, every year they install shiny white Christmas trees, beautiful and elegant.
An excellent option to tour the illuminated streets of Edinburgh in the month of December in a comfortable way and, above all, sheltered from the winter cold, is to book a seat on the tourist bus. You can see the main monuments of the city dressed in Christmas costumes and, when you feel like it, get off to explore the surroundings at one of the 12 stops that this bus makes.
5. Go shopping at Edinburgh's traditional Christmas markets
From November to the beginning of January, the Christmas market season begins 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 simply 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, is located in the vicinity of Edinburgh Castle from November until the day before Christmas.
- The Assembly Rooms: In the Assembly Rooms of Edinburgh are held every Christmas and for two days a fair of art, crafts and design in general. Attend to find beautiful creations!
6. Have fun at Santa's charity race
Every year in early December, a charity event, the Santa Fun Run & Walk, is held in Edinburgh to raise money 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 the 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 freshness of winter mornings, usually between 9.30 am and 11 am.
How to buy tickets
Price categories are set according to the age of the participant; about £17 for an adult ticket; about £6 for children aged 5 to 11; about £3 for children aged 2 to 4 and free for children under 2.
7. Ride the mechanical Ferris wheel at Princes Street
Known as the wheel of the Edinburgh festival, 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 breathtaking views of the entire historic center of Edinburgh, the views can 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 10am to 10pm.
How to buy tickets
You can purchase your ticket directly from the box office, the cost is approximately £12 per person; family packages for four people can be purchased for £35.
8. Discover the light trail at the Edinburgh Botanic Gardens
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 the public to enjoy 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 at 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's 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.
9. Hot Chocolate and Giant Marshmallows at The Marshmallow Lady
The Marshmallow Lady is an adorable Edinburgh cafe that you can't miss. Their specialty is their giant, crazy marshmallows served in quirky 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.
10. Don't miss the George Street Ice Rink
Every year, from late November to early January, is installed in Edinburgh the most fun ice rink in the city, 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 for children's size 9 and up.
- Address and directions: Between Castle Street and Charlotte Square. There are several public transportation stops nearby.
- Hours: Regular rink hours are Monday through Friday from 12:30pm to 9:15pm. 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.
11. In December do the Edinburgh Silent Disco Tour
Walk the beautiful streets of downtown Edinburgh on a fun and quirky adventure: the silent discos! During the tour participants wear high-tech headphones to tune in to the frequency that the guide-Dj-entertainer chooses in advance for you.
During Christmas in Edinburgh, some local companies offer this experience in a Christmas version that includes exclusively Christmas carol tracks and beats, laughter is more than guaranteed!
Some useful information
- Price range: Approximately 20€, although it may vary depending on the company you choose.
- Duration of the experience: You must reserve at least one hour of your itinerary.