Christmas City Breaks: Things to Do in Edinburgh at Christmas

Thursday, 20th December 2018

Are you thinking about planning a Christmas city break? From German Christmas markets to public ice skating rinks, Edinburgh has plenty of festive activities to offer this holiday season. Discover why Edinburgh, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Europe’s best Christmas city breaks with our informative guide.

We’ll take you back in time as we explore Scottish Christmas traditions and explain some of our favourite things to do in Edinburgh this Christmas.

Scottish Christmas Traditions


Most people have heard about Edinburgh’s famous Hogmanay celebrations and not many Scottish Christmas traditions immediately spring to mind. There’s a good reason for this as Christmas was effectively banned in Scotland for more than four decades.


In 1640, Christmas was officially cancelled with an Act of Parliament that made celebrations of “Yule vacations” illegal. Celebrating the holiday was punishable by law, but many continued to do so quietly. While Christmas was only unlawful for forty-six years (till 1686), it didn’t become a public holiday until the mid-1950s. And Boxing Day, on December 26th, wasn’t a public holiday till 1974.


Boxing Day, a UK bank holiday, falls on the 26th of December and essentially gives Brits another day to overcome their Christmas hangover. Most people in Scotland use this day to visit grandparents and other relatives that they may not see on Christmas day. It’s also a popular time to return any unwanted presents, though some stores remain closed on this day too.


Traditional Scottish Christmas Fare


  • Kilted Sausages. Also known as pigs in a blanket, kilted sausages are a Christmas favourite in many Scottish households. Unlike American pigs in a blanket, Scottish ones are made of small chipolata sausages wrapped in bacon.
  • Mince Pies. Loved across the UK, mince pies are small sweet pies filled with a mixture of dried fruits and spices. You’ll find this treat in most Christmas markets.
  • Christmas Pudding. Traditionally served on Christmas day, Christmas puddings come in a range of flavours. You can try rich sweets like Christmas Cake iced with marzipan or the equally sweet Clootie Dumpling.
  • Drams. Scottish holidays would be incomplete without at least one dram of whisky. Edinburgh has some fantastic whisky bars, all of which will gladly pour you a festive dram.
  • Hot Toddies. Hot toddies are a fantastic way to stay warm on a dreich day. They’re made from a mixture of liquor, hot water, honey, herbs and spices and are traditionally served as a nightcap. Each establishment and family has their own unique recipe.


Christmas Things to do in Edinburgh


Long gone are the days of the Yuletide ban. Today, Edinburgh is alive with Christmas attractions and festive events making it one of the best Christmas city break destinations in Europe. Keep reading to discover the best things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas.


Edinburgh Christmas Attractions: George Street Lights


What’s Christmas without the lights? Most adults have fond childhood memories of driving around to admire the neighbourhoods Christmas decorations. Well, Edinburgh places festive lights front a centre with an extensive display on George Street. You can stroll through enchanted forests, palaces and more this Christmas season. Stop for a drink along the way at one of George Street’s fantastic bars. We particularly like Tigerlilly and The Dome for upmarket signature cocktails.


Edinburgh Christmas Events: Silent Light


Held on George Street, Silent Light is the world’s first silent Christmas disco. You can groove to your favourite Christmas songs under the spectacular display of 60,000 lights synchronised to the music played through your headphones. Choose from three epic tracks: Christmas Crackers with iconic Christmas tunes, Disco Delights or Santa’s Sparkles for the wee ones. Kids of all ages will love this Christmas activity.


Edinburgh Christmas Attractions: Christmas Markets

Edinburgh has not only one Christmas market, but two. The German Christmas Market, located on Princes Street, has been a city institution for over 20 years. Staying true to the market’s German roots gingerbread style stalls sell everything from traditional hot toddies to Christmas trinkets. You can enjoy German sausages, ride thrilling rides like the giant Ferris wheel which gives you fantastic views of Edinburgh or do some festive shopping.


A short distance away, you’ll find the Scottish Christmas Market in St. Andrew Square. These stalls sell a range of Scottish goods like locally produced sausages, Edinburgh-distilled gin and of course, Scottish whisky. It’s the ideal place to experience Scottish Christmas traditions and pick up some souvenirs from your Christmas mini-break.


Ice Skating in St. Andrew Square


This Christmas take to the ice at St. Andrew Square. You can skate around the beautiful elliptical rink as you groove to your favourite classic Christmas tunes. Located in the heart of the Scottish Christmas Market, ice skating in St. Andrew Square is the perfect way to feel the Christmas cheer.


Edinburgh Christmas Attractions for Kids: Christmas Tree Maze


Kids of all ages will love getting lost in the magical Christmas Tree Maze. Venture through the enchanting pines and then find your way home again. Hidden amongst the trees, you’ll find Santa’s workshop, where elves await with a wee treat.


24 Doors of Advent


Discover a real-life advent calendar. 24 Doors of Advent unlocks the doors to some of Edinburgh’s most exclusive and unique buildings. Each day has a different location and a few of this year’s highlights including Lauriston Castle, Murrayfield, Canongate Kirk, and The Edinburgh Playhouse. Get the entire programme here.


Christmas Holiday Lets Edinburgh


Edinburgh Flats has an extensive collection of holiday apartments to rent in Edinburgh. We have short-term apartments and holiday lets perfect for your Christmas city break. Looking for places to stay near Edinburgh Christmas market? Some of our properties like Chessels Court, High Street, and Lochrin Place are within easy walking distance.


Book your Christmas mini-break today and save 15% on reservations for arrival between December 23rd to 27th. You’ll also receive a complimentary bottle of champagne upon arrival. Find out more about this amazing offer on our Facebook page.

Written by Edinburgh Flats

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