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Edinburgh in Winter: Our Guide to Activities in the City

Edinburgh comes to life in the winter as the city transforms into a magical wonderland, bursting with adventure and the chance to make cherished memories that will last you a lifetime. 

From winter walks through the cobbled streets, ice skating on Princes Street, and exploring the Christmas food markets, there’s something for everyone to enjoy during an Edinburgh winter break. 

RELATED: The Best 8 Things To Do In Edinburgh Old Town

We’ve compiled our favourite things to do in Edinburgh during the winter months to help you plan your trip to the capital city. Read on to see our picks.



Soak up every magical moment of winter in Edinburgh and make your way to iconic East Princes Street Gardens to explore all that their Edinburgh Christmas Markets have to offer. Happening throughout December - sometimes earlier and later in November and January - the market gives you the chance to get into the Christmas spirit. This year, the market will take place from Friday 17th until Saturday 6th January. 

This expansive Christmas market follows the German tradition and also features a Scottish market, spanning across Princes Street Gardens from the street level to the depths of the gardens. Try out new foods or discover new favourites as you sip from a cup of warm mulled wine, admiring the Christmas lights. 

In addition to the stalls offering a wide array of festive items, the market features an assortment of culinary delights, amusement park-style games, and a diverse selection of rides.

While the rides and attractions may slightly differ each year, there's always a source of amusement. While access to the Christmas Markets themselves incurs no charge, fees apply for rides and other attractions. Payment can be made beforehand online, to avoid lines or on-site. 

edinburgh christmas market



Take a stroll through the winding streets of Old Town and take in the sights of the twinkling lights around you with a hot drink in hand. Edinburgh is known for its festive and captivating Christmas lights and decorations that transform the city into a magical winter wonderland during the holiday season. Some of the key features of Edinburgh's Christmas lights and decorations include:

Princes Street Gardens: Princes Street, one of Edinburgh's main thoroughfares, is adorned with enchanting Christmas lights and decorations. The area around Princes Street Gardens often hosts a Christmas Market, where you can find an array of stalls selling gifts, crafts, and delicious festive treats.

Street Decorations: Throughout the city centre, you'll find streets lined with sparkling lights, decorative motifs, and festive displays. The historic architecture of Edinburgh serves as a picturesque backdrop for these vibrant decorations.

George Street Light Displays: George Street, another main street in Edinburgh, often hosts stunning light installations that add to the city's festive charm. These displays can include everything from shimmering arches to intricate patterns.

Window Displays: Many shops and department stores in Edinburgh create captivating and imaginative window displays that reflect the holiday season's spirit. These displays often incorporate elements of Scottish culture and folklore.

Christmas Trees: Edinburgh's Christmas lights are complemented by beautifully decorated Christmas trees located in prominent spots around the city, such as the foot of the Mound and the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade.

Edinburgh Castle Illuminations: The iconic Edinburgh Castle often receives special lighting during the holiday season, enhancing its stunning appearance against the nighttime sky.

The Christmas lights and decorations in Edinburgh create a magical ambience that attracts both locals and visitors alike. The city's historic sites and charming streets become even more captivating as they are illuminated by festive lights, making it a wonderful destination to experience the holiday spirit. Keep in mind that specific details of the decorations and events may vary from year to year, so it's a good idea to check with local sources for the most up-to-date information if you're planning to visit during the holiday season.



Treat your loved ones at Christmas and explore everything the city has to offer for your Christmas shopping. From luxury stores to boutique hidden gems, there’s a special gift for everyone. If you’re in need of a break during your shopping day, unwind and indulge in a hot beverage in any of the city’s coffee shops that you can find dotted around the city. 

George Street Princes Street and Multrees Walk all offer a luxury shopping experience with stores such as Louis Vuitton and  Harvey Nichols.

edinburgh christmas shopping



What better way to explore Edinburgh than with a view from the top? Arthur's Seat stands as an age-old volcano and serves as the prominent summit among a cluster of hills located in Edinburgh. These hills compose the majority of Holyrood Park, a landscape characterised by Robert Louis Stevenson as "a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design".

Wrap up in warm clothes, load up your flask with hot chocolate and enjoy a refreshing hike up the iconic hill in winter as the frost-touched grass crunches under your boots. Each step will bring you closer to that beautiful view of Edinburgh from the very top - an excellent place to reflect on the season or snap some spectacular pictures for your social media. 



For those looking to avoid the cold days and even colder nights of Edinburgh in winter, escape the chill and instead explore all the history of Edinburgh from the inside out. 

Edinburgh is home to a variety of museums that offer insights into history, art, science, and culture. Some of the notable museums in the city include:

  • National Museum of Scotland: This expansive museum features a wide range of exhibits covering Scottish history, natural history, world cultures, science, technology, and more. It's a great place to explore both local and global topics.
  • Scottish National Gallery: Located in the heart of Edinburgh, this gallery houses an extensive collection of European paintings, including works by famous artists like Rembrandt, Van Gogh, Titian, and Vermeer.
  • Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art: Comprising two buildings, Modern One and Modern Two, this gallery focuses on modern and contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. It features works by artists like Picasso, Warhol, and Hockney.
  • Museum of Childhood: Part of the National Museums Scotland, this museum showcases toys, games, and other items related to childhood from the past to the present, offering a nostalgic journey for adults and an engaging experience for children.
  • The Writers' Museum: Dedicated to the lives and works of famous Scottish writers, including Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson, this museum houses manuscripts, portraits, and personal belongings.
  • Surgeons' Hall Museums: These museums are run by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and offer a glimpse into the history of surgery and medical science through a fascinating collection of artefacts, specimens, and surgical instruments.
  • The Museum of Edinburgh: This museum is housed in a 16th-century building and showcases the history of the city of Edinburgh, from its medieval origins to more recent times.
  • Dynamic Earth: An interactive science museum that explores the Earth's history, geology, and natural phenomena, providing an engaging and educational experience for visitors of all ages.
  • The People's Story Museum: Located in the historic Canongate Tolbooth, this museum offers insight into the lives of Edinburgh's working-class people through a collection of personal stories, photographs, and artefacts

These are just a few examples of the many museums you can explore in Edinburgh. The city's rich history and cultural diversity are well-reflected in its museum offerings, making it a great destination for those interested in art, history, science, and more.

edinburgh museum



Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party is one of the most famous New Year's Eve celebrations in the world. Hogmanay is the Scottish word for the last day of the year, and the event is known for its lively atmosphere, spectacular fireworks, and diverse entertainment. 

Here's an overview of what you can expect from Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party:

Date and Location: The Hogmanay Street Party takes place on December 31st each year in the heart of Edinburgh's city centre. The main event area spans Princes Street and the surrounding streets, creating a festive environment against the backdrop of the city's historic architecture.

Live Music: The event features multiple stages with live music performances from various artists and bands. From traditional Scottish folk music to contemporary pop and rock acts, the music caters to a wide range of tastes.

Street Entertainment: Throughout the event area, you can enjoy street performers, dancers, and interactive displays that keep the crowd entertained.

Fireworks Display: The Hogmanay fireworks display is one of the highlights of the event. At the stroke of midnight, the sky over Edinburgh Castle lights up with a magnificent fireworks show that welcomes the new year in a spectacular fashion.

Ceilidh Under the Castle: A traditional Scottish ceilidh, a lively dance gathering, takes place beneath the iconic Edinburgh Castle. Participants can join in the dancing and experience an authentic Scottish celebration.

Carnival Rides and Games: For those seeking some thrill and fun, there are often carnival rides, games, and attractions spread throughout the event area.

Food and Drink: Various food and drink stalls offer a taste of Scottish cuisine and traditional New Year's treats, as well as international options to cater to different preferences.

Torchlight Procession: On December 30th, the Hogmanay celebrations kick off with a Torchlight Procession where participants carry torches through the streets of Edinburgh, creating a visually stunning and symbolic spectacle.

Concert in the Gardens: This ticketed event takes place within the gardens below Edinburgh Castle and features headline musical performances by well-known artists. It's a more exclusive and intimate way to enjoy the festivities.

Street Party Passes: To attend the Hogmanay Street Party, you usually need to purchase a Street Party Pass, which grants you access to the event area, including stages, entertainment, and the fireworks display.

Edinburgh's Hogmanay Street Party is renowned for its vibrant atmosphere, friendly crowd, and the opportunity to celebrate the new year in a unique and unforgettable way. The city's historic setting adds to the charm of the event, making it a bucket-list experience for many people looking to ring in the new year with style. Keep in mind that event details can vary from year to year, so it's a good idea to check the official website for the most up-to-date information and ticket availability.

edinburgh hogmanay party



Escape the chill of the season and succumb to absolute luxury at our sister hotel, Prestonfield House. Located just ten minutes by car from Princes Street, Prestonfield offers a decadent and unforgettable Afternoon Tea that you can enjoy while being warmed by roaring fires and surrounded by opulence. 

Served from 12 noon to 6.45pm Sunday - Thursday and 12 noon to 4pm Friday & Saturday.

prestonfield afternoon tea



Seek shelter at The Witchery. Edinburgh’s most famous restaurant. We are perfectly located next to Edinburgh Castle and offer the chance to become spellbound by unique dishes, gothic-inspired rooms and a warm welcome. Curl up with a good book and a dram of whisky and allow us to bewitch you into a magical winter season in Edinburgh.  

Discover our nine iconic suites and our award-winning menu and start planning your winter trip to Edinburgh this year. 

visit the witchery

stay at the witchery in edinburgh while visiting