Christmas in Edinburgh, Scotland
While many of you in the northern hemisphere will be thinking about escaping to warmer climates this holiday season, we want to shake things up and point you in a completely different direction. Have you considered having a white Christmas in Edinburgh, Scotland?
We love the holiday season. The bright sparkling lights, the joyful music, the gathering of friends and family, the celebration. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. And few cities do the Christmas season better than Edinburgh.
From November 21 to January 4, Edinburgh hosts several festivals, concerts and holiday celebrations that attract visitors from around the globe.
Beyond Hogmanay, there’s plenty of fun things to do in Edinburgh during the holiday season. The majority of events and attractions are found in the heart of medieval Edinburgh at East Princess Street Gardens and St Andrew’s Square, creating a wonderful Christmas atmosphere.
European Christmas Market – located in the heart of Old Town Edinburgh, along East Princess Street Gardens Terrace, this traditional European Christmas Market will surely get you in the festive spirit with its endless shopping and food options. Warm Gluhwien and grilled sausages? Yes, please!
Santa Land – also located in East Princes Street Gardens, Santa Land features a Christmas Tree Maze with an Elves’ Workshop, Santa’s Grotto where kids can meet the big man himself, the Santa Train and several family friendly rides including Race-o-Rama, the North Pole Slide, Swan Lake, Reindeer Ride and a Roller-coaster. It’s good festive fun for everyone.
Children’s Christmas Market – located within Santa Land, the magical Children’s Market features a variety of kid-friendly experiences, including face painting, festive arts and crafts, and plenty of shopping opportunities for Christmas gifts and sweet treats.
The Big Wheel – dominating East Princess Street Gardens, the Big Wheel has 36 enclosed, weather-proof pods, each seating six people. It’s a fun ride that reveals outstanding views of Edinburgh. As the door closes, you’ll hear a short historical tour of the view and city.
Princes Street Gardens Ice Rink – if you like to ice skate, you’ll enjoy doing a few laps around the iconic ice rink on East Princes Street Gardens Terrace, beneath the Big Wheel. It’s hard to find a better backdrop for an evening skate. New for 2014, St. Andrew Square will host a brand new, oval Ice Rink looping around the Melville Monument.
Helter Skelter – this one is popular with the little ones. Kids can climb up the tower and view the sparkling city lights before sliding down a big, windy slide.
Star Flyer – at over 60 metres high, the Star Flyer will get your heart pumping as you spin around high above the city. It’s a unique way to experience Edinburgh’s stunning architecture and attractions. Click on the video above to see the Star Flyer in action.
Walk the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle – no visit to Edinburgh is complete without a visit to Scotland’s most-visited paid tourist attraction. The Royal Mile is the main artery of Edinburgh’s medieval Old Town, connecting Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace and the ruined Holyrood Abbey. The Royal Mile is the best place to soak up Scotland’s history and unique architecture as you wander its cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways.
The purpose of our visit to Edinburgh was to attend Hogmanay, arguably the world’s most kick-ass New Year’s Eve street party. But Hogmanay is much more than a one night party; it’s a 3 day festival that celebrates the history and traditions of this proud nation.
As the clock strikes midnight, thousands of party-goers join hands and sing Auld Lang Syne (a famous Scots poem written by the legendary Robert Burns), while colourful fireworks blast over Edinburgh Castle.
Click on the video above to view the 2009-2010 Hogmanay fireworks celebration. This was the year we attended Hogmanay, so I’m glad we found this video footage (unfortunately we did not capture the fireworks display – blame it on the booze).
Note: the concerts and street parties are not free and they are the hottest tickets in town over the holidays, so make sure you get your tickets well in advance. To learn more about Hogmanay visit – http://www.edinburghshogmanay.org/
An event that must not be missed is the spectacular Torchlight Procession through Edinburgh’s Old Town. Basically, a group of enthusiastic, costumed Vikings pull a longship and lead a procession of over 30,000 people through the city centre and up to the ancient Edinburgh meeting ground of Calton Hill.
The flaming torches create a dazzling “river of fire” that stretches for miles.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
As you can imagine, Edinburgh’s city centre is quite busy during the holiday season, especially surrounding the Hogmanay festival. Because of this, it’s best to book your accommodations well in advance.
Located just 1.5 miles from Edinburgh’s city centre and 2 miles from the world famous Edinburgh Castle, the Holiday Inn Edinburgh City West serves as an excellent base for exploring the city. It’s a short 10 minute bus ride from the hotel to Edinburgh’s city centre.
If you prefer to be further away from the action, check out the Holiday Inn Edinburgh hotel, located between Edinburgh Airport and Edinburgh’s city centre. This hotel is perfectly situated beside the Edinburgh Zoo, the home of the Giant Pandas, which is another great city attraction.
This post was written in collaboration with IHG. Photos used were obtained under Creative Commons license. For photo credit source, click on the image.