Throughout November, we’ve been filled with quiet anticipation in the run-up to December. It’s when the nostalgic memories of Christmas traditions and fuzzy feelings contagiously fill the air throughout the city, when acts of kindness and giving back become cool again, and when putting a smile on your loved one’s face is prioritised once more.
Christmastime reminds of us of the things that truly matter: quality time with family and friends. And in this list, that is precisely what we will do: show you the best things to do in Edinburgh for true quality time this Christmas, whether with loved ones or flying solo.
1. Visit the Edinburgh Christmas market
Of course, the Edinburgh Christmas market has to be the first on the list. This year, Edinburgh Christmas is on from November 25, 2022, until January 3, 2023 in the traditional locations on Princes Street, West Princes Street Gardens and George Street. During the five weeks of festive joy, market goers can expect to see all of the Edinburgh Christmas beloved favourites, including Edinburgh’s Christmas Ferris Wheel, the cheerful Christmas Markets, a covered Ice Rink in George Square and Santa Land. A first-ever Santa Experience in West Princes Street Gardens has also been spotted and a brand new programme of free festive events and activities on the Ross Bandstand.
2. Marvel at the art of creative light installations at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
The most festive experience at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh transports trail goers into another fairy-tale-like world, sparking that feeling of hopeful wonder to everyone who enters. Christmas at the Botanics is back again, and this time, hosting an Edinburgh premier of global artist Jig Cochrane, founder of Jigantics amongst other internationally known artists. The one-mile trail is running between November 17 and December 30, taking guests on a wonderful journey filled with festive cheer. This is the perfect experience for some bonding time with family and friends, as well as a great wee day out for some well-deserved festive me-time.
3. Grab perfectly-crafted cocktails at The Register Club
Built in the 19th Century as a hotel and then a functioning bank, the building of Cheval The Edinburgh Grand has truly transformed throughout history. Now a place for luxury apartments, home to The Register Club, a truly splendid cocktail bar and the wine café Lady Libertine, The Edinburgh Grand is a destination in itself. Pop into the majestic, flawlessly decorated lobby to check out the beauty of the building, and make your way up to the top floor via the lifts where you will find The Register Club. There, find yourself taking in the beauty of the building while indulging in one of their signature cocktails or afternoon tea: what a better way for festive quality time with that special someone.
4. Rejoice in a jazz Candlelight Christmas special at this stunning cathedral
While the Candlelight concerts are famous for their classical music takes on modern songs, jazz lovers will be happy to hear of this welcome new addition to the Christmas series. Guests will be able to hum to their favourite Christmas tunes that will be cheerily performed by a jazz band at the iconic St Mary’s Cathedral on December 20. The performance will include Christmas classics such as Winter Wonderland, Have Yourself a Merry Little Xmas, Silent Night, Let It Snow and more. You can book your tickets here.
5. Go see the West End hit My Fair Lady at the Edinburgh Playhouse
New York’s Lincoln Center Theater’s critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning production of Lerner & Loewe’s much-loved My Fair Lady will be coming to Edinburgh Playhouse from Wednesday, December 14 until Saturday, January 7, 2023. My Fair Lady tells the tale of a young common flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, and Henry Higgins, a upper-class professor determined to transform her into his perception of a ‘proper lady’. What is more, the musical has been blessed with an amazing cast, and Secret Edinburgh had the opportunity to get some intel from Heather Jackson herself, who plays Mrs Higgins, about My Fair Lady and its relatability to today’s world, the role and her career. To read the full interview and to find out how to book tickets, check it out here.
6. Indulge in fresh brews at the Leith Christmas Brewery Market
Not as much of a traditional Christmassy sparkly drinks kind of a place here, but there’s going to be plenty of delicious, freshly brewed Moonwake beer going ’round. Moonwake Beer Co. is hosting a Christmas market at its brewery taproom in Leith on December 17 & 18, with seven other local businesses joining for guests to explore the stalls and enjoy their locally famous beer. The market will run from 12pm until 5pm both days, and visitors wanting to stay behind for some more brewed goodness can do so until 10pm on Saturday and until 8pm on Sunday. Leith Christmas Brewery Market is not just for beer lovers, but is also a modest celebration of local small businesses, as well as a testament to the marvellous things that Leith has to offer.
7. Have a tipsy singalong at the Waverley Festival Village
Listen, you can’t miss this one. Even if it’s there literally all year round unlike the old days, the Festival Village during Christmas is simply the best. You have the Christmas markets next door, you have all the boozed-up Edinburghers singing along to whoever is playing their guitar at the time, and most importantly, every single person is in a jolly barry mood. It’s a place where your friend group can be the only ones dancing and everyone will clap along, it’s a place where those mac’n’cheese toasties taste even better than normal, and their very own Secret Garden Elderflower & Jasmine gin is an absolute winner. There’s no need to book, just turn up and have a braw time!
8. Go on a festive silent disco adventure
Calling it ‘sight singing’, Edinburgh’s beloved Silent Adventures are ready for the festive season with its uber Christmassy silent disco programme, promising visitors and locals alike to uncover moves they never knew they had. I mean, no one can argue that when it comes to Christmas, Edinburgh has no competition, so singing and dancing along the Christmassy streets of the Scottish capital sounds like our kind of party. The 60-minute tour starts at The Piper’s Rest on Hurter Square, where you can later claim 10% off food and drink with your Silent Adventure ticket. You can book your tickets here.
9. Grab a bevvy at this heated rooftop beer garden with a view
We all love Cold Town House for its amazing rooftop vibes and live music, so this Christmas season its one of the musts of things to do in Edinburgh. The heated rooftop boasts of stunning views of Edinburgh Castle as well as good vibes, and is always packed. For this reason, we’d advise you to book in advance as this season is set to be extra busy. Plus, their Neapolitan pizza is to die for and their very own Cold Town House beer is worth raving about.
10. See a Panto show at the Festival Theatre
While King’s Theatre is closed for two years for a significant refurb, Festival Theatre is taking on one of Edinburgh’s most famous panto shows this season. From December 17 until January 22, The Panto: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs will be marvellously delighting Edinburgh’s audiences this Christmas season. The lavishly extravagant production from the London Palladium is expected to be packed full of music, magic and joy for the whole family. The cast is also delightful, starring Allan Stewart, Grant Stott, Jordan Young, Clare Gray, Liz Ewing, Brian James Leys, and Francesca Ross. You can book your tickets here.
11. Get some Spanish scran at this adorable tapas bar
Okay, so this is not the most traditional thing to do at Christmas, but Piggs on Cannongate is the perfect place for romantic quality time, and just has the cutest décor and we are obsessed. The small tapas bar offers a superb list of wines and beers, as well as a wide range of tapas, sandwiches, sharing platters and Spanish desserts. As a family run business, the spot only has six tables, so it’s best to book in advance. Once you’re there, opt for a glass of All BLanc (Verdejo and Sauv Blanc) from Rueda, and make your way down the tapas menu. We love the pulpo, patatas bravas and, obviously, croquetas.