If you have ever visited visited Edinburgh or even just looked at a single picture of it, you will understand why it is hands down the prettiest city in the whole of the UK (voted Britain’s best city for the past 4 years according to The Telegraph). So imagine how drop dead gorgeous the Scottish capital is when it undergoes a Christmas makeover every winter, which gives its Gothic character a cheerful and sparkly twist.
If you are (lucky enough to be) visiting Edinburgh during these holidays, here are the top 5+1 festive things that you should do to make your trip unforgettable:
Visit the Christmas Markets Dress appropriately
Ok, not such a festive thing to do (although it can be, depending on what you wear), but an important one. Used to wearing a coat when it drops below 20°C (talking to my Mediterranean people now)? Then you may want to
postpone your Edinburgh visit for summer proceed with caution. That means for the love of God pack and wear the right clothes. Londoners, Brightoners or even – dare I say – Mancunians and Geordies, this also applies to you. Whereas you might be familiar with the shitty / awful / horrific (the list of adjectives is endless) weather of Great Britain in general, don’t forget that Scotland is the coldest and windiest country within the UK. And, yes, Edinburgh has the privilege curse of being subjected to gale force winds (40+ mph / 8 Beaufort) and icy temperatures on a regular basis, which means that your cute snickers and fashionable cropped leather jacket won’t cut it here.
Tip: Bring a coat with a hood, leave the brolly at home because gales.
2. Visit the Christmas Markets
Now that you are all wrapped up you should make your way over to the Christmas Markets at East Princess Street Gardens, George Street (featuring a giant blue and silver dome mushroom) and Castle Street. Enjoy a walk through the adorable wooden huts, take time to appreciate the beauty of the displayed crafts (and stock up on decorations) and snap pics of the wonderful and luminous surroundings. And if strolling through the markets builds up your appetite, there’s plenty of sweet or savoury options, from German currywursts to French crêpes.
3. Have a drink
Nothing says Christmas holidays like a cup of hot mulled wine or hot chocolate at a Christmas Market stall surrounded by festive lights. Still cold? Then enjoy that drink in the Bar of the East Princess Street Gardens, which has a really cute, rustic and all things Scottish interior design, a fireplace that keeps things toasty and – most importantly – a balcony with a very Instagrammable view #youarewelcome. Not in a festive mood? I’m not judging! You can still enjoy a nice drink to one of Edinburgh’s many many bars, such as The Devil’s Advocate, Dragonfly, 99 Hanover Street, Tigerlily or the Voodoo Rooms.
4. Visit The Dome
Along with its Christmas Markets, Edinburgh’s poster boy for Christmas is definitely The Dome, a super popular bar, restaurant and nightclub that was built in 1847 to serve as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland. Featuring Corinthians columns (a significant element of the Neoclassical architecture), marble bars, huge vases and sparkly chandeliers, the Dome exudes luxury (to say the least) which reaches its peak during the holidays. Not only do its outside columns get all wrapped up in lights, more lights and colour, but its interior is also transformed by the addition of the biggest Christmas tree (and tree, in general) I have EVER seen in my entire life, standing tall in the centre of the bar and extending itself up to the dome of the building. Oh and the tree lights change their colour every few seconds. Whether it’s for food, drinks or just for snapping a couple of photos of it, the Dome is a must especially during the holidays.
5. Be a child
How are you gonna do that? Well, pick and choose. Why don’t you try ice skating at St. Andrew’s round ice rink? How about a ride on the Forth 1 Big Wheel (a smaller copy of the London eye) or the beautiful and fairytale-like Carousel at the East Princess Street Gardens? There is plenty of children-friendly (and of course, adult-friendly) activities that you can enjoy in the city centre, some more daredevil-ish than others. Take for example the Star Flyer, a game that lifts you 60m above the ground and spins you fast (a bit too close to the Scott Monument, in my opinion), offering you a 360° view of Edinburgh. Or the Drop Tower, which lifts you 80m high and plunges you back onto the ground at a ridiculously high speed. No thank you, you’ll find me listening to Christmas Carols on the Carousel.
6. Go on an Ice Adventure
This year is the first year that Christmas in Edinburgh includes a unique walk-through experience of Scotland’s glorious history that comes to life through impressive ice sculptures. From Nessie to Bobby, from Queen Mary of Scots to William Wallace, and from the Forth Bridge to Duke of Wellington with a cone on his head, the statues are perfectly executed and wonderful to look at. Upon the end of the exhibition you encounter the
Iron (only 1 year until a new GoT episode) Ice Throne, which totally made me feel like an Ice Queen (Let it gooo).
Tip: If you want to stay in the cold for a bit longer (the interior temperature at the Ice Adventure is -10°C ), head over to Edinburgh’s first and only Ice Bar and grab a Hot Toddy made with fine Scotch.