Steph Telfer takes a trip to the Scottish capital where a very warm welcome awaits this Christmas…
I’m a Glasgow girl and I love my city, but there’s something extra special about going to Edinburgh at Christmastime. Now that you can get there in just 42 minutes from Glasgow Queen Street station, Edinburgh’s Christmas is even more accessible than before, and you’re in for a treat if you venture through to our capital this year.
Princes Street Gardens Christmas market
The city is just bursting with festivities, evident as soon as you come out of Edinburgh Waverley train station. East Princes Street Gardens is host to one of Europe’s most beautiful and exciting Christmas markets, offering a range of goodies from Scottish street food vendors, including crispy prawn tacos from seafood specialists Alandas to pimped up mac ‘n’ cheese from The Mac Shack. You can indulge in a little tipple to warm up too; if you can get a seat in the Johnnie Walker Bothy Bar on the Mound, then make sure you indulge in a piping hot apple toddy. For the kids (and big kids), there’s plenty of rides and activities, including the famous Forth 1 Big Wheel.
It’s not just about food and drink at the main marketplace. Artisans come from all over Europe to sell their wares in Edinburgh. From jewellery to personalised Christmas tree decorations, you’ll find unique gifts and stocking fillers for everyone in your family. I picked up a wooden tree decoration shaped like a Tunnock’s Teacake to add to my own collection.
If a sing-a-long sounds right up your street then make sure you don’t miss out on Now That’s What I Call Christmas, where a live band will belt out your favourite Christmas songs like Mariah’s All I Want For Christmas is You at the Usher Hall on Saturday December 21. Tickets are available online now (I’ve got mine!).
You can’t come to Edinburgh without visiting the castle, and this Christmas sees a light spectacular that’s never been seen before. You can watch as the history of the castle illuminates the walls in an amazing 90-minute show.
12 nights in 12 locations
As well as welcoming people from all over to celebrate Christmas in Edinburgh, the city is encouraging the locals to get together with a community Christmas project, held over 12 nights in 12 locations with winter projections cast onto buildings in the area, with local choirs performing rousing Christmas classics. Check edinburghschristmas.com for all locations, starting on December 11.
Royal Botanic Garden
If you’d rather shy away from the craziness of the city centre then take a trip out to the Royal Botanic Garden of Edinburgh for their after-dark light experience. Highlights this year include a festive flotilla with hundreds of glowing boats bobbing in the water, the Laser Garden and the Inverleith House Festive Finale with brightly coloured projections dancing in time to Christmas songs. Santa will be making an appearance too!
Treat yourself to cocktails and food
After an exciting day exploring everything that Edinburgh has to offer, it’s time for a festive cocktail. Edinburgh’s food and drink scene is varied and rich, with high quality options for all budgets, whether you’re splashing out or keeping to a budget.
The Ivy on St Andrews Square is the perfect pit stop for an aperitif and a bite to eat, and you’ll adore the décor. You can’t really visit Edinburgh at Christmas without going to The Dome for a selfie in front of the twinkling light pillars. If you’re lucky enough to get a table, then try the Snowy Dome cocktail: cinnamon gin, butterscotch schnapps, ginger syrup and cream come together to create a true taste of the holidays!
The Glasshouse Hotel is a really luxurious way to spend the night in Edinburgh at Christmas. The hotel, which was originally a church, is offering a special package over Christmas, priced from £1080 per couple based on three-nights, which includes a three-course meal on Christmas Eve, a gift from Santa on Christmas morning and a fun-packed Christmas day schedule which includes champagne, turkey and live music!
We stayed in a Calton Hill room, with views from the terrace across the rooftop gardens of the hotel. It was so lovely to enjoy a mulled wine (or a dram from The Glasshouse’s extensive whisky collection) in the Snug bar, on comfy sofas surrounding the gorgeous fire before going back to the room to relax in the huge bathtub – bliss, and honestly one of the most comfortable – and biggest – hotel beds I’ve ever slept in.
The hotel is expanding its facilities next year too, with the addition of cool Nordic-inspired spa domes on the hotel’s two-acre rooftop garden. The new spa experience will offer a modern and futuristic feel rooted in Edinburgh’s history of being occupied by the Nords, and will include a virtual reality experience.
I can’t wait to go back and visit next Christmas – a massage would be the perfect way to relax those shoulders after a day of festive fun in Edinburgh!