Edinburgh, Scotland’s hilly, historic capital, is certainly an atmospheric place in the colder months. When snow lines Castle Rock, framing the city’s most famous icon, there’s likely no less pretty place on the planet. It’s also a city which has so much going on, enough to satisfy the hungry foody, the fact famished history buff and family seeking kid friendly fun all in one go. So if you’re seeking exciting, unique things to do on your next trip, then look no further than this; our IDEAL guide to Winter events in Edinburgh, 2018.
CHRISTMAS MARKETS (17th November – 5th January)
If you’re wondering why the Christmas market in Edinburgh was voted the best in the UK 2017, then it’s best to see it with your own eyes, right? Even the most hardened of Scrooges, scarred by Christmasses of dispute and dry turkey, can’t help but soften a little when in and amongst Scotland’s Capital’s festive stalls.
What’s more, there’s loads going on away from the stalls, too; there’s rides for the big kid lurking inside all of us, such as the Forth 1 Big Wheel and the Star Flyer. And, of course, real, actual Santa will be visiting the market when Santa’s Grotto opens from 10:30am on 17th November.
WINTER EVENTS AT EDINBURGH ZOO (16th November – 17th February)
The zoo animals might have settled down for the winter, hibernating until Spring if they know what’s good for them, but the spectacle of Edinburgh Zoo is very much here all year-round. You might be surprised to see a few new ‘animals’ staying at the zoo, with unicorns and the centaur-like Nuckelavee taking up residence. And nope, that’s not all the mulled wine making you see things.
Alongside many other myths and legends, the Giant Lanterns of China brings majesty and romance this Winter; over 450 handmade Chinese lanterns glowing a trail through the zoo, accompanied by folklore and fantasy. Plus, you can stay warm and toasty as you go through, with a marketplace on offer serving hot drinks and snacks. Perfection.
SILENT LIGHT (19th November – 1st January 2019)
Enjoy a groove? And a spectacular light show? How about something altruistic while your busting your best moves in the glow of fantastic lights? It combines 60’000 of them in historic George Street with headphones and a silent disco. Sounds bloody fantastic to us! Looks fantastic, too.
24 DOORS OF ADVENT (1st – 24th December 2018)
Sadly no stale chocolate behind these, but the 24 Doors of Advent event allows free entry in 24 unique, fascinating Edinburgh buildings, some of which aren’t usually open to the public. Check out more here.
N.Y.EDINBURGH (30th December – 1st January)
Everyone knows that Scotland’s Capital is good for a knees up, and at New Year’s the festivities are turned up all the way to 11. Indeed, Hogmanay (Scottish New Year’s celebrations) in Edinburgh has earned international repute through its boisterous knees up and emphasis on tradition. It’s a three day extravaganza, beginning on the 30th December with the Torchlight procession, running into the grand fireworks display on the night of the 31st and finally, culminating in the Loony Dook, a fancy-dress fuelled plunge into the city’s River Forth.
Scotland in Winter is cold at the best of times, even before you consider a dip in freezing cold water, so be warned, this one is not for the faint-hearted. Take in views of the evening’s fireworks from a high vantage point, which Edinburgh has plenty of, for maximum exposure to the illuminated Scottish skies.
WHERE TO STAY
For a fantastic hotel close to all the key locations of Edinburgh, check out the Cairn Hotel. It’s just a ten minute walk from the hotel to Princes Street Gardens, where the Christmas markets are held, and less than a 20 minute drive to Edinburgh Zoo. With free Wi-Fi in all rooms, you’ll be able to upload all your photos of the gorgeous Giant Lanterns and the festive Christmas markets.
WHAT TO EAT
Edinburgh has a fantastic reputation for its fine eating scene and is proud to have four Michelin starred restaurants – Number One, The Kitchin, Martin Wishart and 21212. There is also a fine array of restaurants that are not Michelin starred, but are absolutely glorious, providing some of the most luxurious and opulent dining experiences in the UK. Restaurants you must try include Leith Chop House, Ondine, Gardener’s Cottage, Printing Press, and Field. Recent reviews for the Little Chartroom have been rave; get in there while you still can!
The jewel in Edinburgh’s dining scene is though, shining more brightly than its many great establishments, is Scotland’s produce. The beef, fresh seafood and game are the envy of the world, and that’s before we get started on the amazing whiskey. December marks venison season, a meat which is at its very finest when caught from Scotland’s Highlands.