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5 Things to do in Edinburgh in December

2nd Dec 2021
5 Things to do in Edinburgh in December

By Simon Bendle, Mercat Storyteller

Edinburgh in December is a winter wonderland. If you’re visiting Scotland’s capital during the festive period, you’ll find no shortage of great things to do.

Here are five of our favourites:

1) The Christmas market
Edinburgh boasts one of the UK’s best Christmas markets, a cluster of quaint wooden huts in Princes Street Gardens selling all sorts of festive food, drinks and gifts. With Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop, it’s a lovely spot to wander round, soak up the atmosphere and grab a mulled wine or German sausage. There’s Santa Land and Santa’s Grotto for the wee ones, too. And the views from the Big Wheel are spectacular. 

2) Winter Light Trail
Wrap up warm and head to Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Gardens to experience its Winter Light Trail, an immersive after-dark experience which sees the place swathed in more than a million sparkling lights and lasers. The mesmerising illuminated trail is a mile long and opens in the evenings after the botanical garden’s usual closing time. A huge sparkling light tunnel known as the “Cathedral of Light” is perhaps the highlight. The Winter Light Trail is popular with visitors and locals alike – so booking early online is recommended.


3) The Dome
You don’t even have to enter The Dome bar and restaurant to enjoy its festive charm… its beautiful façade alone is worth a visit. A former bank, built in the 19th century, this iconic building on George Street in the New Town is fronted by huge Graeco-Roman pillars which sparkle with Christmas lights every December. It’s quite a sight. If you fancy a festive tipple or seasonal hot chocolate, the decorations inside are impressive too, with the grand interior boasting a huge Christmas tree.

4) Get your skates on
Ice skating in the city centre has become something of a December tradition in Edinburgh – there’s been an outdoor rink set up in the New Town before Christmas for about 20 years now. It has moved about a bit, mind. Originally it was in Princes Street Gardens, then St Andrew’s Square, and this year you’ll find it in George Street. You don’t need to bring skates to use the Alpine rink, you hire them on site. It’s open to kids, adults and wheelchair-users.


5) Damn good stories
Don’t miss the chance to join one of our five-star history or ghost tours when you’re in Edinburgh. Mercat Tours has a motto: “History is a damned good story, what it needs is a damn good telling.” So whether you take a tour of the famous underground vaults in Blair Street or a stroll down Edinburgh’s magnificent Royal Mile, you’re guaranteed to hear tales that will entertain, inform and inspire. Please join us this December by booking a tour here.

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