There are some excellent reasons to plan a Scottish winter vacation, especially around the festive period. The German Christmas markets, bringing in the Bells at the biggest street party, Edinburgh winter wonderland, the Torchlight procession, the crazy Loony Dook and for fitness fans, the Santa fun run. New for this year, Edinburgh Castle will be hosting the Castle of light in November and December. More details below.
The Torchlight photo procession credit to Ian Georgeson and Edinburgh’s Hogmanay.
Reasons to Book a Festive winter break in Edinburgh
This year 2019 the Christmas markets will run from 16 November 2019 – 4 January 2020. Tickets are on sale now for 2019 Hogmanay in the gardens, starring Mark Ronson at 9pm in Princes street gardens and street party tickets are on sale at £31.
Edinburgh Hogmanay 2019/20 – There are 10,000 tickets available for Residents of Edinburgh City at £20 plus £1 booking fee.
The Torchlight Procession Dec 30th 2019 at 7pm. This festive outdoor walk is accompanied by pipers and drummers and thousands of people walk through the City of Edinburgh carrying fire and wax based torches. Everyone in the procession must have a ticket and no children buggies are allowed on the route but children under 16 can do the walk provided that they are accompanied by someone over 21 years of age.
The torchlight procession has three starting points throughout the city and torches are collected from here. Your ticket will indicate your starting point. Remember this event is outdoors and warm waterproof clothes are essential. Tickets are on sale from edinburghshogmanay.com Tel: 0131 510 0395.
Edinburgh Castle of Light.
Time slots apply throughout the festive run up to Christmas. Dates 14-17,22,24, 29-30th November 2019. 1-2, 5-8, 12-15, 19-22nd December. 5.30pm to 10PM.
An art light installation within Edinburgh Castle walls. Early bird discount and Historic Scotland members discount. On the day prices: Adults £22, children 5-15 years, £13.50, and family tickets 2 adults and 2 children £64. www.edinburghcastle.scot
Edinburgh Zoo is delighted to announce the return of the Giant Lanterns of the Lost World which will run from November 15th 2019 to January 26th 2020.
Highlights will include a volcano, a T-Rex, a giant snake and other amazing microbes and dinosaurs. Prices start at £8.50 for children and £17 for adults. More details on www.edinburghzoo.org.uk/lanterns. The lantern trail is a one mile loop and time slots should be pre booked. From 4.45pm to 9pm. This event does not give entry to zoo during day to see the animals.
Fancy a special Festive Ball?
The Assembly rooms will be hosting their great Hogmanay Snow ball Ceilidh. Tickets priced 49.99 up to VIP at £99. Sheraton Grand Hogmanay Snow Ball – £149.99, Ceilidh band, welcome cocktail and 5 star dining. Private tables of 10 – £1499. Details on Edinburghogmanaysnowball.com
Edinburgh Christmas Pantomime & Ballet Dates for 2019:
Festival Theatre. Snow Queen Sat 7th to Sunday 29th Dec 2019. Scottish Ballet tickets £19-£46.
Kings Panto – one of my favourites – Goldilocks & the Three Bears. Sat Nov 30th – Sunday 19th January 2020. Kings Theatre. Capital theatres.com
Hogmanay/New Year – Do you want to bring in the bells in Scotland, December 31st? Plan ahead as ticketed events sell out fast and tickets are required to get to the street party. Other great festive events include Ceilidh under the Castle and the family ceilidh, street party, concert in the Gardens, candlelit concert and Loony Dook. All events require tickets. Bookings from Edinburghshogmanay.com
How to celebrate New Year in Edinburgh city.
Many local people in Edinburgh celebrate the New Year with family and friends but for overseas visitors then a bit of forward planning is required for the New Year. The locals living in Edinburgh do not stand in a cold street for five hours waiting for the concert or fireworks to start. Many people are keen to ‘taste’ the hogmanay atmosphere without committing to the full 5 hours outdoors. Here are a few suggestions.
Luxury option – If you are attending the concert in the gardens, make sure you book premium tickets as the Gardens themselves are busy and the area underfoot gets muddy very quickly, toilet access and bar access can be very lengthy and bag searches will add more time to your entry. The Ross Bandstand offers the best concert views and is cordoned off from the rest of the gardens and has seats.
You can book a hotel within the city centre zone and attend the Christmas Gala Ball and then step outside to watch the fireworks, then return to the Ball. The best city centre hotels for this would be The Balmoral.The Waldorf Astoria, The Sheraton Grand and the Principle George, Hotel. Kimpton Charlotte square formally Roxburgh Hotel. Many hotels make you commit to staying 3 nights which is not ideal..
There are plenty of other hotels but the ones mentioned are closest to Edinburgh Castle where the fireworks are located. They are also the most expensive. If booking a Gala ball, be aware that this will require packing formal dress and shoes.
Men usually require Black Tie or Kilts. Check the dress code with the hotel prior to booking. There is also a Snow Ball Ceilidh at the Assembly rooms with a free after party till 5am at Shanghi Nightclub under Le Monde, tickets subject to availability.
Alternatively book a rooftop restaurant and stay for the festive fireworks. This would be Harvey Nichols Forth Floor, the Tower Restaurant & Chaopyra restaurant. All of these have great city skyline views and easy access to the main event.
There are plenty of restaurants overlooking the fireworks, reserve your table well in advance. Kyloe, steak restaurant or Ryans bar & restaurant, or Hotel Indigo on Princes street has superb views and sells a ticketed event to watch the display.
Regular Option – For cheaper accommodation I would consider AirBB, travel lodge, local guest houses around West End, Broughton street or Lothian road. Hostel world, Holiday Inn Express and Apex, will not necessary be as close to Princes street but this may be a bonus as you can watch the fireworks from other locations around the city such as Calton Hill, Bruntsfield Links and Inverleith Park.
I hesitate to add Arthurs seat as it will be pitch black. It could be potentially dangerous underfoot. There are some great small hotels around the city which will be quieter and you could easily walk up to the festivities but escape away when you need a break. this photo below was taken after Christmas, sadly we have not had a white Christmas in Edinburgh for some years.
Or pre book a local pub and enjoy the festive atmosphere, great pubs are the Doric, the Queens Arms, The Ghillie Dhu, Devils Advocate and the Dome. If travelling with children, check with pub/bar first regards any age restrictions. Scots drinking law is different to England regarding children.
For Clubbers check out Cabaret Voltaire, Lulu night club, Wee Dub, Summerhall and Why Not on George street.
If you are bringing children and are worried that they will be too tired, the festival organisers have an event called Bairns afore.
I would not recommend having small children at the large street party as the crowds are huge and trying to navigate small children is tiresome and frustrating if you have a buggy. A hotel close by or serviced apartments would be the best solution for getting children to bed and parents enjoying room service and a view of the fireworks.
Bruntsfield is a great suburb and has a large grassy area called Bruntsfield links which also has fabulous view to Edinburgh Castle, not to mention several very good children play parks.
Stay dry in Edinburgh City .
Free time over December? Stay dry indoors.
Edinburgh is cold and windy. If you prefer to stay indoors then pop into the Museum of Scotland, where you can spend hours and the kids will love the inter active activities.
Families also enjoy the Hop on Hop off bus to Ocean Terminal, which has a Vue Cinema, a Santa Claus and the stunning Royal Yacht Britannia. All indoors with children soft play/adventure zone and shops, restaurants and free parking. The hop on bus starts outside Waverley train station on the Princes street garden side and does a circular route.
Remember most of the city closes on New Years Day, it is a public holiday.
Head to Queensferry and watch the Loony Dook, the Scottish solution to a hangover. This event is great fun with a parade through the town but anyone wishing to participate must buy a ticket in advance and check in on the day by 12pm. Getting to South Queensferry can be an issue if you do not have a car as transport will be very limited. Also festive goers should be aware of the Scottish drink driving laws, again different from the UK.
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Thanks and enjoy Edinburgh this year.