It's the most hectic time of the year, to coin a phrase - as shopping, plans and squeezing in family visits up and down the country make for a very tiring holiday season.

If your festive spirit is wearing thin, don't worry - there's still time to take a break from it all at Edinburgh's Christmas, where the city is jam packed full of Yuletide themed fun, rides, attractions and shows - and you can be there in the time it takes to get to the end of the queue in Argos!

A train journey of just over three hours from Manchester or Leeds gets you to Edinburgh Waverley train station, right in the heart of the city.

Edinburgh's Christmas

We stayed at the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton, just a couple of minutes' walk from Waverley station and in an ideal spot to explore the city - and pop back for a lie down if you're feeling tired in the afternoon.

It's in an imposing stone building overlooking the Royal Mile and having just undergone a huge refurbishment, is very smart, with a bar, restaurant, gym and huge range of items on the breakfast buffet.

Edinburgh at any time of year is wonderful, with more restaurants, bars, shops and tourist attractions than you could ever get round.

Edinburgh's Christmas market

You can be off the train and in a historic pub enjoying a dram of the finest single malt within minutes.

But at Christmas the city is transformed into a winter wonderland with most open spaces taken up with some sort of festive attraction, from the Scottish Market and European Christmas Market to ice skating in St Andrew's Square; Santa Land in Prince's Street Gardens with stalls, food, rides and amusements, to a big wheel which gives the most incredible views of the city and beyond, taking in Arthur's Seat and the port of Leith.

The ice rink

There's a Christmas tree maze, at the end of which Santa is waiting with a prize if you solve a puzzle on your way round. There are dozens of stalls from around the world, plus plenty of festive fare to get you well and truly into the Christmas spirit.

Twice a day George Street becomes The Street of Light, with a fairytale castle is lit up, twinkling away to music from Scottish choirs, orchestras and bands.

Street of Light

You can stand underneath the lights and soak in the atmosphere but we found the best way to watch the show was standing in front of the castle to see the whole spectacular scene.

The festive fun also includes a range of theatre shows including Five Guys Named Moe, based on the music of Louis Jordan; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and A (Sort Of) Christmas Carol magic show.

Edinburgh's Christmas, which lasts six whole weeks, provides enough entertainment for a jam packed day for families, couples and friends alike - but the city itself inspires a wonderfully festive feeling with pretty fairy lights twinkling in shop windows, on trees, outside buildings and wound round the pillars of the Dome.

Princes Street Gardens

There's everything in Edinburgh from Michelin-starred dining, designer shopping, historical pubs, local crafts, bagpipers, ceilidh bands (who coax you into dancing in the street...) guided tours of Edinburgh vaults, haunted spots and sites of historic interest which will chill you to the bone.

At the top of The Royal Mile is Edinburgh Castle, the Camera Obscura which is a museum of optical illusions, and the chance to learn about (and sample) Scotland's national drink, malt whisky, in the Scotch Whisky Experience.

It doesn't take you long to find haggis, neeps and tatties in Edinburgh and we enjoyed a delicious meal in Arcade Haggis and Whisky House, accompanied by a dram of single malt, before heading to the cosy pubs off the Royal Mile to soak in even more festive cheer.

It's a lot of work, but Come Christmas Day, the hustle and bustle is always worth it - and a visit


  • Rooms in the Hilton Edinburgh Carlton start at £96 per night
  • You can book online for any of the Edinburgh Christmas attractions here.
  • You don't need to book a time for most attractions, but some such as ice skating and the Street of Light have a time slot - make sure you work out how to find it in advance
  • You can travel direct to Edinburgh from Manchester in 3h 23m.