Every year, Edinburgh’s historic city centre is transformed into a bustling Winter Wonderland. Ice skaters push along plastic penguins in St Andrews Square, whilst on George Street families and couples can shiver in minus 10 degrees celsius watching a history of Scotland come alive before their eyes with a hot mug of cocoa or whisky at the ice bar.
New for 2017, the Ice Adventure takes you on an immersive walk back in time. Guaranteed to leave visitors in awe, the walk winds between ice sculptures of famous Scottish historical figures such as Dolly the Sheep, Robert the Bruce, Mary Queen of Scots and Greyfriars Bobby. Visitors are advised to be on their guard lest they run into the elusive Loch Ness Monster!
The grand epicentre of the Christmas extravaganza, though, has to be on Princes Street Gardens. The handcrafted trinkets and gems from countries around the world are displayed for purchase amongst fun fairground rides and mouthwatering chocolate-dipped waffles and doughnuts available at a multitude of stalls. The Times said of Edinburgh during Christmas that it was: “A city fizzing with festive spirit”, and walking through the cosy atmosphere of the German market in the shadow of the Walter Scott Monument, it’s hard to argue with them.
The first Edinburgh Christmas Markets were opened to the public in 1999 and since then its various attractions and delicious food have enchanted visitors and residents to the fairytale city.
Younger children flock to Santa Land, also found in Princes Street Gardens, where the kids can hunt through the Christmas tree maze to find the hidden Elves’ Workshop, or meet the big man, St Nicolas himself, in Santa’s Grotto.
Edinburgh’s city centre is a great place for shopping, and those wishing to find that special gift for their nearest and dearest can take advantage of the extended festive opening hours, with many stores remaining open until 8pm or later.
In a visual spectacle, the façade of the General Register House on Princes Street has a giant advent calendar projected onto it, where behind each of its 24 doors there is a glimpse of past Edinburgh Christmases, with archive footage dating back to the 1700s. Keep a look out for the projected display showing at selected times each day over the festive season from 5:30pm until 10:00pm.
Charlie Wood, one of the directors for the Edinburgh’s Christmas event, said: “This is the fifth year Underbelly has produced Edinburgh’s Christmas on behalf of the city of Edinburgh council and we are extremely excited to be presenting such an ambitious and refreshed programme spreading farther and wider across the city, reaching more communities than ever before.
“The economic impact of Edinburgh’s Christmas on the city is growing every year and with the positive effect it has socially on the residents of Edinburgh, we are proud to be able to bring world class winter entertainment to the Scottish capital yet again.”
The festive atmosphere of the city comes to a climax at Hogmanay, when Edinburgh’s city streets are turned into a platform of celebration for the dawn of the New Year. You can grab a ticket for the world famous Hogmanay Street Party and spectacular fireworks display over the Castle on December 31st.
Brave souls who wish to dare can on the 1st of January take a freezing (or revitalising?) dip in the Firth of Forth during the annual Loony Dook. People are free to stay on dry land and instead cheer on the ‘Dookers’ who venture out into the icy water.
In short, Edinburgh captures just the right amount of cosiness paired with festive cheer to provide a merry escape. Indeed, the city’s Christmas attractions are a memorable addition to the Yuletide calendar of residents and visitors to the city.
image: Yang Yifei