Edinburgh is so beautiful at any time of year, but particularly in the winter, just before Christmas. Its grey stone buildings are impassive against the cold, reaching up into the sky. The streets are busy with people hurrying along, but there’s still a friendly atmosphere; the Christmas lights are glowing everywhere, buskers are playing bagpipes and shops are bright and cheerful, an inviting contrast to the cold and dark outside. Standing up by the Castle, the cold wind that blows from either side of the hill is brisk and refreshing, the hills visible in the distance. The city is bustling with visitors and local people come to enjoy the ‘Edinburgh’s Christmas’ attractions, but a quick detour up some steep stone steps or down an alleyway into a quiet courtyard allows you to feel the history all around you. Whenever I visit, I feel at once at home and wildly curious to learn and experience all Edinburgh has to offer.
If you visit at Christmas, a visit to the Christmas Market is simply imperative. There was loads of lovely stalls to browse and find gifts for friends and family, as well as enjoying some of the myriad of food options on offer – we loved the candyfloss and waffles with nuts, cinnamon and sugar! There’s some bar areas and a big fairground ride section, and a family section with attractions like a Christmas tree maze and helter-skelter.
On our first day, we wandered around the Princes Street Gardens, enjoying the changing view of the castle high above as we circled around the base of the crag. When you get to the west end, there’s a quiet cemetery (around the church of St Cuthbert), whose huge old gravestones seem to be made of the same dark grey stone as the hill and the castle that sits on it.
From here it was an uphill walk round the south side of the crag as the road clung to its side, then after ascending some steep old steps, we emerged on the esplanade in front of the castle. Great views from here across the city rooftops to the hill, and it’s busy with people taking photos.
It’s fun wandering down the Royal Mile; there’s so much to look at, shops to pop into, interesting old buildings and bagpipe-players!
If the day is wet or cold, a great place to visit is the National Museum of Scotland – free, and huge! Our favourite section was the animals, and there’s also science, technology, art, design, fashion and more.
Our favourite café in Edinburgh is Eteaket – I’ve been three times! Their long, sumptuous list of loose-leaf teas has something for everyone (with a handy flow chart on the wall to help you find the perfect tea to match your mood) and they do a great afternoon tea. It was lovely to come in from the cold and settle down on a sofa in the back room with tea, sandwiches and cake.
Another fun place to go in Edinburgh is Jenners – one of the oldest department stores in the world. It’s now a House of Fraser, set inside a beautiful old building. Wander and browse, particularly at Christmas when their decorations are spectacular. Once we were even offered mince pies to eat whilst we browsed!
If you’re looking for somewhere to stay in Edinburgh, I can really recommend the airbnb which we stayed in. Beautifully furnished and decorated, the perfect size for two and in a great (quiet) location – 20 minutes’ walk from the city centre and across the road from a Sainsbury’s, which helped us cook all our meals on the trip.
As an alternate option, I can also recommend this airbnb, which we stayed in on a previous trip. Coincidentally, we realised that the two apartments are actually located on the same road!