With Christmas for many curtailed last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, we all have high hopes for a bigger and better festive season this year. However, bigger and better does not necessarily mean more expensive. Luckily, there are many events running across Scotland this year designed to get us in the festive spirit, without breaking the bank.
Here is our round up of some of the best festive events being hosted throughout the country this December. Please note: all events are subject to change or cancellation so we advise you to check with the venue before the event for the latest information.
Edinburgh Christmas Markets
When and Where: East Princes Street Gardens (20 November – 4 January)
Cost: Admission is free; attractions vary
Set in the heart of the city centre, a visit to Edinburgh’s famous Christmas markets is a must for all this year. With something for the whole family, there is no better way to get into the festive spirit. Thrill seekers can spend the day on the fairground, while those wanting to enjoy a more relaxed afternoon can take a walk around the stalls selling a variety of traditional crafts and gastronomic delights which can be washed down with a warming glass of gluhwein. The markets are open from 10am – 10pm every day (except Christmas Day, with reduced opening times on Christmas Eve, Boxing Day and New Years’ Day) all the way through the Christmas period.
Light Night Installation
When and Where: Edinburgh Old Town (20 November – 4 January)
Local artist Hannah Ayre is the mastermind behind this year’s Light Night Installation. Located on the Mound, the installation will feature a cascading colourful snowflake visual, and will be placed alongside Edinburgh’s Christmas tree. Unlike previous years, there will not be a public switch-on event, however, the installation will remain aglow until 4th January, giving more people to chance to view this impressive art installation.
When and Where: West Princes Street Gardens (20 November - 24 December)
Cost: £8.50 per child (one adult goes free)
Nothing says Christmas like a visit to Santa and his elves. Santa’s Grotto is located in Santa Land on the lower level of West Princes Street Gardens. Children will have the opportunity to meet Santa, hear him tell a magical Christmas tale, before leaving with a gift. Tickets must be pre-booked and visits to Santa will take place every 30 minutes in groups. Those living within an EH postcode may be able to receive a 20% discount on the advertised price.
Santa Fun Run & Walk
When and Where: West Princes Street Gardens (5 December, 11am)
Cost: Free to watch
The Edinburgh Santa Fun Run & Walk event sees hundreds of runners and walkers pounding the streets dressed as Santa all in the name of charity! Whether you are looking to don your trainers, or simply watch from the side-lines, a great time is guaranteed while also helping to raise vital funds for the Wish charity which supports children aged 4-16 throughout Scotland who are battling life threatening illnesses. Come rain or shine (or snow!) runners will complete a 2.5km loop of West Princes Street Gardens with thousands of spectators expected to cheer them every step of the way.
When and Where: Various locations across Edinburgh (19 November – 4 January)
Edinburgh’s Winter Windows has become a yearly tradition, where the school pupils of the city given the opportunity to show their creativity by way of a festive stained glass window display. This year’s theme is ‘Connections and Kindness’ with many of these windows depicting the acts of kindness both given and received during the Covid-19 pandemic. These poignant displays will be placed across a range of locations across the city until 4th January 2022.
Night Walk for Edinburgh
When and Where: Cockburn Street (30 October - 25 December)
First introduced during the 2019 Edinburgh International Festival, this interactive experience consists of a 50-minute walk through the Old Town after dark. Created by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, you will take part in surreal walk accompanied by a film on your tablet or smartphone. This outdoor event is free but a timeslot does need to be booked in advance to allow for social distancing of this event.
The Royal British Legion Christmas Carol Service
When and Where: Canongate Kirk (12 December, 4pm)
The Royal British Legion Christmas Carol Service was cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic; however, plans are in place for the event to return in 2021. Come and enjoy an afternoon of carols and lessons in what is sure to be a poignant service of thanks. Tickets are free to all, however, they do need to be booked in advance.
An Edwardian Christmas
When and Where: Online event (5 December, 2.30pm)
For those who prefer to dodge the crowds and stay at home this Christmas, Lauriston Castle are hosting a virtual Edwardian Christmas experience. The history of the castle will be brought into your living room thanks to the Edinburgh Living History group. You will ‘walk’ through the castle and experience Christmas in the castle in 1910. Booking is not required for this free event.
When and Where: St Enoch Square (21 November - 23 December)
Cost: Entrance is free
The traditional Glasgow Christmas Markets return to St Enoch Square this year. With over 50 stalls to choose from, you are sure to be spoilt for choice. Whether you are looking to sample varied gastronomic delights such as local crispy duck rotisserie, traditional bratwurst sausages, and hog roast, or are in the mood for some Christmas shopping, the Glasgow Christmas Markets have it all. Open 9am-10pm until 23rd December, there is plenty of time to pencil in a visit.
Beatson Christmas Celebration
When and Where: Glasgow Cathedral (12 December, 2pm – 4pm)
Hosted by TV and radio presenter, Bryan Burnett, Beatson Christmas Celebration promises to be an enchanting afternoon full of festive readings, uplifting music, and a time for reflection on the year gone by. You will get the chance to write your dedication on a bauble which will be hung on the Cathedral Christmas tree, all while supporting a chatity which does so much to help those living with cancer across Scotland. This event is free, although you should reserve your place ahead of time.
Blessing of the Crib
When and Where: George Square (1 December, 6.00pm)
Glaswegians will join the Lord Provost of Glasgow in the annual Blessing of the Crib event this December. A local choir will help the audience celebrate the true meaning of Christmas beneath the Christmas tree in George Square at this free event.
When and Where: Virtual event (11 – 18 December)
Cost: £15 to run; free to watch
For the second year in a row, the annual Glasgow Santa Dash will take place virtually with competitors asked to run, job, walk, or cycle a 5km route in their local area. The event will run for a week from 11-18 December, giving as many people as possible the chance to take part. Despite being a virtual event, participants are still encouraged to don their Santa hats, reindeer antlers, or any other festive costume; prizes will be given for the best dressed!
When and Where: Various locations across Glasgow (1 December – 2 January, from 4pm)
Some of the most iconic locations in Glasgow will be illuminated this Christmas as the city celebrates the festive season in style. From 4pm every day in December, the City Chambers, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Buchanan Galleries, and The Buck’s Head Building at St Enoch Centre, will be aglow with festive lights sure to bring an added cheer as you soak up the atmosphere in the city this Christmas.
Curated in the Quad Market
When and Where: Marischal College Quadrangle (19 November – 19 December (Friday – Sunday only)
Cost: Entrance is free
Local businesses from across Aberdeen and the wider North East area will descend on the Quadrangle every weekend in the run up to Christmas, bringing a range of unique arts, crafts and gift ideas, as well as mouth-watering food and drink options.
Aberdeen Christmas Village
When and Where: Marischal College Quadrangle (18 November – 31 December)
Cost: Free (prices for activities vary)
Aberdeen’s Christmas Village has something for everyone and is a must-do for those in the area this festive season. There is an open-air ice rink and fairground rides, while those looking for something a bit more relaxing can head to the Village Square to sample an array of tempting food treats including German bratwursts, Dutch pancakes, as well as fayre from a little closer to home in the form of haggis bon bons. The Christmas Village is also home to Curated in the Quad, the perfect place to pick up those last-minute gifts.
When and Where: St Nicholas Kirkyard (30 November – 6 January)
For a poignant reminder of what Christmas is truly all about, take a visit to the nativity scene located in St Nicholas Kirkyard. The crib will be officially open for viewing from 20 November, and will remain open right through the December and into the New Year.
Twelve Days of Christmas Sculpture Trail
When and Where: Various locations across the City (1 – 24 December)
The popular Twelve Days of Christmas sculpture trail returns once more to Aberdeen in 2021. Created by local artist, Gary Shand, his wooden totem poles each depict one of the twelve days of Christmas, made popular by the traditional carol. The sculptures will be placed across various locations in the city, and you and your family are encouraged to hunt for them across this festive period. Accompanying trail sheets can be picked up from the Aberdeen Christmas Village, or alternatively this can be downloaded and printed at home if you prefer. Can you find them all?
Christmas Carol Concert
When and Where: David Welch Winter Gardens (18 December, 10am, 11.15am, and 2pm)
The Bon Accord Silver Band will be in town on 18th December to treat you and your family to all of your favourite Christmas carols at this free event. There are three showings this year, allowing more people than ever to enjoy the performance. Each concert is limited to 250 spectators so make sure you arrive in plenty of time to reserve your seat. Donations in the way of tinned food, toiletries, and staple store cupboard ingredients such as tea and coffee are encouraged, and these will be distributed by CFINE to help local people in need.
When and Where: Slessor Gardens (26 November - 2 January)
Cost: Attractions vary in price
The first ever Dundee Winterfest will be held at Slessor Gardens, and promises to offer fun for the whole family. The waterfront venue will be transformed into a feel-good festive experience with a vintage fun fair, full-scale ice rink, a Big Wheel, traditional Bavarian bar, and over 20 different trade and food stalls.
When and Where: City Square (5 December, 10.30am)
Cost: Starts from free for under 3’s
Dundee’s annual Santa Dash is always a staple in the festive calendar, and this year is no different! Hundreds of runners and walkers will don their Santa suits and take to the streets of Dundee, all to raise money for Maggie’s and helping to support those living with cancer.
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