Capital Christmas 2002 - Edinburgh's Festive Events
It's official. Edinburgh has been voted the Number One favourite city in the United Kingdom for the second year running by readers of Conde Nast Traveller magazine. One of the many reasons for such popularity is that it's the perfect short weekend break and longer holiday destination all year round. While the world renowned Edinburgh International Festival, Fringe, Book and Film festivals draw thousands of visitors in the summer, the Scottish Capital also offers a warm welcome during the city's spectacular Winter festival to celebrate the traditional magic of Christmas and the New Year.
The famous landmark of the Castle, high up on the volcanic rock is the stunning backdrop for the specially created adventure playground of Festival events in Princes Street Gardens. And all around the trees will be sparkling with thousands of fairy lights while above the National Gallery at the top of the Mound, see the giant Christmas Tree brilliantly lit up against the night sky - an annual present to Edinburgh from the people of Hordaland in Norway.
One of the highlights is the giant Ferris Wheel - the tallest in the UK - which is erected beside the Scott Monument. Take an exhilarating whirl high into the air for the best bird's eye view of the winter wonderland. There's a lively funfair with a thrilling Acrobounce high flying experience, carousel rides, a snow slide and a huge outdoor skating rink, with a special safe Ice Play area for younger children. And if it happens to be a bit chilly in the frozen north, there's a European café bar right in the gardens serving drinks, soup and snacks to warm you up.
George Street and William Street
Colourful Christmas decorations light up many of the city centre streets to brighten up your shopping trips. Take a stroll along George Street, with its quality designer clothes stores, book and jewelry shops and also take a trip down the charming curving hill of Victoria Street in the Old Town, with its many antique, arts and gift shops. West of Princes Street, there's the tiny cobbled William Street, again with its charming range of small shops such as Travelling Light, selling everything for the traveller, Fling with its treasure house of luxury goods and Helen Bateman with an exotic display of beautiful designer shoes, bags, scarves and jewelry. The dazzling new Harvey Nichols store (pictured here) for an ultra-prestigious shopping experience is on St. Andrew Square.
Christmas is a time for gift shopping, family holiday treats as well as enjoying some very special things to eat and drink and Capital Christmas this year celebrates the festive season in true international style.
Visit the delightful German Christmas Market with dozens of wooden chalet type stalls selling gifts, chocolates, toys, candles and craftwork. A Continental market on Castle Street is selling a feast of specialist cheese, bread, fruit, vegetables and quality food and drink brought over by dozens of producers from across Europe. Up in the Grassmarket a market will offer a wide range of Scottish products including handmade arts and crafts.
What is most welcome for visitors is that many of the outdoor festive events and entertainment are free including a programme of carols under the banner, Urban Hymns. A range of professional, church and community choirs and bands will be performing in the street at various city centre locations. A popular selection of classic Christmas carols and acappella songs so that everyone can join in. Festive music and theatre performances will also take place through the season with pantomimes, orchestral concerts, dance and opera - full details from the Capital Christmas Official Website and published programme.
Some of the larger commercial companies in the centre of Edinburgh are also providing festive fare. The Royal Bank of Scotland's imposing Head Office on St Andrew Square is always illuminated after dark but the bank has added to that by entertaining passers-by with a a traditional jazz ensemble - the music echoes across the square as shoppers and office staff stroll by. Presumably any bank staff working late in the building are not too distracted by the loud music! The Royal Bank is the sponsor of the Hogmanay Street Party in Edinburgh with its spectacular fireworks display bringing in the New Year with Edinburgh Castle as the backdrop.
For the first time this year there's a series of special events taking place around Castlehill, at the top of the Royal Mile beside the Castle. Here the focus will be on traditional Scottish heritage and culture with whisky tastings, musical evenings, gourmet meals and ghost walks. There are many popular year-round visitor attractions around Castlehill such as the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre, Geoffrey [Tailor's] Tartan Weaving Mill and exhibition, Camera Obscura, the Hub, The Witchery and Scottish Parliament.
Pantomime and Other Christmas Shows
Here's just a sample of the entertainment available in Edinburgh around Christmas:
- Merlin the Magnificent - Royal Lyceum Theatre until 29th December
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Kings Theatre until 19th January
- The Snowman - Scottish Ballet at the Festival Theatre until 28th December
- Miss Saigon - Edinburgh Playhouse until 25th January
- Royal Museum of Scotland - "Game On" (the first major UK interactive exhibition exploring the culture of computer games).
- Museum of Childhood - "The Golden Age" (special exhibition of toys from 1890 to 1930).
- The National Galleries of Scotland - four superb art galleries National Gallery, Gallery of Modern Art, Dean Gallery, Portrait Gallery.
- The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour - An evening walk through the Old and New Town as you hear stories about Scotland's great writers and the places that inspired them - with a few drinks along the way.
Where to Stay
The following Edinburgh Hotels have been reviewed as part of the "Best Places to Stay" series on Rampant Scotland.
There are also the Apex City and the Apex International, Grassmarket - two budget priced contemporary and chic hotels, with superb house restaurants, in the heart of the Old Town. You can also get away from the buzz of the festive city and stay down in the historic port of Leith at the Malmaison. Stylish interior design, good service, bar and brasserie.
There are many other hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfast establishments listed on the Accommodation Links section of Rampant Scotland.
Where to Eat in the City Centre
Here are a few suggestions:
- Oloroso, Castle Street - Stylish, contemporary top notch fine-dining with a stunning view up to the Castle
- Fishers in the City, Thistle Street - superb seafood for a lazy long lunch.
- Howies - 4 city-centre lively bistros - 2/3 course budget set- price menus.
- Browns, George Street - good quality `home cooking`, comfy and casual
- Maison Blue, Victoria Street - Eclectic menu of French, Mexican, Goan dishes for something spicily different.
- Hurricane Bar and Grill, Castle Street - colourful hotspot for cocktails, salads, fish and simple grills.
- La Tasca, West End - Spanish Tapas bar for a quick, tasty bite.
- Le Sept, off High Street - well-stuffed crepes, chicken, steak, fries.
- La Petite Folie, Frederick Street - moules frites, steak, children welcome, a buzzing place.
- Mamma's American Pizza Company - 3 branches around town. Ideal cheap and cheerful dining for families. Traditional pizza, pasta and chicken wings
- North Bridge Brasserie, Edinburgh - stylish, contemporary food in surroundings to match.
Other Useful Sources of Information
Here are some useful websites for visitors:
Where else would you like to go in Scotland?
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