Edinburgh's Capital Christmas

Ferris Wheel and Scott Monument

"A city fizzing with festive spirit" - The Times

Five Years of Capital Christmases
Christmas Tree above Princes Street Gardens It was five years ago, in 1999, when Edinburgh launched its first Capital Christmas, a winter festival of attractions for both residents and visitors to enjoy. Since then, the festival has grown into a fabulous winter wonderland of festive entertainment with the city centre sparkling with Christmas trees and fairy lights, an outdoor ice rink, fairground rides, a giant Ferris wheel and a traditional German market. And high on the Mound is the huge Christmas Tree, gifted to Edinburgh from the people of Hordaland, Norway.

Now around 500,000 people visit Edinburgh during December for Capital Christmas for some great shopping along Princes Street and George Street, as well as magical entertainment for all the family in Princes Street gardens.

Capital Christmas 2003 has some new surprises and treats in store. George Street - which boasts some of the best designer fashion and jewellery stores - has been given new decorations - a series of giant trees glittering with lights are lined up along the centre and the pavement. Meanwhile a herd of Santa's Reindeers is making a special visit to Edinburgh to stay in their own private park in West Princes Street Gardens for ten days before Christmas. (12 - 21 December). Here you'll find a letterbox for children to post their Christmas present wish list, which Santa will collect twice a day when he comes to feed his reindeer. Children can also take a sleigh ride around the gardens for a magical treat.

And a Circus also comes to town! Robert Brothers Circus will be performing their terrific highflying acrobatic acts with other exciting thrills, clowning and laughter.

Winter Wonderland
Ferris Wheel and Scott Monument At the other end of Princes Street gardens, beside the Scott Monument is the Big Wheel, the largest in the UK. Take your seat and fly high up in the air for a brilliant view of the city centre and winter wonderland below. In 2002 a couple even became engaged when they were up on the wheel. Well it is magical ride! Or put your skates for a whirl on the ice rink - Britain's largest outdoor rink. Time for some sustenance? Visit the German Market, which is very popular with visitors each year. Sip some mulled wine, and enjoy some frankfurters, meats, cheese and other traditional German food then stroll around the charming wooden chalet stalls selling crafts, candles, decorations, jewelry, toys and gifts.

Festival artistic director, Peter Irvine of Unique events was determined to make this year's Capital Christmas bigger and better than before -

"Edinburgh is now one of the most popular places in Europe for a short break and never mores so than in December. The festive celebrations in West Princes Street gardens are even more child and family friendly. Santa, his reindeer and other events should prove to be a big draw."

But Christmas is not just for the kids - it's for everyone.

Whisky Tasting and Ghost Walks
Whisky Heritage Centre A festival of adult events takes place on Castlehill at the top of the Royal Mile. The Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre is the best place to learn all about Scotch and the wide range of different malts, with a tasting of a few drams on offer. On two evenings, 11 and 18th December, take part in the Mercat Tour Dickensian evening which involves a dramatic night time walk around the underground vaults and the High Street before warming up with a Hot Toddy or mulled wine, mince pies and chestnuts at the Whisky Centre.

There's a host of events happening around the High Street, with Ghost Hunts, an evening of chilling ghost stories, visiting areas of the Castle not usually open to the public. If that's too much excitement for one day, then relax and enjoy lunch or dinner at The Witchery renowned for gourmet meals in romantic Gothic surroundings at this famous restaurant on Castlehill.

Festive Entertainment
Festival Theatre While there's a feast of festive entertainment outdoors in Edinburgh leading up to Christmas, if it's a bit too cold for you then a traditional pantomime will be a warming antidote. At the King's Theatre is the old favourite, Jack and the Beanstalk (runs to 18 January), and at the Lyceum theatre the Christmas show is The Princess and the Goblin. Ballet lovers will love The Nutcracker, a delightful festive story performed by Scottish Ballet at the Festival Theatre from 17 - 27th December. The Singing Kettle’s Merry Christmas Show runs at the Festival Theatre from 3-6 December while the musical Fame comes to town with Barbara Dickson and Noel Sullivan from 18 December to 10 January at Edinburgh Playhouse Theatre.

Christmas means carols and music-making and there's a full programme of classical music concerts through December at the Usher Hall, with many special family events, the Happy Gang show and Carols by candlelight.

Edinburgh does boast the world's biggest winter festival with Capital Christmas and Hogmanay celebrations working together to ensure the city is a successful year round destination for visitors.

Edinburgh is certainly a great place to spend Christmas and New Year. For further information, see Edinburgh's Capital Christmas official Website. See also the feature article on Edinburgh's Hogmanay.

Vivien Devlin

Where else would you like to go in Scotland?

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