Now we know Edinburgh is an amazing city and for the 13th year in a row Edinburgh has been voted the best city in the UK, so we’re in good company when we say we love Edinburgh, but we especially love Edinburgh at Christmas.
Edinburgh wears winter especially well and it’s the place to come to do your Christmas shopping; small enough to be easily navigable and cover all bases but with bags of retail character and loads of independent boutiques in which to source those extra special gifts. And more than this Edinburgh makes an incredible effort at Christmas & Hogmany, and this is why more and more people are choosing the city as a winter destination, taking a weekend out to eat, shop and be merry.
The beating heart of Edinburgh’s Christmas is Princes Street Gardens and the transformation will take your breath away as readily as the cold night air. Every leafless tree is garlanded in pale, twinkling lights, a helter skelter stands sentry at the gate and old-fashioned carousel horses canter gently round signaling the start of the German Market. Below the market in the valley gardens is an ice rink filled with skaters whirling in colourful circles and a gluhwein hot spot where you can sit wrapped in cosy, complimentary blankets and be grateful you’re not falling gracelessly out the ice.
It’s all done with great taste and remarkable restraint, with the exception of the volume on the ice rink, which could be dialed down a bit. In the market you’ll find homemade jams, continental sausages and beautifully made traditional wooden toys. Over in the Eastern Gardens you’ll even find a herd of handsome, surprisingly diminutive reindeer and on the odd occasion Santa himself is known to pop up. It’s as well Cruella de Ville knew nothing of reindeer because they would make a lovely, toasty warm coat. Shhh – don’t let the children hear.
Away from the bustle of Princes Street lie further shopping opportunities; Harvey Nichols, Jenners and Frasers vie for attention in prominent spots and all along Multrees Walk you’ll find high-end designer stores like Armani, Anne Fontaine and Louis Vuitton. Along in the West End on William Street and Stafford Street a more boutique culture exists. Victoria Street and the Grassmarket have to be visited not just for the great shops but also for their historic and aesthetic value. The New Town is best for antiques and art, and down in boho Broughton Street you’ll find more imaginative independent retail.
After all that shopping you’ll probably find that the amber festive glow appears to have seeped under the doors of every pub and café in town and inside everybody seems to be having a very jolly time. On a cold December night it’s almost impossible to walk past without dipping in for a fly tipple. Our favourites are the small but perfectly formed Ecco Vino, on Cockburn Street, The Scottish Malt Whisky Society, on Queen Street – members only but entirely worth splashing out on the reasonable joining fee, and for a truly authentic fin de siècle feel and hearty frothing ale, the Café Royal.
For dinner you could go very fancy, Edinburgh has its fair share of Michelin stars that twinkle even more provocatively at Christmas, including the famed Kitchin and the poetically named Plumed Horse. Or if you’re more easily seduced by location we’d recommend the Tower in the museum of Scotland, which has great views over the city. For more laid back dining Thistle Street is filled with good eateries, as is the winding hill of Victoria Street and Jamie Oliver Edinburgh has just arrived in town with a new restaurant at The Assembly Rooms in George Street.
Next you’ll be looking for somewhere to lay your head and we can’t think of anywhere with more plumptious pillows, deferential staff and sumptuous New Town style than The Bonham. Also renowned for it’s style and comfort, Millers64 has all the flair of a boutique hotel with the personal touch of a B&B.
Independent Shopping Directory Shopping Directory:
West End – William Street and Stafford Steet
Frontiers, 6 Stafford Street, EH3 7AU
Sells less easily sourced womenswear brands like quirky Danish label Odd Molly.
Helen Bateman, 16 William Street, EH3 7NH
The eponymous shoe designer Helen Bateman, get your blingbacks here.
Studio One, 10 Stafford Street, City of Edinburgh EH1 2DJ
Gifts and homewares.
Victoria Street and The Grassmarket
The Red Door Gallery, 42, Victoria Street, EH1 2JW
For oringial and affordable art, and homewares. Online store too.
Demijohn, 32 Victoria Street, EH1 2JW
A deli devoted entirely to liquid enticements – raspberry and lime vodka ball anyone? Online store too.
Hawick Cashmere, 71 Grassmarket, EH1 2HJ
If you don’t know what to give the woman you love for Christmas, give her cashmere.
The New Town
The Gallery on the Corner, 34 Northumberland Street, EH3 6LS
Bourne Fine Art, 6 Dundas Street, EH3 6HZ
Curiouser and Curiouser, 93 Broughton Street, EH1 3RZ
Wonderful gifts, homewares and prints. Online store too.