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Festive fans are spoilt in our medieval city when it comes to wonderful places to see spectacular Christmas lights in Edinburgh! From popular streets to commercial and independent shops, landmark hotels to hot mulled wine to takeout, this guide details the best spots to find festive cheer in and close to Scotland’s capital.
You may also like, the best festive hotels in Edinburgh, things to do in Edinburgh at Christmas and where to eat Christmas dinner.
Best Spots With Christmas Lights in Edinburgh
Starting in the New Town, there is one institution that you, literally, can’t miss during the festive season, The Dome restaurant and bar.
As I described to my friends from New York last year, this is as close to Hollywood’s version of Christmas that we get in Edinburgh and it is a party for the senses.
Standing at 14 George Street you will see the impressive Graeco-Roman building constructed in 1844, flooding the upmarket shopping street with welcoming light.
The thick pillars are wrapped with twinkling lights and faux foliage winding up, drawing your eyes to its Pedimental Sculpture modelled by James Wyatt of London and carved by A. Handyside Ritchie.
In the sculpture, you can identify Caledonia, Prudence, Agriculture, Commerce, Enterprise, Mechanical Science and Learning, a nod to the old Physicians’ Hall which once stood in its place. You may see a likeness with the striking Surgeons’ Hall on Nicolson Street.
OK, back to the tinsel talk!
The Dome’s keystone arched windows frame toy soldiers and its lower windows topped with friendly lion sculptures are illuminated by charming wreaths with classic red felt-like bows.
There is more!
The Dome is not just a spectacle to be looked at.
Visitors can, and should, book a table for food and mocktails this winter.
My Mum always says she wants a bottle of The Dome’s Christmas scent, we’ve not managed to work out what’s in it.
Can you identify its notes? Tell us in the comments.
As you walk through the grand entrance you will feel the wealth, The Dome is one of the fanciest places this Fifer frequents in Edinburgh.
Don’t let its opulence put you off, the staff are friendly and you are welcomed regardless of your status.
Head into The Grill Room to see the impressive colour changing Christmas tree which fits neatly into the domed roof.
It sits in the middle of the circular bar and is the centrepiece of the room.
Note: The Dome used to be the Commercial Bank of Scotland and keeping in line with its past it is not the cheapest of places to dine at in Edinburgh but a winter visit is worth every penny.
The Dome features in our festive things to do in Edinburgh guide.
George Street is one of the city’s main shopping streets and is predominantly known for its high-end shops, boutique hotels and nice eateries.
★ Read next | The most festive hotels to book this December
This George Street bar started early and we’re hear for it!
Cute wee Christmas trees line the Italian restaurant and the door sparkles.
Buon Natale to the Contini team and congratulations to Wild Flowers Edinburgh for another epic work of festive art.
The Queens Arms
We’re loving the extra Queens Arms arch with peacock feathers, baubles and toys.
Pop in for a pint on Frederick Street, just off George Street once you’re done with shopping.
St Andrews Square
The Ivy On The Square always puts on a good show regardless of the season.
Check out previous year’s effort. Isn’t this good enough to eat?
> The Edinburgh Grand’s soldiers stand proud of the Christmas tree inside the foyer.
St Andrews Square is also where you’ll find the Happy Hanukkah menorahs.
The lux shopping street has a very European sign and sparkly trees lining its upmarket shops.
The sign says ‘a very merry Multrees Christmas’.
We like what you did there.
The windows at Harvey Nics don’t disappoint!
Local tip, head up to The Fourth Floor to see St Andrews Square from above.
Take a quick detour around the corner to the Scotch Malt Whisky Society on Queen Street.
10/10 for Christmas decorations.
Running parallel to George Street, Rose Street is where you would normally find my husband on a pub crawl hitting up the craft beer bars and cosy old man pubs.
This World Heritage Edinburgh location designed as part of James Craig’s New Town plan in 1767, has a roof of lights made famous this year by Instagram photographer, Lee Smartt!
> These strings of lights remind me of a skier, swooshing down a hill leaving diagonal trails in fresh snow.
Pop into the Rose Street Theatre for freak shakes and the best cinnamon buns in the city then pick up a pack of brownies from Social Bite or order online.
While Rose Street backs on to Jenners department store, I have to break the sad news that the Jenners tree won’t be erected this year.
The West End landmark hotel, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh has added some twinkle to its historic former rail station building.
Outside the facade drips with fairy lights and inside the hotel is decked out in Christmas trees, garland and ribbon. You can see Peacock Alley for yourself with the Waldorf Astoria afternoon tea experience.
Check out our guide to Edinburgh’s West End for more tips on this lesser-known area of the city centre.
★ You may also like | Where to meet Santa in Edinburgh this year
In previous years, the award-winning family-owned luxury jewellers on Princes Street was wrapped up in an impressive bow akin to Vienna’s Christmas red bow at Popp & Kretschmer.
Twenty Princes Street
Book a table at the tastefully decorated Twenty Princes Street where Edinburgh Castle isn’t the only reason to look out the rooftop windows.
> Waverley Mall
Get a selfie with the star on top of Waverley Mall then head indoors to see the hanging bulbs as baubles.
Grab some sushi downstairs or head back up for takeout beer on the Waverley Mall rooftop.
Like sushi? Here’s our guide to the best sushi in Edinburgh.
If you need a caffeine fix before tackling the Cockburn Street incline, nip into Gordon St Coffee.
Book a space for a festive afternoon tea at Mimi’s Bakehouse.
Cockburn Street itself has hanging lights strung from shop to shop.
Check out independent shops Pie in the Sky and Eden for gift ideas.
The Royal Mile
Pick up a takeout mulled wine and wander along The Royal Mile to check out the decorated shop windows, doors and lights.
Be sure to make it to the Camera Obscura to see the outside lights.
Edinburgh’s answer to Diagon Alley is magic all year round but newly strung lights across the street from the top down to West Bow should add a little sparkle.
Little Dobbies is a new addition to the Stockbridge’s Raeburn Place and a Christmas elf tells me that Santa might be visiting on the 19th of December as part of a festive parade. Thanks to my pal, Claire for the picture!
Also features in our guide on where to meet Santa in Edinburgh.
Whiskers in Stockbridge has lovely Christmas decor for the big kids who brunch! Here our guide to the best cafes in Stocky B.
Royal Botanic Gardens
Join locals as they wander in awe around the Royal Botanic Gardens after dark trails.
Magical light tunnels and illusions fill the space with a festive soundtrack to move you along your merry way.
Some would say the star of the show is Inverleith House with its choreographed light projections.
RBG dates have changed to 2nd December to 3rd January (closed 7th, 8th, 25th, 31st Dec and 1st Jan).
The entertainment hub, Ocean Terminal in Leith has waterfall lights and elevated gifts attached to its walls.
Shop local at the Leith Collective for home items, festive decor and trendy masks all made by local makers.
Finish your trip to Leith at The Shore, swinging by Mimi’s Bakehouse where the new Netflix Christmas movie, The Princess Switch 2 was filmed!
Edinburgh’s Christmas Market
Taking over the City Centre’s Princes Street Gardens is the Edinburgh’s Christmas Market with lights, shows, stalls and hot drinks.
Looking to keep fit during the winter period? Check out the Great Scottish Christmas 5 to 10K Challenge supported by Decathlon.
Last Year at The Mound
A tasteful 18 metre rainbow and a tree gifted from Norway lights up The Mound.
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