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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 and 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, this is as close to Hollywood’s version of Christmas as 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 lights.
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, but 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 is friendly, and you are welcome 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 in Edinburgh, but a winter visit is worth every penny.
Its festive afternoon tea is a really lovely experience and popular with groups of girls from November until January, but you must book in advance.
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.
Le Monde, The George Hotel, and Tigerlily always put on a good decor performance for December.
★ Read next | The most festive hotels to book this December
This George Street bar starts early, and we’re here 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 love 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, or tuck into the menu, which consists of burgers, mac n cheese, and other pub grub.
The Queens Arms is a cosy wee pub decorated in old books with lots of nooks and crannies, perfect for cold days.
St Andrew Square
The Ivy On The Square always puts on a good show regardless of the season.
Starting with fall through Christmas, expect something unique each year.
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 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.
These strings of lights remind me of a skier swooshing down a hill, leaving diagonal trails in fresh snow.
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, garlands, 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
Next to the Waldorf is The Huxley and Kyloe, all wrapped up in a cute red bow akin to Vienna’s famous Popp & Kretschmer store!
Johnny Walker Experience
Johnny Walker blasts animation on the front of its eight-floor West End building, which is pretty apt considering the tour is an immersive one featuring film, acting, talk, and taste!
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.
Get a selfie with the star on top of Waverley Mall, then head indoors to see the hanging bulbs as baubles.
Grab some fresh sushi downstairs at Sushi Stop (I can never resist!), or head back up for a beer on the Waverley Mall rooftop.
Like sushi? Here’s our guide to the best sushi in Edinburgh.
Edinburgh’s Christmas Market
Taking over the City Centre’s Princes Street Gardens is Edinburgh’s Christmas Market with lights, shows, stalls, and hot drinks.
The Mound is brought to life by a number of lights and a festive tree!
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 lights strung across the street from the top down to West Bow add a little sparkle too.
Little Dobbies is a new addition to 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 is 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 from 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 and festive decor, all created by local makers.
Finish your trip to Leith at The Shore, swinging by Mimi’s Bakehouse, where the Netflix Christmas movie, The Princess Switch 2, was filmed!
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